2021 certainly had its moments. We've still been contending with the stark effects of the pandemic, but clubbing and festivals were able to make a return with light emerging through the dark. As we take stock of the year, in the list below we've compiled 11 of the most unexpected things to happen in dance music, from the pleasantly surprising moments we didn't see coming to the downright shocking.
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Amnesia's opening and closing party happening on the same day
It sadly wasn’t to be for Ibiza’s nightlife again in 2021, with clubs remaining shuttered across peak months for another season. But a small window in October brought something we never expected to see: Amnesia’s opening and closing party overlapping on the same day. Described by the club as the “shortest but sweetest season ever”, it had Ben Klock, Jamie Jones, Jayda G, DJ Boring, Enzo Siragusa, TSHA, and many more, on the bill. The opening party kicked off a Friday evening and ran 11 hours to 5:AM, before the closing party got going 11 hours later, rolling from 4:PM on Saturday into the early hours on Sunday. We’ve heard stories of ravers heading out for opening parties then getting lost in the sauce and not returning home until after closing, but usually it’s much more of a marathon feat.
Andrew Lloyd Webber DJing in New York
Who had Andrew Lloyd Webber DJing a Baha Men house remix to an NYC street party in 2021's apocalypse bingo? That was the sight that greeted us when loading up the internet one doom-laden October morning: with the musical theatre mainstay wearining bright red headphones while a cast member from The Real Housewives of New York City posed taking a selfie video next to him. Judging by the ever more deranged direction the world is going, we’ll probably see Kris Jenner throwing down a donk set in Burnley next year.
A tech company releasing a synth dedicated to ‘oppressed women’
This year we saw a synth created which was dedicated to “oppressed women”. You heard that right. Nymphes, an analogue polysynth from synthesiser company Dreadbox, is dedicated to "all abused and oppressed women”. Understandably, this questionable move got a variety of puzzled reactions from people, including The Blessed Madonna tweeting ‘Wut’. In the description the manufacturers said: “Each time you play a note on this synthesizer, imagine that you soothe their pain away and you will become a better human being and synth player”.
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Elon Musk throwing a rave in a Tesla factory
Elon Musk staged a 9000-person rave in Berlin to celebrate the opening of the new Gigafactory. The celebration was organised in the style of a festival, with music from techno DJs, dancing, and a large-scale stage design. Lighting installations, enormous balloon robot figures, arcade games, vegetarian food vendors, Tesla accelerator ride-alongs, and a ferris wheel were also part of the show. Perhaps we should have seen this coming after Musk retitled himself as Technoking of Tesla in March.
The least-PLUR ‘rave’ in US history
It’s fair to say Kentucky’s five-day ‘Redneck Rave’ festival lived up to its billing as "America's wildest & craziest country party", resulting in violent chaos with drunken brawls, throat slittings, impalings, broken bones and 48 criminal charges. It was later described by organiser Justin Stowers, rapper known as Justin Time, as “the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” We wouldn’t want to know what goes down at the festival on a bad day.
Space Ibiza teasing its return
Could it be? Ibiza’s most iconic club reopening for the first time in five years? We’ve been teased with Space’s comeback a few times this year, but it was only during this final slog toward Christmas that a new Space Ibiza was confirmed. In May, club owner Pepe Roselló hinted at Space’s return before long-term club resident Carl Cox came swooping in halfway through the year to tell us that the interviews were purely fictional and that 83-year-old Roselló was too old to get back on the party horse. “It's never gonna happen,” he told us - but something is happening. Come November, Roselló confirmed that everything had been signed for a new version of Space in keeping with its original “spirit”, although this time as a bar, restaurant, and club night. Doesn’t sound quite like a 5,000 capacity hedonstic dance music playground, but we’ll take any good news for Ibiza after the past two years of cancelled seasons.
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Skrillex playing at Dialled In
Dialled In was one of the most hotly anticipated new festivals of this summer, a day-party celebrating artists from the South Asian diaspora on an industrial estate in Walthamstow - complete with all its incredible music, mouth-watering food, vibrant outfits and appearances from the likes of Daytimers, Yung Singh, Chippy Nonstop, NAINA, DEBONAIR and… Skrillex? Yep, we didn’t expect that one either. Though there had been multiple whispers around the festival throughout the day that the US dubstep megastar had been sighted at various sets it wasn’t until the after-party hours that he took to the decks himself for an impromptu b2b with organiser Ahadadream, jumping on the decks at a hard drop of yourboykiran and Chande’s ‘Pani Puri Pirates’. Iconic.
Foo Fighters releasing a disco album
As if Dave Grohl hadn’t already found enough iterations of rockstar to fit into, he managed to squeeze himself into another persona this year as the frontman of a ‘70s disco band. Paying tribute to the Bee Gees, the Foo Fighters rebranded as the 'Dee Gees’ as they clad up in tight t-shirts and flares ahead of their one-off homage record, ‘Hail Satin’. As a Bee Gees cover band, the rock group covered a handful of tracks from the disco icons, including ‘You Should Be Dancing’, ‘Night Fever’, and ‘Tragedy’.
Matt Groening DJing on NTS
NTS Radio celebrated 10 years of one-of-a-kind music broadcasting this year and got some huge station favourites involved to help - including an incredible six-hour set from Theo Parrish, Arca, Dopplereffekt, My Bloody Valentine and a series of programmes curated by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. The station is named after a Simpsons reference (see above) so it was a big coup to land the creator for NTS’ landmark occasion, who isn’t exactly known for his on-deck skills. He truly brought his A game - curating selections from Eric Andre, Juana Molina, Savage Pencil, and more. They all featured alongside a DJ set of Groening’s own that traversed psychedelic rock, pop, punk - even opening with jazz rendition from French duo Le Sacre du Tympan of the classic Simpsons theme tune by Danny Elfman. You can take the man out of Springfield.
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Daft Punk splitting up
We’d feared this moment, but still weren’t prepared. After 28 years of success the French robots decided to call it quits. Announcing the sad news with an eight-minute-long video showing footage from their 2008 film Electroma and ending with the graphic ‘1993-2021’. Rumours had always circulated around Daft Punk and this year we examined why the duo split up. Thanks for the memories, Thomas and Guy-Manuel.
Police showing up to an 'illegal rave' that was just pensioners queueing for vaccine
This year as we continued to follow COVID guidelines, police stayed wary of illegal activity. In January, police were called to what they suspected was an illegal rave in Essex. Once they arrived on the scene, they found it was merely just some pensioners queueing up to get their vaccine. The amount of people and car congestion was apparently reminiscent of raves back in the early '90s, but it doesn't get much further from a plague rave than this.