For Dutch DJ Tiesto, it's not enough to have sold out the nearly-15,000 seat Los Angeles Sports Arena without a single support act Aug. 11, amassing the largest crowd in North American history for a single-DJ event, or to have sold out two nights at New York City's Hammerstein Ballroom in July.
While those shows surely contributed to what has been a blockbuster summer for the world's marquee DJ, they are only the beginning of what he hopes to be a long and engaging relationship with the emerging United States dance scene.
“What I like about America is that I can be really famous when I go into a club, and I can walk here on Sunset [Blvd, in Los Angeles] and nobody knows me,” said Tiesto in a recent interview with Maximum Ink. “I'd like to get bigger, of course, and make more people aware, but this is a very difficult place to achieve that.”
For that reason, the dance-phenom views America more, in his words, as “my little playground.” The scope of that playground expanded substantially following his appearance at this year's Coachella Festival, in Southern California, where he closed the mainstage in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 following headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“Not only was that a big show for me, but people stayed after the Red Hot Chili Peppers and they enjoyed themselves,” said the DJ. “I think it helped a little bit, but we're not there yet. A lot of the big-time reporters didn't even give it a chance. 'Oh, the Chili Peppers are finished, we can go home now…' But the people who stayed and saw the show, they were impressed. The buzz after the show was amazing, and now we're doing more festivals, as well, like Voodoo [Music Experience, in New Orleans, Oct. 26-28].”
Unique to Tiesto's shows in New York and Los Angeles--and something that isn't possible in most venues where he typically performs in America--were his expansive visuals and longer sets, two things that mainstream dance crowds aren't accustomed to in the United States.
“I used to play two hour sets, and the commercial, mainstream crowds who listened to the radio and stuff weren't happy because I only played four or five of my own tunes, and the core fans weren't happy either, because they don't want the hear those tracks anymore, they want to hear new stuff and deeper stuff,” he explained of the five-and-a-half-hour performances in New York and L.A.. “I'm caught between being a DJ and an artist, so the first two-and-a-half hours I present the new album [“Elements of Live,” Ultra Records], and you have the four elements that are the theme of the tour. Then I have the one hour that I call the power mix, all the biggest Tiesto tunes, and everything is synched, the visuals, lights, effects, pyrotechnics, everything. The last two-and-a-half hours is Tiesto the DJ, an old-school type set with trance records and big dance anthems.”
As Tiesto points out, he's more than aware of the biggest challenge he faces as an artist: Appeasing his commercial audience, without neglecting the needs of the underground dance scene that drives his live success.
“I think I always stayed loyal to my true fans. I was playing techno music not really to be mainstream, but it became mainstream. Here, the rave culture is still quite big, and it has a really bad name, too. That's why when people say I'm playing a rave, I get offended--It's not a rave, they just don't know what the hell is going on,” he said. “I am the living proof that dance music has involved, and that it's not just about drugs anymore. Look at my MySpace page, I have numbers that are better than the most 'credible' artists. People are really into the music, and I've noticed that there are more people coming out, people are curious.”
Tiesto performs Sept. 8 at Chicago's Congress Theater, and Sept. 13 at The Fillmore Detroit, in Detroit, MI.