You might know Sensation as one of the longest-running dance music parties in history. Maybe you've partied at the Sensation in Brooklyn's Barclay Stadium in 2012—its New York debut—or the ones that followed in Vegas, Miami or Oakland. Maybe you've even braved a Sensation in one of the other 21 countries the party has infiltrated, spreading its gospel of deliverance from everyday anxieties through one night of utter jubilation and elegant spectacle.
But chances are, you know Sensation as that party where you're not allowed to wear anything in any color but white. Because them's the rules, man. Plus, you can't deny that it looks pretty cool when you look out at a yawning dance floor, and all the pearly white bodies sort of glom together, writhing in unison like some kind of multi-limbed, white washed sea monster.
The story behind Sensation's all-white dress code, so often repeated that it has become somewhat of a legend, begins with a tragedy.
Back in the early 90s, two brothers named Miles and Duncan helped to launch ID&T, which eventually grew into the most powerful dance music organizer in the Netherlands. (In 2013, as part of its efforts to snap up every dance music entity within reach,
EDM EMC conglomerate SFX acquired ID&T for a cool $130 million.) The brothers threw the first Sensation party in 2000 at the Amsterdam Arena, the city's biggest stadium; 20,000 ravers in white overalls and phat pants danced to Darude's "Sandstorm" and other trance anthems with zero irony, surrounded by pink elephants and pulsing green lasers.
The success of the first event promised even greater things in the horizon. But in 2001, Miles was killed in a car accident. A distraught Duncan vowed that from that moment on, everyone who came to Sensation would wear white in his brother's honor.
Sensation went on to become one of the Netherland's dance community's biggest successes. The list of DJs who have headlined the party at some point during its 14-year lifespan runs deep, and includes trance legends like Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, ATB, Ferry Corsten, Darren Emerson of Underworld, and Fedde Le Grand. In 2010, organizers decided to follow the winds of change, and controversially shifted Sensation's sound from trance to house; since then, main stage favorites like Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta, Steve Angello and Laidback Luke have since dominated the lineups.
The musical lineup at this year's Sensation, which descended once again on the Amsterdam Arena last weekend, did not stray from its comfort zone: big room festival house. The name on everyone's lips that night was Martin Garrix, the youngest DJ to ever play at Sensation. But Garrix was not alone in his ability to reach into the big room grab bag and throw out hit after hit. Local heroes Nicky Romero and Chuckie, the Australian parrots/sisters Nervo, and the Greek-Belgian duo Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike all filled the stadium with cheerful pop anthems, their sugary melodies bouncing off the walls, while dizzyingly vapid lyrics inspired karaoke-like singalongs.
The funny thing about Sensation in Amsterdam is that instead of the usual EDM bros, trance-addicted Asians and deep house Jersey bros that you get in the States, the crowd is made of tan, ponytailed blondes in lace dresses dancing with gelled haired Euro dudes in tight white pants and Guess tank tops—if they're wearing a shirt at all.
But that's just half of it. A significant portion of the dance floor was filled not with kandi kid teenyboppers, but middle-aged moms and dads. Frequently in the sea of white, you'd also spot grey-haired grandpas bouncing on their heels to Sebastian Ingrosso and Tommy Trash's "Reload," their practical ponchos outfitted with blinking neon lights.
_Paul (left) is 57 years old, but that didn't stop him from following his son Chris to the first dance party of his life _
There are a couple reasons for this. First, Sensation's remarkable longevity—it's been around for 14 years and counting—has inspired a core fanbase that has aged with it. Many of the MILFs and DILFs at this year's edition are return customers; some have been coming for over a decade. Plus, dance music culture in the Netherlands is practically mainstream. Armin Van Buuren is a household name, and little babies used to go to gabber raves. So if a housewife wants to wear a sexy nurse outfit, pop a very clean ecstasy pill, and lose her shit to Calvin Harris and Alesso's "Under Control"... why not?
After all, the atmosphere in this year's Sensation, which was celebrated under a vaguely sexual theme of "Welcome to the Pleasuredome," were overwhelmingly jubilant, especially since the Netherlands had just barely clinched a place in the World Cup semi-finals after beating Costa Rica in penalty shootouts.
The mayhem on the dancefloor was completely non-threatening. You were more likely to bump into gay ex-gabber ravers trying to dance the hakken to "Animals" than get into a booze-fueled altercation.
The family-friendly vibes were augmented by the party's simple and elegant aesthetic—a towering hydraulic arch that rose 75 feet from the ground held a carousel-shaped DJ booth filled with burlesque dancers, women riding white horses, and Cirque du Soleil-type acrobats. Dancing in an ocean of white puntuated by smiling faces, you were transported to an alternate rave Disneyland populated by ecstatic clones. After all, wasn't it Tolstoy who said, "happy families are all like"?
Michelle Lhooq is a a real housewife of rave city - @MichelleLhooq
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