As 2014 is coming to a close, the team at The EDM Network decided to look back and reflect on what was perhaps the biggest year for dance music in its short history. This was a year where we saw budding producers like ZHU, Kygo, and Flume jump into the spotlight and firmly establish themselves as superstars. We saw established producers come together to form unique duos and groups like Jack U (Skrillex and Diplo), Galantis (one member of Miike Snow and Style of Eye), and deadmau5 and Eric Prydz. New festivals like The Hudson River Project emerged all across the country and established festivals like EDC and TomorrowLand only further cemented their legacies in dance music history.
Musically, 2014 was a huge year for dance music as well. Albums like Aphex Twin’s Syro, Caribou’s Our Love, and SBTRKT’s Wonder Where We Love all have the potential to become important pieces in dance music history while EPs like ZHU’s The Nightday EP have further revolutionized dance music. Today, we decided to rank the ten best sets of 2014. We’ve included live sets, mixes, and Essential Mixes from all across the world and throughout the entire year, ranging from Skrillex to Jack U to Claude VonStroke to Galantis. Here are our picks for the ten of the best sets of 2014:
10. Skrillex SuperJam @ Bonnaroo 2014
The Superjam is Bonnaroo’s most highly anticipated tradition and is considered by many to be the massive festival’s signature event. Typically, a Bonnaroo Superjam can go two ways: one, the curator can form a group with their special guests and jam out, with no moving parts and no special appearances, or two, the artist can shuffle through cameos, special guests, and surprise appearances. Previous Superjams have included Led Zeppelin, Questlove, R. Kelly, Solange, and Method Man jamming out on stage in an unplanned, one-of-kind festival experience. This year’s Superjam hosted one of the most eclectic and unique groups to ever grace any stage in America.
In addition to his 2 hour set on Friday of Bonnaroo, Skrillex hosted a three hour jam session the following day with a mind-blowing array of artists and special guests, both announced and unannounced. Joining Skrillex on stage was a lineup curated by the superstar himself, including artists like Big Gigantic, Thundercat, Zedd, Chance the Rapper, and the most surprising guest appearance of the night, Lauryn Hill. Skrillex and Friends’ 3 hour jam session was packed with appearances like Zedd on the drums or cameos of three to four songs by surprise guests before the king of dubstep would bring the crowd back with one of his hard-hitting, bass-heavy drops. Highlights included A$AP Ferg delivering a great performance of his hits “Shabba” and “Work,” and Janelle Monae’s rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something.” Lauryn Hill’s surprise appearance at the end of the Superjam only served to close the tent in a fitting manner as she covered everyone’s favorite Bob Marley tune “Jammin’."
9. Shiba San @ Go Deep, DNA Lounge San Francisco
One of the pioneers of g-house, Shiba San absolutely killed the DNA Lounge in San Francisco earlier this month with a set jampacked with his own hits, some dirtybird classics, and a plethora of IDs to match. Masterfully weaving together songs like his very own track of the summer “OKAY,” an unreleased, unannounced remix of Old Dirty Bastard, and Claude VonStroke’s hit “Eye I Eye,” Shiba San has only further propelled himself into the realm of superstardom. Having released tracks on dirtybird and CUFF, the sky is the ceiling for the talented youngster, and we can’t help but feel that 2014 could be the start of something big for Shiba San.
8. Galantis @ Coachella 2014
One of the fastest rising groups to stardom in 2014 was the duo Galantis, comprised of Christian Karlsson, one third of Miike Snow, and Linus Eklow, also known as Style of Eye. Their debut performance at Coachella was coming off the release of their first self-titled EP, and the duo has gone nowhere but up since this performance. A performance that featured their own hits like “Smile,” “You,” and “Help” while also blending in just the right amount of crowd-pleasing favorites like Martin Garrix’s “Animals” and Showtek’s “Cannonball,” the dance music veterans flexed their talent and showed the world at Coachella that they were here to stay. The rest of 2014 included headlining performances at festivals all over the world and the release of singles like “Runaway.”
7. Axwell /\ Ingrosso @ EDC Las Vegas, 2014
One of the hottest names on the EDC Las Vegas lineup this past year, the two members of the late Swedish House Mafia Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso came together as their own duo,and reminded the dance music community why they were considered some of the biggest DJs that dance music has seen. A 75 minute set packed full of Axwell, Ingrosso, and Swedish House Mafia originals, the duo’s North American debut ranks as #7 on our list of the ten best sets of 2014. They previewed two new singles, “Can’t Hold Us Down” and “Something New,” that were released later in 2014, putting the entire dance music community on alert that Axwell and Ingrosso were back with a vengeance.
6. Eric Prydz EPIC 3.0
The king of progressive house, Eric Prydz is in another realm in terms of production, both musical and visual, and mixing. There is a short list of illustrious artists who have been able to play at Madison Square Garden successfully, and Eric Prydz undoubtedly joined the ranks of this very exclusive group. Since the inception of EPIC in 2011, Prydz has made it very clear that his shows are not aimed at making money, as he actually loses money for every EPIC show that he throws, although year in and year out, he still continues to make these shows bigger and better for his fans. EPIC 3.0 attendees were treated with the largest 3D hologram to ever be used in America, as well as 3 hours of progressive house and techno mixed by one of the best in the business.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Prydz’s 3 hour set? The entire set is improvised from the tracklist to the visuals being controlled by the VJ and the lasers. And for that, Prydz is #6 on the best ten sets of 2014.
5. Jack U @ Ultra Music Festival
One of the most hyped and anticipated sets in 2014 was the official festival debut of the biggest superduo in 2014, Jack U, comprised of Skrillex and Diplo, at Ultra Music Festival in Miami. The energy in the air was palpable as their set time inched closer, as fans and industry folk alike were excited to see what two of the biggest superstars in dance music had in store.
As the two legends took the decks, they did not disappoint, regardless of how high the bar was set. Opening the set with a brand new Jack U ID, and instantly dropping into Skrillex’s hit “Dirty Vibe” off of his latest album Recess, the duo masterfully took the entire crowd through a journey of their hits, remixes, and bootlegs. The highlight of the entire set might have been the duo playing Diplo’s crowd favorite “Express Yourself” before dropping it into Skrillex’s hard-hitting “Bangarang.” This set sent Jack U on a meteoric rise to the top, and for that, this set is ranked #5 on our list.
4. Claude VonStroke Closing The Beatport Stage @ Movement Festival
No top 10 list would be right without the dirtybird labelhead, Claude VonStroke. The talented house and techno producer with a following unlike any other has firmly established himself as one of the most influential and revolutionary producers in all of dance music, and his label, dirtybird Records, is known for some of the best artists in house music. While closing out the Beatport stage at Movement Festival in Detroit, Claude VonStroke played a 90 minute set full of IDs to be released on his dirtybird label, including the just released TAYLR SWFT album by Kill Frenzy, as well as debuting his most recent single “Eye I Eye” as he was closing out the stage. A funky, groovy 90 minute set with flawless mixing and tons of new IDs lands this set at #4 on our list.
3. Above & Beyond Group Therapy 100
Few groups have the impact and reach that Above & Beyond does with their emotional, melodic trance and deeper tracks. The 100th rendition of their iconic Group Therapy podcast took place as a live set at the renowned Madison Square Garden, allowing the trio to have a hand in every aspect of the event, and it showed. From the openers of Anjunabeats artists’ Andrew Bayer, Ilan Bluestone, and Mat Zo, to the unreal production that filled every corner of Madison Square Garden, Above & Beyond showed why they are consistently one of the most popular groups within dance music. Running through classic Above & Beyond tracks like “Sun & Moon” and newer tracks like “Sticky Fingers” and “Blue Sky Action,” the trio truly united the crowd as one under Madison Square Garden, and for that, they are ranked #3.
2. Caribou Essential Mix
Dan Snaith, better known as producer Caribou or Daphni, graced the decks of Pete Tong’s world-renowned Essential Mix to deliver the #2 best set of 2014. Coming off the release of his album Our Love, we could only hope for a one-of-a-kind and unique Essential Mix from the talented musician, and Snaith absolutely delivered. Tapping into all genres and styles from house to techno to indie, this mix truly delivered as the dance music veteran showed that he has not lost a step. Very fittingly, he closed the mix with the track “This Will Be Our Year” by The Zombies, as Snaith has come roaring back and has made 2014 his year.
1. Ten Walls Essential Mix
Few producers or DJs could deliver in a two hour mix what Ten Walls was able to do in his Essential Mix for Pete Tong. Originally shrouded in anonymity, the relatively mysterious producer has revealed himself as Lithuanian producer Mario Basanov. With an expansive background in classical music, Ten Walls is redefining the boundaries of house and techno music, creating beautiful soundscapes that are rare to find in dance music. Showing his affinity for video games, this brilliant two hour mix opened with the score from Assassin’s Creed and closed with the score of Mass Effect, two bookends on the mind-warping audial journey that Basanov was about to create.
The mix itself is innately very experimental - off-beat percussions and strange rhythms are felt throughout even as they are seamlessly weaved together song after song. As the mix continues, you couldn’t help but feel that each beat, each hi-hat, each percussion was contributing to something bigger, a larger journey or message at hand that Basanov was trying to create. Moving from experimental to dark and shadowy and finally to transcendental within his two hour mix, Basanov has created more than just a mix, rather he’s created a feeling, a journey, and a space for thinking, and for that, Ten Walls’ Essential Mix ranks #1 on our list.
Give us your thoughts on our ten best sets of 2014 in the comments and let us know what you thought should have been included in the list!