This past weekend, for the first time ever, Bay Area dance music enthusiasts were treated to the rare opportunity to witness the legendary concert experience known as Sensation. Concert promoters ID&T are bringing their latest installment of the huge musical experience, aptly titled The Ocean of White, to select cities around America this fall, and the Bay Area was lucky enough to be the first city to experience the madness.
As thousands of anxious ravers dressed in head-to-toe white piled into Oakland’s Oracle Arena (across the bay from San Francisco), there was a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. Sensation has long been respected as one of the original pioneers of the massive dance music concert experience and until last year, was never before experienced in the US. Upon entering the venue, attendees were greeted with a very intricate stage and production setup: The centerpiece consisted of a series of huge glowing orbs that hung from the ceiling with a myriad of oversized jellyfish suspended around the arena. Running from each side to the north and south were two elevated canals with fountains.
With so many festivals these days attempting to one-up each other with longer and longer lists of headlining DJs, Sensation is a refreshing change in that it is an event that has very much become known for its theatrical production, focusing on providing an unforgettable experience rather than a long list of DJ headliners. It is the Cirque du Soleil of house music in many ways. The small but stellar line-up of DJs on this night consisted of Fedde le Grand, Nic Fanciulli, Prok & Fitch, and of course the mysterious Sensation resident Mr. White.
The night officially kicked off with a grand opening consisting of a series of explosions and fireworks as Mr. White launched into a stellar warm-up set. All eyes were focused on the stage as pyrotechnics erupted, with waterfalls shooting to the ceiling and go-go dancers blowing bubbles around the venue. Moments later, Mr. White would emerge with his hands in the air as the DJ booth rotated around in a 360-degree fashion to momentarily face the Deluxe booth where we were located. The opening lasted about 10 minutes and then Mr. White played a fantastic deep opening set, which perfectly set the tone for the night.
Nic Fanciulli took over shortly after and dropped a very big-room tech-house set, which although was not what we expected from him, was very fitting to the atmosphere and the night. Prok & Fitch followed suit and also kept the vibe going with their unique mix of house and techno tunes. Throughout the night, the visuals continued to impress and the crowd was treated to everything from fireworks to flying dancers to dancing to massive, oversized glow-in-the-dark balloons to throw around.
However, it wasn’t until Fedde le Grand took the stage shortly after 12:30 a.m. to close out the night that things really kicked into full swing. Suddenly there seemed to be strobe lights and fireworks going off everywhere and the entire Oracle Arena lit up as the Dutch superstar started to play his infectious brand of big-room house—what it was all leading up to. The grande finale was magical, a moment that left a sea of people in the arena with their mouths dropped in awe and also reminded us of all the positive energy that dance music invokes.
Although there were mixed opinions about how this Sensation lived up to its Dutch ancestor—particularly from the Europeans that we spoke with in the audience—it was very evident that promoters ID&T put every last bit of effort and meticulous planning into this extravagant show. Sensation’s debut of The Ocean of White was an unforgettable experience and if you have the opportunity to check out this one of a kind event, we highly recommend you do.
**Full disclosure: Sensation’s promoters ID&T are part of the SFX family of companies, which also includes Beatport.