Dutch DJ Hardwell electrified Syracuse’s F Shed Tuesday night, proving his position as the the number one DJ in the world. The title, given annually by dance music publication DJ Mag, is one of the highest accolades in the world of electronic dance music. On the sixth day of his Revealed Recordings North American Bus Tour Hardwell stopped in Syracuse to fill the marketplace venue with neon lights and booming bass as a light snow fell outside.
At 26 years old, Hardwell’s recent fame has taken him places like Ibiza, Amsterdam, Las Vegas and Miami. His current bus tour, however, brought a rare level of quality dance music to Syracuse.
“It has probably been the best crowd so far,” said Dannic, another Dutch DJ who opened for Hardwell Tuesday night.
Since the ripe age of 14, Hardwell has spent his nights playing in luxurious clubs throughout Europe (yes, his parents were present for four years of underage performances) His prodigious start allowed him to work on music that, now at age 26, resulted in over a decade’s worth of work.
“One of the reasons we picked North America was because we normally play in expensive clubs, like VIP or bottle-serving clubs, or the big festivals, and we wanted to go to college cities,” said Hardwell during a pre-show interview. “It’s more for people who cannot afford the tickets to all the big cities and we wanted to meet with the real fans in North America, especially in smaller venues to stay more connected with them.”
Dance music has been prevalent in Eastern Europe for over two decades. TiÃ«sto — who played in Syracuse last winter — helped popularize the phenomenon in the United States. Like Hardwell, Tiesto hails from Breda in the Netherlands, and reigned as the world’s premiere DJ from 2002 to 2004 — while Hardwell was still just a teen.
This March, Hardwell closed Ultra Music Festival in Miami — one of the biggest electronic music festivals in the U.S. His new label saw his booming popularity as the opportunity for a follow-up project to his previous tour in Canada.
“Most of the time when I play in those VIP clubs, people want to experience the number one DJ, but these kids are die-hard fans; probably half of these people have been following me for four years already, maybe even longer,” says Hardwell. “You can tell- they know every single song, they’re super educated and it’s all about the energy.
Now an integral part of the musical landscape in the U.S., dance music has been baptized with a new name: EDM, a shortened version of electronic dance music. It’s a distinction Hardwell sees as equal, yet separate from the music of the Netherlands.
“I grew up with dance music and all of the sudden people started calling it EDM. It is the same thing, but it’s getting kind of, well, EDM is evolving to a dirty word, and a lot of people in the industry don’t like the term,” he said. “It says sell-out, it says big room, or commercial radio house music — and that’s not dance music.”
But then what is real electronic dance music to Hardwell?
“Everything, even the underground,” he continued. “We call it trance music, we call it deep house, we call it progressive, and if you say deep house, that is electronic dance music; I love every single genre in electronic dance music.”
And Tuesday night, the DJ proved he isn’t the only one. Thousands of young Syracusans dropped their feather coats for glow accessories, cropped tops and shorts for Hardwell, a sacrifice clearly worth making. The DJ included two Lana del Rey hits, Kid Cudi’s beloved “Pursuit of Happiness,” Jay Z’s “Holy Grail,” and serious dance music hits like Spaceman and Pompeii.