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In the ’90s, London was the cultural capital of the world. At the height of Cool Britannia, as the era was dubbed, bands like Oasis, Blur, The Verve and Suede played stadiums. Young British artists (YBAs) were reinventing the very definition of art with stuffed sharks (Damien Hirst) and beds with gross stains (Tracey Emin). When novelists like Martin Amis and Julian Barnes squabbled, and it was national news. Albion had the culture back then: London was also Europe’s nightlife capital. And the biggest DJ was Paul Oakenfold.
I visited London with some friends towards the end of this era. We went to some mega-club, called Heaven I think, one of dozens like it at the time. We went to see Oakenfold play, toasting the night with shots of Jägermeister. Around 1am, Oakenfold took the decks and the crowd acted like he was a band, facing the stage and cheering. Weird for us Yanks. Why watch a guy play records?
America finally caught on to the DJ as performer thing. At festivals like Ultra and Electric Daisy Carnival, the crowd rocks like a DJ is the band. Oakenfold was the continent’s premier DJ at the time. People chanted “Oak-ie” before he came on. He still ranks as the number two DJ globally in terms of net worth after Tiesto (both are worth over $60 million). And for good reason. Paul Oakenfold brought house music to Europe almost single handedly.
In the ’80s, Oakenfold would come to New York and hit clubs like the Paradise Garage and the Loft, where Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan were taking disco further than anyone, planting the seeds for what would become house music. So when Knuckles died this spring, I did Jäger shots in his honor. The notable taste of the star anise, cardamon, and ginger in my mouth triggers the memories of those nights filled with heavy beats and sequences.
Oakenfold brought Knuckles’ sound back to the UK and helped start rave culture. Raves were often held in warehouses or in the middle of the woods. The rave-era ushered in “acid house,” a style of dance-pop perfected by Primal Scream, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses. Acid house hit its peak with Spike Island in 1990, with 20,000 people standing in a field, all jamming to the Stone Roses and…Paul Oakenfold. But like the summer of love, acid house ended with a hangover. Spike Island is considered a failure, the end of an era also known as “baggy,” for the loose style of clothes.
Then the two scenes split. (In Europe anyways—Americans never caught the rave groove, except on the underground scene.) Electronica moved towards trance and minimal techno. Sad rock called shoegazesaw the rise bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Slowdive droning in sorrow. Then it went back to pop, Britpop to be exact, with the arrival of Oasis in 1993, and their Stone Roses-meets-the-Beatles sound.
Oakenfold kept at it, though, heading to the beaches of India and bringing back “Goa Trance,” while at the same time helping establish Ibiza as the club capital of the world. A decade later, EDM started to blow up in the USA. Twenty years after the UK rave movement, Las Vegas of all places has replaced Ibiza as the world’s top club destination. Several Vegas venues now gross $100 million annually.
On a recent Saturday in New York, Knuckles’ old partner Larry Levan, the other main DJ behind the Paradise Garage, threw a street party. 20,000 people showed up. Would that have happened had house music never gone across the pond and back again? Who knows, but dance music is bigger than ever. And the only thing that may be better than vibin’ to good music is to have a great drink in hand—and that’s where Jäger comes in.
Oakenfold is currently headlining the Jägermeister Ultimate Summer of Music Tour. Download the JägerBonds App for free in the iTunes and Google Play app stores and learn how you can make your own music video of your night out, complete with a soundtrack by Paul Oakenfold’s latest hits.,.
Jägermeister’s Ultimate Summer of Music tour made a stop in New York City on June 7th when Paul Oakenfold took over the DJ booth at PACHA. See below to learn when and where Paul and the Jägermeister Ultimate Summer of Music tour go next, and go get the dance music lesson we all deserve.
|6/13/14||REV Ultra Lounge||Minneapolis, MN|
|6/27/14||Sunshine Theater||Albuquerque, NM|
|6/28/14||Interchange Festival||Bozeman, MT|
|7/3/14||Monarch Theatre||Phoenix, AZ|
|7/4/14||Club Rio||San Antonio, TX|
|7/5/14||Stereo Live||Houston, TX|
|9/5/14||Republic Live||Austin, TX|
|9/13/14||Foundation Nightclub||Seattle, WA|
|9/20/14||Park City Live||Park City, UT|