Over the last year or so, trance music has taken a decidedly house-centric turn. The songs you hear on the radio are replete with vocals and festival drops, as the line separating it from big room slowly fades away. But with a legend like Paul Oakenfold, we got a taste of trance music in its base form.
Foundation Nightclub is a venue that lately has been playing in a deeper direction musically. From unveiling Departure Thursday’s brand of old school house music to bringing in trance warriors like Max Graham and Paul Oakenfold, they’ve taken a daring turn away from the mainstream. In the end, it comes down to bringing people a higher quality of music, and that’s just what they accomplished with Oakenfold gracing the stage.
As he appeared to materialize out of thin air behind Seattle mainstay Johnny Monsoon, a raucous crowd began to erupt. Monsoon and Oakenfold embraced, and the trance legend assumed his place behind the decks. As someone who’s been in game as long as he has, there’s always the temptation to play Beatport crowd-pleasers, something he managed to avoid for almost the entirety of his two-hour set.
The Saturday night crowd was treated to the harder avenues of trance, with almost no vocal breaks to go with a nostalgic throwback to the days of yore, when giant drops were few and far between and the genre occupied the dark corners of warehouse parties. Oakenfold played to one of the rowdier crowds we’ve seen, making for an interesting contrast to the groovier brand of trance that defined the night. As perhaps the only downside of the experience, it was definitely a crowd that struggled at times with spacial reasoning in their understandable enthusiasm.
In every big music city, there’s a VIP club scene intent on nothing more than capitalizing on dance music long enough to get rich. As long as people are getting bottle service and enjoying the Top 40 fare, promoters are happy. In recent months, it’s become clear that Foundation is not one of these clubs. Seattle has grown into one of the best scenes in the country, while still managing to not lose itself to the hype of the industry. Bringing in Paul Oakenfold to throw down a set that played to quality over popularity embodied this entirely.
Perhaps the defining moment of the night came with the very last song. The familiar intro to DVBBS’ Tsunami kicked in, making for an abrupt transition out of the dark trance that had filled the room up until then. But then the build faded back in a steady trance beat, and a soft, ethereal flute echoed through the room. Very briefly, we all closed our eyes and imagined a place on a beach, far away from all our troubles.
As the flute faded away, Tsunami slowly built once more, kicking right into the drop everyone who’s seen a house set in the last two months knows all too well. It was the perfect marriage of trance and house sensibilities, demonstrating firsthand how the line between the two doesn’t necessarily have to be well-defined.
Paul Oakenfold took us on a trip through the very beginnings of the genre, living up to the lofty ideals of his tour, Trance Mission USA. In a musical landscape always intent on moving on to the next big thing, he reminded us how important appreciating our origins is. Needless to say, he accomplished his mission in Seattle.
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