The French phrase for "nightclub" is "la boîte." Literal translation: "the box." That's an apt description for the crowded room in the Denver Convention Center where the annual New Year's electronic music festival Decadence took place Friday and Saturday night. Being jam-packed in a windowless box may sound like torture, but this was pure bliss.
Glowing jellyfish floated on one side of the Convention Center. An electronic forest divided two stages. Booze flowed and the crowd drank without restraint as elite DJs brought Denver the kind of dance-inspiring entertainment partiers have learned to expect. At a time of year with few music festivals, Decadence has become the marquee electronic dance music event in the United States.
Kasbo, a nineteen-year-old Swedish DJ, opened the festival as neon adorned party-goers made their way into the box. He was followed by RL Grime and Baauer, two artists with enough clout to draw a crowd if they each played alone. Instead, they joined forces to deliver trap and dubstep to the swelling audience.
Dressed in all white, the cylinder-head sensation Marshmello took to the stage. Some diehard fans wore matching marshmallow heads, a tip of the hat to their rave deity.
GRiZ garnered an even larger audience, breaking out his saxophone and hopping to the top of the LED-lit DJ booth, delivering his signature combination of electronic samples, bass, and funky guitar and sax riffs.
Then came Colorado favorite Bassnectar, who brought massive amounts of, you guessed it, bass, along with fans decked out in pins for GRiz, Bassnectar and similar artists like Big Gigantic and Pretty Lights.
Brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence of Disclosure wrapped up the night with a DJ set. Normally, at live shows, the two switch up instruments and occasionally sing. Friday, they shared the same DJ equipment, overlapping arms and switching places, back and forth, as they showcased smash hits like "Omen" and Flume's remix of the song "You and Me."
Some Decadence-goers complained the first night had a deeper lineup and better DJs than the second. When the crowd came back for New Year's Eve, they weren't disappointed.
Phantoms opened the night, followed by Big Wild, both playing as the audience, some dressed in formal attire, filed in. Haitian DJ Michael Brun mixed current electronic hits with his own tracks to build the crowd's energy and start fans dancing and jumping.
After Michael Brun wrapped up his set, nearly every ticket-holder stormed the room for the Chainsmokers, one of 2016's biggest electronic artists, to take the stage. Alex Pall manned the decks throughout the set while Andrew Taggart sung from atop the DJ booth. Taggart goaded the crowd into singing along to the electronic-remixed hip-hop songs of A$AP Ferg, Kendrick Lamar and T.I. The Chainsmokers didn't hold back from steering the crowd away from its viral hit "#SELFIE. The musicians said they "fucking hated" the hit — a song that now defines a culture and a generation. But nobody seemed to notice after the duo launched into one of 2016's biggest hits, "Closer," and everyone in the Convention Center sang along.
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Crowds divided after the Chainsmokers finished. On one stage, legend Eric Prydz played for house-music purists, while on the other, Australian DJ Flume brought his laid-back approach to electronic music.
Once Flume ended his set, Dutch house star Tiësto played for more than two hours. The New Year's countdown began shortly after Tiësto started. When midnight struck, confetti, balloons and streamers filled the air. Tiësto beamed with excitement through his entire set, repeatedly thanking the audience for welcoming the new year with him. The crowd beamed back, and 2017 was here.