Has smartphone ruined disco?
Too many standing still at Asia’s 1st Sensation seeking perfect shot
By Kwaak Je-yup
GOYANG, Gyeonggi Province — Over 20,000 people, each and every one of them dressed entirely in white, filled the KINTEX Saturday night for one of the world’s largest gatherings of house music fans.
These attendees of the Asia debut of Sensation, a Dutch party brand best known for its all-white dress code, looked more than ready for some serious fun. As the countdown to 10:30 p.m. began on giant screens hanging from the ceiling, the burst of excitement could have blown the roof off. It seemed as if the people in uniform white were about to kick off one of the best nights of their lives.
As pyrotechnics signaled the start and with the first beats reverberating, however, everyone remained standing still. White lights from innumerable smartphone screens dotted the vast space like pseudo stars in the night sky, with most of the supposed fun-seekers too busy taking photos or recording video clips of the elaborately decorated DJbooth and stage.
Such killjoy-like behavior was repeated several times throughout the night, especially when 12 scantily-clad female performers appeared sporadically on stage. It was ironic to see the mood killed this way every time there was some action.
Mr. White, with his face impeccably painted according to the theme, tried valiantly to lift the energy levels as the first DJ of the night, yet his minimalist house set fell short of stopping this unfortunate atmosphere. At least he can be reassured it was not his fault.
As the night progressed, partiers became increasingly more intoxicated with alcoholic beverages from sponsor Heineken and started letting go of their inhibitions. The turntables were on fire, with every selection by the likes of Fedde Le Grand, Sebastien Leger and Nic Fanciulli finding fans in the crowd. Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock” (2005) was one of few readily recognizable tunes that drew the loudest response. At one point, larger-than-life multicolored air-filled balls were released over the clubbers, who bounced them around to great effect. Only those in the VIP and deluxe areas, raised above the regular ticketholders, were the ones taking photos then.
Predictably, overconsumption of alcohol led to fatigue among many, roaming around outside the venue looking for places to sit. By around 2 a.m., when headliner Le Grand was announced by the majestic-sounding emcee, all the hallways and outside smoking area were teeming with people looking to relax rather than hit the dance floor. It was a pity since he brought his A-game.
Though the all-white rule was introduced in the Dutch festival’s second year to commemorate the deceased co-founder, Sensation’s all-white uniform is the core of its phenomenal success. Like students who concentrate on scholarly pursuits rather than their clothes, Sensation partiers come dressed to kill — not to impress. They are hardly flattering wardrobe choices (at least gleaning from this reporter’s pictures the morning after), and the t-shirts and trousers invariably become soaked in sweat, alcohol and whatever else, yet no one cares because they are there for one purpose only: to have fun.
The crowd full of standing amateur photographers poses a grave risk to this sacred tradition of unbridled musical ecstasy.
While instant uploads of these pictures to Facebook or Twitter might be a PR agent’s dream come true and a source of jealousy for friends and followers, hopefully the organizers can also enforce a blanket ban on smartphone photography as well next year.
The Asian leg of Sensation continues to Bangkok on August 18 and Kaoshiung, Taiwan, on Sept. 29.