Category: Dance

Dance music that gets feet and emotions moving

In honor of Robin Gibb, Chuck Brown and  Donna Summer, we list five heavy-hearted dance tunes.


Getting on the good foot got a little harder last week with the deaths of three important dance-music stars: disco queen Donna Summer, go-go godfather Chuck Brown and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. Each leaves behind a legacy of exuberance, even as their passing demands a moment of reflection. In that spirit, here are five heavy-hearted dance tunes.

Junior Boys, "Birthday"

"You've gone and then you missed my birthday," Jeremy Greenspan mumbles in this typically forlorn (but icily beautiful) number by his Canadian electro-pop duo. For Junior Boys, the dance floor is just one more place to be alone.

Robyn, "Dancing on My Own"

That sentiment reaches full miserable flower here, with Robyn eyeing her crush across the room as he cuts the rug with another. "I'm right over here," she implores over an increasingly desperate groove, "Why can't you see me?"

ABBA, "The Winner Takes It All"

The Swedish popmeisters' early-'80s tear-jerker starts out small, narrating the demise of a relationship. By the end, though, Agnetha Fältskog is lamenting injustice on a grand scale: "The judges will decide / The likes of me abide."

Michael Jackson, "She's Out of My Life"

This ballad from Jackson's disco-era "Off the Wall" contains what might be the most vulnerable vocal performance in his catalog. Beware the voice crack in the outro -- it's a killer.

Pet Shop Boys, "Beautiful People"

Given a lush orchestral sweep by the brilliant U.K. production team Xenomania, the Pet Shop Boys' 2009 single sounds like a dream. But its lyric -- about the lie of consumer-culture perfection -- turns the music melancholy.


Donna Summer dies at 63; diva of disco

Biggie Smalls would have turned 40 today

Robin Gibb: A Bee Gees voice filled with more than just disco

Chuck Brown dies: King of D.C. go-go music, influential sample source

-- Mikael Wood

Photos: Robin Gibb, Chuck Brown and Donna Summer. (Credits: Gibb - Patrick Kovarik / AFP/Getty Images; Brown - Jason Moore / Zuma Press/MCT; Summer - Jeff Christensen / Reuters)

Hard Summer books Skrillex, Miike Snow, Boys Noize, James Murphy

L.A.'s own Skrillex and Sweden's electro-poppers Miike Snow are among the many acts that will anchor the 2012 edition of the dance-focused Hard Summer, returning for the third year to the Los Angeles State Historic Park downtown. Reflecting the growth of electronic music and the strength of the festival market, Hard Summer will grow to two consecutive days this year, with opening night slated for Aug. 3.

Other artists set to appear at Hard Summer include Bloc Party, Boys Noize, Bloody Beetroots, Nero, James Murphy, Squarepusher and Bootsy Collins & the Funk Unity Band (full lineup below). Two-day passes are available and start at $119, not including surcharges. Last year's single-day Hard Summer was a sellout with 30,000 tickets sold.

Festival founder Gary Richards said ticket sales in 2012 are between five and 10 times greater than they were at this point last year. Capacity grew last year from about 25,000 to 30,000, and Richards did not yet have final word from the city on whether or not he could expect a similar growth this summer.

Richards said expanding to two days was a no-brainer. "It’s pretty logical to go from one day to two days," he said. "You have to build so much infrastructure –- the staging, the fencing and the power. If you put it all in there for one day, you may as well use it for another day."

It hasn't always been this easy for Richards and Hard Summer. The company is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, but just two years ago the event was caught up in the maelstrom that descended on electronic events in Los Angeles after things went haywire at 2010's Electric Daisy Carnival. Richards had hoped to stage two separate summer events at the park in 2010, but was forced to downsize to one. 

"It’s been a hot-button issue in the city for a long time," Richards acknowledged. "But I think with our operation, everyone likes working with us and we’ve come through on our end to make it as safe as can be."

The mainstream acceptance of electronic music seems to be accelerating at a rather rapid pace, thanks, in part, to Skrillex, who earned a Grammy nomination for best new artist. The recently concluded Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festivalin Indio has placed dance on equal footing with rock since the event's inception, and Swedish House Mafia was one of the mainstage headliners this year. Sunday, Coachella vet Kaskade announced he would be performing a July 27 date at Staples Center.

Despite the recent goodwill toward the electronic community, Richards isn't ready to relax. "Whenever we’re doing an event, we have to bring our A-game and everyone has to be prepared for anything that can happen," he said. "We can’t let down our guard. We don’t leave any stones unturned to try to keep this safe."  

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Tom Windish’s acts are all over Coachella

Tom Windish and his Windish Agency have grown with Coachella. The agency represents 20 of the 143 acts at this year’s festival.

Click here for complete coverage of Coachella
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival would get along just fine without booking agent Tom Windish. Yet strike the artists from the Windish Agency off the Coachella bill, and the desert festival would suffer a direct hit. 

Since its start in 2004, the Chicago-based Windish Agency — which has more than 550, mostly club-level acts on its roster — has supplied a steady stream of artists to Coachella. 

 COACHELLA 2012 | Full coverage

This year alone the Windish Agency reps 20 acts on Coachella’s bill of 143 artists, including headliner dance and electronic acts such as Justice and Amon Tobin, as well as buzz artist of the moment Gotye

At the recent South by Southwest Music Festival and Conference in Austin, Texas, Windish suggested meeting up to see some of his artists. One didn’t have to go far to hear one of his agency’s acts, as they were featured in more than 700 performances over the five-day event. 

The act settled upon was Brooklyn electronic duo Tanlines, and on the walk to the venue Windish, 39, stopped numerous times to offer up concert promotion tips. “Look at this poster,” Windish said, pointing at an advertisement for a multi-act punk show headlined by veteran O.C. punk band Social Distortion. “No one is going to go to this,” he said, pointing out that the poster failed to provide such basic, fan-focused information as set times. 

As for Tanlines, it was slated to play second on a five-act bill. Windish smiled when he saw the full lineup on a flier at the venue where the band was to perform. “Actually,” he said, “it turns out I book all these acts.” 

The democratization of the music business brought on by the rise of file-sharing and downloads has helped the Windish Agency soar while record labels have struggled. 

Windish now employs 15 agents, and recently opened an office in Los Angeles to further expand into marketing and licensing. The agency has increasingly taken on the look of a label without becoming a label, reflecting a music business in which acts can thrive outside of the mainstream by surviving largely on touring income.

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Pop music review: KIIS-FM’s dance-heavy Jingle Ball

This year, the top 40 station put a satin bow on the Europhile club sound, giving dance music fans a shot at raving to the beats of Guetta, Lady Gaga, Taio Cruz and Flo Rida.

In a back row of the Nokia Theatre on Saturday night, a boy of about 6 in a dark purple hoodie took in David Guetta’s No. 1 pop single "Without You" and absolutely raved his face off. The kid knew every move in a glowsticker’s handbook, waving his palms at the yearning build-ups and fist pumping at the Ibiza bliss-outs. He sang every word to the song, and shrieked Guetta’s name when it was done.

Let’s recap how important this is. Dance music’s conquest of American pop is so complete that a child in elementary school can be a Beatles-on-Ed-Sullivan-style fan of a French electronic producer who does not sing live and whose performance is visually incomprehensible to most of his audience. And he was far, far from alone at Nokia.

This year’s KIIS-FM Jingle Ball, perhaps the most reliable round-table of what top 40 is valuing these days, put a satin bow on the Europhile club sound and made it the one present radio fans might be getting in perpetuity. The lineup included four-on-the-floor adherents such as Guetta, pop’s weirdo mother superior Lady Gaga, plus Taio Cruz and Flo Rida. With dance music this pervasive, maybe the DJ software company Serato Audio Research needs to come out with a kids’ version.

PHOTOS: The 2011 KIIS Jingle Ball

One problem was obvious from the beginning -- the show started at 6:45 p.m. If you wanted to catch Nickelodeon’s experiment in boy-band media synergy, Big Time Rush, and the end of Gaga’s set, you were in your chair for 4 1/2 hours. That kind of stage commitment would wear out Springsteen, plus KIIS devoted way too much time to inane DJ yakking with cable-TV celebrities.

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Erasure returns after giving Frankmusik 'carte blanche'

Erasure in 2011

Twenty-five year-old synthpop act Erasure might be an unlikely candidate to pack the clubs on its current North American tour, but the fans are out and giving the duo more than just “A Little Respect,” to reference the 1987 single that yearned for some recognition. 

With the exception of 2005 single “Breathe,” which topped the U.S. dance charts, Andy Bell and Vince Clarke of Erasure haven’t seen mainstream success here in two decades. No matter, as shows in Austin, Texas, Denver and Dallas sold out, and a Saturday appearance at the Hollywood Palladium promises to have a celebratory feel.

Bell definitely feels the stateside love. "People seem to be much more appreciative over here than in the U.K., for how many years we've been touring,” he said by phone from a St. Louis hotel room. “It's not like we have mass exposure here. People come see us mainly on word of mouth."

That’s a phenomenon quite familiar to cult bands. In a digital-driven music landscape, a veteran group's  continued relevancy can lie heavily on live shows rather than record sales. A veritable poster  band for the LGBT crowd, the group was one of the first acts with an openly gay frontman to have chart success with hits such as “Chains of Love.” Mainstream audiences also might know Erasure from the popular flash game Robot Unicorn Attack, whose theme song is the classic Erasure track "Always." 

"You have to consider the time when Erasure was capturing its audience," said Christine Nash, a former A&R rep for Warner Bros. and Virgin. “[It was] a time that if you were a fan of a band, you really believed in everything they did. Erasure became their fans' champions." 

Think, then, of an Erasure tour as something of a homecoming. "They are almost like reunions to us. We all know we're going to the show when it comes through town," said Jonathan Munfore, a 41-year-old Erasure fan from Santa Monica.  

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