Sunday, September 3, 12:07 a.m. Two steps out of my car and already I can feel the beat from Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack"—my favorite song du jour—through the soles of my inconveniently new shoes. Stretch Armstrong should be wrapping up his set by the Palms Pool and Bungalows any moment now. My cell phone is blowing up with last-minute Labor Day weekend "Yo, hook me up" calls (evidently they didn't read last week's article on nightlife etiquette), but there's simply no time—Tiesto is going on in less than an hour! Strangely, there is not much of a line outside Rain, not the usual sprawling pandemonium, anyway, but I quickly find out why. They're all inside.
Emerging from the rosy, mirror-tiled tunnel into the gaping nightclub, I can see that every house-head from LA to Asia has already staked claim on a spot from which to experience Tiesto, the three-time No. 1 DJ in the world. This is when I start to get excited. The anticipation of scoring the tickets, setting aside the date, in some cases even traveling—it all hits you right about now, when the opening DJ is warming up the crowd and setting the scene. Tonight, The Funkler, aka N9NE Group's corporate director of marketing Michael Fuller, is doing the honors, bouncing back and forth between vinyl and CDs. "He's killing it!" says VIP host Jovan Andow, slicing through the crowd to pick up another party at the door.
I can feel the crowd's urgency; it's party or die trying this weekend. I can also feel my head pounding from the night before. I should have known that when your evening begins at midnight and you have three stops to make, it's gonna be a long one. Labor Day weekend is a labor of love, as is Global Gathering for Godskitchen, the same group that brought the house-music festival from the UK to the US for the first time at Miami's Winter Music Conference in early 2006. This is only the second stateside event.
Down in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, I meet Tiesto's biggest fan. At least he says he is. Udi, a tall Israeli from LA, is draped in a white and blue Israeli flag he has modified by adding Tiesto's name. "There's nobody like him," says Udi, who has brought this flag with him to every Tiesto concert he's gone to in the last three years.
I find a spot on the third-floor VIP balcony where I can not only look directly down onto the turntables, but also take in the whole crazy scene. Every surface is covered in bodies; people would probably wade into the club's fountains if it got them one step closer to the DJ booth. Unlike a regular club night when the DJ's music is the backdrop for dancing, drinking, mingling and such, a performance such as this is more like a concert: everyone faces forward. And all eyes are on the booth at 1:03 a.m. when Tiesto steps out, gives a tiny wave, and slides on the headphones.
Gentle feminine voices float over ethereal sounds but that lasts just seconds before he drops the beat and fire explodes from the overhead truss. Kevin from Bacardi LA describes these first songs as "nasty, hard and trancey." In the front, one guy just flops down on the stage, arms out, prostrate before his musical god. He stays this way for much of the night, the bass vibrating in his skull. If you like that sort of thing, I guess he's having one hell of a night. Others sit along the fountains below the stage, just taking it in, nodding their heads in rhythm.
I'm just praying Tiesto will play some tracks off his compilation album, In Search of Sunrise 4: Latin America, the one I listen to as I write every week. At the first beats, I know what's coming and the chills start up and down my spine. "With one kiss you had me/I want to look into your eyes to feel that special place." That's how DJ Max Graham's remix of Claire VanDerBoom and Jasefos' "Do What U Want" begins. Tiesto brings us down and down, then builds to an orgasmic high before dropping a massive, symphonic anthem on us. He even throws in a really cool remix of Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars." The roller coaster goes on and on; at 4:30 a.m., he's still going. I decide to end it there. I've heard what I came for—I'm going in search of breakfast.