Armin Van Buuren at Echostage


When Armin Van Buuren, the DJ king of trance music, comes to your neck of the woods, it’s not really an option for fans to miss his performance, so I bought my ticket a month before the date. Good thing I did too, because it sold out shortly after.

With an infectious smile and boundless enthusiasm, Armin spun original tracks from his collaboration with artists of other genres, ranging from rock to classical. It goes without saying of course, that he was fantastic in keeping the energy in the club going for the three and half hours that he was on stage. The early hours of the morning just seemed to fly by, as duller moments in the non-stop set list never lasted long enough for one to lose their dance momentum. Before I knew it, the clock struck 3:30 a.m. A little early for a rave, but not any less of a great time.

Much as I follow the electronic dance music (EDM) and trance music scene, I’ve never been to a rave here in the States. I didn’t even know there was a following in the District, or that there were large capacity clubs dedicated to bringing some of the best international DJs to the nation’s capital. And no wonder. Echostage, a 6000-person capacity music club on Queens Chapel Road in Northeast D.C. was built just barely a year ago, whilst their “parent” company, Club Glow, started in 1999, hosting smaller rave dance parties in a couple of other D.C. clubs. I’m sure I would have found those parties if I tried harder, but when you’re just starting a new life in a city of grunge rock, alternative and hip-hop fans who don’t think electronic is “real” music, you might do what I did: ditch it like an uncool cousin that no one wants to hang out with. (I’m allowed to be shallow in my early 20s.)

But thanks to the rising commercial popularity of the genre, the club/rave scene here seems to have picked up in recent years, because Echostage attracts big names like Tiesto, Above & Beyond, David Guetta and other major headliners — a reason for D.C. fans to rejoice. But its popularity also causes a bit of a crowding issue. A 6000-person capacity venue sounds massive, but at a rave, some people go crazy and you need to give them room to dance. Otherwise, the layout of Echostage is perfect; like a large square  box with large airy hallways on both sides to enter the dance arena. Running parallel to both hallways are restrooms on the left, and bars on the right, facing the dance arena. Once you’ve walked to the end of either hallway, you’re on the sides of the stage, where wide staircases take you up to a U-shaped table-service area.

I don’t know how much table service costs, but when so many people are packed on the main dance floor, drinks in hand spill so much more easily that it might be worth it to get a group together and make reservations. The main floor gets icky fast, and you’ll be avoiding empty cups and cans like a video game character. I found that sticking to one side of the stage was best for a little more personal space. For some reason, even though I had an unhindered view of Armin and his turntables there, not many people crowded in that area. Sound quality was amazing all around. After four hours of untz-untz-untz, I was temporarily deaf while walking back to the 20-dollar Echostage parking lot, but that’s normal with a electronic dance party.

Also normal are the many party-goers in crazy outfits ranging from skimpy neon sports getups to beaded mouth masks. But the great thing about these dance parties is that you can show up in jeans, Nirvana t-shirt and sandals, and you won’t be denied admittance. In fact, the ones that show up in well-tailored suits look a little out of their element, but even they are welcome here. 😉

I’ll be back there for Tiesto in November. Woohoo! Can’t wait.

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