For more than two decades, Pete Tong’s “Essential Mix” radio show has been heralded as an authority in electronic dance music. BBC Radio 1′s legendary tastemaker had his finger on the pulse back when just a few underground acts were thriving and he has maintained his impact in an era when EDM has become a global phenomenon.
Now, with mainstream artists like Flo Rida sampling the likes of Avicii, Tong is gearing up to launch an event that will pair dance DJs with rock stars.
The Ibiza123 Festival will kick off in July on the Spanish island. And while Ibiza is essentially the genre’s mecca, Tong saw a void there.
“Strangely, in Ibiza club history there has never been a festival,” he told MTV News recently. “The concept is to allow the DJs to do something at the festival that they don’t do on their own gigs at the clubs: so we’ve come up with this ‘Rocktronic’ idea of actually pairing up electronic artists with legendary stars from the world of rock and roll.
“On the first day, it’s going to be Sting with the Basement Jaxx,” he continued. “On the second day, it’s Elton John with [Australian duo] Pnau. And on the third day, it’s Lenny Kravitz with Luciano. And then Axwell is playing at it, David Guetta, Tiësto, Tinie Tempah, Labrinth.”
While Ibiza has always laid out the welcome mat for EDM stars, the U.S. was a little slower to catch on. In fact, when MTV News first caught up with Tong last year, he was still marveling at the Stateside rise of dance music.
“I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve seen America flirt with dance music before,” Tong told us during 2011′s Miami Music Week. “Back in the days when the Prodigy had broken out and it was straight on to Lollapalooza. Everyone was getting really, really excited, [but] the thing about that is everyone got excited on a festival level, and it never really leaked down into the roots of society, whereas it definitely has more of a hold now.”
One year later, Afrojack, Avicii, Kaskade and Porter Robinson have embarked on full-scale American tours. Rap mogul Jay-Z announced last week that he has tapped Calvin Harris, Afrojack and Skrillex to join him at his two-day Made in America Fest in Philadelphia. And virtually every major festival set to go down on these shores this summer and fall boasts an EDM roster. Even Tong is quick to point out he didn’t see this dramatic swell in popularity coming.
“As we sat here a year ago, I was sitting here talking about the whole thing exploding, and America getting it more and more. And I think if we’d sat here predicting how big it would be 12 months later, I would have undersold it,” Tong admitted. “I think it’s just crazy now how big it is. It’s like the country is lapping it up.”
With support from the local government, Tong said there are already plans to host Ibiza123 annually, from July 1 to July 3; a brand-new site is under construction in San Antonio with a stage that will back out into the sea.
“You’ll have the sunset behind you, so Fourth of July [celebrations in the U.S.], skip that this year,” Tong chuckled. “We’ll put a flag up for you!”
Head to the festival website for more information on the Ibiza123 Festival.