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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

What can we expect from Martin Garrix at his Dubai Bao Festival show?

Martin Garrix's show in Singapore was an audio-visual treat. We look ahead to the DJ’s Dubai concert in November

Dutch DJ Martin Garrix performing at the Heineken Music Hall in 2016. He will be in Dubai at the Bao Festival this November. AFP
Dutch DJ Martin Garrix performing at the Heineken Music Hall in 2016. He will be in Dubai at the Bao Festival this November. AFP

The UAE music and dance community were right to rejoice last week with the announcement of the upcoming Bao Festival.

A mere glance at the eye-watering line-up confirms the organisers, who were behind Abu Dhabi’s Unite with Tomorrowland in July, mean business.

Bao Festival will host five of the world’s top 20 DJs, many of which performed in the UAE in the form of relatively exclusive club gigs.

These young millionaire spinners will be seen in their element now at the mammoth Meydan Racecourse on November 29 and 30.

Despite the enthusiasm of seeing the likes of Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Afrojack, who are ranked No 2 and 8 respectively by DJ Mag, there is no doubt it is the world No 1 DJ, Martin Garrix, who the crowd will be looking forward to the most.

Moreover, judging by what we saw at Garrix’s headline performance on Sunday as part of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix, The G Man has a great show in store for Dubai when he closes the Bao Festival.

A lot of this is down to Garrix experiencing his most creatively fertile period to date. Over the last 12 months, he has been working studiously in expanding his musical palette to include various popular music styles.

However, unlike peers, David Guetta or Calvin Harris, both of which made an unapologetic deep dive into the pop music market, Garrix’s exploration has never been at the expense of the roots.

His latest hit single, Scared to Be Lonely, a collaboration with pop star of the moment Dua Lipa (who also appeared as Garrix's special guest in Singapore) maintained his core big-room sound despite its trap pop-leanings.

While the vocally driven efforts of There for You (featuring Troye Sivan) and the Guetta collaboration, So Far Away, also did their bit in introducing Garrix to a mainstream audience without alienating the faithful.

Despite those radio-friendly efforts, Garrix never lost his ear for clubs and festivals.

In Singapore on Sunday, he dropped his latest festival anthem ID, a collaboration with Dyro that first premiered in the influential Belgian dance festival Tomorrowland in July.

The track is a monster; the serrated synth riffs bear a hole in your chest, while the expert build-ups and drops are impeccable.

Another highlight of the Singapore set was Lions in the Wild, a synth-driven track that thrillingly transitions from stuttering dance build up to a heroic chorus that conquered festivals and gym sessions alike.

Which brings us to Garrix’s visual props.

During the stage set-up, it looked alarmingly underwhelming. There was a chest-high table with no cloth or lightning rig to cover Garrix’s legs.

On top was large cross – reminiscent of veteran French electronic group Justice, while behind was a giant screen and strobe lights.

However, it was brilliantly deceptive. True to the Garrix’s visual brand, the design was elegantly minimal and made use of light and shade.

The cross behind Garrix was a screen that plays the same images as the larger screen behind, except it was in close up mode. Focus closer and it made an illusion of a cascading array of visuals that looked almost three dimensional.

In the middle of it all was Garrix in full silhouette behind his console, the diminutive conductor of a blaring computer orchestra. Going by his present show and use of excessive white light, sunglasses are in order for the Dubai gig.

With the incessant shuddering beats and relentless visuals, don’t expect Garrix to indulge in small talk with the crowd.

With a growl that doesn’t befit his age, Garrix is more like a fitness instructor running a gym class with commands to “1,2,3 jump!” and the prerequisite “put your hands in the air.”

It is easy to dismiss the present electronic dance music craze as being artistically bereft, but such assumptions takes away from the underrated skills needed to keep an eclectic 50,000 strong crowd enthused at all times.

The legendary music producer Quincy Jones may have stated that EDM Dj’s “are the new rock stars” in scorn, but his observation remains canny.

Artists like Garrix are masters of reading the room, and they know how to deliver a modern day entertainment spectacle.

Garrix’s upcoming Bao Festival appearance may not convert the cynical, but you will be hard pressed to find a more feverish party atmosphere in Dubai that night.

The Bao Festival will be held on November 29 and 30 at the Meydan, Dubai. Day and weekend passes are available now on platinumlist.net from Dh395.

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