Brace For Impact: A Definitive Ranking of the Sonic Activity at Austin's Seismic Dance Event

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Mario Garza
Seismic Dance Event 2019.

There’s something quaking in the “Live Music Capital of the World,” and it's Seismic Dance Event, a two-day house and techno festival that is the first of its kind in Austin, Tex. Produced by husband-and-wife duo Kelly Gray and Andrew Parsons of RealMusic Events, the underground bash invaded The Austin-American Statesman on Nov. 16 and 17, bringing rare names like Testpilot -- the techno project from Deadmau5 -- and Eric Prydz’s alter-ego Cirez D to the Lone Star State for the first time. 

In its second year, the boutique festival saw fewer than 5,000 attendees spread across the three-stage venue, which typically operates as a newspaper printing house. The Tsunami Stage hosted house acts like Justin Martin, Prok + Fitch, J. Worra, Gorgon City and Dom Dolla, as cool blue lights depicted the visuals of rushing waters. 

Inside the warehouse, the Volcano Stage was dominated by an inferno of techno visionaries, including Alan Fitzpatrick, Ellen Allien, Bicep and more. A third stage, called ‘“The Realm: Sunken Garden,” gave local talent a place to spin their finest. 

In the spirit of “seismic activity,” Billboard Dance rates some the most palpable sets and moments on the official Tsunami Scale of Intensity, which ranges from 1 (Not Felt) to 12 (Completely Devastating). Brace for impact. 

Nora En Pure’s Sky-High Vibes: Strong

Between appearances at Ibiza clubs, Coachella and Burning Man, Nora En Pure has had a hell of a year. Her flawless performance at Seismic Dance Event on Saturday night was a continuation of that hot streak. The South African producer’s vibey, progressive house stylings felt right at home on the Tsunami Stage lineup, where she presented a collection of records from her Helvetic Nerds cohorts, on top of a slew of originals. She was one of many to drop “Rattle” by Rebuke this weekend, and her feel-good set also featured tracks from Tinlicker, Eli Brown and Horison.
Intensity Level: 5

Festival Faux-Pas: Scarcely Felt

The typical “growing pains” one might expect from a small, independent festival went largely unfelt at Seismic. Day one presented a slight ingress/egress issue that left some fans waiting outside momentarily before they could crush it out with Testpilot, but it was resolved quickly. The RealMusic Events team was admirably transparent about the issue on their Instagram page and addressed the situation on day two by introducing additional bathrooms and extra entry points. Ticket and security lines were short and painless. Bars were well-stocked and manned by friendly teams. Overall, this was one of the more impressive showings we’ve seen for a festival this young.
Intensity Level: 2

i_o’s Lava-Hot Opener: Completely Devastating 

Can we talk about Mau5trap newcomer, i_o? This self-taught producer has blown us away in 2019, thanks to his unique productions and dark, unforgiving techno sets. Taking the decks at 10 p.m. (just before label boss Joel Zimmerman), the “infinite one” lived up to his name by bringing infinite energy to the Volcano Stage. He shredded through rare records that revealed the complexity of his sound, among them a heart-pumping remix of Virtual Self’s “Ghost Voices” and “Forever Ravers” -- a track created by a collection of the genre’s hottest names including Anna, Miss Kitten and Ana Lidia.
Intensity Level: 12

Joel’s Jokes: Weak

Joel Zimmerman, aka Deadmau5, starred in a rare performance on Saturday night where he destroyed the dancefloor with relentless beats and fast moving BPMs as his techno alias Testpilot. While the set itself probably clocks in around an intensity level 8, his quips could have used a little more power. Nearing the end of his set he took the mic in a momentum killing flex to interject: “Let me please be the first person tonight to say 1, 2, 3 JUMP! ... and hopefully the last.” No one jumped, because it was a techno festival rather then a Jersey Shore rave. If only his jokes had been as fire as his Volcano Stage performance, during which he dropped tracks like Pig&Dan’s "Growler," "Minotaur" by Cosmic Boys and "Aseed," a song made famous by his more familiar moniker.
Intensity Level: 3

Chris Lake’s Closing Set: Largely Observed 

Despite chilly weather, Saturday night revelers ran out the clock at the outdoor Tsunami Stage. Chris Lake made the most of his closing two-hour time slot, filling it to the brim with his party-ready brand of house heaters. Toward the end of the set, he tore through his own catalog, dropping fan favorites like the Green Velvet collaboration "Deceiver" and "Turn Off the Lights" featuring Alexis Roberts before thanking the crowd to rave applause.
Intensity Level: 6

Idris Elba’s Crossover Appeal: Very Destructive

What can’t Idris Elba do? A true renaissance man, the British actor and DJ wowed the crowd on Saturday night with his high-energy tech house grooves. Tracks like “Big Tings” by Needs No Sleep and Swoop and a unique Kevin McKay & Marco Anzalone remix of Daft Punk’s "Technologic” are tracks that have the power to break down the barriers of commericial tastes - turning run-of-the-mill concertgoers into hardcore dance music fans. He better be the next James Bond.
Intensity Level: 10

Cirez D’s Big Debut: Heavily Damaging 

The legendary Eric Prydz introduced Texas to Cirez for the first time on Sunday night. The sounds of his Earth-shattering techno alias took thousands of Sunday attendees on a high-speed journey through the darker side of his productions, but he kept things varied by sprinkling in classics like his own "On Off" and a fresh selection from Yotto called "Nova."
Intensity Level: 8

MK’s Endless Hits: Destructive 

Fans were pelted by MK remixes and originals when the house hitmaker appeared on the Sunday Tsunami Stage lineup. He opened with his smooth remix of Bakermat’s “Teach Me” before unleashing an endless flurry of MK-centered songs including a Medusza remix of “Body to Body,” his new Gorgon City collaboration "There for You” and, of course, the 2018 megahit, “17.”
Intensity Level: 9


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