Movement 2012

The Magazine

April 20, 2012

A Wild End-of-the-Semester Celebration with Sander van Doorn

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Written by: Paul Kitti
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 2:20am. I’m sitting in a red booth across from Sander van Doorn, overlooking a vacant dance floor littered with glass bottles, fading glow sticks, and abandoned articles of clothing. Many would say Sander is the best DJ in the world, and it’s difficult to think of any milestone he’s yet to reach. The albums he’s released, the shows he’s headlined, the awards and rankings he’s secured – Sander seems to have accomplished at the highest level with every effort he’s made, in what has so far been a relatively short career.

Right now the 33-year-old Dutch spinmaster is as still as I’ve seen him, sipping a Diet Coke with a huge smile on his face. I tell him I enjoyed the set, my brain still rattling from the music. I hope my excitedly shaken demeanor redeems the understatement.

“It’s a great way to spend a Tuesday night, I would say,” he responds, smile growing wider.

“How did you feel about tonight’s set?”

He doesn’t hesitate. “Fantastic. There was such a great energy going off the crowd. This was the first time I’ve played here, it was exciting. I’ll definitely be coming back here.”

Great energy. I’d call it uninhibited abandon, an untempered adrenaline release.


Less than three hours ago I arrived at Necto nightclub for the final night of Voltage, a series that had seen some of the world’s top DJs orchestrate some of the wildest parties to go down in Ann Arbor. For the first twenty minutes I watched the venue fill at a modest rate. A couple bright tank tops hovering here, a pair of reflective gym shorts floating by there. It wasn’t until just minutes before Sander appeared in his elevated DJ booth that the entrance became bottlenecked and the pressure from dozens of dance-hungry partiers built into a rapid outpour of youthful energy. The floor fizzed with color and glow, arms raised above a hazy purple cloud of machine smoke.

Sander Van Doorn Photo by Bruno Postigo

See Sander: almost glowing himself, that huge smile visible from anywhere on the floor, one hand controlling his magical mix of tech-house with the other raised in the air, acting as a signal to the crowd for when the music will pick up or slow down. And I don’t mean when the bass will drop into a room-shaking overkill or when the melody will brighten beneath some top-40 lyrics. Predictable club music is for predictable club nights, and this wasn’t one of those nights. Sander’s music is fluid and pulsing, but not the manufactured, electronic kind of pulsing – there’s something more human about it. These songs were free of “shock value techniques,” as I call them, where volume and over-production forces adrenaline release. Sander’s mixes aim for the emotional centers of the brain, growing and floating and changing shape to get there, leading to a release that doesn’t feel externally contrived.

Sweat levels rose. Those who had been in the basement before the crowd influx found themselves emerging into chaos. Mini photoshoots were taking place all around me, this being a night that had to be documented – those who were here knew they may someday need to prove it. Vitamin Water representatives were handing out free bottles at the entrance. What was initially a nice gesture turned out to be a necessity.

At 12:28, with eyebrows raised and right hand in the wait for it position, Sander queued the eerie beginnings of his 2011 hit “Koko.” Some songs saw the crowd as a collection of individuals with their own distinct body movements in reaction to the sounds, but this one had everyone locked into the same jump-and-fist-bump motion, as if forged into one collective body. And that’s when I realized something about truly great DJs that I hadn’t realized before: they aren’t just hosting the party and controlling the vibes, they’re conducting the crowd.

In no other genre is the crowd so integrated into the music, the environment, the flow and direction of the experience.

Refreshing takes on hit songs “Somebody That I Used to Know” and “Sweet Disposition” surfaced among other Sander van Doorn mixes and originals. I remember thinking, here in this average-size club (more than a few hundred people and everyone would be at a complete standstill) on a Tuesday night in a city not exactly known for hosting wild electronic music events, having Sander van Doorn DJ what was essentially a last-day-of-class party was something special.

I’m sure that many students in attendance were seeking escape from year-end overload, and Sander’s liquid melodies and pulsing rhythm facilitated the catharsis with the same sounds that thousands upon thousands will be tripping out to at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and Electric Zoo in New York, both of which Sander will be headlining.


As I speak with Sander about his music and the experiences it has allowed him, what had been lighted by a kaleidoscope of color is now dim and shadowed, with pale white lights guiding the Necto crew as they sweep up broken glass and other scattered remnants left over from the dance hurricane.

From here, he’s headed South towards Florida then over to Vegas, riding high on the wave of positive, almost obsession-tinged feedback from his new single “Nothing Inside.” I can’t help but feel a little jealous of the crowds awaiting another one of his intense sets, but hey, he did say he would be coming back. And I don’t know when that will be, but I’m sure I’ll be able to hear it.

About the Author

Paul Kitti
Paul Kitti
Paul is another awesome member of the iSPY team.

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