Review: Illenium at Echostage
Born in Chicago and raised in San Francisco, Nicholas Miller, better known as the skyrocketing DJ Illenium, began exploring electronic music in 2008. He soon moved to Denver, Colorado in 2013 to begin pursuing his passion further. Releasing his first self-titled EP in May 2013, he quickly gained traction and began creating his arsenal of game changing remixes such as Galantis’s “Gold Dust” and Odesza’s “Always This Late”in 2015. In February of 2016, Miller released his first studio album titled “Ashes,” an iconic work that reached number six on Billboard’s Top Dance/Electronic Albums charts. It was clear that this work resonated in the hearts of many EDM enthusiasts, birthing the dedicated fan base called “Millennials.” From there, Miller returned with a second full-length album, “Awake,” which reached number three on Billboard’s charts. Coining the term “sad-boy music,” Illenium has been known, worldwide, for his emotional melodic dubstep creations. Collaborating with artists such as Said the Sky, Griffin and even dubstep legends such as Excision, Illenium has become a household name in the electronic music community.
On October 4, Illenium stopped by Washington D.C.’s very own Echostage to premiere one of the first ever throwback sets of his career. Still riding the massive waves of energy from the third annual Lost Lands Music Festival, the venue was packed from wall to wall with his dedicated fanbase, some who traveled for hours to catch this coveted set. Tickets had been assured sold out for months, and social media boomed with conversations about what this type of set would signify. As this set was in the middle of his Ascend Tour, Illenium made a point to mention this set would be a break from the album, promising a night filled with old school tracks and memorable tributes. As I walked up to the venue, the entry lines stretched far back to the parking lots and all I could see were masses of homemade and limited edition Phoenix jerseys. I knew well before even stepping foot inside the venue that this night would be one for the history books.
Commanding the stage as an opener, JP Orchison, better known as the Australian DJ, Blanke pumped up the crowd with heavy dubstep anthems. Rinsing crowd favorites from noteworthy artists like Sudden Death and G Jones, the crowd was awash in colorful lasers and mind bending bass. As the mass of fans settled into the standing spots for the show, Blanke wasted no time owning his heavy sounds set was complete with hypnotic and futurist visuals that entranced the crowd. His set perfectly complemented the duality of Illenium’s signature performances, a flawless balance of passionate melodies, mirrored by energetic and fierce basslines.
Blanke exited the stage at 12:30 a.m. and I was able to comfortably find my spot amongst a group of fellow Lost Lands enthusiasts. They were the most warm and welcoming group of friends who traveled all the way from Philadelphia after the last Ascend tour date to see this first ever throwback set. We spent the intermission trading stories of the legendary Illenium back-to-back Excision set at Lost Lands and admiring each others homemade merchandise before turning to the stage right as the lights began to dim. Illenium then began playing an iconic and emotional mash-up of “Take You Down,” “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Disarm You” before erupting into a confetti filled drop. From the front to the back, there was a sea of hands, fans were lifted up onto the shoulders of their friends as the crowd cheered on. The first few minutes of his set boasted original tracks such as “Afterlife” and “Hard to Say Goodbye” before transitioning into the well-known early melodic dubstep tracks such as “Youth” by Adventure Club.
Throughout the night, Illenium flawlessly transitioned between his signature sound and melodic dubstep routes to heavier tracks to build the energy of the crowd back up. The set was sprinkled with confetti and fog blasts as he played the multitude of emblematic drops that we have come to know and cherish as his career has grown through the years. There were no shortage of lasers and strobes as the visuals on the large LED walls surrounding the crowds harmoniously meshed with the many tributes of the night. To witness the first ever Illenium throwback set was nothing short of surreal. The warm and welcoming energy was almost familial as we belted out the lyrics to “Gold Dust,” “Disarm You” and “It’s All on U.”
By the end of the night, we had laughed, cried and danced with reckless abandon, an experience unique to an Illenium set. As the show ended, I began to filter out of the crowd but not before sharing a heartfelt goodbye to the many new friends I made throughout the night.