Why Do Most Festival DJ Sets Suck?

You pay a LOT of money to see your favorite DJs at festivals, why is it almost always a let down?
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You pay a LOT of money to see your favorite DJs at festivals, why is it almost always a let down?
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This post might not sit well with some, but that's the point of an op-ed, I suppose - to present an opinion that might not be welcomed with open arms. Give it a chance, listen to the argument and then commence to hating if you have to. 

To put this into perspective, this is really about the art of being a DJ and why today's "DJ" sets are almost always subpar at big festivals. 

Let's start with the biggest offender and work our way down the list, shall we? 

The big problem with most festival sets is that they are almost always entirely too short, giving the DJ no time to play a proper set. What you end up getting is a pre-programmed, truncated pile of shit rather than a set that builds and breathes with the crowd. The DJ is forced to jam in all the hits and crowd pleasers back to back, which just ends up leaving fans with an ADHD wiggy-ness as they keep checking their phones anticipating the next stage they need to run off to.  

DJ sets have never been about playing just the hits; that's a recent atrocity brought on by the clueless masses getting sheepled into the culture. The DJ's job has always been to create a vibe and a groove that people can get lost in. Yes, I know that sounds kind of cliché, but it's true. From the days of Larry Levan onwards, the job description really hasn't changed all that much - until recently. 

The festival set destroys the DJ's ability to take the crowd on any kind of musical journey; hell they can barely even play all the hits in an hour-long set. Promoters have become so reliant upon stacking up their flyers with DJ logos they forgot about one of the most important experiences: getting lost in a DJ set. 

Smaller festivals and parties like Lee Burridge's All Day I Dream series understands that DJs need time to flex their musical wares. The only vibe you can whip up in an hour is one that feels like PCP, and that's not good for anyone.

Okay, so we got that out of the way. Hopefully, promoters will start booking fewer DJs, or giving them longer sets on more stages. Something, please, lord. Something. 

Next, we have the preprogrammed, uninspired "sets" that make their way from festival to festival, always the same, always boring and predictable. With all the fireworks, lasers, LED screens, etc., etc. these poor DJs have to sync their sets... thus removing all spontaneity from the process.

Last but not least the sound usually resembles the feeling of being smashed in head over and over by a sack of oranges while wearing a steel pot on your head. The mids are completely gone; the highs are like getting q-tips rammed down your ears and the bass is all that you can remember as you stumble to the next stage with your ears ringing. 

10 Things We Hope Change At Electronic Music Festivals

So there you have it, it's pretty simple really. Give DJs sets longer than an hour, let's say two-and-a-half at the bare minimum, stop syncing the light shows, hire a VJ that works with the DJ and vibes off the set - and bring in quality sound, not just loud sound. Problem solved.