EDITORIAL: Open to Close (OTC) Sets making a comeback in NYC.


Today’s dance music scene (or as many people know it, ‘EDM scene’) has changed dramatically over the years. One of the biggest changes, which has become more of a culture, is the festival season. With festival lineups becoming more and more stacked each year, this unfortunately results in shorter set times for everyone. DJ’s today, especially in North America, are getting used to playing 60 to 90-minute sets more and more with the rise of festivals and the boom of bottle service clubs.

‘OTC’ or Open to Close Sets have been around forever. In fact, some of the godfathers of dance music used to play warehouse parties from dusk til dawn playing anywhere from 10 to 12-hours straight through, and that’s exactly what people enjoyed and looked for since the DJ was then able to build a set properly, with enough time to read the tireless crowd and take them on a magical journey.

One of today’s DJ’s who is known for being very vocal about what goes on not only in the dance music world, but also in the real world is Max Graham, who keeps the meaning of ‘OTC Sets’ alive says: “I think the timing is right for ‘OTC’ Sets, there is a whole new generation of clubbers that are starting to look for more. They’re moving beyond baby food and starting to understand the seven course meal and really appreciating the different flavors, rather than just ‘give me the sugar’. They just know that there’s more out there.”



Markus Schulz, a legend known to many as the infamous ‘Unicorn Slayer’, is also known for playing extended sets at iconic venues all over the world such as the world-renowned Space Ibiza, Space Miami, The Guvernment in Toronto, Pacha NYC, Avalon in LA and at Tomorrowland, where he played 12-hour set in his own stage… an extremely rare thing to see at today’s festivals!

Markus tells LA Weekly that to do an extended set, it has to be a cultural setting where people are educated. He went on to say, “There are places where people aren’t educated enough musically and so you have to play the obvious tunes and you can’t go too far left or right. EDM culture in L.A. has a long history and it’s thus an amazing place to play.” He explains that in order for the body to withstand such long sets he avoids drinking alcohol while playing and instead goes for some water or ice tea so he can sweat it all out avoiding having to step out to the bathroom until the set is done. It’s basically a physical and mental endurance test for any DJ who does this.

When asked about pulling off a 12-hour set at a festival such as Tomorrowland, Markus said, “It has only been a week but even now I’m still not sure how I did it. The challenge of performing a 12 hour open to close solo set at an outdoor festival, let alone one of the absolutely biggest of them all in Tomorrowland, was undoubtedly one of the biggest I faced in my career.”

Playing ‘OTC’ sets is all about directing the vibe in the room. You can’t be at 120 miles an hour all night long. You stay hot for 30 or 40 minutes, bring it down for ten and then bring it back up again. To go balls to the wall for a 10 hour set doesn’t work. It’s really about creating a journey of peaks and valleys, and the peaks are so much more dramatic when you bring it down a little bit before a big epic moment.”

John ’00’ Fleming told EDMNYC exclusively when he played his 8-hour ‘OTC’ set at the former Sankeys NYC , that when he first began DJ’ing, he used to play for nine to 12-hours straight and wouldn’t even think twice about it because he loved playing so much that he could do it all day if he had to.

Argentinian DJ and Producer Hernan Cattaneo, also known for playing massive extended and ‘OTC’ sets said, “Probably the most important set I played was the closing of Yello in Tokyo. It’s the only place where I got to play 12-hour sets each time. It was the perfect club – black, dark, with an amazing sound system and a crowd that never asked you to play harder or more commercial. You could play at 120bpm for four hours.”

So why are today’s DJs only comfortable with playing short 60 to 90-minute sets in most places they play? Is it because there is no need for extended sets due to the club set up, the type of venues today, or is it simply comfort? With today’s unbelievably high booking rates, one would expect to get a bang for their money, but this feels like its not exactly the case.

Luckily, the young generation growing up in today’s EDM boom are now becoming more educated and demanding more from the DJ’s they pay to see, and thanks to those few names who work hard to bring back the meaning of ‘OTC’ sets such as Orkidea, Dennis Sheperd, Mark Sherry, ECO and of course Max Graham, Markus Schulz, Hernan Cattaneo, Carl Cox and Nicole Moudaber, just to name a few.

Few show producers such as Esscala Entertainment in NYC are representing ‘OTC’ Sets very well by launching their ‘Rabbit Hole Night’ Concept Series in 2013, where DJ’s they book strictly have to play an Open to Close set for their fans. They are doing a great job so far and have featured: ECO, Protoculture, John Askew, Daniel Portman, Christopher Lawrence, John ’00’Flemingm Max Graham, Nic Chagall and more recently Giuseppe Ottaviani and Solarstone, who had never done an ‘OTC’ Set before in their careers.

Hopefully, this will be the hot new trend that will enable this scene to continue thriving and alive for years to come.

David Guzman for EDMNYC


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