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National DJ Day 2023: The top ten most iconic DJ sets of all time
From Laurent Garnier's masterclass upon the terrace of former Ibiza club, Space, to The Chemical Brothers' unforgettable headline set at Glastonbury Festival - Check out our pick of the best DJ sets of all time
Date published: 20th Jan 2023
Occurring every year on January 20th, National DJ Day or Disc Jockey Day offers us the opportunity to honour some of the finest selectors in the game, shining a light on their greatly envied sound manipulating skills and the many contributions to the electronic music industry they bring.
Established back in the 1950s, this celebratory day was founded by Alan Freed or 'Moondog', as he was more commonly referred to. The man who is said to have also coined the phrase 'rock and roll' was also a pioneer of the DJ world, becoming the first acclaimed disc jockey on an international scale. Besides being a day of celebration, National DJ day is also a day of commemoration, marking the untimely passing of Freed on January 20th 1965.
Jumping aboard and getting involved on this important day of observance, we here at Skiddle felt obliged to share our gratitude and respect for the artists who've kept us dancing over the decades. The talents who continue to take us on transformative journeys, transporting us from sticky nightclub dancefloors and boggy festival fields to a higher state of consciousness.
Below, we've selected ten of the most iconic DJ performances of all time, saluting the DJ greats of the electronic scene and the performances which will go down in history.
'The Three Deck Wizard' has had many notable moments throughout his career as DJ but one of the most significant has to be his legendary closing set at the sadly now defunct Space nightclub in Ibiza. Paying homage to the internationally adored rave space, Cox played a mammoth 9-hour-long set, opting to mix an assortment of nostalgic club favourites on vinyl for the entirety of the performance. A journey through the timeline of Space, check out the video above to hear some of the records he played.
Fatboy Slim 'The Big Beach Boutique II' on Brighton Beach (2002)
A quarter of a million people descended on the southern seaside town of Brighton twenty years ago to attend possibly the biggest free party the UK has ever seen. At the helm and in charge of making the people move was non-other than Norman Cook AKA world-renowned producer extraordinaire, Fatboy Slim. With plenty of weapons to choose from in his arsenal, it was always going to be an off-the-scale experience. We'll let the above footage do the rest of the talking. Absolute scenes.
A lesson in how to hush your critics, Daft Punk's headline performance at Coachella back in 2006 put the doubts of the haters, the commentators who threw shade at their 2005 release, Human After All, firmly to bed.
A set that the likes of Steve Aoki have gone as far as to say 'changed the course of live electronic music' opens to the iconic tones heard in Steven Spielberg's extraterrestrial classic, 'Close encounters of the third kind'. Erupting in colour and sound, the robotic duo emerges from a UFO-like pyramid that appears to have landed on stage. What ensues is a masterclass in crowd control with the setlist featuring revolutionary dance hits, from 'Superheroes' to 'Robot Rock' and 'Around The World'.
Check out the clip above from the Daft Punk documentary, 'Daft Punk Unchained'.
How do you bid farewell to a club that was instrumental in championing electronic music for two decades, in one of the best cities in the world? With a back-to-back live set from two of the most influential DJ names in the business, of course!
Trailblazers of dance music, Four Tet and Floating Points came together back in 2015 to mark the final party at legendary London club, Plastic People, and it's one that still lives on vividly in the memory of all those who attended. The pair, who'd both held residences at the club over the years, conjured a 5-hour-long eclectic soundtrack recounting their experience of Plastic People over the years. A performance the likes of which clubbers in London might never see again.
One of two founders of the revered dance label, Dynamic Music, production and mix specialist, Solomun showcased his skills on the ones and twos on behalf of Boiler Room back in 2015. What no one could have foretold was just how timeless that set would be.
Almost 8 years later and it's still the most-watched Boiler Room set with a staggering 59 million plays to date. Bringing together old classics with back-then forward-thinking future anthems, it's an authentic adventure through sound that ebbs and flows at all the right points. 2 hours of high-energy tunes and a free workshop on how to conduct a live set from one of the best to ever do it. Aspiring DJs, see video above.
Eric Prydz debuting Holosphere at Tomorrowland (2019)
Part of the French producer's 'EPIC' series of events, 'Holosphere' was first unveiled before audiences at Tomorrowland back in 2019. The impressive concept, which involves Prydz performing from inside a spherical structure, armed to the teeth with mesmerising lighting effects and visuals, provided something of a watershed moment for other artists and event planners in the industry. It changed the perception of what could be achieved from a visual aspect at a live dance event.
The debut of this unique show was made all the more iconic when the stage upon which it was featured collapsed, some days after Holosphere's first display. The temporary stage which was erected in its place wasn't big enough to hold the structure and so only those present during the first week of Tomorrowland 2019 got to witness the show.
Another visually stunning performance that will live on with those who attended Field Day back in 2017, Aphex Twin's left-field performance is one that could never be imitated or reworked. There is no one else quite like Aphex Twin. For 2 hours, guests were induced into a hypnotic state, force-fed hallucinatory visuals alongside off-the-cusp live productions mixed in with some of his most acclaimed pieces of work.
Our personal highlight of this remarkable Field Day set has to be the trippy break-dancing bear, showing off its moves over an ambient break amidst what is otherwise a mind-altering performance from the Cornish mastermind of synth. A must-watch.
There were plenty of options, almost too many, to choose from when considering The Chemical Brothers, but this one for us takes the crown.
Inspiring, powerful, emotional, haunting... Just some of the many words we could use to describe this exemplary live performance. The Chemical Brothers lit up The Other Stage at Glastonbury 2019 in their usual flamboyant fashion, churning out anthem after anthem - from 'Hey Boy, Hey Girl' and 'Galvanize' to 'Out of Control' and 'Star Guitar' - in perfect time to stirring 3D visuals literally reaching out of huge screens behind the duo towards the crowd.
Moving the audience with a sincere touch towards the end of the show, The Chemical Brothers paid a heartfelt tribute to their friend and figurehead of the rave scene, Keith Flint of The Prodigy, who tragically died earlier that year.
Many noteworthy DJ names through the years have earmarked this particular set as one that stood out or changed the direction of their lives. Among those the likes of Jamie Jones and enduring underground talent, Clive Henry.
There is some debate about when this set actually happened (sounds like it was a heavy one), but one thing has been agreed upon by all who were fortunate enough to be on the terrace of Space that fateful evening, and that was that this particular performance was one of the best the White Isle has ever seen.
Chopping and changing through genres as if possessed by some higher spirit of dance, the radical French DJ succeeded in mixing techno, house and even drum n bass. Putting his neck on the line paid off with the vibe of the crowd said to be electric. No one does it quite like our man Laurent Garnier.
Ending on an absolute pearler, Orbital's headline performance at Glastonbury 1994 is something of a time capsule, allowing us to look back at a time when rave culture was born and spread to the masses.
The acid house outfit's set was watched by thousands of festival revellers as well as millions of people at home, with TV coverage of the spectacle said to have cemented Orbital as a leading name in an emerging underground dance sound. A performance that would change the face of music in the UK forever.
Check out the goosebump-inducing video above of Orbital performing their biggest track to date, 'Chimes' live on The NME Stage.
Check out our What's On Guide to discover more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.