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Back-to-backs are the new black

We discuss Ibiza's latest booking trend and highlight some classic B2Bs in the island's recent history.


Maybe it was Ushuaïa opening's exclusively back-to-back line-up which leads us to ask ourselves the reasons for this massive offer of double sets on the island this summer; maybe it was the applauded set Apollonia offered at Amnesia opening, or maybe we just like it as much as we are intrigued. What is clear is that, if you take a look to the past season's Ibiza DJ sets, you'll realise the number of back-to-back performances has grown substantially in the last two years to become 'the in thing' this summer.

For any Martians still unsure what we are talking about, a back-to-back is a set format (or a way of DJing) which includes two DJs playing together and sharing the booth. Whilst usually a one-on-one-off system (while one DJ is spinning a record, the other is picking a new track) there are other ways, for example one playing tunes and the other doing effects and loops, or a half hour of the set for each turn. It depends on the artist's preferences.

What began as a distinguishing element and a breath of fresh air has turned into a massive trend this year, something that also happened short time ago with live sets (but that's another story). The reasons why we can't know for sure, but the seductive touch that a back-to-back provides to the lineup, the public's ability to claim seeing two of their favourite artists together, the enjoyment that this format gives the DJs or the desperation for original and exciting booking ideas (unfortunately counteracted by all promoters having the same brainwave), could be the principal reasons that explain why this phenomenon has expanded with lightning speed.

In any case, despite its over-use this season, we declare ourselves big fans of back-to-backs. It means a good opportunity to check how two DJs leave their respective egos at home and trust in each other to share control of the booth. It absolutely benefits the dancefloor with fresh and new beats instead of the routine some DJs are used to; variety is the spice of life. On the other hand, it is also important to be careful about this. Don't let any party promotor cheat you, because although not every artist fits in the back-to-back format, bookers will keep trying to put together big names regardless in order to sell more tickets. One of the nights at ENTER, for example, will offer Richie Hawtin and Maceo Plex playing together, an awkward pairing unlikely to be as good as their respective solo performances.

We ask the Spotlight clubbing community about this issue and some names besides those two have been come to light as bad examples of this practice: Sven Väth doesn't always work well in pairs and his set with Luciano in July last year wasn't top drawer. The Luciano and Richie Hawtin partnership at Ushuaïa in 2013 fell surprisingly flat and Black Coffee's recent back-to-back with Kerri Chandler this summer didn't allow either DJ to flourish. But we want to look on the bright side of life (or music), don our detective gabardines and immerse ourselves into the archives to bring you six of the most memorable back-to-back sets in Ibiza recent history...


Jamie Jones b2b Seth Troxler b2b The Martinez Brothers: Circo Loco closing 2014

Yes, you are reading it correctly; these three heavyweights jumped into the booth last summer at DC10 during the Circo Loco Closing Party. Why do the best back-to-backs have to happen at the closing parties? Gripes aside, this is good evidence of how collaborative sets should be with a crazy audience causing mayhem on the dancefloor. Interesting to note they had played together before in BPM Festival, so they knew what they were doing.

Carl Cox b2b Nic Fanciulli: Space closing, 2014

It was at the Space Closing Party in 2013. 7:30 in the morning and Carl Cox was introducing his very special guest, Nic Fanciulli, Coxy's protigee and good friend, who proved his mastery at the booth offering a great back-to-back where the complicity between them was striking. Almost a three hour set that saw the sun come up, completely full of people. Well done!

Carl Cox b2b Laurent Garnier: Carl Cox at Space 2013

It seems like Carl Cox is the back-to-back master. These two geniuses, in a completely improvised way, jumped to the Space booth during Coxy's Revolution Party one July to offer this magnificent set together. No more words needed, just listen.

Solomun b2b David August b2b Hosh: Sankeys 2012

We saw Solomun and Hosh playing together multiple times but David August wanted to be on board too this time, so they offered a great back-to-back at Sankeys in 2012, with a massive sit down included which no one present could forget. They do all work for the Dynamic label, so it's not hard to understand their confidence in playing together, even in unexpected scenarios.

Luciano b2b Ricardo Villalobos: Cocoon closing 2008

Even though Luciano's name has appeared twice as bad examples of this practice, it is not because he doesn't know how to tango. Maybe the company at that time wasn't the best; maybe he was wasted (who knows). The point is that he also had shown his ability with Ricardo Villalobos at the Cocoon Closing Party in 2008, offering a set that many will never forget.

J.E.S.u.S: Boiler Room Ibiza 2014

Also known as Jackmaster, Eats Everything, Skream and Seth Troxler during their first Boiler Room at Ibiza last summer. We had to include this… but how should we call it? A b4b? A quadruple back-to-back? Either way, they showed their mastery playing quality tech-house together and had all present in a very peachy mood.

We are aware these selections are rather subjective and not remotely comprehensive. So who would make your list?


The complete season line-ups haven't been revealed yet, with promotors keeping some names and dates up their sleeves to surprising us with later. But if you take a look at the Spotlight Party Calendar you'll find most line-ups for the season and decide which back-to-backs you want to check this summer. My own list? First of all, I want to hear some Spanish compatriots play together, like Mar-T and Cuartero on the 1st of July at Amnesia during a Hyte's party or Edu Imbernon with Javi Bora at Kehakuma. Then, Richie Hawtin b2b Paco Osuna could be an interesting one too, for sure during an ENTER party and Joy Orbison B2B Scuba the next August 14th at Dc10 (and after a Tale of Us set!) among others… but let me tell you an open secret: the best back-to-backs are the spontaneous ones, when you are on the dancefloor enjoying a set and another artists jumps into to the booth and catches you by surprise.

As everything in music, the back-to-back format is good when it is not driven by financial motives, when it is natural, brings fresh air to the booths and when it makes the dancefloor dance. So DJs, promotors and clubs of the world, let's make sure this format stays about music, not business.

View this feature in the weekly Spotlight magazine, Issue 025.

WORDS | Natalia Gutiérrez

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