“Everyone loves things more when they're gone”: Dance music after Pendulum

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In early 2011, one of dance music’s iconic live acts, Faithless, bowed out of the game. While the announcement wasn’t exactly a surprise – Maxi Jazz told inthemix back in 2004 that they were considering calling it a day – it was a significant ‘changing of the guard’ moment. The band even called its farewell DVD, filmed at their last-ever live show in London, Passing The Baton. After the news broke, inthemix wrote a feature speculating on what the end of Faithless meant for the wider scene. Maxi Jazz, Sister Bliss, Rollo and co. belonged to an elite group of live acts who have long ruled dance festival line-ups. It’s a club that arguably includes Daft Punk, the Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Groove Armada and Basement Jaxx (of course there are outliers like Kraftwerk, but seminal doesn’t always equal sure-bet headliner).

Since we published that feature, those veteran acts have enjoyed mixed fortunes. While Basement Jaxx could once comfortably pack out the Boiler Room at Big Day Out with its exuberant live show, these days the duo’s focus has shifted largely to DJing. The same goes for Groove Armada, who moved away from the live show in 2010. In the past 12 months, Daft Punk’s made a Tron soundtrack but given no hope for a tour. Underworld has exhibited a superhuman ability to forge on: the core team of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith still together after 30 years and eight albums. Despite prestigious assignments like composing the music for the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony, they’re unlikely to lead a line-up. (At the vast Ultra Music Festival in Miami last year, the group ‘warmed up’ for Deadmau5’s closing set.)

Of that hallowed club, perhaps The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy have proven most resilient. The Chems continue to reinvent their live show, while The Prodigy still possesses raw power onstage despite making its best music in the '90s. As the upcoming Warrior's Dance Festival in Serbia this September is sure to prove, The Prodigy will long be heroes of Eastern Europe.

In the comments for that feature, a few ITMers name-checked Pendulum as a possible successor to the likes of Faithless. “They sold out the Hordern [in Sydney] last time they were here,” wrote robbz_69. “Pretty sure they're the closest we have to a crossover dance act that could very well come close to headlining in a couple of years.” It was a sagely prediction. At the end of 2011, Pendulum headlined the Summadayze and Summafieldayze festivals here (a spot, incidentally, that Underworld filled a couple of years before). The decision to accelerate them to the top of the Summa bill came after Future Entertainment saw the raucous response to their sets at Future Music Festival earlier that year, when the band arguably upstaged mainstage drawcard the Chemical Brothers. “Pendulum were like the unannounced headliners,” agreed Future director Brett Robinson to inthemix.

Ahead of Summadayze, we got on the phone to Pendulum's Gareth McGrillen and asked what he thought about the band's graduation to headliner. “It's a big responsibility but I think it's one that suits as well,” he said, matter-as-fact as ever. “We've never lacked self belief; if we did then we never would've got out of Perth.” It was in that same interview, though, that McGrillen revealed the guys were looking at a break after the festival run. “We're not splitting up or anything like that,” he said. “We're literally just trying to force everyone to take a holiday from Pendulum so we can get re-inspired again.”

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