Illenium is Cupid: A Review of The Ascend Tour’s stop to Minneapolis at the Armory on 11/9/19


“My girlfriend and I actually met at an Illenium show a few years ago” was something that I wasn’t expecting to hear coming into an EDM concert, and so I was even more taken aback when I bumped into another situation where a different couple I befriended mentioned how they were now married – meeting at an Illenium show a few years back as well. The DJ, properly known as Nicholas Miller, really has a lot to provide in a concert but matchmaker was not something I was expecting to add to his profile. 

The Ascend Tour was something special as Illenium, Dabin, and William Black turned the Armory into an Arctic Rave. While we may have been inside at the Armory, the open floor setup and arching ceiling that seems miles high when you’re inside the venue really makes you feel like you’re outside at a summer festival- and so did the concert goers. As soon as I climbed the stairs and found myself in the general admission area of the show, I was shocked to see so many people wearing fishnets, glitters, glowing masks, flashing hats, and so on. Overall, there was a crowd that was seemingly forgetting how it was a cold November night in Minneapolis. We were free of the tundra, at least for a moment. 

When William Black opened up, the venue was nearly full and it was seemingly at capacity by the time Dabin began to perform – and the crowd was there for it. The first song by Black had the entire place bouncing and jumping in unison and that hive mentality did not cease for the rest of the night. Black reigns from Orange County and has recently been gaining more and more attention on the internet via SoundCloud and YouTube, becoming what many are considering a “DJ to watch.” I can agree with that sentiment after seeing how much energy and raw love of the music he had on stage. Dabin, the second act, comes from Toronto and has been growing on the DJ scene since 2013, planning on producing a new album they’re titling “Wild Youth.” The crowd did not hold back, and even the bartenders were nodding and swaying along before Illenium even took the stage. 

Illenium covered the sage with a cast of characters, banging his digital drum sticks alongside a piano and guitar player- the studio was live and on stage, or so it seemed. Most recently the artist released his third studio album, Ascend, in August of 2019. The album was widely acclaimed, and managed to top charts and rankings alike- most notably topping the Billboard Top Dance/Electronic Albums column as well as hitting 14th on the Billboard 200. Hot songs that you might know that soon filled the airways last night were “Take You Down,” “Crashing,” and “Good Things Fall Apart,” just to name a few. What was even cooler, was how each song seemed to have improvised twists and turns which kept us all on our toes – one of the many perks of a live DJ is that there is no way to predict when things might be shaken up. 

The quality of the music speaks for itself with the reception it has gotten, but what I found from going to this show was how out-of-body and beautifully connected one feels by being in this atmosphere. These DJs and artists creating EDM are not just musicians- they build entire realities through pulsing bass and light effects galore. The entire time, the crowd and I had our hands up in the air reaching for the lasers that were shooting across the room as well as to try and feel the heat of the flames that would burst on stage with bass drops and explosive sound effects. The crowd moved as one, as the music raged and the stage was (or so it seemed at times) on fire, alongside some of the most “trippy” visuals I have ever seen on a screen backdrop. One thing that really took me back was that there were either glow-stick cannons or people were throwing these things up in the air in mass- if you didn’t bring any, you surely wound up leaving with a few. This concert felt like an electronic pilgrimage of sorts and I am still trying to process what I was given the opportunity to attend. 

Each pulse of the bass brought chills to us in the crowd, and the flashing lights and wobbly floor (I swear, we were shaking the whole building) constantly lead to goosebumps bursting for the entirety of the event. The crowd was a joint body of souls sharing an experience we will never forget – and even now, while writing this, my ears are still ringing and my stomach is full of butterflies as I am still trying to process what The Ascend Tour really gave us last night in downtown Minneapolis. 

Now the question remains- when did these people I met at the beginning of the concert find the time to meet their significant others? Was it between sets? Was it after the show? Or was it during the show? Perhaps I won’t ever find out until Illenium comes back to town and I bump into them again.