It may have taken 20+ years or so, but the formula of a rock mega tour finally hopped over to the world of electronic music. In 2002 it happened with Sasha and Digweed’s Delta Heavy Tour, which reached over 85,000 fans across the country. With a few decades of multi-city tour planning under his belt ala the Van’s Warped and Taste of Chaos tours, Kevin Lyman was put in charge to make it happen for the DJs.
“He was the man,” comments Sasha. “I got to play in so many places across America.”
Released February 7, the Delta Heavy DVD takes you on this voyage, one that broke the mold of weekend city hops DJs typically take when playing for their fans. Even with some chats about tardiness, sound issues, and the standard toll a tour like this takes on one’s constitution, the crew and the DJs alike seemed to be having a ball. Sasha reflects, “It’s the kind of a fun thing that happens when you’re on the road with a group of people. It’s a really interesting experience.”
After spotlighting the presentation of the Digweed classic “Heaven Scent” during one performance, the film shows the man himself as he jumps off the stage for his first crowd surfing experience, looking like a little kid at Christmas. Digweed had so much fun that he jumps in for another go-round, much to the dismay of his tour staff who was worried that he’d never return.
Looking back on his days of the small venues like the Hacienda in Manchester through to his longtime residency at New York’s Twilo, playing arenas that held thousands was a whole new gig for Sasha. “Some of the venues were amazing, that was for sure,” he says, laughing.
The 6-week, 31 city schedule enabled Sasha and Digweed to break into cities they’d never played before and a chance to see the U.S. from the road instead of peering at clouds from inside a plane’s window. “It’s an enormous country,” he says, “You can focus on L.A. and not really be known in the rest of the country. You really do have to do the legwork and do the traveling.”
Hitting towns like Atlanta versus Los Angeles or Minneapolis versus New York, filled with thousands of screaming, dancing people of all ages, shapes and sizes surprised them. At one point in the film Digweed comments about Middle America’s level of enthusiasm for electronic music and how it reminded him of how England used to be. Sasha agrees, “Yea, the mood in the U.S. definitely mirrored a lot of what happened in the U.K. and some parallels between the two countries and how they developed.”
Since Jimmy Van M opened during the tour, he had to slow down his set to more of a foreplay level, warming up the crowd and get them liquidy and ready for what was to come. At the time in 2002 you can see the crates of vinyl that both Digweed and Sasha accessed during their sets compared to the CDJs Van M utilized. Now that’s changed, “I don’t use vinyl anymore, unfortunately,” Sasha says with a bit of remiss. “I buy a lot still, but just to record them because I play off the computer now. It’s all digital.”
Technology has impacted the dance scene in other ways as well, from the ability to produce on the fly with CDJs or with Final Scratch configurations, to small and large label distribution via digital music portals like Beatport. In this way, it has also allowed music to hop geographical boundaries.
U.K. bands like Bloc Party broke big in the U.S. in 2005, not only within the general public but in the dance clubs as well, and without a very aggressive tour schedule in the states. “You can do a lot of self-promotion on the Internet and not have to tour so much,” Sasha conveys, but with the belief that this cyber connection to fans can only take you so far. “Still, for people to see you at the shows is very important. The only way to do that in the states is to do this kind of tour. To get out on the road is quite grueling. Even a very well planned tour will take out six weeks of your life.”
Even so, there is talk of another one, although nothing is really solidified at this point. If there is a next time, filming it all may not be part of the plan. Sasha didn’t really enjoy the idea of being followed around by a camera during the tour, which is interesting considering he looked very much at ease.
“They had to twist my arm to make that whole thing happen,” he admits, “I’m not really comfortable in front of the cameras usually. Ben [Turner], the guy who shot the video, is a friend of mine. I guess I kind of got my head around it in the end.”
Although he is listed as an executive producer, Sasha stated that he hadn’t seen the movie yet. “I can’t stand watching myself on a screen. It’s too weird.” But you should. if you’re a fan of Sasha and Digweed, Delta Heavy is a “must add” to your DVD collection.
Sasha has been back in a studio in New York working on his next album and will of course, be out and about in Miami for the Winter Music Conference coming up next month. Before all that, he’s coming to Denver this Friday to wow the crowd as always at Vinyl. He’ll be making Denver a monthly stop when he returns in April and May as part of his four city Fundacion tour, which goes through New York, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.