CNN reporter Serena Wang wasn’t the first person to tell the world that electronic music was “hanging on the fringes of mainstream America, and it’s really starting to creep in.” But on the opening night of dance music’s biggest ever U.S. tour, helmed by superstar British DJs Sasha and John Digweed, it wasn’t a ridiculous idea at all.
It was the spring of 2002, five years after the mainstream American music press had begun touting dance music as the new rock’n’roll. Even though Twilo — the legendary NYC club where Sasha and Digweed first broke through in America — had closed (perhaps a telling sign of the fallout to come), DJs like S&D, Carl Cox, and Paul van Dyk were releasing albums by the boatload and touring incessantly. But rock’n’roll — propelled by bands like the Strokes, the Killers, Franz Ferdinand and others — made a massive comeback, stalling trance and house music in their tracks, and today, Sasha and Digweed rarely perform live together.
That 2002 tour, dubbed Delta Heavy, was chronicled for a documentary, which arrives nearly four years later, long after dance music’s pop culture funeral. The film could have made a case for electronic music’s continued relevance: The shimmering excitement of that summer is captured handily, punctuated by many sequences of sweaty, pulsating torsos and bug-eyed dudes dancing with light sticks. But those dance sequences become repetitive, and instead of having the DJs discuss why their music was important, producer and director Ben Turner decided to focus mostly on the workings behind the tour, hoping to scour some drama via scenes of roadies trucking turntables in and out of arenas. We are told by the DJs that the two-month tour is tiring during a rooftop interview, but there are no visual suggestions of frustrated arguments, police clampdowns, or all-night parties. Did they even have a good time? We’ll never know, and the people who made it out to those massive gigs probably don’t even remember.
See also: Underworld, Everything Everything DVD (V2, 2000)