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Yes, iconic U.K. DJ Paul Oakenfold is playing Orlando this week

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In what still seems like a frankly unbelievable development at this point in 2020, legendary British DJ Paul Oakenfold is indeed playing Orlando this Saturday. As part of a two-show, bi-coastal swing – also taking in the Dreamstate drive-in rave in San Bernardino, California – Oakenfold is headlining Ace Cafe's new outdoor concert field in the heart of downtown Orlando.

Orlando Weekly spoke to Mauricio Arroyave, director of operations for event promoters GMF, and he was well aware of (and not dismissive of) the COVID spike in Florida. Safety measures like temperature checks and required mask-wearing will be in place at the show, not to mention taking the whole event outside. And like it or not, EDM and dance events are in full swing all over the city.

"This is a fully outdoor concert experience," says Arroyave. "We chose Paul Oakenfold as our first event in this location, because he has crossed the bridge between generations, and unites vast genres of electronic music."

On the telephone last week, Oakenfold seemed genuinely excited to get back to doing what he does best and sharing his music with people again. He has a new album (Shine On) and a hot new collab with Luis Fonsi (of "Despacito" mega-fame), "The World Can Wait." This is a man who has been playing gigs all over the world almost constantly for decades, and he wants to get back to work.

At the same time, Oakenfold – who has been quarantining in Los Angeles for the duration of 2020 – was clear-eyed about the continuing pandemic and the accompanying caution fatigue, asking this writer about mask-wearing and open venues in Central Florida. In fact, there was a touching moment in our conversation where, when asked about his plans after the shows, Oakenfold copped to just wanting to check in on his mum back in the U.K.

In the dance music world, there are few bigger stars than Paul Oakenfold. His influence across genre is vast, his ability to move a dancefloor is uncanny. And he'll be here in mere days. Be on your best behavior, Orlando.

PAUL OAKENFOLD | PHOTO BY SCOTT RAMSAY
  • Paul Oakenfold | photo by Scott Ramsay

Orlando Weekly: How are you doing?

Oakenfold: Excellent! In the recording studio, making new music to play at my first show of the year. In Orlando! I'm excited.

So how did this come together?

My agent reached out and said, "There's a show, would you like to do it?" And I was pleasantly surprised, put it that way, because I didn't think I'd be working this year.

How are you getting in the right headspace to get back out there after so many months?

That's a good question actually, because I've been thinking about it already. Am I in the right headspace? I've started to go downstairs to my studio and play records and see what works in what key. Usually you're in such a rhythm, and to break that rhythm ...

This is my first show of the year, and it's November. So I've got to find that rhythm again and find that place that was just natural, which is playing, week after week after week.

Any plans for your sets?

I think that people are actually going to want to hear a couple of classics because they're so excited to be back out, so I've done some brand-new remixes of some classics. And I'm going to play a lot of the music for the first time from my new album.

How are you going to approach a drive-in rave?

I've never done one. I don't know what it's going to be like. I'm curious.

Are you going to say, "Honk your horns!" or anything like that ...

"Honk your horns if you like this track!" You know, that's a good one, actually. I might say that!

Do you have any notable memories of past shows in Orlando?

Orlando was one of the first places where breakbeat in America really hit, so I think Orlando has long been on the cutting edge when it comes to electronic music. I believe Rabbit in the Moon were from there. [Ed. note: Tampa – close enough.] I got those guys to do a remix for me on one of my songs. I was very aware of Orlando from the early days, they just loved dance music. So I'm really looking forward to coming and hanging out. Are people wearing masks down there?

For the most part, I guess? Orange County has a mask mandate.

Yeah, as you should.

What do you see happening to live music as the pandemic drags on?

It's really hard. I felt like the arts and entertainment world got left behind. There's been no focus and no direct help. A lot of these iconic clubs, small clubs will close. I mean, in Los Angeles, you've got the Viper Room, the world-famous Whiskey a Go Go, and these are small clubs and they were not bailed out. It's not just the artists, it's the people who work around the artists – tour managers, agents, people in the clubs, from the cleaners to the bar staff. We're an industry that is going to find it really difficult to recover. It's really worrying and concerning.

Listen, everyone's suffering, right? But the arts and music are going to find it hard to come back. We all have an opinion, right? Mine is that I don't think this is going to go away anytime soon. I hate to say this, but I think it's going to be around for another year, before we're going to get back to "normal" until 2022, in terms of music.

But people are restless. I've seen it here on the weekend, there are loads of parties going on where people weren't wearing masks. And people are just like, "Well, I'm going to get on with it." People have got different attitudes on ...

On everything.

Yeah, on everything.

Paul Oakenfold plays the Ace Cafe Concert Field, 100 W. Livingston St., at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, with Carlos Mendoza, Suzy Solar, Volkmann & Engles and Dave Gluskin. Tickets are $45-$125. More information can be found at gmf.events.

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