“You see a lot of pairings right now that don't make any sense at all,” Jackmaster once told us. He was speaking about the surge in popularity of back-to-back sets in recent years, and he’s right.
A great back-to-back is more than just two or three big names jammed together on a flyer to sell some tickets. Beyond similar musical tastes, there needs to be a certain chemistry, and perhaps even real friendship. The DJs need to be able to feed off of each other’s energy, to be able to “read each other’s minds,” or be able to react to any curveball thrown into the mix with panache.
They also have to work with one another to take the set somewhere, to build it up and break it down with the crowd’s energy like a great solo DJ would—or better—instead of simply one-upping each other with bigger and better tracks—though there's a time and place for that as well.
All the pairings on our list are more than capable of these feats, and over the years have blown our minds on numerous occasions, becoming some of the best back-to-back combos of all time.
Ben Klock & Marcel Dettmann
These longtime Berghain residents and longtime friends have become two of techno’s most respected and popular selectors in recent years. And their sets together, both at their home club in Berlin and far beyond, have become stuff of legend, as their obvious chemistry together spills out from behind the decks and onto the dance floor in ways few other combos can match. If you ever get the chance to see these two at their home club, do not pass it up.
The Black Madonna & Mike Servito
Take one giant helping of disco-heavy, Chicago house mania, and one wallop of acid madness, and you’ve got arguably the best combo going in dance music right now: The Black Madonna & Mike Servito. These two know how to get a party started like nobody’s business, evidenced by their incredible 2016 Boiler Room performance. And their set on board the Argonaugty at Dekmantel Selectors last year will go down in party infamy. See them.
Âme & Dixon
In what could honestly pass for the greatest mix on the internet, Innervisions honchos me & Dixon laid down four hours of pure magic in their 2012 Boiler Room and haven’t looked back since, touring the globe together for more unforgettable performances than we can recall—most impressively with a 10 hour session at The Hydra last year. We’ve posted their Boiler Room set below, but their mammoth Essential Mix is also well worth a listen.
Jackmaster & Armand Van Helden
Jackmaster told us his he was “walking on air” after his now-legendary Boiler Room with Armand Van Helden—a hero of sorts for the Scottish DJ—and he should be. The two absolutely tear the roof off with a mix of classics and bangers; a formula that’s continued working extremely well for the pair as they’ve played together since.
Seth Troxler & The Martinez Brothers
Blossoming out of (we’d guess) so many hours spent in the artist area of DC-10 getting up to who-knows-what, Seth and the Bros took their relationship to the next level with the Tuskegee label and an on-stage partnership, where the three amigos bring you right into their wild world without letting go until the party's over—and we’re all the better for it.
Carl Cox & Nic Fanciulli
If you were lucky enough to catch these two friends playing together at a Space Ibiza closing party before the club closed for good, then you know exactly why they’re on our list. If you missed out, well thankfully the internet never forgets, and their entire Space finale set is available to listen to below. It’s one for the history books.
While RPR (or arpiar if you like) are of a “group” of sorts, we’d be remiss to exclude the legendary Romanians from our list. Longtime friends and associates, Rhadoo, Raresh and Petre Inspirescu posses all the traits that make a perfect DJ combo, so much so that if you didn’t know three people were playing, you’d be forgiven for thinking there was only one. They are most certainly a combo that needs to be seen live to fully be experienced, so make that goes on your bucket list ASAP.
Like RPR, Dan Ghenacia, Dyed Soundorom, and Shonky are brilliant selectors in their own right, but together, they become something of a super-group. It’s a combination that’s worked out so well that the three Parisians have fully embraced their trio status, touring almost full-time as Apollonia, rocking crowds globally in the process.
Another powerful trifecta, the Hessle Audio crew are a sight to behold, able to criss-cross wide-ranging musical styles over their several-hours long DJ sets, even switching tone completely—heavy techno one night, dubstep the next—depending the sound system or venue. That’s a rare skill for one DJ to have, let alone three. But Ben UFO, Pangea and Pearson Sound are some of the finest DJs in clubbing today, and together they make for an incredible combination.
tINI & Bill Patrick
When we said the best combos should be friends and feed off of one another’s energy, we were really thinking about this pair. Bill Patrick and tINI are tight, both inside and outside music, and their kinship has made for some memorable musical moments. Who else could play for 31 freaking hours together and still manage to smash every second of it? Nobody.
Sasha & Digweed
The original back-to-back combo, Alexander Coe and John Digweed built a career out of combining their skills behind the decks, leaving one of dance music’s greatest legacies in their wake. Though their performances together became something of a rarity in the mid-2000s, they’ve since reunited for special one-off shows in the UK and Miami in 2016/17, and will be undertaking a residency together in Ibiza this year at Privilege—any diehard fan’s dream.
Sven Väth & Solomun
“I've fucked my brain!” Solomun told us back in 2015 when we asked him how he’d prepared for his first ever set with Sven Väth. The anxiety was unfounded of course, as the pair have since hit it off with a bang, playing each other’s parties and forming an adorable bromance in the years since. Don’t you just love a happy ending? See them both together again this summer at Cocoon and Solomun+1.
Ben Klock & Marcel Dettmann via
The Black Madonna & Mike Servito via YouTube
Armand Van Helden & Jackmaster by Giles Smith
Seth Troxler & The Martinez Brothers via
Carl Cox & Nic Fanciulli via Space Ibiza
Hessle Audio via Mixmag
Sasha & Digweed via The Social Festival
Sven Väth & Solomun via Amnesia Ibiza