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Boiler Room’s 10 best ever sets

In just four years or so, Boiler Room has become an online institution for dance-music lovers. What did we do before we had access to hundreds and hundreds of cracking live sets from most of our favourite DJs, all accessible on one channel? Along with endless footage of dancers, gawkers, gurners, trainspotters and distracted VIPs perving on each other to spy on from the safety of our own laptops?

The phenomenon began in an actual boiler room in London, but Boiler Room can be anywhere, and anywhere can be Boiler Room – an apartment, a hotel rooftop, a kitchen, any space, anywhere in the world. Boiler Room builds it and the world’s best DJs come – along with some really up-for-it punters ready for their 47 minutes of fame. The Boiler Room is a mythical, mystical place outside of space and time, where the music is always amazing, the crowd is always happy and slightly awkward and the beers are always ice-cold.

A quality Boiler Room set is defined in a matrix with two axes: great music, and entertaining or absurd moments on the accompanying video stream. The music is more important of course – you can have a great Boiler Room based only on the music. But, as we were recently reminded, something entertaining or ridiculous happening on the video ices the cake. They typical Boiler Room set is a one-hour single-shot experimental documentary about human behaviour that just so happens to be set in a club – and if the soundtrack is ace, then it can be a masterpiece. Here are 10 such masterpieces for your consideration. [Words by Jim Poe.]


#10 THEO PARRISH: BOILER ROOM LONDON, 2010

The mighty scion of Detroit delivers one of the early BR classics. (Sure, in the world of online we can speak of something from four years ago as being a classic.) It’s not exactly a standout for its seamless mixing – the transitions are rough ‘n’ ready at best, and sometimes just rough. That’s not news to fans though; a Theo Parrish set is really all about the awesome track selection, and he gets a lot done in this 45 minutes, with his own unmistakeable brand of warped, funky lo-fi house cut with gritty underground disco, jacking minimal tech, and soul classics. (The World Is a Ghetto by George Benson is amusingly misidentified as “Stevie!” by the rather chatty MC.)

(And yeah, since this set was posted in October 2010, the folks at Boiler Room thankfully seem to have figured out that less is more on the mic.) I also had to include this one because it contains one of the best throwaway moments in Boiler Room history: when Parrish playfully tweaks the grass on SBTRKT’s mask as he’s taking over the decks and breaks into a big grin.

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