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The 9 best surprise parties in dance music history

The best moments in life are often the most random or unexpected ones. Just ask party whisky J&B. To celebrate the launch of J&B Mash-Up, we’re bringing you a series of articles on some of the best unpredicted moments and mash-ups in life.

The best parties happen at the most unexpected moments – surprise guests turning up out of the blue, flash mobs erupting in public places, international DJs crashing your house party for a night you’ll never forget. We surprised inthemix writer Alasdair Duncan by sending him out to track down the ten greatest unexpected party events in dance music history. Here’s what he found.


#9 Madonna appears at Ultra Music Festival

Madonna loves latching on to youth culture trends to retain musical relevance and/or to demonstrate her down-ness with the kids, so when the movement currently known as EDM took off in the US, she was right there. The singer made a surprise appearance at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival in 2012 to introduce a performance by Avicii and talk up her own dance music credentials. Because a Madonna performance isn’t a Madonna performance without a little winking controversy, she asked “how many of you in this crowd have seen Molly?” to the sound of wild applause. Boy, she must have been royally pissed when Miley Cyrus came along a year later and stole her Molly thunder.


#8 Thom Yorke surprises Sydney with a DJ set

Thom Yorke certainly made the most of his last trip to Sydney. First, he showed up in the audience at the OutsideIn festival – presumably making performers like Collarbones and Flume quite nervous with his presence. Then, following Radiohead’s epic Entertainment Centre performance, he showed up for a surprise set at Goodgod Small Club. How much of a surprise was it? The promoters didn’t even know who their mysterious international guest was until the afternoon of the show. His set took in an eclectic array of sounds, featuring everything from Wu Tang to Four Tet to Fela Kuti. Yorke himself was described as “really easy-going and down-to-earth.” Awww.


#7 The Bloody Beetroots join Deadmau5 at the Palladium

When Deadmau5 played a sweaty, sold-out show at Hollywood’s Palladium in 2011, he was joined by a number of guests. Zedd was there, along with Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe – who apparently has ‘EDM Performer’ listed right under ‘Large Penis-Haver’ on his resume – but most surprisingly, the ever-elusive Bloody Beetroots showed up unannounced, and proceeded to smash out a version of their hit Warp 1977. As you can tell from this fan-captured video, the crowd was pretty into it.


#6 James Murphy surprised by own DJ set

Most surprise gigs are for the benefit of fans, but last year, husky man-bear James Murphy was surprised to learn he himself was due to do a set at Boiler Room. He was reportedly somewhat taken aback and sheepishly admitted that he “didn’t know anything about it” until the day of the set, but ever the pro, he pulled it together and smashed out a brilliant set. The music itself is obviously great, in Murphy’s signature disco and house style, but watching the salt-and-peppery DJ deep in concentration behind the decks is also a big part of the fun.


#5 Diddy gets rowdy with Felix Da Housecat and Hell

When Americans discovered dance music en masse several years ago, nobody embraced it more fully than the hip hop community – suddenly, every Black Eyed Peas track was a club banger with big, farting bass, and Flo Rida was getting very cosy with David Guetta. Long before the current crop of rappers discovered club music, however, Diddy was sweating it out on the dance floors of Ibiza, and his enthusiasm seemed pretty genuine. In a surprise that is now the stuff of dance music legend, he invaded the DJ booth during a 2005 double header by Felix da Housecat and Hell at Miami’s Pawn Shop, shouting through a sparkly megaphone as the pair spun back to back. They must have been okay with it, as both would go on to collaborate with him in years to come.


#4 Basement Jaxx and Beth Ditto stop the rain

Basement Jaxx put on a hell of a show at the 2010 edition of the Good Vibrations festival on the Gold Coast. Simon and Felix played an eclectic set, heavy on percussion and Latin brass, taking in cracking versions of singles like Do Your Thing with the odd spot of punishing, strobe-lit techno. It poured down for most of their set, but when surprise guest Beth Ditto showed up for a cover of Tina Turner’s Can’t Stand The Rain, the thunderstorm miraculously cleared. It was one of those eerily perfect moments that you could never possibly plan, and will forever leave me with fond memories of the now-defunct festival.


#3 The Heavenly Social invents Big Beat

The Heavenly Social started out as a low-key Sunday session in the basement of The Albany Pub in Central London, an offshoot of the indie label Heavenly Records. While it started small, it quickly became the stuff of legend, thanks to its headliners Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands, a pair of DJs who would soon be known as The Chemical Brothers. The pair met many of their future collaborators there, including Noel Gallagher of Oasis, and Beth Orton, who could frequently be seen dancing on the bar. The club was closed when its popularity grew too much for the small venue, but the Heavenly Social nights laid the foundations for the British big beat explosion of the 1990s.


#2 Sven Vath crashes a dude’s house party

After playing a storming set at the Perth Future Music Festival, Sven Vath was in the mood to keep on partying, so he did just that, joining a host of other big-name DJs in…some lucky punter’s back yard. “We had Sven Vath, John Digweed, Dubfire, Booka Shade and Above & Beyond all partying in our garden with about 70 or so other people,” festival-goer James Francis said of the surprise house party. Vath played an impromptu six-and-a-half-hour set, smashing out tunes as guests and internationals alike watched in awe. Needless to say, the neighbours weren’t particularly pleased the next morning, but Francis himself had the story of a lifetime.


#1 Daft Punk make a surprise appearance at a Phoenix show

The only thing better than Phoenix and Daft Punk performing separately is Phoenix and Daft Punk performing together. Some lucky fans were able to experience just that when Thomas and Guy-Manuel showed up unannounced during a Phoenix show at Madison Square Garden in 2010. To screams of delight, the bands performed Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, Around the World and 1901 together. It’s one of those gigs you wish you’d been to – unless you were actually there, in which case, good work. If you weren’t, here’s the next best thing: some shaky hand-shot camera footage.