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FKA Twigs, Coachella 2015
Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Eric Barkhurst FKA Twigs, Coachella 2015

The 10 best shows at Red Bull Music Academy Festival 2015

The blockbuster music fest returns for another year of mind-expanding, dance-commanding gigs

By Christopher Tarantino

Red Bull Music Academy Festival is quickly becoming one of NYC's premier music festivals. For the third year running, the fest descends on our city, presenting a packed month's worth of big-name one-off performances and dance parties, as well as a couple of special talks. So set aside any reservations about corporate-funded art for a few weeks, and you'll find an embarrassment of sugar-free riches. Here are our top 10 picks, including otherworldy singer and choreographer FKA twigs and the legendary GHE20 G0TH1K party thrown by Washington Heights' own Venus X.

Venus X
Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Drew Gurian

1. Red Bull Music Academy: GHE20 G0TH1K


Do you miss NYC’s No. 1 fashion-forward, late-aughts, multidisciplinary, underground, pale-faced, trance-hop party GHE20 G0TH1K? Well, fear not: Red Bull Music Academy has revived its beautiful, still-fresh corpse at Brooklyn Bazaar! Enjoy sets from party founder Venus X, Total Freedom, MikeQ and New Orleans bounce gal Sissy Nobby in her very first local appearance.

Hannah Diamond, Every Night Artwork
Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Diamond/Wright

2. Red Bull Music Academy: PC Music + SOPHIE: Pop Cube


In two short years, divisive U.K. label/movement PC Music has ripped a candy-coated hole in the space-time music continuum to form a twisted Days of Future Past world of late-onset childhood nightmares and future drugs (“X” men, indeed). To see what that sounds like in the present, join breakout label star SOPHIE and almost the entire roster of lost boys and girls at BRIC House for RBMA’s Pop Cube.

The Haxan Cloak
Photograph: Courtesy Motormouth Media

3. Red Bull Music Academy: Tri Angle Records 5th Anniversary


Have you heard? Our city's financial hub is now also its experimental music hub, too! Well, for one night at least. Just across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, "one of today's most singular musical tribes," Tri Angle Records, takes over the basement vault of the former J.P. Morgan building to celebrate its fifth anniversary, with label artists Evian Christ, Vessel, Forest Swords, Holy Other and the Haxan Cloak.

FKA Twigs, Coachella 2015
Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Eric Barkhurst

4. FKA twigs

Music Pop

To say that FKA twigs made waves with her video for “Water Me” is a bit cheesy, but we can’t resist. Like labelmates and fellow capitalization eschewers the xx, the London alt-R&B enigma makes super soulful electropop. The singer-songwriter has garnered as much attention for her videos—gorgeous, challenging and, at times, outright disturbing—as for her pragmatically named LP1, released in August to rave reviews. You'd be well advised not to miss her biggest NYC shows yet: three special shows, dubbed Congregata, featuring original choreography, costumes by Alexander McQueen and other multimedia surprises.

Adam X
Photograph: Marie Staggat

5. Red Bull Music Academy: Storm Rave


Anyone still ravin' from the early ’90s—not continuously, mind you—remembers the transformative effect Frankie Bones’s Storm Raves had on nightlife. Well, thanks to RBMA, a new generation of techno tykes can join those very tired ravers in reaching their glow-sticked hands across the aisle for some bipartisan partying at the first Storm Rave in 22 years. Techno forefathers Bones, Adam X, Heather Heart, Lenny Dee and Rob Gee will be there to teach some real P.L.U.R. (peace, love, unity and respect) to a new millennium.

6. Red Bull Music Academy: Master Mix: Red Hot + Russell


Celebrate the short life and long résumé of the legendary Arthur Russell over two nights as the Red Hot Organization hosts a “wild combination” of musicians (many of whom appeared on the tribute album of the same name), including members of Arcade Fire, Blood Orange, Cults and Scissor Sisters, breathing new life into his compositions at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Man Forever
Photograph: Joshua Bright

7. Kid Millions


Composer and avant-rock drummer extraordinaire Kid Millions presides over 100 Disciplines, a new piece for 20 performers, at this highly promising Red Bull Music Academy happening.

Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Wolfgang Lienbacher

8. Red Bull Music Academy: Nothing Changes: Raw Sound Transgression


Get ready for a change as RBMA edges out Output’s B&Ters with DJ sets from noise luminaries Pharmakon, L.I.E.S.’s Ron Morelli and Japan’s Merzbow, and the first-ever in-full performances of two seminal experimental records: Prurient’s Pleasure Ground, and Genesis P-Orridge and Wolf Eyes’ Aaron Dilloway performing Psychic TV’s Electric Newspaper. Bring your weirdest self.

Red Bull Music Academy: Brooklyn Flea Record Fair
Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool/Lauren Gesswein

9. Red Bull Music Academy: Brooklyn Flea Record Fair


The Brooklyn Flea Record Fair is back. With more than 50 small and independent labels, you'll find whatever you need, including new and used discs from local stores and imprints like Halcyon, Knitting Factory, Rough Trade NYC, Other Music and Warp. If you're hungry, more than 100 Smorgasburg vendors will be proffering all manner of delicious food as you shop and listen to DJs from Have a Killer Time, Mister Saturday Night, Wild Nothing, Mexican Summer and RVNG Intl.

Nicky Siano
Photograph: Red Bull Content Pool

10. Red Bull Music Academy: Sleeping Bag Records: Go Bang!


Acting as an after-party of sorts for the BAM show earlier in the evening, the Red Bull Music Academy festival closes itself out by memorializing Sleeping Bag Records, the groundbreaking, genre-free imprint started by Arthur Russell (with Will Socolov and Juggy Gales), and its sister label, Fresh Records. Tighten up your loose joints for DJ sets from hip-hop OG Kurtis Mantronik and disco superstars of today (Metro Area's Morgan Geist) and yesteryear (the Gallery's Nicky Siano).


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