When listening now, one hears no shortage of foreshadowing in legendary Paul van Dyk tracks such as “We Are Alive” and “For an Angel" because, well, he kinda should be dead. People don’t often fall 20-plus feet, collide with concrete, and survive.
Saturday, February 27, 2016, in Utrecht, Netherlands, was supposed to be a celebration of trance music, and it was — until Paul van Dyk almost died when he fell from the stage during his performance. The night was supposed to be capped with a set of all-vinyl trance classics from Armin van Buuren, but instead van Dyk was airlifted to the hospital in Amsterdam, and van Buuren ended the show.
Van Dyk had to cancel his upcoming Miami Music Week set at Space and hasn't been back to town since the accident. Until tonight, of course.
“I almost died, and thankfully, I’m able to perform again," he says. "I haven’t fully recovered, but I can still play some shows. There was a time when everything had a question mark — everything." But van Dyk is more determined than ever to get back to full health. "I must stay focused on recovering. I cannot use my energy to be angry. I must focus on recovery. I have other people who can be angry, and they’re handling that situation for me."
Van Dyk's optimistic perspective is a result of his brush with death. It has given him a new outlook on more than just music. Asked which DJ he would like to see if he had only one day of hearing left, van Dyk doesn't hesitate: “I wouldn’t want to hear music. I would want to hear my fiancée’s voice.” Van Dyk’s fiancée is the resident DJ in their home. He says they play a lot of music from her native Colombia and a heavy dose of Carlos Vives.
“Little Paul van Dyk” is what he calls himself when reflecting on the early days of his career. A Sasha show in Paris he attended in 1993 touched him and fueled his drive to become great. He has fond memories of coming to Florida in the late '90s as a relatively unknown European DJ.
“Of course Miami," he says, "but the entire state of Florida has been important to my career. I can remember the first few times I played Firestone in Orlando, and it was a huge thing because that was where Sasha was playing too, and I was like, Wow. And I was playing this small club in Gainesville called Simons, and when I went to Gainesville, I stayed at Simon’s house and slept in his spare bedroom. That’s how it was then — it was amazing. It was family. I loved it."
Van Dyk was even there for the first edition of Ultra Music Festival in Miami Beach in 1999, long before payment plans and the heightened politics of dancing.
Aly & Fila, Ben Nicky, Alex M.O.R.P.H., and Kyau & Albert filled in for van Dyk at Space when the accident left him unable to make his show last March.
Shortly after the news of his accident broke, New Times wrote, “There will still be no shortage of options this week, but PvD's absence is sure to leave a big hole in the hearts of Miami Music Week's trance fans. Get well soon, Paul. We want you back for 2017.”
Two thousand seventeen? Paul van Dyk was in no mood to wait for the new year. He'll see us tonight.
Paul van Dyk. 11 p.m. Friday, November 11, at Club Space, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 305-456-5613; clubspace.com. Tickets cost $20 to $30 via eventbrite.com.