ODESZA Brings The Epic EDM & Makes Amphitheater History

Cover photo by Julian Basel

ODESZA’s timing could not have been more perfect. The electronic duo, made up of Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, had wrapped up their 2019 tour and said goodbye to their fans for the time being, and by the time COVID-19 rolled around the duo was already preparing their next album, The Last Goodbye, which wouldn’t be released until July 2022.

“During COVID, a lot of people were telling me, ‘Man, you guys are geniuses. How’d you know?’” ODESZA’s manager, Adam Foley at Red Light Management, tells Pollstar. “The only thing we had to do during COVID in 2020 was we put out the BRONSON album. We had to move that around, but it didn’t really push this back, which is pretty lucky.” 

The break saw ODESZA teaming up with Golden Features for the collaborative album BRONSON, which allowed them to produce outside of their usual wheelhouse. By the time they sat down to work on The Last Goodbye, which will be released on July 22 via the independent record label Ninja Tune, Mills and Knight felt refreshed and ready to get back out on the road. 

The band’s return has been highly anticipated by the electronic dance music community. Their last album, 2017’s A Moment Apart, was nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album while their single “Line of Sight” was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 60th Grammy Awards. 

They have their own indie record label, Foreign Family Collective, which releases music for dance music heavyweights Rüfüs Du Sol, as well as Chet Porter, Kasbo, Jai Wolf, Phantoms, Big Wild and more. In 2018, ODESZA ranked No. 10 on the Billboard Dance 100, appeared on Conan O’Brien’s “Conan,” and threw their own destination festival, SUNDARA, in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

Highlights from ODESZA’s 2019 tour in support of A Moment Apart includeD the trek’s final stop July 26-27 at Los Angeles State Historic Park July 26-27, which sold a total of 35,368 tickets and grossed more than $2.5 million, according to box office reports submitted to Pollstar.   

As the duo gets ready to hit the road for the first time in three years, “The Last Goodbye Tour” will see ODESZA teaming up with Reverb for sustainable touring practices throughout the run. The team hopes to be carbon neutral, or even carbon negative while touring. Foley states that he’s hoping fans will be inspired to utilize public transport to help offset their own carbon footprints as part of their initiative.

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The Test Run: For 2019’s “A Moment Apart Tour,” the electronic band tested out playing mini amphitheaters throughout the country. Photo by Julian Bajsel

Already, “The Last Goodbye Tour” – which is not a farewell tour for the electronic band – is 90% sold-out. The Live Nation-produced dates starting on July 29 will make history as ODESZA becomes the first electronic act to perform in major amphitheaters during their upcoming shed run. They have sold out three nights at Climate Pledge Arena in their hometown of Seattle (also a first for the venue, owned by Pollstar parent company Oak View Group), Cellairis Amphitheatre At Lakewood in Atlanta; two nights at Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre in Englewood, Colo.; two nights at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, Calif., and more. 

“We did a similar run, not to the scale, last time,” Knight says. “Running through those and looking back, they had this great kind of mini-festival energy. I’m really excited to get out there and do them because I think that’ll be the vibe. You have the lawn area where people can set up and sit back and watch a show where you can go down to the pit. You’re not really assigned [seating], like in an arena. I think it gives a little more flexibility and fans can mingle and whatnot.”

ODESZA’s agent, Jay Moss of Wasserman Music, hopes the tour will inspire other electronic acts preparing to get out on the road for their own headlining shows. With so much of the dance music genre rooted in festivals, from Electric Daisy Carnival to Electric Forest to Ultra to Tomorrowland, the idea of bringing that environment to a live show by performing in amphitheaters appeared to be a no-brainer.

Moss first came up with the plan to have ODESZA perform in amphitheaters after the band played Texas’ Camp Nowhere in 2018, which he helped start with Bobby Clay at C3. The two shows had been the first time electronic music went into the shed circuit, with both selling out. Following their success, he continued to push the concept further.

“We did a boutique amphitheater tour with the band on the last album and it did amazing,” Moss says. “That was the first time where I was like, ‘OK, this works.’ Then we took the step up with Camp Nowhere and Bobby at Dos Equis and Germania, and that worked. The alarm bells went off and I was like, ‘OK, this is a real proof of concept. We can do it.’ Now that we’ve rolled it out and shown everyone that it does work, I’m sure there will be many other artists that will be doing the same in the years to come.” 

“The Last Goodbye Tour” sees ODESZA working once again with Live Nation. Lesley Olenik, SVP of Global Touring at Live Nation, has been promoting the band since 2015 when they performed for two nights at the Shrine in Los Angeles. Olenik explains that she had no doubts they could sell out amphitheaters and introduce dance music to new venues, but, like the rest of the team, the success of this upcoming run exceeded her expectations.

“Our main goal was to prove that one of the biggest electronic artists in the world could sell out arenas and amphitheaters and that artists in this genre don’t need to be pigeon-holed into playing venues that are standing room only,” Olenik says. “We wanted to make that a seamless transition not just for the artist, but for the fans, as well.”

Among the team, some of the most highly anticipated dates for ODESZA’s upcoming run are the first three nights at Climate Pledge Arena on July 29-31. Both Mills and Knight are regulars at the arena and frequent patrons of the venue’s hockey games due to their love for the Seattle Kraken. 

Nick Vaerewyck, Climate Pledge Arena’s Vice President of Programming, notes that the band’s dates are a long time coming. Knight, hoping he could get season tickets for the Kraken, asked to see the venue shortly after it opened and brought up an interest in playing the venue for ODESZA’s first shows back.

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More Drums: ODESZA promises that their drum line will return bigger and better than ever on the duo’s 2022 tour. Photo by Julian Bajsel

“We knew that it was gonna be big and we knew that people were going to be excited for it,” Vaerewyck says. “And they came out and they bought tickets and showed their excitement to where we could do that three times. It takes a special act to do it. They’re gonna be the first act to play three consecutive nights in our building. We’ve had a few that have played two, and I don’t know when the next time that’ll ever happen will be. Hopefully, it happens again, but they’re gonna be the kings for a while. The last time I saw them, I called them the Kings of Climate Pledge.” 

Mills emphasizes having their first shows back in their hometown was immensely important to both him and Knight. “Especially after waiting this long, it just means a lot to start there,” he explains. 

The upcoming dates will feature ODESZA’s eight-person drumline, and the duo promises they’re keeping a few more tricks up their sleeve. The time off allowed Mills and Knight to reflect on their “A Moment Apart Tour” and figure out which parts they want to carry over and how to make their shows new. As the two discuss their upcoming dates, they’re itching to get back on the road while joking about the daunting task of getting in enough physical shape to jump on stage for hours on end. 

“What we’ve been working on these past couple of months is just implementing everything we’ve learned from the A Moment Apart run into the new set,” Knight says. “Because on tour it’s really hard to rewrite entire sections and change up the live show, especially with production. Now that we’ve had time to reset and we’ve got a bit of a clean slate, we’re implementing a lot of the stuff we wanted to in the past. Got a lot of new music in there, definitely some surprises and we make all these live edits just for this show. So, a good 60 to 70% is revamped. Although it’s familiar sounds, they’re retouched and rearranged in new ways.”

The speed at which tickets have sold for ODESZA’s upcoming run has also gone better than anyone expected. Mills, Knight, Foley, Moss and Vaerewyck all hoped to be able to get some good numbers but selling out two nights at larger capacity amphitheaters was above and beyond their wildest dreams.

“I expected it to do well, but I did not expect it to sell that fast,” Foley says. “I was blown away. I knew the demand was there. I still had some reservations or humbleness of like, you don’t know until you put it up. And we hadn’t toured since 2019, the world has changed a lot. My instincts were like, ‘This is going to be good.’ And then it ended up being exceptional.”

While the team already planned to stay off the touring circuit for a few years, the pandemic sowed fears of what they would be returning to. Even with the planned break, doubts about whether fans felt they had been waiting too long for a live show sat in the back of their minds.

“It had been so long. We were even told by people in the industry, ‘We’re in a new place now, the world has changed so much that it’s hard to gauge any of your expectations,’” Mills says. “So we just tried to make the best thing possible and hopefully people want to come see it. We’re playing big venues and we were pretty worried. But we’re excited. I can’t believe it.”

For the fans, ODESZA’s success doesn’t come as a surprise. The Last Goodbye has remained one of the most highly anticipated dance albums since the announcement they would be taking time off touring in 2019 to begin working on their next project. BRONSON saw the duo stepping out of their comfort zone and discovering a new sound, while the singles already released ahead of The Last Goodbye, including the album’s title track, “Behind The Sun,” “Better Now” and “Love Letter” promise to be an impressive follow-up to the critically-acclaimed A Moment Apart

Even back before the band came to be, Foley had always seen ODESZA’s potential. He first met Mills back when Mills had been in college doing freelance work licensing songs and making design edits. Mills asked Foley if he should be a musician or a designer, and the manager suggested giving music an effort with his design work as a plan B in case it didn’t pan out. A few months later, Mills returned with an album he created alongside Knight.

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In Flames: The ODESZA team aims to combat climate change by partnering with REVERB for “The Last Goodbye Tour.” Photo by Julian Bajsel

“I was like, ‘I’ll help you guys for a little bit but I can’t manage you right now.’ And then I kept listening to the album,” Foley says. “I just remember standing in my kitchen talking to my girlfriend at the time like, ‘This is so good, I have to do it. I have to manage them.’ I could see years into the future with that mainstage Coachella play. I could see it. I didn’t know all the steps, but I knew I can see where this goes. I went into the office the next day with my management team like, we gotta figure this out. We’re gonna take this band on. And that was in 2012.” 

Included in all of ODESZA’s success over the past 10 years is a jaw-dropping performance on the Coachella mainstage in 2018 with 400 drones floating through the air. Their live performances feature theatrical moments and epic instrumentation, with their drumline propelling them beyond a simple DJ duo and into a true band. 

“We’re trying to add elements and pieces that really push the theatrical effect that we include in our shows, just to make it feel like it’s always moving,” Mills says. “We don’t want it to feel too stagnant and we want it to have the energy of what some may consider is in a DJ set, but also add all these live elements that really make it feel like it is its own thing.”