The festival business can be a tricky one: Though the U.S. has been catching up to Europe in recent years with a growing number of large-scale outdoor music events, there are few hits (see: Coachella, Lollapalooza, etc.) and many misses (R.I.P. Langerado, Vegoose, et al). So, it’s no wonder Made Events are patting themselves on the backs after seeing their inaugural Electric Zoo Festival earn rave reviews from attendees last weekend.
Held in New York City’s Randall’s Island Park September 5 and 6, the electro-centric event promised roughly 11 straight hours of music across four stages each day. While smaller than Miami’s yearly Ultra Music Festival, the organizers really thought this one through, promoting the hell out of it on social media sites while securing a line-up diverse enough to please almost any dance music fan, regardless of preferred sub-genre.
The hard work paid off: Electric Zoo was a smooth, well-oiled machine that kept drama and calamity low and the enjoyment level high. Two days of pleasant sunny late-summer weather didn’t hurt (and since the festival fell on Labor Day weekend, most who attended could sleep in Monday). Three tents kept dancers out of the sun, while the mainstage area was large enough for the masses who gathered to see the big-ticket names. And, most surprising of all, the audience was packed with genuinely enthusiastic fans of dance music – while this seems a no-brainer, it’s kinda shocking to see how many people show up at festivals just because someone dragged them along (these are the people you often find passed out amid plastic beer cups under some trees by late afternoon). At Electric Zoo, excitement about dance music created a strong bond among festivalgoers: PLUR, indeed. Good to see all ages there, literally – lots of under 21s, as well as the older crowd who’ve been following electronic music for a decade or two.
Kudos to organizers on the following:
· Line-up: Over the course of two days, the diverse roster included the likes of Audion, Busy P
& DJ Mehdi, Armin van Buuren, Deadmau5, Luciano, Benny Benassi, Danny Tenaglia, Richie Hawtin, David Guetta, Lindstrom & Prins Thomas, James Murphy & Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem), Steve Angello, and way more.
· Layout: Set in the pleasant park grounds, the stages were set far enough apart to avoid sound bleeds, yet close enough together to enable to you to go from any Point A to any Point B in about 5 minutes.
· Security: Compared to similar events, security were extremely low-key, personable, and even helpful – a nice surprise.
· Food: While not exactly cheap, lines were manageable and options varied enough to please pretty much any palate (ethnic cuisine, wide selection of vegan meals, the obligatory pizza, gourmet sandwiches, etc.).
· Amenities: Porta-potties were plentiful, shade could be found throughout the grounds, dining tables were liberally scattered, and even free (tap) water could be had.
And next year (since it looks likely there will be a Electric Zoo v.2), would be great to see the following:
· More live sets: While the line-up was pretty awesome, I would have loved to see more live sets. Yes, it’s logistically more complicated when doing back-to-back sets, but there definitely could have been more than a handful over the weekend. (Incidentally, Yuksek’s one-man live set on Saturday, which included vocals, was truly amazing.)
· Streamline transportation options: Though I didn’t have any problems with the water taxi and heard the buses were easy, I could see how getting to the venue could be tricky for those who traveled from afar. If no easier options are available, would be great if more detail was provided on the website next time.
· Cheaper alcoholic beverages: $9 is a bit steep for a beer … plus only VIP ticketholders had access to liquor (others could purchase beer, wine, and champagne.) I did wonder if this was a subtle attempt at keeping the drunkenness from getting out of hand (and, if so, would be a much preferable method than, say, an event like All Points West where you are limited to 5 drinks per day).
· Extended hours: Though DJs started up around noon, most festivalgoers didn’t arrive until later in the afternoon. Ending at 11 seemed a bit on the early side, even though EZ sponsored afterparties at Pacha. Not sure if there was a park-imposed curfew though …
Sadly, I had to miss Day 2, but was quite impressed with Day 1. Some additional observations:
· Though I only caught snippets of their sets, I heard from various sources that both Deadmau5 and Armin van Buuren (back-to-back on the mainstage) either killed it, or sucked …
· The main stage was oddly empty most of the day, then suddenly packed when Deadmau5 hit the stage.
· Respect Grove had some very underlooked but awesome DJ sets, including ones by Dave P & JDH, Holy Ghost!, Tiga, and Steve Aoki. Busy P & DJ Mehdi combined their spots, switching off here and there and playing their usual brand of eclectic party bangers, all while looking like they’re having the Best. Time. Ever. (Best soundbyte: Busy P trying to inject more energy into the crowd with “I’m sure you all like trance music … I travel all around the world and they tell me New York City is Trance City …” [chorus of boos erupts] “Then show me what you got, New York City!”]
· And, finally, uh … there appeared to be some kind of environmental nastiness going on, because after a few hours of feeling kinda congested, I happened to blow my nose … and saw some black shit come out … Eventually there was no more, but a few hours later … same thing. Yeah, slightly scary … did not feel so well either. Actually heard this happened to others, so at least I can rest assured it’s not some weird thing only I am afflicted with … Still, if it’s a pesticide or some other environmental thing the park is using, would be great if they could try something different next time, as breathing in that stuff can’t be good … (Also see Coachella ’07 for similar attendee tales …)
Artists in gallery include:
Holy Ghost, DJ Mehdi, Chris Lake, Busy P, Luciano, Steve Aoki, Yuksek, Tiga
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