A sun-drenched Randall’s island played host to the brightest lights in electronic music this weekend. Day One of the of the Electric Zoo festival’s sophomore edition saw over 30 acts, highlighted by the Chemical Brother’s first New York date in 5 years. Of course we were there, and we brought our trusty camera with us so read on for an illustrated account of the day’s events.
Physically getting inside events of this size has been a historically challenging affair for us (see: Coachella 2010, All Points West 2008). Electric Zoo proved no exception. As soon as we exited the subway we were greeted by a line of party goers comfortably 3 blocks long, all waiting for shuttle buses. Needless to say we skipped that in favor of a cab, smart move, but our trials were only just beginning. After obtaining our 21+ bracelets, we got into what can only be described as the pit of chaos that was the line (calling it a line is really generous) to get in. We were stuck in this mayhem for a solid 45 minutes before finally getting past security and into the field.
Once finally inside getting our bearings was painless. The venue wass relatively small; none of the four stages were more than a 6-7 minute walk from each other. Miraculously there was little if any sound bleed between stages, in fact the sound quality at each stage was superb (the main stage could arguably have been a little louder, but for the sake of my hearing it was probably for the best). Having just escaped from 45 minutes in the pit of dusty chaos, of course the first thing we needed was a cold beer. Prices were as you’d expect: $8-9 for a beer, $8 for wine (terrible wine btw) and $3 for water. No such thing as a “beer garden” here which was a welcome relief for those of us calibrated to the APW flavor of New York festivals.
Hands down the most fun crowd I’ve ever attended a festival with. Absolutely everyone we talked to was in a fantastic mood, guys and girls alike dressed in the most outrageous getups imaginable. Certainly the only place I’ve ever been were wearing a flamingo helmet and pink hot pants would make me feel more appropriately clad than a t-shirt and shorts. Observing and interacting with this bunch was worth the price of admission alone.
Erol Alkan was our first stop. He was doing an adequate enough job, however he was having a tough time competing with Afrojack who was playing 100m away to a tent that was going completely ballistic. The dutch electro dude was certainly catering to a crowd, dropping his own versions of Daft Punk and Benny Bennassi.
From there we checked out the main stage, then occupied by an average-at-best ATB. A shaded area with picnic tables provided a good-enough spot to watch from a safe distance. Back at the Hilltop Arena, Radio 1 legend Pete Tong was playing to a half-capacity crowd with trademark nonchalance.
Fake Blood got the day going in earnest, playing a killer set to a packed Red Bull stage. He was clearly enjoying himself, as were the crowd. He blitzed through a few of his favorites, with “I like it” proving to be the highlight of the set.
He then turned the tables over to dubstep prodigy Rusko who as usual provided the heaviest bass-drops of the evening.
Major Lazer took the sunset slot on the mainstage. Diplo and Switch dropped party tracks from Rhianna to Ace of Base into their standard Major Lazer tracks, meanwhile the yellow mohawked Skerrit Boy and his female companion dutifully took care of hype-responsibilities. Certainly not a set for connoisseurs of the technicalities of electronic music but for a straight party Major Lazer are tough to beat.
Back and the Red Bull tent Flying Lotus was in the midst of his genre-bending electro/hip-hop set. Crowd pleasures from Radiohead and Portishead broke up his otherwise heavy beats. Not a lot of people were on hand to witness it but from the looks of things he couldn’t have cared less.
Pretty Lights was perhaps the most hyped artist on the bill, and he delivered on all expectations. Front of house turned on a spectrum of lasers and the Colorado man delivered his glitch hip-hop/electro/soul sounds to the joy of all in attendance.
The Chemical Brothers closed the day with no competition from the other stages, and deservedly so. They crafted a set spanning their comprehensive catalog, with carefully concocted visuals that pictures can’t really to justice to. Check out these videos to get a bit of a feel for what a spectacle this was. Tom and Ed occupy the highest echelon of dance music, and it is safe to say their live performances are only rivaled by Daft Punk within the genre. Barring a 5 minute delay due to a technical glitch, the brother’s provided a perfect ending to a fantastic day.