All photos: Sachyn Mital

Electric Zoo Festival: 4 September 2010 – Randall’s Island, NY

Some words and some pictures from the Electric Zoo festival, an event pulling together major electronic artists to New York City over Labor Day weekend. An event that should be on the radar for all dance music fans.

Electric Zoo Festival: Randall’s Island, NYC – Day 1-2 September 4th – 5th 2010

To steal a line from my review of last year’s Electric Zoo Festival: I applaud the organizers for putting together an overall great event. Attracting electronic music fans from all backgrounds, Electric Zoo drew superstar DJs and producers, like Armin van Buuren, John Digweed, The Chemical Brothers, Moby, and a plethora of others to Randall’s Island for 12-hour blocks of music across four stages, like the “Hilltop Arena” and the jungle inspired “Sunday School Grove”.

The NYC area was fortunate to have been spared Hurricane Earl’s impact and the weather on both days stayed mostly sunny and at a moderately pleasant temperature. Instead of just going for one day like last year, I attended both days and got a more grounded view of the event.

The first considerable difference was the attendance levels between Saturday and Sunday; the former drew a far larger volume. Combine this with an apparent inadequate amount of Port-A-Johns and you will understand why people were spotted relieving themselves in various corners of the festival grounds. Planners rallied to remedy this for the smaller Sunday crowd. I never figured out why there were less people, perhaps The Chemical Brothers have wider appeal than Armin van Buuren does.

But the dust, my gosh, the dust! Randall’s Island transformed into a hazy pit for the weekend as dancing drove dust into the air. Though ravers are sometimes depicted suckling pacifiers, the people wearing air filter masks were not making a fashion statement (I think) but rather a health conscious one. One DJ, A-Trak, coined the hashtag “dustboogers” on a popular microblogging site from the grounds.

Planners were successful on most other fronts. Plentiful amounts of food were available for sale and water flowed from fountains and at the mist tent (sponsored by the official water of LeBron James). Plus the event accommodated artists painting up a couple of school buses, face and body painting, massages, an autograph tent, a VIP tent and other activities to distract people from the music. And to characterize the music in two words, well, it was electronic and it was danceable.

Saturday’s main stage lineup included ATB dropping hints of his ’90s classic “Till I Come” to a screaming audience and then signing autographs for the front row while Dirty South spun overhead. Major Lazer, completely different from most of the other acts, then took over with dancehall DJ Diplo and Skerrit Bwoy fronting the performance. Diplo mixed a bass heavy set of reggae, Rihanna and other electronica and dance ephemera while Bwoy riled up the crowd and a female dancer roused him. The Chemical Brothers closed out the evening with a set of trippy visual effects spinning out above their heads. They opened with “Galvanize” and worked in some of their other hits like “Star Guitar”, “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” and the epic wallop of “Block Rockin’ Beats”.

Over at the Hilltop Arena, second to the main stage, Chuckie dropped David Guetta’s (a 1st year headliner) “Sexy Bitch” in his set to a packed tent. He was followed by Kaskade who played a few songs from his newer release Dynasty plus a remix of Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” and closing out with his Deadmau5’s collaboration, “Move for Me”.

And at the Red Bull Academy stage, Rusko, previously unknown to me, had a massive crowd with him. Flying Lotus, one of my favorites followed with his wicked mind bending style that draws from a wide variety of genres. He closed out with one of his latest singles, “Do the Astral Plane”, vocalizing the title over the sub-sonic bass rumbles.

Sunday had equal appeal for me as the prior day but seemingly not so for others. The main stage vanguard included Laidback Luke working a lot of his productions, like remixes of Nas and Christina Aguilera, into the set before concluding with some variation of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads will Roll” mashed with Basement Jaxx “Where’s Your Head at?” and a Bad Boy Bill song. NYC’s own Moby followed with a mostly instrumental set of dance songs including a portion of Underworld’s “Born Slippy” and his own “Porcelain” and “The Stars”. Per his usual routine, Moby played his world-record earning song “Thousand” (the title and aware relating to the song’s bpm) for his finale standing atop the platform with his arms outstretched. I watched his whole set,hoping for a few of his own rave anthems, and although he did not deliver it was still pretty entertaining.

Headliner van Buuren, who like Kaskade also has a new release (Mirage) forthcoming, played a variety of new tracks. The Academy Stage had an energetic performance from The Glitch Mob trio as they worked their synth pads and drum sets in unison instead of mixing records like most other acts. DJ Mehdi, Diplo and A-Trak also filled in slots on that stage.

Additionally, artists like Richie Hawtin, Pretty Lights, Benny Benassi and Pete Tong played under the tents on Saturday, while on Sunday Above and Beyond, Sander Van Doorn, Steve Aoki, Fedde Le Grand, Boys Noize, John Digweed and Bassnectar also performed. Moby DJ’ed again at Sunday’s afterparty at nightclub Pacha around one in the morning.

Having seen many of the same faces in the front rows across both days and understanding many of them arrived as the gates open and stayed until they closed, I realize electronic music fans have a lot of endurance. Those fans in attendance at 2010’s Electric Zoo festival are likely already looking forward to next year’s event and sharing a few stories from this one, not least of which would be about the dust boogers.