Throughout the course of Labor Day Weekend 2012 over 110,000 people descended upon the usually calm and tranquil Randall’s Island Park as it was transformed for the fourth annual Electric Zoo Festival presented by Made Event. Electric Zoo featured a complete lineup spanning the different genres of electronic dance music, and Made Event provided the quintessential model for running a music festival. The experience served as the perfect ending to the summer of electronic dance music in America.
I’m not sure if anything can imitate the sensation in the pit of your stomach as you slip past security and enter the festival grounds for the first time. I always take a moment like a gladiator walking into the arena where I think, “this place is home for the next three days, where I will create new experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.” Music festivals bring together fans spanning different generations, cultures and backgrounds. We’re all incredibly different but for three days, we can forget about the life we have to return to and lose ourselves in the experience of listening to the music we love. Festivals are freedom.
Every aspect of Electric Zoo was run with methodical precision. Talent buying on Labor Day Weekend aside, Randall’s Island Park presents numerous logistical challenges including stage design, on-site facilities and accessibility. Somehow the common problems that are expected at music festivals like long waiting times, ticketing issues or poor stage access were almost non-existent. Transportation to and from Randall’s Island was a breeze, the stage layout was simple and easy to navigate, and smiling staff echoed the company’s ethos.
Simply put, Made Event has fostered a culture at Electric Zoo where the festival goers are guests, not customers.
Electric Zoo saw a major benefit from the ‘summer of edm’ in the form of a 25,000 increase in attendance compared to the previous year, with the majority of attendees being domestic. These new listeners have flocked to the various genres of electronic dance music, creating a fragmented scene that has purists hanging their heads. While it was appreciated that the vendors on site were restricted from selling neon “YOLO” gear, the all ages policy invited a plethora of teenagers outfitted in apparel laced with drug references. On Sunday it was almost impossible to go without seeing a “Where’s Molly?” (thanks Madonna) or “Sex, Drugs & Dubstep” t-shirt. It’s troubling that new listeners are associating the dance music scene with drugs, knowing that a few accidents could lead to a government intervention and eventual collapse.
Made Event was aptly prepared in the event of an emergency with clearly labeled help areas (image), water refill stations and an unobtrusive security staff patrolling the grounds looking for signs of problems. If promoters are charging money for water without offering a free alternative, you are no more than a dollar sign to them and should look to spend your money elsewhere. Free water should be a mandatory requirement as dehydration is the most common injury among music festival attendees (SHM). Made Event also broadcasted messages from the main stage, imploring those who may feel sick or tired to seek help and encourage everyone to look out for one another. Initiatives like these provide a safe environment for the optimal festival experience, while also building community between all in attendance.
Admittedly, I never set up a schedule prior to any festival. My theory being that the combined overlap of artist set times and the distance separating each stage will prevent me from seeing the lineup I want. However at Electric Zoo, the stages are lined up in a row providing simple navigation and easy identification. Jumping from Nicky Romero’s mainstage set to Dillon Francis’ on Friday was a breeze, and a feat I was unable to accomplish this year at Ultra. Five stars should also be awarded to the sound production team as there was minimal pollution between stages, even though they could have turned up the dial at Riverside.
The ‘scheduling issue’ that slotted Pretty Lights, Above & Beyond and Skrillex as closers instead of the progressive house regulars was never an issue. Derrick Vincent Smith (Pretty Lights) let his signee Gramatik spin a 30 minute set before he took the crowd back to the “OG ’06 version” playing ‘Finally Moving,’ a track featuring an Etta James sample that would later be used by Avicii. Above & Beyond’s Group Therapy experience played out brilliantly both nights, with the first ending with an emotional tribute to the late Neil Armstrong.
Skrillex hopped into the mothership Sunday and mixed a crowd-pleasing set that spanned from his Grammy-winning, viral dubstep tracks to a Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song edit. He encouraged everyone to put their cameras down and, “Dance like you’ve never heard this song before” when he spun his LE7ELS remix. Even though he has become a global icon, Sonny Moore has never lost his dedication to putting fan experience first. Just hours before his set, Moore pulled a fan bearing a Skrillex portrait backstage for an impromptu meet and greet. It was a classy move for one of the most hated people in dubstep (Guardian).
While the scene is still too fragmented to label it a movement, it’s impossible to deny the appeal, energy and experience presented by electronic dance music. Now more than ever we are globally connected through the internet and social media, where we can share our love for the true universal language of music. For those questioning its ability to hold the spotlight, they need look no further than festivals like Electric Zoo, where tens of thousands join in singing and dancing to the anthems of our culture. Electronic dance music is disco for Generation Y and it’s here to stay.
More Electric Zoo 2012 Coverage
Set Reviews / Download / Tracklist:
- Alvin Risk
- Dada Life
- David Guetta
- Kill The Noise
- Nicky Romero
- Pretty Lights
- Sander van Doorn