The American dance scene has been a sleeping giant for decades, but the last few years have finally seen it come of age. The explosion of EDM has sent shockwaves around the world, but they have been most strongly felt at home in the States. As such dance music is the new rock, massive festivals are everywhere and all the cool kids have turned into fully fledged ravers.
One of the driving forces behind this explosion has been Electric Zoo, a New York based festival that has blown all others out of the water. After a tough time a couple of years ago when drugs deaths left a bad taste in the mouth, the festival has decided to switch things up. As such, this year’s Electric Zoo was subtitled Transformation. It means that all the main stages, lighting rigs and more had been totally redesigned. The line-up has also been condensed into a more perfectly programmed affair that focuses on “cooler” music as well as happy go lucky EDM.
This year it all take space at Randall’s Island in the heart of the city, with the famous skyline of the high rises all forming a brilliant backdrop. Every stage is a vast thing with mad designs, huge screens and mesmeric lights dancing all round the edges, whilst the sound is crystal clear throughout the site. The people who attend are all fully immersed in the experience, and dress up in candy raver gear, colourful space suits, fancy dress costumes and so much more. As such, for an Englishman making a first trip over, it truly is a colourful explosion like nothing else you will have experienced.
After post festival surveys last year, new chill out areas were added for people to take a break, and many more security and crowd safety officers were installed to make it feel as safe and friendly as possible, despite the fact that overall 80,0000 people were in attendance. Thankfully, though, the atmosphere and experience overall is still a wild one, where hedonism and fun times reign supreme.
Musically, there are many massive EDM delights such as a set from Above & Beyond, and a genre busting affair from the UK stalwarts The Chemical Brothers. But for us, all three days were best spent at the more underground Awakenings stage. The famous Dutch festival really programmed a cool selection of acts and so there were many highlights. First up we got down to some perfect techno loops from Adam Beyer, the Drumcode boss, and then the vibe totally witched when local US boys The Martinez Brothers cooke dup a fiery, house based and tech leaning storm that really got the crowd going.
Saturday was a fine day for underground heads, with Innervisions main man Henrick Schwarz laying down one of his famous live sets. Weaving soulful synths, rich house beats and woozy atmospheres into a really compelling soundtrack, he took us up and down on a fine ride that couldn’t have gone down any better. Before him Paco Osuna had laid down a dry, hard hitting techno set and after him we were treated to Kolsch and Justin Jay who cooked up a real sonic storm.
Sunday saw some of the more EDM aligned fans make their way onto the Awakenings stage and check out some slightly cooler house and techno sounds. Supplying them were UK legend Pete Tong, as well as some of the stars he has broken recently in Hot Since 82 and Patrick Topping. Their cultured house selections came with plenty of bass and catchy vocals and really made everyone get loose. It was a fine way to end what is a truly awesome – in the truest sense of the word – festival that really no know bounds when it comes to a stimulating musical experience.