On Sunday, the biggest clouds in the sky were those made of dirt and dust kicked up at every stage from dancing. Unlike Saturday, Sunday brought fewer early birds, likely because of the exhaustion from the day before, and a slightly weaker initial line-up. The weather was once again picturesque. When I arrived, I really had no set plan of who I would see until Laidback Luke. Therefore, I started the day the Red Bull Music Academy Riverside Stage where XXXChange was playing to a pintsize crowd of about 50 to 100 people while there had to have been over 750 people at the time and stage the day before. There simply was not much of a buzz at any tent early on, even if XXXChange was dropping mixes of DJ Kool’s “Let Me Clear My Throat.” However, D. Ramirez was slowly sucking everyone to the Hilltop Arena where all of the local house favorites were blasting while Jon Hopkins was luring a more IDM crowd with his haunting beats, something that was out of the ordinary at Electric Zoo, in a good way.
On a side note, the tents set up at the Red Bull Music Academy Riverside Stage and Hilltop Area were perfectly sized and positioned, especially if it had rained. Unfortunately, a few feet outside of the tent and the sound quality was unbearable. In turn, the area during sets that had huge amounts of people attending were packed, which led to a small overflow, which is a bummer to some who wanted the full experience without being crammed. Still, once inside the tents, the sound and energy was indescribable. Perhaps a key example is from the showstoppers of the early afternoon, Savoy. This three piece absolutely killed it at the Red Bull Music Academy Riverside Stage. Armed with a live drummer, they made every trace of dirt and dust in my lung worth breathing. It is also worth noting that after Savoy ended, they proclaimed how they have all of their music for free on their Facebook. Consider it downloaded.
Following Savoy, there was undoubtedly the most consistent string of acts on Sunday at the Main Stage. Laidback Luke, Moby, Boys Noize, Fedde Le Grand all capped off by the number one DJ in the world, Armin van Buuren. No big deal. Aside from Armin, who has the toughest task of maintaining his reputation, the Main Stage acts brought the sun down with their performances, figuratively of course, even though the sun was setting. Maneuvering through a loaded set, Laidback Luke hypnotized the audience yet had a delicious spread of variety and a level of an unsuspecting feeling what was next. The defining moment in Laidback Luke’s set was his new, original track “Time Bomb” which was performed with Jonathan Mendelsohn. The rush of euphoria running though my body was unlike anything the festival provided, even with the plethora of joyful moments throughout.
Moby, known as a very soulful artist, following a rather different styled Laidback Luke was intriguing, but the transition was so effortless that I had not realized Laidback Luke had left the stage initially. Moby, sporting a Bad Brains t-shirt, dazzled the crowd with synth build-ups in which he stood up in the blazing sun with his bald head glimmering in the sunshine as the tone finally reached its climax. The Main Stage crowd exploded as he then jumped off the DJ table as Moby continued to show his uncanny ability of sticking to the same sound texture yet allowing that sound to relay as something entirely fresh and unique. Boys Noize followed with grungy distorted beats and robotic callings as he entered with the disturbing message ‘come with me/do you remember?’ from the hit track, “Kontact Me” which brilliantly transitioned into the apparent Grand Theft Auto IV radio hit, “& Down.” With red, white, and black colors flashing like a comic book throughout the whole set, the abrasive, dirty beats were immensely catchy and added character to his already colorful music.
Beneficiary of the day was Fedde Le Grand, whose show was the best light coordination act on Sunday as he made “One” by Swedish House Mafia surreal, and allowed my mind to accept the fact it really did not sound similar to the Mortal Kombat theme song (seriously, I went the entire weekend calling it by that name, after hearing it about ten times). And just when I thought to myself how odd it was that I had not heard Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400,” Fedde had other ideas. Other popular and well executed remixes were the Prodigy’s “Breathe” with the vocal’s of Simian vs. Justice “We Are Your Friends” and the mashup of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name Of.”
Finally, at 9:10PM, Armin van Buuren casually walked on the stage. With images of himself lining the LED light background, donned in a white t-shirt, the #1 DJ in the world was ready. With Armin, there is an aura about his show, most likely because of his playful onstage personality of always smiling nonchalantly. Also, he doesn’t drown his performance with a slaughter of blast beats, as Armin has a more underlying trance feel. Behind him, the laser lights shot to the back of Randall’s Island reflecting off various trees and obstructive objects and the clouds of dust that were visible were likely higher than they appeared. Armed with perhaps the toughest task of any, Armin van Buuren had to try and energize a crowd that had been wearily standing for hours in a sun that appeared to last forever. Fans ate every minute of Armin playing some new tracks off Mirage but additionally his hit track “In and Out of Love” which he dropped into, what else would it be, “One” by Swedish House Mafia. Without a doubt a perfect ending, combining the festival’s two driving forces to put an end to the Electric Zoo Festival.
Upon entering on Saturday, I was a bit hesitant, as I hardly consider myself a fan of electronic dance music. In fact, if I had to list my ten favorite genres coming into the Electric Zoo festival, neither would have registered. However, this festival was so gracious to new and old fans that it was impossible to walk about the festival with a hint of displeasure. I assumed dance egos would be tested, battled, and disputed, but that was hardly the case. Attendees were only bored if they gave into an empty notion that ‘no good acts are playing.’ Also, what was so rewarding about such a close knit and conforming festival (on a general genre level) is that you could absolutely suck at dancing and no one would bat an eye, likely because you were standing next to the girl with a see-through lace shirt with pasties.
If I had one regret, it was I did not check out enough different acts, but when an artist like Boys Noize are setting the place off, it becomes pretty difficult to leave. Honestly, the past two reviews may have sounded repetitive in the mood and performances, but there is neither justice nor enough words to describe the methodically designed sets of these artists who have been honing their crafts for years now. On a final note, as annoyed and disgusted as I felt on Sunday about the layer of dirt on my body and black dust boogers in my nostrils. Yet, I do not think I could find anyone at Electric Zoo who said that the hassle of post-show hygiene was not worth it; odds are they will be there next year too.