Words and photos by Jason Moss
Four years ago Electric Zoo was just an idea. Now it’s been named the “Best Electronic Dance Music Festival in the United States” by Billboard.com. You don’t have to be a genius to realize that’s an astronomical feat, considering the competition. Labor Day weekend has since come and gone, but not without leaving some people saying “That was the best weekend of my life.” Electric Zoo 2012 was a massive success, thanks to Made Event and Plexi PR, the two largest organizations assigned with the daunting task of organizing a party that is New York’s largest electronic music festival.
With so many festivals all around the world, I can’t help but scrutinize over the tiniest details. It’s not just about the music anymore; it’s about the whole experience, at least for some people. The experience not only includes events and attractions during the festival, but everything surrounding the festival a few days before and a few days after. So as I write this review I tell myself to think BIG. Think about everything that goes into the preparation and coordination of a music festival, and sum it up as best as possible, while still providing insight from all possible points of view.
The Calm Before The Storm
Electric Zoo comes at a perfect time of the year. Labor Day weekend is for some the unofficial closing weekend of the summer, while for others is a time where school starts back up and football season commences. Some are just happy because Monday is a public holiday and most businesses are closed. Whatever the reason, EDM fans around the country only had one thing on their minds: The Zoo. It seemed to take forever to arrive, but the weekend finally came, and everyone was ready. Hit the jump to check out our complete recap.
D-Day: Friday, August 31st, 2012
I woke up to beautiful sunny skies and a temperature of 75 degrees. It was the perfect day. I gathered all of my festival necessities, and the crew headed out of my apartment to the shuttle buses, which left from 124th St. in Harlem. There were four ways to get to Randall’s Island: Walk over the footbridge, ride the shuttle bus, or take the ferry, or swim. Media was forced to take the bus since we sure as hell weren’t gonna walk. Fortunately it seemed that they had the bus system down pretty well, and I heard that the ferry was no sweat either.
After about a 10 minute ride we arrived on the island to the beautiful sound of thumping bass. I turned around on the bus to see everyone’s reaction: grinning from ear to ear. It’s the small moments like these that make you appreciate these types of events.
As we walked down the path to the entrance gates I couldn’t help but notice the lack of a line. Where was the 30-45 minute queue? Where was the overly inappropriate, TSA-like security shake down and fondling? Surprisingly enough, there wasn’t one at all. The organization this year was on point and the security was lax; Made Event had clearly learned from past events, and this time it was apparent.
The time was 1:30 PM, which was later than we had planned, but chaos and frantic packing ensues on the first day of a festival, so I wasn’t too surprised. The first thing I wanted to do was to get some shots of the “zoo animals” and the scenery until the island transformed into a sea of madness. I’m literally talking about zoo animals here, not the people. My plan lasted for about five minutes before the pounding bass from the main stage and tents lured me in like the smell of burgers on a grill. I had to I needed to go to the main stage.
Where do I even begin? With 105 artists in the lineup, not all of them could have been be good, right? WRONG. That was not the case this year. This was the lineup of all lineups. I genuinely wanted to see about 85% of the artists. Whoever was in charge of creating the lineup this year did an outstanding job. It’s impossible to please everyone, so every now and then you would hear people debating over who to see, but for the most part it was perfectly executed. Each stage had its own vibe, which is what defines Electric Zoo. Out of the four stages, I probably shared my time equally between three of them: Main Stage, Riverside, and Hilltop Arena.
The Smaller Things
When I say “smaller things” it’s primarily focused around the concessions, attractions, fan interactions, and overall organization. To start off, the food at EZOO is top notch (for a festival). Made Event partnered with over 25 gourmet food establishments from around the city, ranging from Mexican to burgers to lobster to BBQ to Mediterranean to Thai and Vegetarian. The list was impressive and could satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. This seemingly small detail is an important one due to the fact that the festival was all ages, despite that people don’t really eat too much at an EDM event. The drink options were plentiful too. There were four different kinds of beer, wine, champagne, and a good assortment of other non-alcoholic options. VIP areas had a full bar to choose from, as well as table/bottle service too.
The one thing Electric Zoo lacks are the engaging attractions, art installations, and “eye candy” that Insomniac’s festivals are known for. Now I know what you’re thinking, each festival is unique in its own special way, but I still think something could be done to make it an engaging atmosphere. Even having some dancers or performers would make a huge difference.
Free water. What two words are better to hear than “free water” when you’re already spending hundreds of dollars just to attend? This idea of free water should’ve started with the first festival, but has only recently started to become the standard. We all know what goes on at these festivals, and although the entire population isn’t at risk, dehydration is the last thing you want, for anyone. The water refilling stations were strategically placed throughout the grounds, but not surprisingly drew the longest lines of any concession stand.
The After Parties
Unfortunately I didn’t go to any of the six official after parties, but I was able to make it to Pacha to see Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano on Friday, the 31st. With this being the first night of the weekend I was eager to party with these guys, and I’m definitely glad I went. The official after parties were held at Best Buy Theater and Roseland Ballroom, two of the largest indoor venues in Manhattan. The lineups were dope, and eachs show for all three nights brought a different flavor to the table.
Friday, August 31st:
Best Buy Theater: 12th Planet, Araab Musik, Mt. Eden, Netsky w/Dynamite, and Zeds Dead w/Alex English
Roseland Ballroom: Michael Woods, Gabriel and Dresden, and Ferry Corsten
Saturday, September 1st:
Best Buy Theater: KhoMha, Marcus Shultz
Roseland Ballroom: Benni Benassi, Bingo Players, Adrian Lux, PeaceTreaty
Sunday, September 2nd:
Best Buy Theater: Jaytech, Jochen Miller, Aly and Fila, John O’Callaghan
Roseland Ballroom: Bart B. Moore, Zedd, Hardwell, Treasure Fingers (Special appearances by Porter Robinson and Skrillex)