Made Event’s inaugural Electric Zoo Festival at Randall’s Island Park Saturday and Sunday is shaping up to be a world-class showcase of electronic dance music. Somewhere between the club-kid ’90s and P.S. 1 parties, this scene got serious. And the Zoo follows in the footsteps of the U.K.’s Creamfields, Spain’s Sonar, and L.A.’s Electric Daisy Carnival (population 135,000, by the way) with blogger-approved new-school DJs, resurgent techno acts, and timeless house giants. (Read out interview with the fest’s organizers here.)
In the new-school category, nobody’s hotter than the young star Deadmau5 (Saturday, main stage), whose sound flirts with trance, borrows from techno, and has a heavenly alchemy all its own. Two years ago, you hadn’t heard of the Toronto prodigy. Now he’s second on the marquee among the Zoo’s 50+ global acts. A few steps below on the flier, Kaskade (also on the main stage Saturday) is another unstoppable force of syrupy, vocal house. A recent gig of his in L.A. almost shut down Hollywood Boulevard. The DFA crew is along for the ride as well (James Murphy and Pat Mahoney do a Special Disco Version set Sunday in the Grove Discotheque). And, of course, if you like your grooves crunchy, loopy, and irreverent — like the new, neon punks do — go see one of the architects of the Daft Punk/Justice/Ed Banger juggernaut, Busy P, a/k/a Pedro Winter, at the Respect Grove Saturday.
Some say “minimal techno” is losing steam, but we beg to differ. It might not have the shoe-gazerly, clad-in-black fans it did five years ago, but it’s hard to deny that Adam Beyer, Guy Gerber or Steve Bug (all Sunday at the Sunday School Hilltop) aren’t making some of the most technologically advanced boom-tss sounds in clubland — or that techno isn’t the de facto big-room genre of today. Dutch tech star Speedy J (Saturday at the Sunday School Hilltop) is taking DJ performance to a new dimension by spinning song parts instead of other people’s tracks. In other words, his laptop sets create new compositions and remixes before your very eyes. And Richie Hawtin (Sunday at the Hilltop), the guy who practically invented laptop-DJ performance (and who recently came up with a way to Tweet his tracklist as he plays live), has evolved from a Detroit-adjacent nerd to a titan on the level of Danny Tenaglia.
Speaking of whom, the DJ’s DJ will be flaunting (Hilltop, Saturday) his house-with-gravitas style, mixing from a bag that includes brooding minimal, vocal deepness, and bacchanalian tribal. And, on that last tip, nobody brings out the “Iberican sound” of house like Spanish stalwarts Chus & Ceballos (Saturday, Riverside Arena). Tom Middleton (Sunday, main stage) is a sweet-sound svengali who operates in the realm of tech-house. Former Everything But The Girl co-founder Ben Watt (Saturday, main stage) is a sublime selector when it comes to quality, vocal house (as his label, Buzzin’ Fly will attest). If you need to go even deeper, check out the original New York space cowboy Francois K. (Saturday, main stage), who was there when the 12-inch was born. Finally, come full circle with the inventor of house music himself, Frankie Knuckles (Grove Discotheque Sunday). The big stages at Electric Zoo are a long way from the proto-disco of the Continental Baths, but the soul remains the same.
Electric Zoo happens Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., at Randall’s Island Park. All ages (21+ for the VIP areas). Tickets start at $70 per day or $130 for both days. Info: electriczoofestival.com.