While most folks think of Labor Day weekend as a light, end-of-summer compilation of BBQs, final beach trips, and lazy lounging, over 10,000 people instead trekked to Electric Zoo, a huge EDM gathering with over 50 acts supplying 22 hours of live music between Saturday and Sunday. The two-day Randall’s Island festival featured four distinctly styled stages, from a tent-ceiling covered with hanging disco balls to a main stage covered in flashing screens and lights with a single spotlight for the DJ, making him appear like a glowing god commanding thousands of onlookers. No surprise that Kanye’s guy chipped in on the production design.
True to aim, the lineup was a pleasantly diverse mix of house legends, techno stars, trance innovators, and newer producers. The attendees proved to be an even more diverse mix of dance-music stereotypes: old-school couples reliving their club days (we spotted moms and dads with their kids . . . in strollers), music nerds (and DJs) clearly making note of every record played, bottle-service club-kids decked out in suits (it’s still summer, guys), shirtless gel-heads, and hippies in rainbow-colored faux-fur.
They all had a lot to absorb. Considering these DJs are notorious for three-hour sets, Saturday’s lineup could’ve easily taken over both days. Instead, the acts were given a mere 90 minutes to get us there, allowing for short-attention-span types to roam the grounds and discover new talent. In the mix were Deep Space’s Francois K with dub poet Mutabaruka, French electro producer Yuksek, Chilean techno DJ Luciano, and Italian electro-house club sensation Benny Benassi. Luciano’s appearance was a highlight: Known for his minimal/tech-house work, he chain-smoked through a set that included soulful interludes and even a house rendition of Lumidee’s “Never Leave You.” Danny Tenaglia followed him with a short sermon (“Be yourselves, I love you all! Respect! Respect yourselves and your DJs”) before adding, “I’m going to give you 15 hours in 1.5!” as the bass beat down upon his screaming audience. The NYC legend spun to a packed dancefloor, climaxing with “Elements,” a house track he made famous years ago.
The festival’s organizers surely knew that Sunday’s crowd would be struggling with hangovers (of all sorts) from the night before. So day two started with a lineup easy on the bass, with the Junior Boys, a “Chillout Set” by Tom Middleton, and a shorter appearance by dark-disco duo Chateau Flight. By early evening, though, the amped-up crowd was so dense I resigned myself to the main stage for the rest of the night. It was no disappointment: Club-house/trance DJ Ferry Corsten played a high-energy set that included a crowd of thousands screaming along to his own “Made of Love” alongside a light show that tricked us into thinking we were at some Euro-themed mega-club. We could’ve been anywhere, though, really: Flags from Italy, Holland, Colombia, and Brazil were scattered among the crowd.
Next up was the festival’s headliner, French DJ/producer David Guetta, who made an appropriately grandiose entrance, the announcement “This Is David Guetta!” blaring over the speakers 10 times before I stopped counting. He initially stuck to his new album, One Love, including “When Love Takes Over” and his remix of Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” (he produced the original, so he’s allowed). Later, he dropped house remixes of “A Milli” (um, yeah), Laidback Luke’s remix of Treasure Fingers’ “Cross the Dancefloor,” and Diplo/Afrojack’s “How I Like It,” which has since mutated into Major Lazer’s “Pon Di Floor.” Between chants of “Michael Jackson is not dead!” and “Throw your hands up in the air!” the DJ created a truly awesome/bizarre spectacle. As Guetta Tweeted the next day, “NY was crazyyyyy. My best gig ever in the city!” Aww, thanks. We think so, too.