Electric Zoo @ Randall’s Island, NYC 9/4/2010
It was a hot and wild Labor Day weekend at this year’s second annual Electric Zoo Festival at Randall’s Island in NYC, where a whole range of electronic acts took force over four stages and thousands of fans ready to have fun. Initially, the most interesting thing about the event was that there were so many different types of people, from the token real ravers dressed up in glitter and fur boots, to 16-year-old kids looking like they were having the time of their life before having to go back to high school the next week, to Jersey Shore-esque guys guzzling energy drink after energy drink.
The New York-based duo Sleepy & Boo kicked off the festival with an 11 am set that was surprisingly bouncy and fun for so early on in the day. The pair was an appropriate starter for the event, and while not nearly enough people were there at this point to make it a true party, the ones that were around were dancing their asses off with little abandon.
Midday, the festival picked up a bit more with acts like LA Riots, Afrojack and Tom Middleton spread around the festival’ four stages, which were placed at a just-close enough proximity to each other that it was easy to spot where the most action was happening at any given time, consequently lending an air of tangible competition to the scene.
Perhaps the biggest dilemma for me during that Saturday evening was whether I should stick around the main stage to see Major Lazer or go across the way to catch the Flying Lotus set scheduled for the same time on a different stage. Ultimately, both proved to be so good that I just ran back and forth between them the entire time. Major Lazer was a major crowd pleaser, especially when breaking out some ’90s nostalgia with an Ace of Base remix that drove everyone wild. On the opposite side, Flying Lotus gave an incredibly awesome and high-energy performance, with both members maniacally grinning and jumping up and down while mixing to a crowdÂ that seemed psyched because their heavy, fuzzy but maxed-out sound wasÂ near-perfect live.
Then there’s Benny Benassi. Performing on the main stage, the Italian DJ served up a host of his commercially-successful beats that drove the spray-tan set absolutely wild, especially with the sort-of puzzling choice of playing the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ “Slide” in the middle of one of his songs. Hearing that many people sing along to that line “slitting my throat is all I ever” while fist-pumping was, in its hilarity, enough to keep me satisfied. Despite his overwhelmingly stereotypical style, you’ve got give it toÂ the guy for knowing exactly how to please his target audience and make himself some money.
The Chemical Brothers were just as awesome live as they’ve always been, with superior light shows featuring huge dancing light men and crazy fog and a set that included just the right mix of their catchiest songs off of Further, like “K+D+B,” and older hits, like their encore “Block Rockin’ Beats.” Even after all these years it’s kind of amazing to see how the Chemical Brothers can make their crowds so woozy and dreamy all over the place, which is exactly what happened at the Zoo on Saturday night after they finished with a huge blast and a spread of lights that spelled out “LOVE IS ALL.” In short, it was probably the most significant performance of the festival and will likely stay in many attendees’ memories for a long time to come.
Day two of the festival brought a lot more raver-types in, with huge crowds taking much less time to get assembled and dancing than it did the day before. Kudos to Glitch Mob for playing instruments live during their set, and also to Moby for making himself relevant again for the day with a pretty good collection of his old hits that he put forth to a huge and eager crowd. Boys Noize was another to check out, adding a delicious flavor of electronica-techno to the day’s lineup.
Bassnectar and Armin van Buuren were the big closers on Sunday night, with both shooting for really big sounds and for the most part succeeding in their ventures. For all his corny qualities, Armin van Buuren did a better job of delivering a wide-ranging selection of sounds than Benny Benassi did the night before. Bassnectar was definitely the more interesting of the two, though, for the twitchy super-fast switches he imparted into his set and the overall heaviness of his sound which practically shook the ground beneath us.
I’ve never felt bored at anything zoo-related, so maybe I’m biased, but to me Electric Zoo was a huge success in termsÂ of the quality of music and amount of fun to be had. The lineup at Electric Zoo was so varied, eclectic and happily surprising that it’s no wonder it drew such a diverse array of concertgoers, and hopefully it will continue to grow into an even crazier and bigger phenomenon in the years to come as electronic music continues to spread throughout the world in all of its many forms.