Electric Zoo Brings Holiday Beats Despite Early Ending

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Photo: aLive Coverage for ElectricZooFestival.com
By Chris Caruso & Jim Tremayne

New York City – After a pair of deaths led to the cancelation of Electric Zoo’s final day last year, a somewhat ominous air prevailed in the run up to this year’s installment. Once again set on NYC’s Randall’s Island, this past weekend’s three-day fest was expectedly outfitted with a much more pronounced security presence, with no shortage of NYPD officers, on-site staff, and medical personnel all focusing a keen eye on the Labor Day crowd.

And despite these ramped-up precautions, plus an abbreviated Sunday slate (due to a lightning), this year’s edition turned out to be a winner. Electric Zoo offered a solid lineup that ran the gamut from festival heavyweights (Armin Van Buuren, Knife Party, Zedd) to underground titans (Dubfire, Josh Wink, Chris Liebing) and, thankfully, the Sunday storm was the worst of it. The music was tight and the kids had a ball. DJ Times was there from its start to its unexpected end, and this is what we saw:

Friday: Day 1 was a day to split between the massive Main Stage West and the intimate Sunday School Grove tent. Following a last-minute schedule adjustment, DJ-trio Apollonia and Chris Liebing each played extended sets, with the French DJ outfit’s B2B selection style spanning a wealth of bass-heavy house. Meanwhile, Liebing’s methodical approach gradually delivered booming German techno to the entranced crowd. Over on Main Stage West, A-Trak opened with a live scratch routine before bouncing into a smattering of anthems, from his remix of Martin Solveig’s “The Night Out” to both progressive and EDM cuts. Dada Life’s set afterward evoked a party atmosphere, with slick, colorful graphics serving as a fitting backdrop for their raucous hits and their prerequisite bananas-and-champagne theme.

Gesaffelstein closed out the Beatport Riverside stage that night with a set that was as relentless as it was inspired, packed wall-to-wall with crushing techno bangers. While chain-smoking the entire time, the mysterious French DJ/producer did some very impressive mixing while managing to fit in both hits—2011’s “Control Movement”—and hidden gems—his remix of The Hacker’s “Shockwave”—for the packed crowd. It was a fitting finale for the stage’s diverse schedule that day, which included Jamie XX and Tensnake, the latter of which pumped out some of the grooviest house basslines of the weekend. The highlight? Tensnake’s choice to end with Womack & Womack’s soulful 1988 single “Teardrops.”

Great View: A-Trak on the Main Stage.| Photo: Danilo Lewis for ElectricZooFestival.com
Other Friday Highlights: The chilly beats from Bonobo’s DJ set at Beatport’s Riverside Stage had mid-afternoon fans swaying with his tight, downtempo-ish grooves. At the Main Stage East, Arty probably got the biggest daytime crowd reactions, as he served up singalong hits like his mix of Porter Robinson’s “Lionhearted” and the Kat Krazy remix of Bastille’s “Pompeii.”

Over at Hilltop Arena, French bass crew Dirtyphonics raised and dropped the tent with torrents of crunchy whoppers in between White Stripes guitar riffs. On the Main Stage West, Tritonal made the Trance Nation smile with an aerobic workout that accompanied celestial builds, wobbles and satisfying breakdowns. Back at Main Stage East, Wolfgang Gartner brought the big electro-house, complete with rattling beats and screaching buzzbomb effects—joint went mad.

Later in the Evening: That night, house fans had no better choice for afterparties than Hot Since 82 at Brooklyn’s Output Club. After travel delays caused him to miss his set at the festival’s Sunday School Grove earlier in the day, the Leeds-grown DJ/producer came ready to throw down. Deep, dark soundscapes and booming bass was the name of the game at the down-and-dirty club that night, with flashes of his remix of Green Velvet’s “Bigger Than Prince” fitted between long grooves that kept the party going well past his 2:30 start time.

Saturday: On Day 2,Clockwork—RL Grimes’ electro-centric alter ego—dropped festival bomb after bomb—including a booming house bootleg of the Eurythmics’ evergreen “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”—during his afternoon set on Main Stage East. Nervo came up next with an hour of stadium-sized anthems spread amongst much of the girls’ own material, including their collaborations “Like Home” with Nicky Romero and “Revolution” with R3hab and Ummet Ozcan. Playing to a crowd that knew every word as the sun went down, the girls finished with “Reason,” their 2012 prog-house anthem with Hook N Sling.

Big Response: Arty served up the hits.|Photo: Marc van der Aa for ElectricZooFestival.com
Some of the most bumping sets to be felt on Saturday were over on the tucked-away Sunday School Vinyl Only stage. As the name suggests, the DJs were spinning strictly vinyl with a distinct back-to-basics mentality. Brooklyn’s own Frank & Tony curated the stage’s lineup on Saturday, while their own early evening set tore up the small-but-dedicated crowd with drilling tech-house grooves.

The Sunday School Grove boasted a stacked lineup that night, with Pete Tong, Josh Wink, and Sasha all playing in a row. Tong’s set consisted of mostly uplifting house cuts, ripe on extended basslines for ample dancing, while Sasha’s set was filled with gradual builds and haunting melodies that rewarded attendees who stayed for the entire performance.

Sunday: While slated to feature some of the weekend’s biggest names—Kaskade was scheduled to close out Main Stage West, while Skrillex and Diplo would come together as Jack U over on Main Stage East—Day 3’s festivities were cut short after some early afternoon interference from Mother Nature left a sea of ravers soggy and beatless. A swift and heavy downpour in the middle of The Chainsmokers and Myon & Shane 54’s sets halted all the music as evacuation announcements blared over the PA systems.

As unfortunate as the cancelation was (and plans for any attendee refunds still yet to be announced), Electric Zoo managed to deliver on all fronts when it came to the music. With two full days of beautiful skies and good vibes, it serves as a fitting swan song to summer 2014.

Update: Electric Zoo organizers have issued a statement regarding refunds.

Electric Zoo will offer refunds for Sunday only ticket holders, the Sunday portion for 2 day ticket holders, and the Sunday portion for 3 day ticket holders. In addition, ALL cashless top-ups will begin refunding tomorrow, with the $5 service fee waived.

We regret that we had to make the tough decision in collaboration with NYC city officials to evacuate Sunday’s show, with no re-entry, due to dangerous and severe weather conditions, including lightning strikes and high winds. We had a great two plus days and thank everyone for dancing with us again this year. Please stand by while we finalize the refund process, more information coming soon at www.electriczoofestival.com.