The end of a music festival is always depressing. We often tend to make it sadder than it really is or needs to be, maybe because we’re slightly dramatic, or maybe just because we’re simply in love with the music and the festival environment. Whatever the case may be, most of us go through a withdrawal period spanning from a few days to a few weeks. It makes sense though, because the hype continues to prolong with each year. If you haven’t noticed, Ultra Music Festival tickets went on sale in May this year as opposed to in October. We'll admit it— many of us are spoiled, and many of us demand the best of the best. With productions that promise to outdo themselves each consecutive year, we can’t help but to get overly excited for a major festival a year in advance. But those three (in this case, two) days pass by so quickly that when it finally ends, we think to ourselves, “F*ck. It’s already over?” The buildup is intense, but the comedown back to reality hits you harder than you’d think. Particularly with the abrupt ending to Electric Zoo.
Three days after having last gone to Randalls Island, it’s sad to acknowledge that the full Electric Zoo experience feels incomplete. It only took two young adults and a few other disheartening cases to shut down the final day of the festival, and we are still saddened by the loss of two lives over the weekend. Hopefully we’ve all learned from this tragedy, and the importance of educating ourselves on the dangers of drug use.
On a much lighter note, heading down the elevator around 11:30 am on Friday, we ran into some fellow animals on the 4th floor of our apartment. Dressed in black fishnets, hot pink wigs, and kandi running up and down their arms, we didn’t even need to ask where they were going. That’s kind of the beauty of it all, too—the fact that you can tell where people are headed simply by the way they’re dressed. We may get eyed up and down for the eclectic wizard costume, LED wands, or our “tasteless” lack of clothing, but the way people dress helps unify the dance music community. The streets were covered with neon kids, and we all get it; there isn’t much room to judge. All of New York City was ready to party, and it wasn’t even noon yet.
We saw a number of notable sets on day 1 such as Showtek, Jack Beats, Flux Pavilion, Baauer, and Avicii. Unfortunately, we can’t discuss them all, so we chose three sets worth mentioning, and one of them includes Martin Solveig. “My name is Tiger Martin Solveig from France!” We love being included in new music videos, and that’s exactly what we were invited to do. Showing us the simple choreography on stage, Martin opened with his new collaboration with Laidback Luke, “Blow,” and thousands of fans that swarmed Main Stage East were given the chance to star in the track’s upcoming music video. But where Martin really surprised us was when he dropped Jay Z’s “Tom Ford (Caked Up Remix),” directly followed by a mashup of Dillon Francis’ “Masta Blasta (The Rebirth).” Although short, the spurts of dirty beats mixed in to his set added to the fun and unexpectedness of it all. But it wouldn’t have been a true Martin Solveig set without “Hello,” “The Night Out,” and tantalizing stuntmen in military pants performing back flips on stage. We appreciated how engaging he was with the crowd, standing on top of the turntables singing, “How does it sound if we spend the night out (at Electric Zoo)?!”
Moving on to Ferry Corsten at Hilltop Arena was a huge transition from Martin’s set in numerous ways. First, Main Stage East was completely outdoors and you could feel the sun’s warmth on your body as danced. Hilltop Arena was under a gigantic white tent, allowing nighttime to come early and for us to focus our attention on the lights. Especially with trance, lights are important supplements to the genre because it tends to be much more sensory. What also set Hilltop apart from Main Stage East, and just every other stage in general, was that the DJ booth sat on a rotating platform. So while Ferry dropped Mind Electric’s “Scream,” Tommy Trash’s “Monkey In Love,” and Orjan Nilsen’s “Xiing,” his booth constantly spun around (in slow motion) allowing all of his fans to actually see his face. Not only did this allow for interaction with the entire crowd, but it also disabled the usage of terms such as ”front of stage” and “back of stage,” enhancing the universality of the tent. He did play some of his own productions such as “F The Bull$h1t” and “Live Forever,” as strobes went off and exceedingly blinding blue, pink, and white lights around and above the booth, flashed before our eyes. The shapes of the lights were so crisp and moved perfectly in sync with Ferry’s set, augmenting the tone and the “trippyness” of his stellar performance.
Above & Beyond, as always, were on a level that surpassed any other set we’d seen that day. It’s complicated to describe them both as a group and as performers, but the first word that comes to mind is “impeccable.” We can’t stress that enough. For many, this was their first time seeing A&B live while for others, this was the rekindling of a very fond relationship. On the LED wall behind them were inscribed the words, “This is the moment we’ve been waiting for a long time.” What a coincidence, because that’s exactly what we were thinking, too. They opened with Rank 1’s “Floorlifter,” followed by their Club Mix of “Alchemy ” and London Grammar’s “Hey Now (Arty Remix)". But “Walter White” truly raised the energy level and set the tone of the epic stage setup, attracting thousands of people to Main Stage West. What seemed like hundreds of purple and blue spotlights soothed the stage, directly hitting massive amounts of smoke that billowed upwards.
“The person next to you needs you.” The biggest moments of history define an entire generation.” “The new millennium brought something new and exciting.” These are just a few examples of the insightful inscriptions we saw during A&B’s set, and we can say with 100% certainty that we’ve never been moved by a set as intensely as theirs. Stage crew standing right before the crowd shot water directly onto our faces from a black hose, and the mist traveled in cyclones along the blue spotlights. Our hearts melted as “Thing Called Love” began; the LED wall contained a checkerboard design as purple, pink, red, and blue hearts moved across the screen. It was also during this time that one very lucky man, Chris (@TheDJBF), received the honor of proposing to his girlfriend, Ashley, with A&B’s assistance (see our interview with the couple). However, the most defining moment of their performance was when they played “Sun & Moon,” which we all were anticipating from the start. The LED wall read, “We first played this song at Ezoo 3 yrs ago. It feels so right here. This is for you.” All at once, cell phones began filming as thousands of voices sang along. This was one of the few genuine moments in which we felt connected with one another, as orange, red, and white confetti rained onto us at the conclusion of their set.
We left Ezoo day 1 with our minds completely blown. What we experienced that day can never be replicated, and we’re deeply appreciative that we could be part of one of the best festivals in the country. Made Event tried very hard to keep its patrons hydrated with water filler tents, which contained little to no lines and efficient workers who provided semi-cold water, unlike at Ultra. Randalls Island also contained many open, shady areas for people to relax in addition to hundreds of staff walking around the park, so we were taken aback by the negative outcomes that occurred on Friday and Saturday.
Other pros included the festive décor leading up to Main Stage East, where trees were decorated with purple, blue, green, and red LED lights and hanging from their branches were sea creatures such as seahorses, dolphins, and sharks. Our only (petty) complaint was that we had no idea when artists’ sets got pushed to a different time because the Electric Zoo app (or maybe just ours) didn’t send out any alerts. And even now, we are still disappointed that we couldn't finish out the festival strong. But in our opinion, the founders of Electric Zoo, in conjunction with countless others, made the right decision. Saving a life or two and respecting the few that were lost was worth more than suffering the backlash of angered fans. May those young souls rest in peace.