My third year attending the annual Electric Zoo Festival, presented by Made Event, was fun and surprising. I made my list of must-see artists, and for the most part, stuck to my schedule. I was more than satisfied with nearly no overlaps in DJs I wanted to see, and thought the overall festival went extremely smooth. You're not going to hear complaints from me in this review, that's for sure!
Friday traffic up to the city took us more than two and a half hours from the Jersey shore where I live, so we arrived much later than expected. My partners in dance for the weekend were my boyfriend Steve, and fellow EDMNYC writer, Spencer. Our househead trio headed straight for the main stage to see Hardwell just after 5pm.
Spencer and I first saw Hardwell a year ago at E-zoo and completely fell in love with the boy from Breda. He impressed the hell out of us, yet again, playing all of his best productions, remixes, and mashups. After his set, he sat down with the SiriusXM tent with DJ Gina Turner for an interview, where fans were taking pictures and waiting for a chance to get an autograph or photo with the young superstar. I was lucky enough to grab his attention for a minute to introduce myself and a took a quick pic with him before heading back to the main stage to take photos of the next Dutchman in the lineup.
Laidback Luke, who received one of my DJ Mag votes this year, is an absolute genius behind the decks. He takes the art and craft of DJing to a whole other level, which not many others can do as well as he can. Our favorite tracks from his set were easily “1234″ and “Natural Disaster”. As expected, Luke gave us one hell of a set at E-zoo.
I told Steve and Spencer for the months leading up to E-zoo that they would be beyond impressed seeing David Guetta for the first time… and I was right. Both of them agreed that his set was totally awesome, and he played tracks we hadn't heard of. If you want to really impress us elite househeads, pull out something we don't know and you'll win us over. Guetta did just that, and then some. However, we all sang in unison to “Titanium” early on in his set, which was pretty awesome considering I don't think I've ever seen a bigger crowd at the main stage before at E-zoo. Although we would've loved to stay for the entire set, we headed out as “Rock The House” played around 8:30pm.
En route to Sunday School, we stopped by Tommy Trash's set to hear about ten minutes of pure trashy filth, and loved every minute of it. Tommy is on top of his game right now in both DJ sets and production. Sadly we didn't stay long enough to hear him drop his forthcoming track with Seb Ingrosso, “Reload”, as we headed over to end our day in “the tent”.
Upon entering our favorite tent at 9pm, Luciano drew us in instantly with a deep bassline. This was the place (and DJ) who made us fall in love with Sunday School last year, and it felt great to be back, especially for tech-househeads Spencer and I. For the last hour of our day, we danced to tracks we had no idea what they were and hoped to God that we'd be able to find a tracklist or recording of the set. He received a thunderous applause at 10pm after dropping a remix of “Free” by Ultra Nate, which I sang at the top of my lungs. Exhausted and thirsty for more, we left Day 1 early to head over to Pacha NYC to see our boys Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano play the most amazing four-hour set imaginable!
Going to sleep at 7am after a long night with SJRM caused us to sleep late and arrive at Day 2 of E-zoo just before 5pm to the sounds of DGuz's favorite, Sander Van Doorn. This was the perfect set to start the day, full of great tracks like “Koko” mashed with “Somebody I Used To Know”, and “Allein”, which I really loved hearing.
After Sander's set, we went to catch some of Martin Solveig in the Hilltop Arena. The roof nearly collapsed when he dropped crowd favorite, “Hello” and everyone sang along and jumped in unison. We didn't stay long, but enjoyed what we heard before going to see Dada Life back at the Main Stage. I don't think I've ever seen a guy with more energy and crazy faces than Olle. His Swedish partner, Stefan, was much more reserved and focused. These two gave us “Happy Violence” and a visit from the “Big Bad Wolf” early on in the set. As blow up bottles of champagne floated in the crowd, “Million Voices”, “Rage”, and “Kick Out The Epic Motherfucker” kept the party going strong. The highlight track of the set was “Calling” mashed with the vocals of Gwen Stefani's “Hollaback Girl” ('this shit is bananas… b.a.n.a.n.a.s.'). Yup, it was definitely bananas!
The set of the day went down at 7:30pm as another Swede stepped up to the Main Stage. Axwell played the most incredible 90-minutes that night, and I can't tell you how many people agreed with me. We heard every Swedish House Mafia track ever produced, including their upcoming “Don't You Worry Child”. Check out the video I took and tell me this doesn't give you goosebumps:
Axwell closed his set with a mashup of “Save The World” with “Reload”, and I could hardly contain myself. The number one artist I had most looked forward to seeing at E-zoo blew us all away with an absolutely incredible performance. He said it was a gift that we gave him, but in reality, we received the gift… especially since his set was made available for download in the next few days. Needless to say, I've replayed it multiple times.
We caught the last 15-mintues of Wolfgang Gartner back at the Hilltop Arena who didn't hold back from his usual electro house style and received a huge round of applause at the end of his set. Luckily we heard “We Own The Night” during our brief encounter with the most humorous DJ on Twitter.
At 9:30pm Benny Benassi was welcomed by the thousands of sweaty zoo animals inside the tent that hot Saturday night. He didn't waste much time before giving the crowd “Cinema”, and I imagine that the voices singing along could've been heard for miles. Marcel Woods and W&W's “Trigger” was a great choice to include in his set, which has become one of our favorites at the moment. The highlight was definitely his own, “House Music”, which made everyone go crazy.
At 10pm it was time to end our day back at “the tent” for some techno. While we were very upset to not see the man who made us fall in love with techno last year, the one and only Carl Cox, we were pleasantly surprised to get a full dose of bass from Chris Liebing for the last 45 minutes of the night. Techno is not one of my favorite sub-genres of EDM, but I must say that it has been steadily growing on me since we saw CC last year, and Liebing helped that place in my heart get a little bit bigger that night. The entire tent was stomping the paneled flooring to death! All stomped out, we left day two completely satisfied and smiling ear to ear.
On the last day of Electric Zoo, it is always bittersweet because it feels like the best day, yet everyone is sad that it's about to be over. We got there much earlier than the previous days to soak in as many beats as possible. Our day started at 2pm with W&W at the Main Stage. Even though I was skeptical since they have been labeled “trance” producers, I heard nothing but house during their set, thankfully. They played Swanky Tunes “Here We Go” and a great mashup of “Spaceman” with “Thing Called Love” by A&B, which was incredible. Steve was really looking forward to this set, and it's safe to say that they impressed us all. We'll definitely go check them out again if they come back to NYC.
We stopped by Riverside to see a little of Congorock, who dropped the Sick Individuals remix of “Troll”, as well as a few other heavy duty bangers that skated between electro and dirty Dutch. I hadn't seen Congorock before, but really enjoyed my first time and wouldn't mind seeing him again.
As we walked to the Sunday School tent at 4pm, we could hardly contain our excitement. Spencer and I had been dying to see Umek for over a year since he was sick and couldn't make it to last year's zoo. Umek brought us all behind the iron curtain, and took control of our souls for the next hour and 15 minutes. The tech house coming out of those speakers was hotter than every sweaty person dancing in there. We would've easily sold one of our kidneys for a recording of the set or a tracklist, to say the very least. Check out the video I took so you can experience a taste from the best set of the day:
We literally needed to sit down and relax after leaving the tent and process what we had just experienced. After a break for dinner, we caught the tail end of Porter Robinson who ended with “Language”, and most of Knife Party back at the Main Stage. I knew seeing Knife Party for the first time would be pretty intense (much like their name) and it definitely was! Everyone bugged out when they dropped “Save The World” and “Internet Friends”. It was definitely a lot to hear leading up to one of our favorites at 7:30pm.
After a quick performance by Dev, and a slight delay in schedule, the sounds of “Chasing Summer” came on and the crowd erupted as Tiesto took over the stage. Pyrotechnics went off everywhere and the media pit was flooded with photographers snapping away– myself included. He took the microphone to greet us in that familiar Dutch accent we all know and love. We heard all of the crowd favorites like “We Own The Night”, “Hell Yeah!”, “Bong” and “Spaceman”. I loved hearing “Don't You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia, as well as the mashup of “Epic” and “Kick Out The Epic Motherfucker” towards the end of his set. Tiesto blew us all away with yet another incredible performance!
It literally took us 15 minutes to navigate our way out of the thick crowd to head back to Sunday School for Marco Carola. After all, it was only appropriate for us to end our three-day beats quest back in “the tent”. I had never seen Carola before, but had heard great things about him and was beyond thankful that I finally had the chance to experience him live at E-zoo. He was awesome! The booming bass made it nearly impossible to talk to each other even outside the tent.
On our way out of the festival, we grabbed an E-zoo t-shirt and some more delicious Hi-Chew candies before leaving at 11pm. Our journey had ended, but we had an absolutely incredible time, and memories that will stay with us forever. Thanks again to Made Event for another great experience on Randall's Island. We'll all be counting down the days until next year's event!
Top 5 sets of E-zoo: Axwell, Umek, Tiesto, Luciano, and David Guetta.