You could call Electric Zoo 2015 “transformed;” but that doesn’t nearly begin to emphasize how transcendental this experience was for all artists, fans and staff who attended. After two consecutive years of unanticipated cancellations, MadeEvent made it their mission to redefine the Electric Zoo experience (and to debunk the “Cursed Sunday” myth), reminding Manhattan music lovers what it means to break out of their proverbial cages and rage about the concrete jungle. So let’s jump into the thick of it and talk about the Labor Day weekend that 20,000+ people are sure to remember for the rest of their lives.
I. Main Stage
You kiddies may not remember, but before Skrillex, The Chemical Brothers dominated the electronica world. The duo has not graced the Ezoo stage since 2010, and it was evident that they aimed to use this headlining opportunity to springboard back into the hearts of the modern EDM enthusiast. Well Chemical Brothers, mission accomplished. The haze of summer humidity enveloped the stage and diffracted each light perfectly, making it feel as though each light surrounded your entire body. They incorporated new songs from their 2015 album, “Born in Echoes,” including “EML Ritual,” which maintained a trippy, almost ominous vibe, making you feel as though you were walking with Harry Potter in the Forbidden Forrest.
What would a Chemical Brothers set be without paying tribute to some of their golden oldies? Classics like “Block Rockin Beats” from their 1997 sophomore album and “Saturate” from their sixth album all made the setlist in a night that reminded every Ezoo attendee the true power of techno. Massive robot figurines which adorned the sides of the stage and Eclectic images ranging from clowns to exploding paint balls took all spectators down a rabbit hole of innovation that is missing from most headlining performances nowadays. Hopefully New York won’t have to wait another five years to experience the musical stylings of these iconic legends.
The main stage was supported by top-notch EDM talent including Zeds Dead, Don Diablo and 3LAU who electrified their sets with smoke, leaps and lasers, keeping people so entranced that they may have forgotten there were other stages to hit! In a refreshing twist, Zeds Dead paid tribute to old school influences including remixes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Otherside,” Pharoahe Monch’s “Simon Says” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall.” On a personal note, what made Friday my favorite day was that the supporting stages were just as star-studded as the main, easily inducing severe FOMO in each attendee’s heart.
II. MasterCard Hilltop Arena
The Hilltop arena sparked all kinds of heat, from the amps, the crowd’s energy and the overall sun-kissed summer day. With fresh talent like Haywyre sporting his live keyboard abilities and ravenous energy from Snails and Black Tiger Sex Machine, it felt as if the bodies clustered under the tent were like atoms rubbing against each other until they combusted with excitement. Snails made quite the imperative entrance, exclaiming, “What the fuck is up Ezoo? You guys ready to get snailed or what?” And he certainly delivered with dubstep remixes of Bloody Beetroots’ hit “Warp 1.9” and the Skrillex and Trollphace remix of Yogi’s “Burial.” As always, Black Tiger Sex Machine invited all people under the tent to convert to the “BTSM Church,” with a third of the trio leaving the decks to wave the BTSM flag out and proud. Needless to say, their set had so many people jumping that the tables along the VIP platform could barely stand straight.
Without a doubt, the Hilltop all-stars on Friday were Keys N Krates. In classic form, they treated patrons’ sensibilities with their unreleased remix of “Bittersweet Symphony;” you could almost feel the hearts of all 90s babies throb with nostalgia and delight. And of course what would a Keys N Krates set be without a little “Dum Dee Dum” action, only this time, emcee Matisse gave the packed house of fans the chance to chant along to the simple yet contagious beat. In honor of the special Ezoo occasion, they concluded their set with two new songs: “Save Me” and “I Know U,” where Matisse called on everyone to raise their phones and illuminate the tent to turn it into a church. Their trademarked “weird rap beats” provide the perfect duality any music enthusiast wants in a song: artistically crafted harmonies you can lose both your emotions and your mind to.
There was no way to miss the colloquially deemed “Octopus stage,” as it had not only one of the most alluring lineups, but visually one of the most enchanting setups with a stage that resembled a whimsical Macy’s Parade balloon. Kicking off the early afternoon with OWSLA gem, Mija, she incorporated multiple bass-subgenres including Skrux’s melodic “You & Me,” Skrillex’s heavy remix of Nero’s “Promises,” and trap anthem “Scylla” by RL Grime.
Most notably, Cashmere Cat nearly stole the show with a set that incorporated fan favorites like “Mirror Maru,” “Wedding Bells” and his unreleased collaboration with Kanye West: “Wolves.” Madeon followed up with a set that combined both nu-disco elements of his “Adventure Live” Tour with a festival-friendly hits like Dillon Francis’s “Bun Up The Dance.”
I. Main Stage
With Friday ending on the highest of notes, the good vibes permeated into Saturday with Above & Beyond, Adventure Club, Ansolo and more taking over the Main Stage. Anjunabeats disciples encroached the stage perimeter, waiting to be hypnotized by Above & Beyond’s irresistible trance (pun intended). Known for their amorous lyrics, fans erupted in sing-alongs to the group’s well known songs including “Sticky Fingers,” “We Are All We Need,” and “Sun & Moon.” If that wasn’t enough to cloak Randall’s Island with a hippie-dippy spirit, then their personalized messages to the Zoo Crew did it.
EZoo felt even more personalized-love from Adventure Club, when they dropped a brand new unreleased song for the first time: “Limitless.” Listen for yourself to the melodic majesty.
“Somehow Adventure Club is able to take soothing, calm vocals and mix it with the heaviest dubstep and make it into a beautiful masterpiece,” says Joe Pellicano, Adventure Club fan and zoo-attendee. Their new track “Limitless” perfectly embodies Pellicano’s exact point, proving that “dubstep” is not simply a “2010 phase.” Ansolo had his own surprise up his sleeve; towards the conclusion of his set he brought surprise guest, Pierce Fulton, to break up the afternoon of groovy beats to debut a song from the duo: Shirts & Skins. See below!
II. MasterCard Hilltop Arena
Bass bass and more bass is the only fitting way to capture the essence of Saturday’s MasterCard Hilltop Arena. With a lineup that included Excision, Brillz, Bro Safari and Head Hunterz, there was no question that this stage was the destined meeting point for people ready to shuffle their legs off and pump trap elbows with full force. Brillz, playing the role of both showman and DJ, split the crowd in sections to see which group could belt the loudest primal scream.
Saturday was a special day at Riverside: this year Made Event dedicated a stage entirely to trance music. I will admit, my heart beats at 138 bpm so of course this was a special day for me too. The best thing about the lineup was that they invited some of trance’s up and coming DJ’s who’ve been in demand not only around NYC but throughout the US. Talents such as Ferry Tayle, Arctic Moon, and Solarstone played very melodic and vocal sets. Then of course there was Simon Patterson who catered to the darker trance fans and played a very upbeat set taking it up to 140bpm and getting the crowd going right when the sun was at its peak. Then came Ferry Corsten, who surprised everyone playing a more classic Ferry set, making a few people literally cry around us saying he was back! Orjan Nilsen took over with a very energetic set with more of a mainstream progressive trance set drawing in newer generation crowd from all over the festival regardless if they knew what trance was or not. Then the Unicorn Slayer Markus Schulz took over on stage and closed the night playing a surprisingly toned down set from his usual Coldharbour sound, we are guessing he was catering to the broad audience at the Zoo, knowing he had to mix. The vibe at Riverside was very positive and friendly since it felt like a reunion, in this case a trance family reunion.
The third and last Day of the festival exceeded our expectations: the weather was in our favor, the crowd was ecstatic, and nothing could prevent this day from happening without interruptions (which was a relief). Once again, Electric Zoo felt like the Zoo that we all knew and loved like it was 3 years ago. On this day we wanted to try and cover our favorites from each Stage, making our way from the Main Stage, to Riverside to Sunday School and back and then do it all over again. Some of our favorites were Oliver Heldens, who really showed the crowd how much he’s matured musically, playing a well prepared set which showcased a lot of his new material, some of his mashups and remixes. We also felt the energy from Sam Feldt who won over the crowd from the first few tracks and had them almost in tears when he finished his set with his remix of Avicii’s “Waiting For Love.”
Photography by Electric Zoo
Then of course was DVBBS, who came out ready to kill it with their usual energy and interaction with the crowd, making the entire main stage dancefloor rage, jump and scream all at once almost like a wave of people at a soccer match. They kept on talking on the mic and jumping on and off of the DJ booth table while the drops came with each track.
Photography by Electric Zoo
Patrick Topping was one of the notable acts at the Sunday School All Gone Pete Tong tent. He played such a well balanced set that moved the crowd just right and had everyone talking about him. Hot Since 82 came out before Pete Tong since Pete had some unforeseen delays which ended up working out in favor of everyone, since now he was able to close the night at his own tent. We think affected his set altogether making it an even more memorable one.
We then made our way back around just in time to see Alesso close down the Main Stage from a distance and hear his closing track “Heroes” as the fireworks were set off illuminating the entire festival and sky around us, closing out another great EZoo for the books. People around us were literally in tears feeling sad that this special weekend had come to an end.
Photography by Electric Zoo
And last but not least we knew there was one more surprise in store for everyone. Something that wasn’t advertised or publicized. It was a tribute to someone who marked New York City Nightlife since the early days. Someone who was loved by many, admired by others, considered a friend and family by people fortunate to have known him. A soul and personality that were always full of joy and warmth. A man who’s smile was as big as his heart and as pure as his love for this business which was his true passion. As we walked towards Riverside we saw that Made Event had put on the screen at the Riverside Stage a tribute to Rob Fernandez. It was a moment of joy and tears at the same time. A moment to remember and celebrate the life of this iconic legend as the night ended and as another EZoo closed out. Many people walked by not knowing what that meant and making comments with one another asking what that was.. but what was really special to see was just a few and select group of people who knew Rob and who knew Made would show that special gesture of appreciation to Rob’s life. It got quiet as people had made their way out and it felt almost like a moment of silence watching the nice tribute lit up on the screen. This for us was the true ending of a beautiful weekend for the books.
– Liz Tillman and David Guzman for EDM NYC