I saw Steve Aoki at Identity Festival Wantagh and I lived to write about it
The weather reports all called for rain and for once, the weather men were right. As the day went on at Skullcandy’s Identity Festival in Wantagh, New York, an ominous storm cloud loomed in the distance. It slowly but surely shuffled closer and closer to the thousands of fans packed into Nikon Jones Beach Theatre, while the eclectic music from myriad EDM genres pumped through the sound systems of the event’s three separate stages. Eager EDM amateurs and a crop of seasoned vets ignored the inclement weather and overcast skies.
By 7PM the light drizzle had turned into a torrential downpour, soaking everyone and everything in cold rain. The wind ripped through the crowds, chilling us to the core. Event security frantically urged everyone to get out from underneath the tents, ushering people to safer, more permanent structures. As the tents were dismantled, the masses were driven out into the freezing rain. It was at this moment that I made the decision to ignore the elements and push through the flooded parking lot to the front of the throng of sopping wet bodies. If I was going to stand outside in the rain, I may as well be standing front row for Steve Aoki.
A large group of people shared my sentiment, and by the time the large illuminated letters spelling out the headliner’s last name were rolled onto the stage, the parking lot had become a clan of devoted fans, completely unconcerned with the torrential rain and the howling winds. We stood and watched as the stage crew set up a scaffolding 25 feet above the stage from which Steve planned to spin.
Packed together for warmth, I fumbled for my pack of cigarettes, only to be met with disappointment as I pulled a handful of damp, limp Camels from my pocket. Shrugging off the 14 dollars I had just wasted (New York: the cigarette tax is absurd) I continued to push forward until I reached the wrought iron gate at the front of the stage. For a brief moment Steve appeared, but then quickly disappeared again. Others around me reiterated and verbalized my feelings of frustration, and the couple huddled together next to me mumbled something along the lines of, “They need to hurry the fuck up, We’re freezing.” The crowd, in a desperate attempt to coax Steve out and speed up the process, began chanting “A-O-KI.” It was likely pure coincidence, but as we chanted, Steve once again emerged from backstage and this time he ascended the scaffolding and prepared to begin his set.
“Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!” erupted through the speaker system, reigniting the fire in the crowd that the rain had attempted to expel. Rainwater blasted off the soaking wet JBL speakers into a mist as the crowd jumped and stomped in an inch of water and mud. The large letters began lighting up in sync with the first track of the set “BRRAT!” Militants with AK-47s fired bullets at the crowd from the huge screen behind Steve. Grabbing the microphone, Aoki cut the music and began to address the crowd for the first of many times that evening. “I’m sorry, but the rain fucked all this shit up, I’ll be back in 5 minutes!”
Sound technicians scrambled on stage to swap out the fried CDJs and mixer as the devotees in the crowd stood in the relentless rain. Five minutes passed, then ten, then twenty. Many people began to leave, I turned to a group of fans next to me and asked “Why the fuck would you leave now, we are already soaking wet… pussies” they nodded and agreed. Twenty five minutes after stopping his set short, Steve once again remerged from behind the stage to brave the rain. Drops fell sideways, soaking Steve as he restarted his set from the beginning. None of us seemed to mind, though, and continued moshing in the rain as he blasted electro track after electro track. (Editor’s Note: We tried keeping a tracklist, but the only thing we came away with was pneumonia and a broken iPhone—hence the title of this article.)
Watch this video we found on YouTube to get an idea of what it was like.
Lightning lit up the skies behind the stage, and 25 minutes into his set Steve once again cut the music and apologetically screamed “We have to shut it down, I am so fucking sorry! This is so fucked up! It’s too dangerous, with all these stages collapsing, I love you guys, I wanted to play so much music, I am so fucking disappointed about this, I’m sorry.” Security then took the mic and warned patrons to heed their advice and get out of the area. “…There is a major storm coming, take cover right now, we don’t want you to get killed.” The anti-rage-sentiment was met with a barrage of boos as the crowd threw water bottles, glowsticks and whatever else they could find at the stage. It seems that with the recent tragedies at the Indiana State Fair and Pukkelpop, festival promoters knew when it was time to call it quits.
Fans cursed Steve as we were herded like cattle into the main area of the venue. It’s strange how adoring fans can so quickly become hateful. Many of us went straight to our cars, soaked and disappointed, but very much alive. It may not have been the easiest or most popular decision for Steve and the concert staff to make, but it was the right decision — and sometimes, that’s all that matters.