What Curse?: Electric Zoo closes out unforgettable 2015, turns Sunday into grand finale
The last time Electric Zoo had completed all three days of it’s intended three-day festival, it was 2012. Ever since, it’s been bad luck and unfortunate works of god that left the festival shutting down early the next two years. In 2013, it was health related concerns that halted EZoo after its second night, and in 2014 it was torrential down pour that Sunday coming to a close before sundown. Many antagonists that had been affected by the cancellations have gone superstitious, calling this ‘the Sunday curse of Electric Zoo,’ among other, less-than-kind names.
Electric Zoo Electric Zoo: Transformed rolled around this Labor Day Weekend, expectations for Sunday were all over the place. By the end of day two, Zoo had already blown those expectations out of the water with all-new production, crowd control, festival grounds carefully arranged in attendees favor and flooded by performers and art; Awakenings and blessings from the techno gods, VIP lounges fit for even New York City’s most daring partiers, fireworks that could’ve woken up neighbors all the way in New Jersey, and not to mention a f*cking massive Main Stage that will now be put in the conversation with the Ultras and Tomorrowlands of the world.
It’s difficult to sum up Made Event’s redemption in the first two days alone if you weren’t there to witness it yourself. Even if you had tuned into the live stream all Friday and Saturday, there was a feeling on-site that was both intangible and incredible. While Above & Beyond was performing for Randall’s Island late Saturday night, one NYC industry veteran, who’s attended Electric Zoo each year since it’s inception, was overheard telling a colleague; “EZoo 2015 feels more like Coachella than it does EZoo 2014.” This was a bold, but warranted, statement. It meant everything, but would’ve meant nothing if the festival couldn’t overcome the “curse” that naysayers have nicknamed Zoo’s third day.
With the momentum of its first 48 hours powering Electric Zoo, there was no stopping the good times being had within the crowd, the safe and convenient operations on the ground, and overall positive vibes about Electric Zoo’s 7th annual Labor Day Weekend festival. Fans were keeping themselves out of harms way, and nothing even came close to the unfortunate health outcome of 2013. The weather was beautiful, as it had been all weekend long, and Mother Nature wasn’t going to pull another 2014. (we’re pretty sure Mother Nature has more respect for Pete Tong than to rain-out his set.)
Day three picked up where day two left off; fans eager to dance, eat and drink, and close out their summer with the best Labor Day Weekend possible. This wouldn’t be too hard, as by 3PM, Waze & Odyssey had Sunday School Grove warmed up, Le Youth was opening his Riverside set to early fanfare, Com Truise had Hilltop rocking and wide awake, and the Main Stage was already roaring with EDX on deck and Bassjackers ready for the baton. Still early, the festival raced into action…
Hilltop: Live Lunacy
It was Griz on duty to impress when Sunday began, but the remainder of Hillop’s lineup would make for a collection of the weekend’s more special moments: a) live performances, and b) The Glitch Mob.
While early in the afternoon, live outing from Five Knives and Goldroom were so well-received that it became the catalyst for hype around Hilltop’s later attractions. Buzz around live festival performances was snowballing in real time throughout the grounds.
If you were taking laps around the festival grounds, you would’ve heard dozens of attendees buzzing about The Glitch Mob’s appearance — both before and after taking place. The legendary group brought the arena to a close in illustrious fashion, but eager attendees even showed up early to catch RAC to soak in the live, intimate action.
Treehouse: The Hidden Gem
With so much grounds to explore, attendees would find themselves on the hunt for Lobster Rolls, stopping for a spiraled fried potato on a stick (which you may notice as the most Instagram-able french fry you’ve seen), and stumbling upon a hidden stage dubbed the Treehouse.
Vitamin Water’s Treehouse hosted local acts and pumped groovy tunes all weekend, perfectly situated as a hidden gem that you’ll find eventually for a brief, unique moment. It even turned into the perfect spot for a surpise pop-up set; if your “I stumbled across this cool hidden stage” moment was around 8PM on Saturday, you would’ve seen Ansolo and Pierce Fulton put on an intimate B2B set.
Sunday School f*cking Grove
For New York-based dance music fans, Sunday School holds a special place in their hearts. Going all the way back to Electric Zoo’s earliest festivals — 2009, when deadmau5 was headlining beneath David Guetta; 2010, when Afrojack was “up-and-coming” and still not a Main Stage act; or 2011, when Alesso was a young kid from Sweden with a 1pm set time before Tiësto an Armin van Buuren closed things out — Sunday School Grove had been the space for fans to explore and discover, to go against the grain and try new things.
The New York City dance community and Electric Zoo have grown up together, and so has their musical tastes. While fans showed up for the in-style progressive house and big room attractions, Sunday School Grove was there to introduce them to what they didn’t expect coming, and what they didn’t know they’d love next. It belonged to Richie Hawtin in 2009 and to John Digweed in 2010, and it only became better and more engrained in the fabric of New York City’s dance world.
This year, there was a sense of nostalgia in the air at the Sunday School venue. It felt was special, fresh and new as it had early on. As the first two days were Sunday School’s welcoming of Awakenings, fans felt this special, unique and exclusive feeling of being introduced to how techno feels overseas. It was a festival within the festival, but when day three rolled around, it was classic. Sunday School Grove became All Gone Pete Tong on Sunday, curated by that very same international icon who’d also headline.
From Jonas Rathsman to Amine Edge & Dance to Hot Since 82 and finally to Pete Tong — on Sunday, Sunday School Grove brought the New York out of the New Yorkers. The stage and its crowd unified with a sensibility that can only be felt, not explained. It was an aesthetic reminiscent of 2012, when Carl Cox & Friends majestically took over Sunday School Grove and sparked the love affair between NYC and techno.
Riverside: The Tentacle Spectacle
It’s hard not to get romantic about Sunday School Grove (especially coming from NYC), but day three of Electric Zoo: Transformed will be best remembered for what developed at Riverside. It was one of the stages anticipated to literally be transformed when Made Event and ID&T announced their creative partnership. After the weekend, it became an Electric Zoo landmark.
Walking the grounds of Electric Zoo, you’d hear a lot of fans pointing, yelling “The Octopus Stage!” and then running. On Sunday, the all-new Riverside stage was hosted by Thomas Jack, stacked with curated talented that’d provide Zoo with its biggest “trend” factor. After JackLNDN and Le Youth, it was SNBRN, Sam Feldt and Claptone. It was getting dark, and the Octopus came to life when made-for-the-night production. Finally, the man of the hour hit the decks and fans swarmed the Octopus for Thomas Jack and most would stay put for Robin Schulz. Riverside was the Tentacle Spectacle. It was, perhaps for the first time, quintessential Electric Zoo with emphasis on the “Zoo.”
Main Stage: The Bird’s Big Bang & Grand Finale
While all aforementioned madness was occurring across Randall’s Island, The Bird was watching. Electric Zoo’s Main Stage was by far it’s biggest (and biggest in size) improvement. Comparably, last year’s was underwhelming in presence; size, production power, sound. This year, it was the centerpiece of Zoo’s “Transformed” promise, positioned to appear as a giant bird embracing the audience. Staggering production, robust lighting and near deafening sound spanned the birds wings from far-left to far-right and would unrelentless into playing to all senses even through the grand moments when fireworks filled the New York City sky.
The crowd of the Main Stage was your expected main stage crowd; attendees showing up to jump, jump and jump some more. But it was the production that came with it, that kept the relentless party-goers dancing through the day and into the night — it was the attention to detail, the little things that came with what would normally be a standard festival experience that provoked these Zoo faithfuls to keep their energy consistent through and through, from Oliver Heldens to DVBBS to Deorro and finally to Alesso.
Alesso closing out Electric Zoo: Transformed, from roughly 9:30-11PM, was more than just a festival headliner set. It was even more significant than the literally occasion of a dance superstar performing platinum-selling hits for an entire island worth of fans. It put the stamp on Electric Zoo’s comeback, it sealed the transformation, and it officially eliminated any “Sunday Curse” superstitions.
Oh, and it also began the countdown to Electric Zoo 2016…