ELECTRIC ZOO 2017
I arrived on Randall’s Island just before 6:00 pm on Friday. There was no line to get in and the attendance was relatively light but increased throughout the afternoon. After exploring the VIP tent and using their flushing toilets (something that for someone like me, a guy with an ileostomy bag, certainly appreciates), I followed the music. Feeling gutsy, I thought “when in Rome,” so I took off my shirt and sported my Super Mario ileostomy cover (to be totally honest, I was hoping to get some questions about it, but only because I desperately crave attention).
The Awakenings tent was my first stop. I entered to the ending but still thumping bass and red lights of Julia Gabor. Her seamless transitions and dark beats offered a sexy early evening treat. Friday night was perfect music festival weather; warm enough to go topless, cool enough to look tight and not get too sweaty.
As nighttime drew upon us, fist-pumping dancers, led by Martin Solveig cranking out “Hello” on the Hilltop stage. The stars came out with “Where are you now” whose ethereal vocals inspired what felt like a mass cuddle puddle. His timeless EDM and brilliant light show was as captivating as it was blinding, in the most satisfying way.
I wandered over to the Riverside stage to see Markus Schulz, whom I’ve seen previously at Echostage in Washington, DC. Schulz drove an hour-long energetic set of well-orchestrated trance which climaxed with a breathtaking tribute to Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. His remix of the band’s “In the End” brought a sizeable portion of the crowd to tears. At that moment, I understood what EZOO is about: music, love, and life. As Markus said, “we have to love one another, care for one another, and lookout for one another.”
By 8:00 I was thirsty and got some vodka on the rocks from the VIP bar then made my way back to the Awakenings tent, where I bumped into some friends. The dark, deep beats of Sasha & John Digweed made it impossible not to dance (I don’t know how people are intentionally able to stand still on a techno floor). The four-time Grammy nominees brought us on an unforgettable 3-hour journey. Thumping bass and gorgeous lasers were paired into nonstop, bone-shaking techno. Friday night was clear and gorgeous, a perfect end to day one.
I arrived at EZOO at 5:00 on Saturday. The line to get into the park was long, but it moved quickly. Once inside, Awakenings was my destination for the legendary Victor Calderone. “Let Me Set You Free” is one of his standards, and partygoers went nuts for it. Daytime raving is always a treat; I made a friend who hit my head with an inflatable hammer. Set free we were, as red lights and non-stop rhythms gave Awakenings the warehouse atmosphere it deserved.
Danny Tenaglia seamlessly proceeded Victor, serving EZOO with his brand of underground house. Given this was my first EZOO experience, Danny using “different is beautiful” lyrics made me feel like I belonged, something with which I have struggled my entire life. As his set went on, the weather began to rapidly deteriorate. By 8:00, it was pouring rain. The rain combined with my heavy sweating in the hot tent sent me to the medical tent. My ileostomy bag had come loose; thankfully, I came prepared with reinforcements. I like to think I gave the medical tent staff something to talk about after they watched me secure the bag to my skin. The medical staff at EZOO was incredibly courteous and friendly and they have my utmost respect for the job they do. The same goes for the police officers whose job it is to ensure the festival remain a safe space for all music lovers. My bag issue fixed, I returned for the conclusion of Danny’s mind-blowing set. His set had some similarities to circuit music, with heavy bass and a decent amount of percussion. We can always use more high-hat, and Danny certainly delivered.
The monsoon-like rain was unrelenting and I was essentially trapped in Awakenings for the next DJ, Claude Vonstroke. His brand of house/techno contrasted the preceding DJs, though considering how crowded the tent was from the weather, it was entirely appropriate. Simple, deep beats, high-hats, and motifs that were more drawn out that others I had heard. It was difficult to dance due to the sheer lack of space, but Claude did an excellent job of adapting to the physical needs of the crowd. Plus, being crushed in a sea of shirtless ravers isn’t so bad. Pouring rain makes a great backdrop for bass that grows gradually. He captivated Awakenings with a stunning laser and smoke show. By 10:00, most of us were dreading the rainy, 58-degree walk across the RFK Bridge. Despite the weather not being ideal, day two of EZOO was what I’d hoped for.
Sunday, thankfully, was a dry day blessed EZOO with sunshine on its final day. The park was still muddy, but really, who cares? Armin van Buuren was quite the act to follow on Sunday on the main stage. His brand of uplifting, passionate trance drew in huge numbers of people. His inspiring lyrics and stunning visuals carried his fans into the night, where he was followed by DeadMau5 and Eric Prydz. Combining the two internationally renounced DJs was a trance fan’s delight.
Electric Zoo 2017 was my first music festival, though I have before seen a few the performing artists in solo shows. The plethora of eclectic talent, combined with the inclusive and diverse collection of fans, is a therapeutic escape from the doldrums of our workaday lives. Everyone was welcoming, friendly, and eager to interact with new people outside their friend-circles. I attended EZOO by myself and had a fantastic time. The experience is certainly a special memory and I will be rolling through EZOO in the years to come.
By Brandon Gage