Live: Skrillex, David Guetta, And The Rest Of Electric Zoo Strike A Pose At Randall's Island
Friday, September 1 through Monday, September 3
Better than: This.
"You know I know how/ to make them stop and stare as I zone out/ the club can't even handle me right now/ watching you watching me I go all out."Flo Rida, "Club Can't Handle Me" feat. David Guetta
That lyric is key for contextualizing the competitive bombast that consumed both music and crowd this past weekend at Electric Zoo. As an ideological signpost, its puffed-up self-awareness synthesizes much of what the festival offered in the way of electronic dance music, or EDMa bland catch-all term for steroidal sonic booms. While the aggression of dubstep and the tentacles of trance flex increasing influence on pop, the live context for such big-tent dominators has become a series of structurally simplistic, predictable, relentless peaks. All the artists charged with sustaining a consistently bonkers atmosphere makes for an ultimately homogenized festival. Most of the things to love about dance musicrevelation through rhythm and extended repetition, delayed catharsis, basking in the blissful unknownhave no place in an environment that demands a constant blare of stadium-sized tunes.
Likewise, to be faceless in the crowd at Electric Zoo is to miss the point, but the constant desire for distinction only results in a jumble of neon and exposed skin. Dancing is not enough. People jump, stomp, and roar as if the whole crowd110,000 combined on Randall's Island over three daysis eyeing each other's every move. Having fun is good, but having demonstrably more fun than everyone else in attendance is even better. The hedonistic urgency of "RAGE" has replaced "PLUR" as modern American raves' catch-all declaration. Any moment not raging is a moment wasted. Moderation translates as timidity, restraint as cowardice. The crowds at Electric Zoo never tired of "making some fucking noise," and the noise was always "fucking."
Conspicuous consumption, the type that sits the center of high-roller club culture asserting itself in Las Vegas, was also in large supply: A "Platinum Experience" cost $1,199 for three days; VIP tables could be purchased for up to $2,250 per guest. A flush group of eight could potentially spend eight grand just to experience the festival, extramusical expenditures and your very own bionic David Guetta not included.
It's a testament to Electric Zoo that I had a surpassingly good time, despite the general grey-scale predictability and perpetual anomie of the attendees. Over 25% of the lineup were repeat artists from 2011; Tiësto and David Guetta returned as headliners and Skrillex capped a huge year by jumping from a midday set to closing the festival on the mainstage. But for every set of maximalist mush cramming in as many trance swells, dubstep guzzles and house shouts as possible, there were enough performers, particularly in the Sunday School Grove, who electrified through pacing and laser focus. Most sets had a least one moment of defensible satisfaction, and throughout the weekend a few overflowed with such successes.