“Are you strong enough to put me on my shoulders so I can find my friends?” asks Vinnie, a Jersey Bassnectar fan clocking in at 250lbs. It was a prompt that made me ask, “Am I strong enough for Electric Zoo 2016, three days of EDM and house barely contained on Randall’s Island in New York City?” Let’s find out…
My two-day Electric Zoo campaign started off right with Sam Feldt, who is a unicorn amongst live performances as Feldt actually mixes tracks together. A flurry of “Shout” mixed with Swedish House Mafia’s “How Deep Is Your Love” and live saxophone ensured there was a beat for everyone.
Hopping over to the Sunday School Grove, I was surprised by Yotto, who served up deep house supplemented with 80s synth wave, industrial beats, and just a dash of dream trance with tracks like “Cooper’s Cup” and “Song From the Sun”, from Netflix’s XOXO. Imagine “Nightcall” by Kavinsky extended over a set, and you get the idea.
With a high-pitched howl, Aussie DJ Anna Lunoe summoned me to the Zebra Octopus shaped Riverside stage. Headbanging along with us, Lunoe spun what had to be some of the most accessible house.
Lunoe uses a haunting ephemeral sound with isolated vocals, countering them with techno-house beats when dropping the bass. The result is vast musical depth. Lunoe uses this contrast on her own tracks like “Satisfaction”, but also implements it into remixes, creating what has to be the best version of Charlie XCX’s “Trophy” ever. “I basically dance alone to this song in my bedroom, all the time,” Lunoe warns, as the creeping beat of “All Out” pushes on.
Starting out with a freestyle of “Music Is The Drug”, Bassnectar weaved a set that was impossible to predict, overwhelming you with switch-ups, lasers, and the wildest of visuals. You don’t watch Bassnectar’s set, it just happens to you.
Bassnectar covered all of my faves, including “Reaching Out”, “Unlimited Combinations”, and a remix of Marshmello’s “Find Me”. You understand Bassnectar’s moniker when the heaviest of bass envelopes you, clearing the sinuses and vibrating your soul.
KSHMR kicked off Saturday, as I arrived just in time to hear my favorite track, “Secrets”. Frequently a collaborator on singles like “Burn” and “Karate”, KSMR’s set was filled with top-heavy jams. KSHMR’s set culminated in Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, morphed to become the rising part of a delicious bass drop.
“My name’s Borgore and I’m gonna play some weird shit” declares Borgore. An apt disclaimer, as Borgore’s setlist straddles the line separating serious and satire. Take “Champagne”, a song that is clearly not about champagne. It’s all ridiculous, yet done so well that it demands respect. When Borgore mounted the DJ booth, throwing down bars with an absolutely sick flow to a legion of cartoon derrières twerking behind him with distorted flashes of Miley Cyrus and kaiju-cats, you realize you’re witnessing something special.
If you’ve never seen it before, Porter Robinson’s live set isn’t just a setlist, but an EDM anime opera. It’s something grand to behold, a legitimate piece of performance art with colorful visuals and dream-like beats. Robinson’s live set is made all the more precious when following up Borgore’s cartoon ass shaking. While Robinson’s set is certainly danceable, I noticed there was less dancing than in other sets, as Porter had created more of a wonder to behold.
Finishing off Electric Zoo 2016 and the last Saturday of the summer, Tiësto didn’t let a second of his set go to waste. Like KSHMR, Tiësto played “Secrets”. Unlike KSHMR, Vassy herself showed up to sing along.
I understand why Tiësto has been around for so long, as he managed to wrangle hits that I’ve loved for years. Tiësto played not only my favorite EDM movie theme, “Adagio for Strings”, but also an amazing mix of “He’s a Pirate” from Pirates of the Caribbean. Cleverly placing his remix over the original theme, Tiësto evoked an unbridled energy that shows how much he’s learned since the remix first dropped in 2006. It’s like running into an old high school friend, only to discover they’re now Robocop.