Electric Zoo 2015 Highlights: Above & Beyond, Zeds Dead, Robin Schulz & More
No news was good news for a festival turning the page on its troubled past two years.
For the first time since 2012, New York's Electric Zoo Festival successfully completed its full three days without major incident or tragedy.
Billed as "Electric Zoo Transformed" with revamped production -- including a symbolic phoenix-inspired main stage -- and a leaner lineup and layout, the Made Event festival sought to put the nightmares of its previous two years behind it in partnership with fellow SFX subsidiary ID&T.
In 2013, Electric Zoo was forced to cancel its third day after two patrons died from drug-related causes. The more sparsely attended 2014 edition introduced near-Orwellian security measures, yet was still forced to cancel the third day's last six hours due to a severe thunderstorm.
Although the 2015 lineup was short on marquee names, a number of well-curated stage showcases from the likes of Awakenings and All Gone Pete Tong held their own beneath headliners The Chemical Brothers, Above & Beyond and Alesso. While this year's security was still tight (though improved from 2014's reported three-hour lines) and the 80,000 reported attendees still down on peak years, no news is undoubtedly good news for Electric Zoo.
From the early openers to the big names, Billboard takes you back to Randall's Island Park to recap 10 highlights from the weekend.
New York's trance family turned out in droves for the English outfit's first major play in the city since selling out Madison Square Garden in October. Jono Grant and Paavo Siljamäki treated Saturday's main stage masses to a mix of new material and classic cuts like "Sun & Moon" and "Thing Called Love," spurring widespread sing-alongs from their diehard devotees.
Following their show, Grant and Siljamäki astounded guests with mind-reading tricks in their trailer by correctly guessing which celebrities they were thinking of. We're still not entirely sure how they did that.
The Toronto duo delivered a memorable performance on the main stage Friday night, opening with a fierce new track featuring California rapper Murs and interspersing hard-hitting originals with remixes of crowd-pleasing standards like Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Otherside."
Capping off Thomas Jack's showcase on the Riverside Stage, the German artist hugged the host and treated attendees to a high energy set packed with his radio hits. Wearing shades and a backwards cap, Schulz shared the stage with Canadian singer Francesco Yates for a spirited rendition of new single "Sugar." With a shock of auburn curls and slick dance moves, the 19-year-old sports some serious star power.
Relaxing in a shady part of the artist area, the Galantis guys were in good spirits ahead of their Friday evening set. They finally have a block of studio time looming before their Australian tour, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Christian Karlsson said he and fellow Swede Linus Eklow have been on a creative tear ("We're making so much music"), while the success of their most recent single "Peanut Butter Jelly" has helped increase fan awareness.
"It's so different when you get a second song," Karlsson says. "Since 'Peanut Butter Jelly,' people want to know who's behind the songs. 'Runaway' was bigger than us. It was like we were running after our own song."
The Aussie artist came straight from Burning Man ("It was off its tits!") on Sunday morning, but he showed no signs of exhaustion during his primetime slot at his Riverside Stage showcase. Hoisting a red parasol from the playa in time with the beat, Jack finished strong with his recent single "Rivers," an edgy unreleased remix for Rufus Du Sol, and a tropical take on Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved."
Alison Wonderland has some serious mixing skills. She tended the decks masterfully during her trap-heavy set, crouching atop the booth ("I'm fucking short," she said at the start." I can't see anything.") to take in her fans' adoration while dropping favorites like "I Want U" and her Wayne Coyne co-signed single "U Don't Know."
"This is my last song," Wonderland breathlessly yelled atop "Already Gone." "It's a special song to me. It's the last song on my album. I made it with Lido. I hope it's ok, but I like to play the whole thing every show, so I want you to fucking dance however the fuck you want. I want you to make out with someone. I want you to hug someone. I don't give a fuck. Just like good vibes everywhere please!"
The German veteran's Saturday live set as part of the festival's Awakenings showcase was one of the Sunday School tent's clear highlights. An extremely talented composer and producer who has embraced a wide range of sounds, Schwarz opted to build a rolling techno groove above which he filtered in layered synths and mesmerizing atmospherics while green lasers combed the crowd.
Following Mija's well-received performance at the Riverside Stage, Sydney's Wave Racer gave the afternoon a glitchy video game soundtrack marked by quirky synth lines and a snare-stuttered remix of Porter Robinson's "Sad Machine."
Fresh off touring with Zedd in Asia, Haywyre brought his melodic piano chops to the Hilltop Arena on Friday afternoon. Reflecting on the tour afterwards, he said: "It was a really cool experience. Especially in Vietnam. What was cool was people really responded to any kind of instrumental dexterity... like if there was something solo going on. And that was such a rare experience because so many people are kind of indoctrinated in what they expect from a DJ set."
iLoveMakonnen's 18-year-old DJ is an artist in his own right. The fresh-faced New York resident warmed up Thomas Jack's Riverside Stage showcase on Sunday with a groovy set featuring his own productions, cuts from Anna Lunoe and Chris Lake, and remixes of Maroon 5 and Jefferson Airplane. His friend Ansolo (also known as actor Ansel Elgort) dropped by to make an onstage appearance as well. Asked if he's over classes and homework, the rising high school senior laughed. "Just one more year."