People who’ve been in attendance get a sort of dreamy, faraway look on their faces when they talk about Day Zero. Having gone down each January for the last eight years in the jungle near Tulum, Mexico, the one-night party is said to be one of the rarest, vibiest and most special destinations on the worldwide circuit.
Today in Israel, a new crowd will get to experience this particular brand of magic when Day Zero Masada: Dwellers of the Dead Sea, launches at the ancient site of Masada. The party marks the first Day Zero event outside of Tulum (where it also returns to this January.)
At Masada, Day Zero founder Damian Lazarus will be joined by a lineup including Gorgon City, Marco Carola, Jamie Jones and Bedouin. While he’s trading jungle vibes for the desert heat, Lazarus says its Masada’s connection to ancient culture — the fortifications at Masada were constructed around 30 BC — that attracted him to both locations.
Here, Lazarus discusses the opportunities and challenges of transporting this party to the Middle East.
How did you decide on Israel as the next destination for Day Zero?
Day Zero began as a celebration of Mayan culture and the end of the Mayan Calendar – the apocalypse. But we saw it more as a new beginning, hence Day Zero. It was an opportunity to gather the best party people from around the world and put them in an environment that would connect them with an ancient civilization.
Since we started that party I’ve been searching for another location where we can do a similar thing, but with an alternative culture or historical land and it’s people. I’d been looking at ancient Egypt and ancient Greece — all of these different possibilities of where we could go. I’d been having some pretty high level meetings with a lot of people, but faced some pretty big issues… I’d been having meetings with the Egyptian government about holding Day Zero in one of the temples… they actually give me the green light to do it, but we can’t sell alcohol, which is a bit difficult for an event lasting 24 hours.
So I started thinking where I could find a place that would be a bit easier. I’ve been playing in Israel for many years, and it’s a place that’s very dear to my heart. I’m fully aware of all the political issues, of course, and aware that this was going to raise a few eyebrows, but in the past few years I’ve been seeing a massive influx of bigger events starting to happen in Israel and started thinking that this is the place I should be looking at.
What have been the biggest challenges in putting this show together?
My team and I are very conscious of what we can do environmentally with all of our events in Tulum and Get Lost in Miami. In Israel, it’s been a bit of a struggle, as the country doesn’t have the best record on sustainability. It has a pretty bad pollution issue. The Dead Sea is full of pollution, and there are issues with waste disposal and air pollution…I told my team that I really want to make a very big point with this event.
We are going to be the first ever plastic free music festival in Israel. In order to do this, we’re going to be giving away water and show that we can control that whole situation. We’re only working with a beer company that has an aluminum bottles, versus glass. We’re teaming up with local organizations that are trying to save the Dead Sea and have some activations going on for that during the event. But it’s been a bit of a struggle, because most of the organizations — the sponors and drinks companies and people we’re talking to about these issues — they need to get on board. So we’re actually making a pretty big point in saying “You do need to and now is the time to.”
Have you encountered any political issues related to doing Day Zero in Israel?
Usually, when a lot of artists who are friends of mine are getting ready to go play in Israel, they get an email from the [Palestinian campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.] So far I haven’t received anything, and neither has anyone who’s going to be playing. We’re running a bit under the radar of the BDS. It pains me that not everyone is welcome to come to this party. Of course, everyone is welcome on my part, but not welcome from the country’s perspective. That does pain me, but I plan to offset by making an event in the Middle East where [attendance] won’t be an issue for anybody.
In terms of the politics, I like to keep the politics out of the music. People like myself have a good platform from which to talk about these things, but for me, we’re talking about playing music to people and making people dance. There are issues everywhere in the world, and I do find it very unfortunate that two different tribes of people can’t live together, but all I can say is that we do this for the music and the love of music and that I wish things were different.
In terms of the musical taste in Israel, do you find crowds there respond to a particular genre?
Israel has a very historical connection with psytrance, and Tulum does as well. But I think over the past few years, the sound has mutated and gone the same way as most other countries around the world, where they’ve moved from psytrance into techno and techno into house and the prevailing genre is now sitting somewhere in between the house and techno. That’s the big sound right now.
What excites you most about doing Day Zero in Israel?
I had a walkthrough recently, and as we were closing in on Masada I got the same feeling I had when walking towards Black Rock Desert for Burning Man — that sort of exciting, butterflies in your stomach feeling. You get that sense of adventure that you’re going somewhere really special. This show is a massive undertaking. When we first started talking about it, we though we should aim for three or four thousand people. We’ve already sold 8,000 tickets. We’ve caught people’s imagination, I think. People are very excited about it. The press in Israel is excitd about it. We’re working closely with the authorities in the Dead Sea, and they’re being pretty supportive.
I’m just looking forward to getting people there and playing some incredible music in this beautiful location and seeing peoples’ faces. I think people are going to be blown away when they get there. I’m very much looking forward to the sunrise. I was with the team down there the other day, and we were seeing how it’s going to look at dawn. It’s breathtakingly phenomenal.