The Highs and Lows At Electric Zoo

I cut my live-photography teeth shooting raves in the late ’90s (shoe boxes of prints and film lie in storage in Australia) before photographing bands, so the Electric Zoo festival was a back-to-the-roots experience to some extent. The biggest names in EDM were designated five stages at Randall’s Island New York, and thankfully it wasn’t the soggy mud pit that plagued the Governors Ball Festival earlier this summer.

An assortment of current established headliners, rising stars and old school masters graced the decks amongst a truly mammoth achievement in production and staging. In particular I took delight in the nostalgia of seeing legendary DJ / producer John Digweed for the first time since I was 16, and the very melodic bass lines of Laurent Garnier. The new order of EDM is all about banging hard and the lineup did not disappoint fans. It is interesting to observe the full implementation of the superstar DJ. In the mid to late ’90s, as techno and electronic music festered in the underground in my hometown of Melbourne (I once paid chump change to see Daft Punk play a show pre-robot costume era about 13 years ago), DJs amassed a cult following in Australia and respective territories that embraced the movement, yet the notion that they could hit rock-star status was taken as a little humorous. To the kids who have immersed themselves in the culture today, never before was there a time a DJ could sell out a stadium-sized arena or sell T-shirts. It’s a scene that took some time to grow in the U.S, but it challenges large-scale rock festivals for attendance, enthusiasm and scale

Punters took the sonic and visual assault of Bassnectar, Knife Party, Avicii and Dada Life full force to the face, and the more club-orientated jammed out to the likes of Tiesto, Benny Benassi, Sander Van Doorn and Hardwell. Fool’s Gold represented strongly with a very impressive stage setup supplying the always impressive A-Trak (whose accompanying video display was presented in 3D) while over the way Boys Noize looked to be having the time of his life. Perhaps the most unusually scheduled performance of the day was from Germany’s Moderat, who got the final set on a side stage. Their far more complex live arrangements were unfairly positioned against party-banging finales from the two gargantuan main stages; those that came caught a wholly impressive show of somewhat melancholy rhythms and vocals.

Sadly, two young patrons died and four were hospitalized due to suspected drug-related incidents. The promoters had their hands forced by New York’s "nanny" Mayor Michael Bloomberg to shut the festival down on the final day. The vocal side of the internet responded with the expected sympathy one sees in online response and comment rolls — namely kids announced that they should riot at the gates for the inconvenience, screamed online, "Where’s my refund?", with many calling the deceased "idiots" who dared to ruin the collective mass’s weekend by way of their untimely passing. Others threw their virtual hands to the sky, imploring the heavens as to why they won’t get to party with Steve Aoki. Never mind two families and their friends would never see their kids again, that was besides the point. Without an easy decision, the organizers did what they felt must be done, and somewhere Diplo is bemoaning that he never got his "world’s biggest twerking wall." I, for one, had a tinge of disappointment at never being able to shoot that little gem.

Photos by Andy Boyle

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