A Month of Mix Posts

As usual, over the last month I got to write about a ton of cool and interesting stuff over at Mix 247 EDM. So click through the links below to see what I was up to!

A recap of FestForums, a 2-day conference all about festival logistics and planning! To say I was in heaven is an understatement.

A preview of the Billboard Hot 100 festival on Jones Beach

Ravers, Let’s Do Better – a call to action for the electronic dance music community to stop giving ourselves a bad name

A really exciting written interview with Laidback Luke (!!!!). I loved researching this interview and learning more about him – such a cool and nice guy.

Disc Jam: The Music

I don’t think I normally would have wanted to go to Disc Jam as I’m not super into jam bands (my attention span taps out after about 4 minutes of a song). However, there are 2 reasons why Disc Jam attracted my attention this year:

  1. The lineup contained an excess of funk music, which I love
  2. I think I may, kind of, sort of, almost, be getting into jam bands. Maybe.

So anyway, I took one look at the Disc Jam lineup and knew I had to go. And as always, the music did not disappoint. Here were the highlights:

Funky Dawgs Brass Band
I had only heard of this band because I have a Facebook friend who posts about them obsessively. I listened to this set from my perch at the box office, and it was so fun and upbeat. I will definitely be checking them out next time they come through New York. The video below is 50 minutes long but click anywhere in it and I promise you’ll enjoy!

The Motet
I first heard of The Motet when I was reading about Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic and learned that he used to be in the band. I’ve seen a Big G/Motet collab set but never The Motet on their own. Their style of funk is a little more old school, and I loved finally getting to see them at Disc Jam. HOWEVER. Their set was from 11pm to 1am, and I was insanely tired. So I did a very responsible thing and I went to bed at 11:45. So I missed most of the set, but I regret nothing. Because sleep is a beautiful thing.

Turkuaz
STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND LISTEN TO THIS BAND. They’re a 9 piece band from Brooklyn and this set was so good it was life-changing. I had heard a ton about their live shows but hadn’t gotten to see them before, and apparently I picked a good first show because I talked to someone who has seen them roughly 30 times and he said it was the best set he’s ever seen. I gush about music a lot, obviously, but I have seriously never felt such joy in a crowd as I did during Turkuaz. The energy was infectious. I’m almost afraid to post a video here because it doesn’t even come close to capturing the live experience. It was unreal.

Break Science Live Band
Break Science is normally an electro-hip hop duo, but the live band incorporates most of the members of the funk band Lettuce, so it steers a bit away from the hip hop vibe and, like everything else I’ve talked about in this post, gets into a funktastic dance party. It’s actually been probably 2 years since I’ve seen a Break Science set that DIDN’T involve the live band. I love them as a duo but I will never complain about the extra instruments. This was the #1 set I was looking forward to at Disc Jam and while it was hard to match Turkuaz (especially right after their set), they threw down in a major way.

Esseks
Not a funk band! Esseks is a producer of egggggcellent bass music. He’s super diverse and is also a visual artist, which is often incorporated into his sets. I’m not sure how I first heard about him but I’ve seen him a number of times and every time is super fun. This set took place at the stage in the woods which was really cool late at night.

The first festival of the season has come and gone, and while I’m bummed that Disc Jam is over, I’m thrilled that Electric Forest is so soon!! I know there’s more great music on the horizon for me and I can’t wait to come back and share all about it. Until then!

Disc Jam: The Experience

Last weekend I traveled to a little town near Albany for Disc Jam, a new festival for me (yayyyy). It was a new experience not only in that I had never attended this fest before, but in that it was my first time volunteering at a festival, something I’ve often thought about doing but never actually did. Let’s talk festival deets and then I’ll discuss my volunteer experience. Heeeere we go!

Check-In/Security
Disc Jam is a festival of only around 2,000 people, by far the smallest I’ve ever attended. There are no lines for anything, ever, anywhere. Instead of waiting in your car for hours to get into a parking lot, you just…pull into the parking lot. It’s a magical thing.

Crowd
Cool people abound! The tiny festivals tend to attract the most down to earth, friendly people. Everyone I met was great. A+ festival friends.

Fun Stuff
If you play frisbee golf, which I certainly do not,  that’s a big deal here as they have a few tourneys throughout the weekend (hence the “disc” in “Disc Jam”). They also have really incredible art on display, and I would have bought a million pieces if I had both money and space on my wall. I had to settle for just looking at it.

Disc Jam has an unofficial/official symbol of a pineapple, for reasons unknown to me. In addition to pineapples showing up on festival art, the edge of the main stage is lined with pineapples. People take them, cut them open, and make fabulous fruity drinks out of them. I got back to my campsite one time and my friends passed me a pineapple where they had used a knife to chop up the inside into tiny pieces and poured tequila in it. I actually hate tequila (but will tolerate it in margaritas) but this was so fabulous and summery.

Water
There was one free water station, or so I heard. I also heard that the water from it tasted terrible. I do not know this to be true as I drank out of bottles the whole weekend (sorry, environment!).

Layout
The festival was tiny and we were able to hear the main stage pretty clearly from both my campsite and my perch at the box office, which was my volunteer job for the weekend. Everything is so close to everything else that I didn’t get nearly as sweaty or tired as I do at other festivals. There was one stage in the woods which was very reminiscent of Electric Forest (which I am leaving for in FOUR DAYS!!) and super cool.

Transportation
Friends with cars are cool! It was a little under a 3 hour drive from NYC. I cannot imagine that there is any type of easy public transportation there.

Price
I think the festival cost, at most, $180 for the weekend if you bought your ticket at the super last minute. And that’s for FOUR DAYS. (I have now capitalized “FOUR DAYS” twice in this blog post.) Super duper cheap.

Volunteering
Volunteering was an interesting experience. I initially signed up because I wanted to go to the festival but had no one to go with, and so I thought this would be a good way to meet people. I ended up having a whole Disc Jam posse and so while I was still happy to go to the festival for free, I didn’t really feel like I needed the volunteer experience anymore. I had 6 hour shifts in the box office but there wasn’t all that much to do, so it was a lot of sitting around and then making the occasional ticket sale. My shift was from 9am to 3pm so while I didn’t miss any music I wanted to see, I did miss a lot of sitting around doing nothing at the campsite, which is, in all honesty, some of the best parts of camping festivals. I did meet some great people volunteering, but I think in the future I would stick to volunteering only for more expensive festivals. Saving ~$150 was not entirely worth it, but it was a fun experiment, at least.

I would absolutely go back to Disc Jam in the future, especially if the lineup is ever as great as it was this year (more on that later). First camping festival of the season = success!

Governors Ball: The Experience

Governors Ball marked the beginning of what I believe will be a full and magical festival season. I had only been to this festival once before and only for one day, and even though I only attended for one day this year, I still have lots to say about it! So let’s get started.

Check-In/Security
As I approached the festival I got panicky because I saw a longgggg line. I mean long. It wrapped around in all sorts of ways and looked horrifying. I was pleased to learn that this line was for will call only, and if you already had your ticket you could proceed to the gate, which had no line at all. Victory! If you waited in that will call line – sorry, man.

Crowd
This crowd looked YOUNG. I’m talking high school young. Even the electronic festivals I’ve been to have never had an average age this low. The teenz were actually pretty well-behaved, but man did I feel old.

Fun Stuff
I give Governors Ball an A+ for their fun activities. They had a mini golf course, a candy bar (which consisted only of them giving out free sour straws, but whatever they were delicious), several 21+ areas with ping pong and lounges, many photo booth opportunities, and perhaps my favorite thing, a station to print your name (and a friend’s name) on a Coke can! I went to the festival by myself, so I printed my friend can for my friend Cody and it is now sitting in my fridge where I will probably drink it and not actually give it to him (sorry Cody). The can with my name on it will be a wonderful addition to my tchotchke shelf at work.

Water
It wasn’t super hot out so I only had to fill my water bottle once, and there wasn’t much of a line. I can’t speak to how the lines were later in the day when it was more crowded, though. Either way, bonus points for having those high speed faucets.

Layout
The layout of the festival was slightly different than I remember from a few years ago, but as with every Randall’s Island festival, I love that it’s never too far from any one point to any other point. I will say though that they put up some sort of pointless gateway/arch between two areas of the festival grounds that seemed to serve no purpose other than create a little bit of a bottleneck. There were also not nearly enough garbage cans – I carried my food garbage for awhile before giving up and just tossing it on the ground (sorry, environment!).

Transportation
Walking to Randall’s Island across 125th street is free and easy. GovBall always tries to sell you on a bus or ferry pass and have you ever seen one of those ferry lines at the close of a festival? No thank you.

Price
It could be cheaper, certainly. But they really pack a lot into a small space and a short amount of time (since it’s not a camping festival, it ends at 11pm each day). I would probably have a hard time wanting to shell out for a 3 day pass, though, considering this festival costs the same or more than festivals where you actually get to sleep there.

Want to hear about the music of GovBall day 1? While I would normally do a full recap of most of the sets I saw, I was so blown away by Lorde’s performance that I chose to only write about that. If you missed it, check it out now.

This coming weekend I’m volunteering at a teeny little jammy fest called Disc Jam, so stay tuned for yet another festival recap soon!

Lorde at Governors Ball was EVERYTHING

I officially kicked off the 2017 festival season by attending the first day of Governors Ball here in New York City. I was looking forward to seeing Chance the Rapper, Flume, Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires, and a special DJ set from Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem.

But most of all, I was looking forward to Lorde. I love Lorde and have been waiting very patiently for her to return to performing after a 3-year-but-seemed-longer hiatus.

When Lorde took the stage at Governors Ball last night, she seemed to be her old, eccentric, somewhat inaccessible self, singing from beneath a white veil because Lorde does not even need a reason, you guys.

After the first song (and veil removal), however, it was apparent that this was not the same Lorde that I saw at Roseland Ballroom (RIP) 3 years ago. This is new and improved Lorde. Lorde 2.0.

Lorde 2.0 is 20 years old now, and while she had an amazing voice as a teenager, the additional 3 years have added so much maturity and depth to her singing.

Lorde 2.0 has matured in other ways, as well. As a teenager her stage presence was brooding, mostly quiet but occasionally sharing, in a somber voice, the deeply emotional stories behind her songs. Now she has more between-song banter and a much happier, brighter outlook. She seemed both excited and humbled to be on stage and possessed a natural enthusiasm that made you want to be her best friend. She remarked on the perfect weather and thanked everyone profusely for sharing in the moment with her.

Lorde’s music has evolved along with her persona. Her 2013 album Pure Heroine was a collection of mellow, electro-pop hits. Her new album, Melodrama, which drops in 2 weeks, is more upbeat and classically pop. The single “Green Light,” released in March and which closed out her Governors Ball set, is a straight up banger.

The production value of Lorde’s GovBall set was higher than that of either time that I saw her as a solo act. Earlier, her performances involved only her, standing and singing. She drew you in with her strange, jerky movements and intrigued you with the darkness of her personality. Now her show involves modern dancers, performing behind her in an elevated transparent box.

Most shocking of all was the fact that Lorde’s set ended in fireworks. I would not, in 2014, have ever foreseen a Lorde show involving any type of pyrotechnics. She was not that kind of artist and it would have made zero sense. But last night, it fit.

I was looking forward to Lorde’s set at Governors Ball but didn’t know how much it would blow me away. As a performer she is magnetic, and for a full 60 minutes (inexplicably cut from a 75 minute scheduled set, wah) she had the entire audience captivated.

Lorde has not just been through a hiatus in the last 3 years; she’s been through an evolution. Her music is snappier, she radiates joy, and she aims to truly connect with her audience. She has grown from a teenager who created pop music into an actual pop star.

Recent posts on Mix 247 EDM

This was a really exciting month over at Mix 247 EDM because I got to write about a lot of cool ish. Links below!

After a long few years, Odesza finally releases some new music!

A preview piece on FestForums, 2 day conference all about festivals! (Yep, it’s true)

And the recap of FestForums, which was everything I could have hoped for and more

Island of Light, Pretty Lights’ new festival, looks incredible and expensive (additional thoughts on Island of Light here)

This year’s Meadows Festival has a ridiculously great lineup (Read about last year’s music and experience from my one day at Meadows 2016)

LightsOut review – what happens when you go to a show and can’t use your phone?

An interview with Made in June!

 

Should Live Music Be Epic or Should it Be Accessible?

Emotions are flying high in my little corner of the music community. The cause? A brand new, Pretty Lights-curated festival called Island of Light.

Island of Light is an all-inclusive, 4-day music-and-sun-and-luxury experience taking place this December in Puerto Rico. In addition to 3 sets of Pretty Lights with a live band, it boasts a lineup that is, for lack of a better word, incredible. It features a main stage on a private island that one can access only by boat. Poolside sets. Buffets. Drinks. Imagine going to a beautiful island resort and hearing your favorite music while catching some sun with thousands of people who either are, or could be, your close friends. People are pumped. Nay, ecstatic.

Yet Island of Light has made many hearts sink.  The reason being, of course, that when you factor in a flight on top of the ticket price (the all-inclusive part is not optional), it’s going to run attendees a minimum of $2,000.

Another recent Pretty Lights announcement has also led to some disappointment, albeit less. This summer, for the first time ever, PL will play at the astoundingly beautiful Gorge Amphitheater in Washington. This breathtaking yet somewhat inaccessible venue is a mere $500+ flight from New York City, so it took me (and others) just a few short minutes to go from “errr I probably can’t make this but let me at least think about it” to “WOMP.”

The Gorge

If you’re familiar with Pretty Lights, you know that over the last few years he has forgone the traditional multi-city tour in favor of fewer, yet more finely produced and curated weekend-long events, in addition to the standard annual slew of festival sets. While this is a huge bonus for those who live closer to the action – Colorado in particular is lucky enough to always have a Red Rocks show, and in both 2015 and 2016 had an additional weekend in Telluride just a few weeks later. Prior to the Gorge and Puerto Rico announcements, Telluride was unofficially considered the “premiere” Pretty Lights event. I was sadly never able to attend.

I was, however, fortunate to see Pretty Lights 3 times in 2016:

  • Night 2 of his weekend in New Hampshire (a 5 hour drive away, the closest of his weekend-long stops)
  • Meadows Festival in the Citi Field parking lot
  • New Year’s Eve 2-night run in New Orleans

Ask most PL fans to rank those and while you may have some debate between New Hampshire and New Orleans at the top, Meadows would almost certainly consistently come in third.

If I had to repeat any of those experiences, though, I would choose Meadows. There would not even be a close second. It’s not because I didn’t love NH or NOLA (I did). It’s not because the music was so much better at Meadows (it wasn’t, though it certainly wasn’t worse either). It’s because going to New Hampshire and New Orleans involved stressing over who my crew was, where I was sleeping, how much things cost, how I would get there, and a host of other stressful and expensive details.

When my friend and I went to Meadows back in October, we took ourselves out to a delicious brunch, hopped on the subway for the festival, danced all day, and hopped on the subway home.

There was no stress. I did not have to pack a suitcase or get on a plane. If my friend had dropped out of our plans, I would have gone anyway and had a great time without having to scramble for a replacement.

Such is the benefit of seeing live music in your own city. It’s easy. What you get out of it is lightyears beyond what you put into it.

Was Meadows an “epic” Pretty Lights set? I suppose not, compared with Telluride or New Orleans (where there was a WATERFALL on stage). But it was one of my favorite PL sets ever. I was in a great mood because I saw so much other fantastic music that day and the rain that was forecast for the day had magically held off. I was with one of my closest friends seeing one of our favorite artists and while it may not have been EPIC it was still incredible. No waterfall needed.

I love memorable experiences, I truly do. My one trip to the Red Rocks to see PL 2 summers ago is a life highlight for me. I crave the rush that comes with unique outings, which is why I’m excited to return to Electric Forest this year and which is why I chase every weird or fun event that exists here in New York. But there comes a time when I have to draw the line, when I have to say that something, even the most potentially thrilling event of them all, may very well not be worth the time and money that has to go into it. In this regard, I’m almost lucky. Because I can afford Island of Light – it would sting pretty badly, sure, but I could do it. I’m just opting not to because I know it’s not the wisest of decisions. Many other fans aren’t as lucky. They can’t even entertain the idea of going.

For me, this raises a question – to an artist, what is the value gained in creating memorable, unique experiences for fans at the expense of alienating so many others? If The Gorge or Island of Light were one option amidst other opportunities to see Pretty Lights at smaller shows with a lower production value, I think a lot of people would feel less upset at not being able to go. Because when it comes down to it, seeing an “average” (yet still awesome) set from your favorite artist is better than not seeing him at all. But with fewer, more expensive shows, many fans are precluded from being able to attend any shows at all.

Perhaps living in New York has spoiled me in that I’m so used to every artist stopping through here on their tours. Not only that, but they’re excited about it, because it’s NEW YORK. Sure, I choose to travel for music all the time, but until now I’ve never been forced to. If I want to see Pretty Lights this year, I have to leave the state. If I want to see Pretty Lights in an event that is not just any ol’ festival set, that is the result of an outpouring of creative energy and hard work and that Derek would probably look at it and say, “this is my baby,” I have to travel over 1,000 miles and spend over $1,000.

I would never want an artist to do anything other than express what’s in their soul. I firmly believe that you have to follow the path of your creativity, and I know this is something that music fans – or film fans – or whatever fans – don’t always like. When someone you admire takes their art in a new direction that you no longer enjoy, it sucks. But you must allow them to do what they want to do. Or need to do.

But you know what else sucks? Feeling excluded from something that once felt universal and open. No one should consider putting themselves into major credit card debt just to see live music (I have seen this). No one should consider skipping a friend’s wedding so they’d have more vacation time to allot to Pretty Lights shows (I have seen this too). Live music is a joyful experience that should be available to anyone who wants it. Luxury experiences – the EPIC ones to write home about – those can stay too. But there should be options at a variety of price points and locations.

Music can – and should – be both epic and accessible. Even if it’s not always at the same time.