Governors Ball: The Music (AKA An Ode to Gesaffelstein)

Governors Ball this year was about one artist and one artist only – the man, the myth, the legend, the Prince of Darkness, Gesaffelstein.

Usually the music portion of my festival recaps are a highlight reel of my favorites, or possibly of memorable disappointments. But while I saw a good 6 hours’ worth of music at Governors Ball last Friday, only one artist matters.

I first heard of Gesaffelstein in pre-blog 2014. I went to Spring Awakening festival in Chicago and ended up on a group chat of roughly 30 people, all of whom had connections to some others in the group (and no one had connections to everyone) and various subsets of the group met up at different points in the weekend. One woman in the group was remarkably quiet every time I hung out with her, lurking around during our meetups, not being particularly chatty. But then in the late nights, when everyone was on their respective ways home from the festival and our group text lit up with talk of favorite sets of the day and favorite artists in general, she came alive.

“I love anything dark, deep and dirty. Like Gesaffelstein.”

Gesaffelstein, for the record, was not playing this festival. But she repeated this phrase countless times over the 3 days. Dark, deep, and dirty, like Gesaffelstein. It was a little creepy.

When I got back to New York, I felt compelled to check out this producer I had never heard of, after a weekend of not-so-subliminal messaging burned his name into my brain. I did this despite the fact that dark, deep, and dirty are not words I ever use to describe my taste in music.

To my surprise, I liked it. It sounded like the score to a horror movie, with someone about to meet their end in an abandoned warehouse. But…in a great way? It tapped into this dark part of my soul in an oddly delightful way. Dancing to Gesaffelstein felt like an upbeat exorcism. It is unlike anything else I listen to.

I saw Gesaffelstein live a number of times over the years, including on New Years Eve 2016 with my friend Cody who I didn’t know back during Spring Awakening but who shares a love of this producer. Each time I saw Gesaffelstein live, he had the same sort of stoic presence. He would stand still, wearing sunglasses and chain smoking cigarettes, never speaking. None of the, “Hey what’s up New York how y’all doin tonight??” between-song banter of other producers. Just silence and cigarettes. I chalked it up to him being cool and French.

At Coachella this year, Gesaffelstein was one of the sets that was live-streamed over YouTube, so I crawled into bed at 11pm on a Sunday night and pulled up the stream on my TV. I texted Cody – who wouldn’t be able to watch the set himself – with my excitement. And then the set began, and I continued texting.

He’s covered in glitter.

Even his face and hair.

I don’t know what’s happening but I like it.

He looks like a glitter statue.

IMG_20190414_234241

I tried to take photos of my TV. I tweeted about it incessantly for days. I couldn’t get over the transformation. He of intentionally minimal on-stage personality all of a sudden had this jarringly incredible re-brand. I later learned that his outfit was not glitter but a reflective black, and he was standing in front of a monolith made of vantablack, a highly expensive material so dark it absorbs all light and causes confusion for the human eye.

This was the turning point for me that made me go from never wanting to go to Coachella to proverbially yelling, “COACHELLA 2020” from the rooftops, like a campaign slogan. If this was the kind of thing artists do at this festival, I am all in (Beyonce’s “Homecoming” movie also had a lot to do with my mind changing).

We bought tickets very shortly thereafter to the day of Governors Ball that Gesaffelstein was slated to play. I joked that if he didn’t wear the glitter outfit, I was leaving. But I knew that he wouldn’t wear it; that outfit was a Coachella special.

As we waited for his set to start, the anticipation was through the roof. We hadn’t seen Gesaffelstein live since New Years 3.5 years earlier. He recently put out a sort of poppy album, and we speculated whether his set would be intense or upbeat. I said, yet again, that my fingers were crossed for the glitter suit, even while knowing it wouldn’t happen.

Except it did happen. The vantablack monolith parted, and out walked Gesaffelstein, in his full sparkling glory. I was overjoyed. His set was incredible but short; it was scheduled for 75 minutes but he both started late and ended early. It was both intense and poppy, and appealed to both the light and the dark (and deep, and dirty) within us.

I think this contradiction is one of my favorite things about this performer. This is a man who makes music that is honestly a little bit frightening but is also creating a custom soundtrack for a high-end men’s fashion show in Paris later this month (for designer Balmain, who created his glitter suit). He never speaks on stage but he has collaborations with Kanye West, Pharrell, The Weeknd, and other huge names. It’s weird, but it works.

The best part is, I don’t have to wait 3 years before seeing him again. There’s a 2 night run coming this November in Brooklyn. I hope the glitter suit comes with him.

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Boston Calling: The Music

Boston Calling was, logistically, a very well run festival and totally worth the 4 hour bus ride up to New England for just one day of the event. But festivals aren’t just about the logistics, are they? (Sometimes I feel like I get excited enough about festival details to be able to attend one and not even have any music there…kidding, but only kind of.) So let’s talk music.

Mitski
I had only heard this name before but didn’t know anything about her. She’s kind of pop/rock, which makes for really nice daytime festival music. What really sets her apart though is her slow, meticulous and quirky choreography. This video isn’t from this festival but it gives a good sense of what she’s about.

Denzel Curry
Stumbled on his set by accident but stayed because I loved it. I don’t like rap that much anymore and I think it’s particularly hard for me to get into a rap set where I don’t know the music, but he had such great stage presence. And as it turns out, I do know one of his songs, from this amazing video that makes me laugh every single time despite the sheer volume of times that I’ve watched it.

Jenny Slate
For the first time ever, I saw comedy at a music festival! I love the characters Jenny Slate has played on the TV shows I’ve seen her pop up in but her comedy was…okay. It was an extended story about meeting a guy from a dating app and how he showed up to the restaurant wearing a full suit of armor.

Lil Nas X
I was walking through the festival grounds when a staffer driving a golf cart started coming down the road in my direction. Following the golf cart were hordes of festival goers screaming and taking video on their phones. As the cart drove past me, I saw a cowboy in the backseat, smiling and taking it all in. I did not know who he was.

Later on, during Anderson.Paak’s [really great and funky and upbeat] set, he started singing a song I didn’t know, which was totally normal because I don’t really know A.Paak’s music that well, but everyone around me started buzzing. “Oh my god, he’s coming, this is it, he’s going to come on RIGHT NOW I KNOW IT!!” And then A.Paak left the stage, and the cowboy walked out. The thin crowd around me (I was pretty far back) turned into a mob, everyone with their phones out, and the cowboy sang some song for about 2 minutes and then left.

This, I now understand, was a special guest appearance from Lil Nas X, the man with apparently the biggest song in the world right now, passing Drake for most streams on a song ever. This factoid comes to me from my friend Cody and I did not fact check it, so if it’s wrong, go tweet him. His song, “Old Town Road,” has apparently been THE SONG OF THE WORLD for the last 2 months, and I’ve had no idea. It was in this moment that I realized I Am Old. Anyway, if you are also Old and don’t know this song…here it is. This is the Boston Calling performance so you can see the transition from Anderson.Paak singing it to Lil Nas X singing it and everyone loses their minds.

Odesza
I don’t have anything new to say about how much I love Odesza so instead I will say this. I saw Odesza play in New Jersey on Thursday and then play an identical set in Boston on Saturday. I loved it both times. A lot of people in the electronic scene give artists shit when they have multiple nights in the same city and play the same set over again. This was obviously not in the same city so I don’t think anyone would be mad about this,  but I would have been just as deliriously happy about both of these sets if it had been a 2-night New York run. I flat out do not understand why you wouldn’t relish in the opportunity to hear all your favorite songs twice, and in fact, Gramatik played the same set on Saturday and Sunday in NYC back in March, and it was wonderful. So this isn’t really about Odesza at all but…cut artists some slack, y’all. Planning a new set is hard. Let them repeat stuff, because it’s still great the second time.

Tame Impala
Tame Impala is so weird and the visuals behind them were just as trippy as I thought they would be. The lead singer has this really interesting sort of brooding voice, so it was such a delightful surprise to me when he was so chipper and friendly to the audience. I didn’t stay for this whole set because I was cold, tired, and my lower back was really killing me (see: Old), but the first hour was really something else.

It took me awhile to get this recap up and I’ve already gone to my one day of Governors Ball, so, more festival updates soon!

Boston Calling: The Experience

Festival season is upon us! Rejoice!

Over Memorial Day weekend I went to one day of Boston Calling to check out mainly Odesza and Tame Impala. It’s a new festival for me but one that seemed pretty similar to Governors Ball, my local all-genres fest. It was a beautiful day which I am delighted to recap. First festival post of 2019! Yeeha.

Check-In/Security
Easy breezy beautiful (CoverGirl!). I was honestly shocked to get there at 4:30pm, prime festival arrival time, and have there be no line. I waltzed through in seconds, and all the security people I spoke to were alarmingly friendly.

The Crowd
This was a slightly older crowd than I anticipated, meaning everyone seemed to be in their early 20s instead of teens, as Gov Ball always seems to be. I am most definitely not in my 20s but I was still happy that I was surrounded by people who had a 21+ wristband. It was also a much more relaxed crowd than most festivals, with far fewer OUTFITS. I did see 2 women on the way in who were dressed like they were going to a rave and they looked verrry out of place.

Fun Stuff
Boston Calling had a ferris wheel, which I didn’t go on even though I’m generally a big fan of the festival ferris wheel. They had the usual array of sponsor booths, several with fun games or photo opps, including a Vans station where you could “stage dive” into a pit of foam blocks and have your photo superimposed onto a photo of a crowd. I appreciated the Chase Sapphire area where, if you had a Chase Sapphire card, you could go get some snacks, charge your phone, relax in comfy chairs and enjoy some random freebies like pins and fanny packs.

Water
I didn’t arrive until after prime sun time and it wasn’t particularly hot, so I actually didn’t drink any water. I had an empty bottle with me but I didn’t seek out any water stations, though I know they were there somewhere.

Layout
I was surprised by how well this worked. There are 3 main stages, 2 of which are right next to each other. They don’t have acts at the same time so there’s no issue with sound bleeding, but it still looked pretty cramped and I was surprised that Tame Impala (the headliner) was scheduled to be on one of those stages instead of the bigger stage further away. But when the time came, it just sort of magically worked out.

I liked that the layout was pretty open, but there was sort of a back path to getting around which took some of the crowding away from the main area.

Transportation
A short 10 minute walk from the T at Harvard Square. I love a festival that I can get to easily by public transportation.

Price
About the normal level of being slightly overpriced. Which I guess means it’s just standard festival pricing, but that I still personally think it should be cheaper. I think one day I just need to accept that festivals in big cities are not going to be as cheap as festivals in remote areas, even though the remote area festivals also come with camping.

Bathrooms
It didn’t seem like there were enough port-a-potties, to be honest. Either that or/and the layout of both bathroom areas wasn’t at all efficient and just created long lines where there didn’t need to be any.

Misc.
One sort of fun and unique addition was the Arena, which is an indoor stage that featured dance, comedy, and some other atypical performances. I saw some not-great standup there but still thought it was a cool experience. If it had been hot out, which it wasn’t, it would have been incredible to be in air conditioning.

Stay tuned for the Boston Calling music recap, and for one day of Governors Ball, coming up this weekend!

Live Music Should Not Sound Like the Album

There are many benefits to seeing music live over just listening to recordings. The energy of a crowd; the added depth of live instrumentation; the thrill of seeing a person or band you admire in the flesh.

One of the best things about live music, in my opinion, is something that not everyone agrees upon, and that is the ability to hear a new twist on songs you already love. Sure, “new twist” sounds like something everyone would be excited about, until you realize just how much people get attached to a specific version of a specific song. I’m guilty of this too, sometimes. One example that comes to mind is Hozier’s “Take Me To Church.” The first hundred or so times I heard this song it was on one particular radio station that always played it as a somewhat upbeat, dancey track. It wasn’t until months later that I heard the “real” version, which is much slower and folksier. I spent far too long trying to locate the exact version that I knew and loved from the radio, but magically every other remix available on the internet is not the right one. “Take Me To Church” isn’t current enough to be on the radio all that much now, and I don’t even listen to that station anymore, so I will likely never hear it the “right” way ever again. Despite this, if I ever saw Hozier live I’d probably be pretty psyched to hear it, in whatever form it should take.

But over the course of my concert-going years I’ve heard some genuine displeasure about artists not playing songs the way people were used to hearing them. Typically this happens with top 40 tracks, the kind you hear all the time, everywhere, for maybe 6 weeks straight. The kind of track where most people at the concert are probably really only there for that one song because it’s so much unarguably bigger than any of the artist’s other songs (the kind of song that “Take Me To Church” is, to be honest). But it can happen with any artist, or any song.

I do not understand this logic. I love hearing my favorite songs live and I love hearing how the artist has expanded on their previous vision to create something new and fresh. Maybe they just changed the harmonies, maybe they added a part for a new instrument that wasn’t originally there, or maybe it’s adding a new verse or changing up some lyrics. Even if I don’t think the new version is better, I pretty much always appreciate being present for the evolution. The only exception is when the artist severely shortens a song I love. Snippets make me sad.

I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot over the last few days; or rather, I’ve been thinking a lot about the reverse of this topic, because I haven’t been thinking about maintaining the purity of songs in the form that I know them, but about how excited and #blessed I have felt to get to hear a new take on songs I already love.

I’ve written about my love of Odesza many times on this blog, and yet again was #blessed (hard for me to use this word seriously) to get to see them twice last week. Out of all the artists I’ve seen, they’re probably the most prolific remixers of their own music. The live adaptations of some of their songs blow me away, and not only do I not care when the song doesn’t go in the direction I was expecting, it delights me. My favorite video that I’ve ever taken at a show (to be fair, I don’t take many and they’re all terrible, including this one) was from Odesza’s set at Panorama last year. I only captured about 20 seconds of a song I happen to love, but they surprised me by adding a new drop and you can hear my voice in the background go, “WHAAAAAAAT” and then cackle out of shock and joy. Sadly everything got deleted from my phone back in March so I don’t have the video anymore,  but I’ve heard the live version of that song many times since Panorama and that one moment still makes me scream and laugh, in that order.

They’re hardly the only artist to do this – Gramatik, who I’ve also written about many times, plays a live version of “Illusion of Choice” that has an insane new violin sample that slays me every time.

I will allow that everyone who chooses to experience live music does it for a different reason. But music isn’t just about the consumer, it’s also, of course, about the artist. If switching up a song gives me a teeny tiny bit more insight into the brain of a musician I love? Amazing. Does it hopefully also make playing the same song over and over on tour more palatable to the artist who is probably very sick of it? All the better. It gives me endless joy to go to a concert and see that the person performing loves their own music just as much as I do; it’s why it makes me so happy when producers dance around on stage as they’re working. What remixing your own music says to me is, “I made this song and I still love it so much I’m going to keep working on it and innovating and having fun with it.”

I don’t get upset if a live performance sounds like the album – after all, if I didn’t like the album, I wouldn’t have paid money to see those songs live. But getting to experience some new twists and turns makes the experience fuller and so much more gratifying.

*One semi-unrelated side note to close out this post – I actually did have the opportunity to see Hozier live yesterday at Boston Calling. But his set was at the exact same time as Odesza. For a teeny tiny split second during my festival planning I thought about trying to catch the last 10 minutes of Hozier because a) I was sure he’d play “Take Me To Church” toward the end, and b) I had juuuust seen Odesza live. But I never seriously considered it because…I mean there’s just no way I can miss an Odesza set. I’ll get taken to church another time.

Let’s Talk About Dave Matthews Band

My first Dave Matthews memory is from high school, when seemingly every teenager in my little suburban town went to a Dave Matthews show, then showed up to school the next day wearing the concert t-shirt and talking about the show incessantly. I wasn’t sad that I had missed it, but I was annoyed that no one would talk about anything else.

My second and third and probably fourth Dave Matthews memories are the exact same thing, repeated periodically until I graduated. I think one of those times it had rained the night before, and everyone talked about the rain as if it had been a spiritual experience and Dave himself was the second coming.

Those are my only Dave Matthews Band memories. If you haven’t guessed, I don’t particularly listen to DMB. I know that “Crash” song that’s THE quintessential Dave Matthews song, and I also know that song that I assume is the secondary quintessential Dave Matthews song that goes, um…. “take these chanceeeeeeees, something something something.” (A quick Google tells me this song is called “Ants Marching,” and also that there is no way I would have ever guessed what those next lyrics are because wowww does it not sound like he’s saying what Google says he’s saying).

I don’t dislike DMB, per se, it’s just that I never really paid them much attention. As a teenager I was too busy listening to Guster and Barenaked Ladies and while I probably could have gotten into DMB if I really wanted to, I never cared enough to try. Maybe if someone in high school had ever spoken to me about them on a personal level instead of just trying to make me feel bad for missing DAVE IN THE RAIN, it might have been different.

It’s like when I was 18, hanging out in my freshman dorm common room, talking about how I wasn’t necessarily opposed to reading Harry Potter but that I had never sought it out.

“If someone handed me a book and said ‘read it,’ I would,” I said.

My hallmate Tim ran to his room, emerged with Sorcerer’s Stone, shoved it at me and said, “Read it.”

If you know anything about me at all, you know just how much I love, LOVE, Harry Potter. So maybe all I need is for someone to do the equivalent of handing me the first book and telling me to read it. Maybe DMB is my musical Harry Potter, just waiting for me to discover it and become weirdly (but healthily!) obsessed.

Dave Matthews Band is obviously still around, although they’ve never been at the forefront of my life in any more prevalent way than they were for those few years of high school. Occasionally they’ll come up in conversation and I mention that I don’t listen to them and the other person inevitably says the one thing that I guess they teach you in Being A Dave Matthews Fan 101:

“You haaaaave to see them live.”

To this I always give my standard response, which is:

“Sure, but I’m not about to pay to see a band that I don’t necessarily like.”

And then they nod in understanding and the conversation ends.

One time many years ago I had this conversation with a guy I was sort of dating and he actually said that he would take me to see them! Amazing. Conveniently, one week later, Dave Matthews Band announced a tour. The next time I saw my man friend we had the following conversation:

Me: Hey, did you see that Dave Matthews is going on tour?
Him: Oh, cool.
*end scene*

I guess that is my final DMB memory. For now.

That conversation was a long time ago, and it’s been even longer since I’ve heard any Dave Matthews music, even those 2 superfamous songs. I’ve evolved a lot as a music fan in those years, particularly in my appreciation of a really great live music experience. I’m much more open to going to concerts where I don’t know much about the artist, and furthermore, I’m semi-actively trying to catch live shows of artists that I’ve been told are really incredible live. The most prevalent example of this I can think of is when I went to a Phish show 2 summers ago despite not knowing any Phish songs. I paid a lot of money and I went by myself. I loved it.

What this means is, I think, that 20 years after I wanted nothing to do with even the mention of a Dave Matthews concert, I think I’m ready to go to a Dave Matthews concert.

DMB is conveniently going on tour this spring and summer, and while I would love to have a man friend offer to buy me a ticket (and..actually follow through this time), I’m prepared to actually pay.

Do you, person reading this, want to be my Dave Matthews buddy? The only qualification is that you have to be okay with the fact that I do not know any songs because even the songs I know, I apparently have no idea what the lyrics are. So if you’re the world’s biggest Dave Matthews fan and the only person you want to be at a show with is the world’s second biggest Dave Matthews fan, this is not the opportunity for you. But I promise to have a positive attitude because hi, I love live music, and if it rains I will bring a poncho but I hope it doesn’t rain because I don’t care what those kids in my high school said, rain may not ruin a show but it certainly never makes it better.

But I think it’s time to see what all the hype is about.

 

I’m Running for Mayor of Musictown

Hello everyone, my name is Arielle and I’m running for mayor of Musictown.

Musictown is one of my favorite places on Earth, and I imagine the same is true for many of you. It’s a magical city where some of our most precious and joyful memories lie; where we forge soulful connections with others, experience powerful emotions, and, well, where we have a lot of fun.

I had always been a frequent visitor to Musictown, until about 6 years ago when I moved here for good. In that time I’ve been to nearly 500 shows, in the largest of stadiums and in venues that were basically just a small stage in an alleyway. I’ve been in an audience of 5 and an audience of 50,000. I’ve given my heart, soul, and wallet to this city, and I truly do not know what the last few years of my life would have been like without it.

Life in Musictown is one sparked with passion. But this city of dancing and singing and clapping and celebrating, while it brings so much light to so many people, that light is not without darkness. I’ve spent 5 of my 6 years in Musictown taking copious notes on my experiences here. I’ve jotted down my thoughts about what works and what doesn’t, what I hate and what I love. But over the years I’ve also spoken with many of you, my fellow music lovers, trying to understand what elements of our wonderful city help instill meaning in your lives, and where the pain points are. I’ve chatted with you not through official interviews, but through informal conversation relaxing at our campsites at music festivals or while in line for coat check at a show. I’ve spoken with you not because I knew I wanted to run for office someday – in fact, I began these conversations long before I even knew that Musictown had a mayor. I’ve spoken with you because you, like me, understand, seek, and crave that feeling of pure bliss that only comes with seeing incredible live music in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. When the stars align and your experience feels so perfect as to be transcendent. I’ve spoken with you because music is what we love, and sometimes we just don’t want to talk about anything else.

This is why I want to be the mayor of Musictown. I want to utilize the knowledge I’ve gained over the years to improve upon those pieces of the live music experience that are less than ideal. To make it easier for all of us to achieve the perfect, hassle-free concert experience.

I have many ideas about how Musictown can be improved. I won’t bore you with all of them today, but here are a few.

As some of you know, my first inclination to run for mayor of Musictown came about when I expressed that every show – no matter how large or small – should publish set times in advance. I still stand by this. Our time is valuable, and I firmly believe that we should be able to plan our evenings accordingly. Many concerts have relatively predictable timing, but others do not. Some venues open their doors at 10pm and the headliners don’t come on until 2am. Those same venues will, on rare occasion, bring the headliner on at midnight. Being forced to guess at possible set times is frustrating. People need the power to make informed concert-going decisions, and I plan to work for full set-time transparency. For all shows.

Even more important than transparency at shows, however, is safety. If elected mayor, I plan to implement a number of measures to ensure that concert-goers have a safe and comfortable experience.

First, I want to see ear plugs for sale at all music venues. Citizens, I cannot force you to wear ear plugs, though I strongly encourage them and you will never see me at a show without mine. But for those moments where the volume is just a bit louder than you’d like, you should always be able to purchase a pair of single-use, foam earplugs for a dollar. I’ve had friends leave shows because they were too loud. This should never happen to anyone.

Next, I believe that all concert venues should have free water. They may also choose to sell bottled water if they wish, but there must be a water fountain or cooler available. Water is a critical component of concert safety, particularly at outdoor summer events or very crowded indoor events. No one should be forced to pay $5 for a bottle of water just to avoid passing out from dehydration and overheating.

The final change I hope to implement to enhance concert-goer safety is to do a thorough investigation into each venue’s maximum capacity and, where necessary, lower it. I have definitely been to shows where people appear to be packed in far beyond what could possibly be legally permitted, and I’m sure you can think of a few as well. Choosing to go up to the front of a show and be in the thick of a crowd is one thing, but being unable to even lift your arms anywhere in an entire venue is another. Not only is it unsafe, but it’s not fun. Every live music event should have ample open space in the back for those who need a little more room to breathe or dance.

There are tons of other issues I hope to tackle in my time as mayor: ticket scalping, improving security screenings, and increasing the number of women’s restrooms, to name a few. But before I leave you, I want to share with you one of my more innovative ideas, to hopefully demonstrate that I’m a creative thinker willing to take risks on your behalf.

If elected mayor of Musictown, I plan to implement a pilot program to test the feasibility of having a 25+ section at select venues or shows. Those of you who, like me, are on the slightly older side of full-time Musictown residents may agree that sometimes it’s difficult to be around a group of teenagers. Allowing attendees to opt in to being around people closer to their own age has the potential to improve the concert-going experience for everyone. I plan to conduct a number of focus groups to collect ideas before the pilot goes into effect, so if you’d like to share your thoughts on this plan, please be in touch! My door is always open – not just for this issue, but any other issue that may arise. Because, as mayor, I will be your representative. And I want to know what I can do to to help.

I hope that I have your vote, and I hope to see you out on the dance floor.

This post inspired by this tweet:

Hijinx: The Music

It’s only  been 2 weeks since I attended the first-ever (hopefully of many??) Hijinx Festival but it already feels light years away. As a two-day event with only one stage, there were fewer acts on the lineup than most festivals but I still managed to catch some really amazing sets. Here are some highlights!

RL Grime
Somehow it had been, I think, 4 of 5 years since I last saw RL Grime, on a random Tuesday evening at Webster Hall. The Hijinx set was just incredible and really demonstrated to me that while some artists shine in intimate venues, others are meant to be seen on a giant stage with a massive sound system. The combination of dark sound and high energy is an experience best shared with thousands of other people at once.

Big Gigantic, GRiZ
These artists didn’t even play on the same day of the festival, but I’m lumping them together because there was a common theme here – artists who normally play funk music who didn’t play that much funk music.

This was my only Big G show of the year, so I was pretty amped to get to squeeze in this set from one of my favs before the close of 2018. Somehow, though, it fell flat for me. There’s a joyfulness in their shows that I was missing because they focused a lot on creating heavier, bass-filled sounds over dancey sax music, which is where they excel.  I didn’t dislike it but it was forgettable.

GRiZ’s set was similar – my only one of the year, and he leaned towards more generic, crowd-pleasing bass. I thought this was much more successful than Big Gigantic’s set, at least, and still really enjoyed it, but I wanted to hear the GRiZ songs I know and love and he didn’t play that many songs that I recognized. Both artists played this song below, though, which was a highlight both times.

Bassnectar
This was the best Nectar set I’ve seen in probably 3 years. It was really vibey which I loved, although Bassnectar diehards probably wanted more of the headbangy stuff that’s sort of his signature. A few people mentioned that, with a huge New Year’s Eve show coming up right after Hijinx, he was holding back and saving some of his most intense tracks for NYE, which was perfectly fine with me.

Illenium
I don’t know much about Illenium but this set was exactly what I was expected to be – kind of light, fun, musical tracks with just a touch of thickness thrown in to get the crowd going. I can’t name a single song of his but I would absolutely see him again.

Odesza
Odesza just gets better and better for me every time. They’ve played “Loyal” a lot at their shows over the years, but it was never officially released until September so a lot of mystery surrounded it for years. A brooding and intense highlight in an otherwise ethereal discography, “Loyal” always serves as a climax of any live set they throw it in. I was eagerly awaiting this song at Hijinx, and they did not disappoint. A perfect way to close both the festival and the year.

2019 festival lineups are already dropping, so while I won’t be attending any fests for awhile, the planning is already very much underway!