Elektro’s Best of the West: Summer Edition
With the close of September and October festivals in our midst, Fall has officially begun. With it there comes the realization that memories have overwhelmingly collected without full reflection, from a 2015 summer that has come to an end just as quickly as it had seemed to arrive. With full appreciation of current festival culture and all that it has to offer in mind, it was without a doubt, a delightful summer of different tastes, joyous surprises and crowds that kept the west coast electronic music scene continuously on our toes.
June 2015: With the beginning of summer in the air, EDC: Las Vegas stood out as the pivotal institution to divulge completely in the electronic music scene. Patrons, or rather "headliners" as Pasquale and Insomniac have coined, were able to seek positive energy in a continuously growing company and community of ravers. The festival immersed itself in the music and PLUR culture that holds its roots; somehow wowing us in an extraordinary showcase after thinking we had seen it all in 2014.
The notable gems of this year’s west coast summer season though, were not found in the middle of a desert on a speedway, in a vibrant spectacle of commercialized experiences. The true gems were the festivals that showcased electronic music in the ways that were unexpected and totally unique — sometimes simply because audiences had to adapt. Who you were was in the context of the stages and people around you. Your smiles, your head bobbing, your stomps into the dirt beneath you – these festivals all in similar effect, transformed their crowds into one. Music was more culturally aware, conversations needed to be had, and everyone had genuine fun.
In admirable effort from festival organizers, memories were made completely exclusive from each other; instilling their weekends (or weeks) as something that would simply be, incomparable; special in their separate ways.
Thus, in due part, here is the best of the west; where EDM was able to find a home in the hearts and places of the unexpected:
Woogie Weekend – Oak Canyon Park, Silverado, CA – July 17th-19th
Woogie Weekend was a whirl of good vibes, eerily perfect, followed by unfortunate weather conditions. As the brain child of Do Lab’s more established festival, Lightning in a Bottle, WW began in high spirits and expectations. The crowd and feel of the grounds was significantly more relaxed, mostly due to the wide range of underground acts on the lineup and fans desires to recreate the emotions from their festival experiences in May.
The Woogie stage at Lightning in a Bottle stood out as a techno persuasion, a cult, feeding to the tastes of the more active and sometimes snobby electronic music aficionado. Most importantly though, it was a home for the true fan, and a place where a new one could discover it in good graces.
Fortunately, the inaugural event was able to bring several hours south, to the former LIB grounds, everything it had set out to stand for and more. The best part of the mid-July weekend though, was that even through the chaos of not one but two rain storms – everyone was still able to find a home in the people around them. It became a memory to last a lifetime; describing a reality that could as equally be peaceful as it existed in turmoil. A memory so perfectly gray - somehow fortunate yet unfortunate, bountiful and limited; it existed clearer than a blue sky.
HARD Summer – Fairplex, Pomona, CA – August 1st-2nd
“HARD Summer 2015 was easily the best festival of the summer” (Your EDM, August 12), a mighty observation considering the several other notable summer festivals it competed with for the unofficial title. The HARD Summer experience delivered as such though, as event organizers boasted a “Trust Us” mentality of the inevitably awesome lineup, providing fans with not only exactly what they wanted, but showcasing it in a creative and totally random, yet hysterical story line. (Thank you again for the laughs, Agata Alexander. We're in love with the 2015 Day of the Dead video, as well.)
With the mesh of hip-hop, from The Weeknd to Fetty Wap, and popular electronic music acts, like Big Gigantic, Dillon Francis, The Chemical Brothers, DIE ANTWOORD, Caribou, Jack U ft Justin Beiber, and Chromeo; the west-coast rooted festival bridged together the preferences of a wide range of music tastemakers. Lines were blurred as attendees discovered new sounds while celebrating the peak of summer 2015.
Further, with continuous growth in the past years, 2015 marked HARD’s sell out of the brands biggest festival to date – establishing itself as LA’s undeniable Coachella; a music experience dynamic in tastes and cultures, yet admittedly, down & dirtier.
Splash House – Palm Springs, CA – June & August
Splash House, aka the “bro-iest” of all music festivals this summer (or ever for that matter), combines the likes of tropical and deep house beats amass three different hotel locations smack in the middle of the desert. Attendees were obligated to wear bathing suits for two days straight, and had to be no less than 21 years old - as alcohol was accessible from all corners, whether next to the pool at the bar or from bottles in the hotel room (for the more frugal music fan).
Further, combined with two weekends of impressive musicians, Splash House delivered to west coast dance culture the ultimate summer experience. The people were excruciatingly beautiful, and more importantly, in warm, welcoming spirits. It wasn’t atypical to find yourself in a random hotel room amidst a group of unfamiliar faces; somehow making forever friends through the blurry memories.
In terms of the music, acts that arguably caused the “biggest splashes” were: June- RAC, Thomas Jack, Dr. Fresch, Hippie Sabotage, SNBRN, Manila Killa & August- Trippy Turtle, TOKiMONSTA, Mija, Goldroom, Hermitude, and Autograf.
Outside Lands – Golden Gate Park, San Franscisco, CA – August 7th-9th
With artists like Elton John, Billy Idol, and Sam Smith on the bill, combined with EDM favorites: Axwell & Ingrosso, Porter Robinson, Hot Chip, ODESZA, RL Grime, Claude Vonstroke & Green Velvet: Get Real, CLASSIXX, Giraffage, and Robert Delong amongst others, Outside Lands proved itself as everything we would hope for from a reoccurring festival based in the heart of San Francisco.
Geared towards a more experienced festival crowd, Outside Lands offered a delectable lineup of amenities beyond the music. Food was bountiful and even encouraged to binge upon, craft beer and wine gardens impressed even the snobbiest of tastes, and comedy acts bridged the gap between the older and barely legal attendees.
It was everything we had hoped it’d be, and remarkably - more. An experience we’d be happy to share with our kids; a crowd just as relaxed as it was eclectic, with an essence swankier than any of the other festivals on this list. It was a place where EDM could mix with grandma and no one would question it – and let’s be honest, that is far bigger a feat than anything we could have ever imagined.
FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – August 22nd-23rd
FYF Fest, unofficially described as ‘F*ck Yea Fest’ – no one really knows for sure though – stood out as the culturally relevant denominator in the music world, stirring conversation and bringing to light the issues of the outside world that music festivals have been notoriously known to hide us from.
With its roots in punk bands playing to the angst of LA’s teenage demographic, the festivals righteous and famed showcase of political music has had wavering results in its 12 years. This year though, “With an impressive lineup that includes Kanye West, D’Angelo, FKA Twigs and Morrissey, [the festival] might have less to do with punk, […] Yet its politics have never run hotter, a shift that reflects a world in turmoil but also a savvy means of distinguishing FYF in an increasingly crowded festival scene” (Los Angeles Times, August 21).
Do we even need to mention the nationally talked about, and seemingly perfect publicity stunt, that is “Frank Ocean has decided on his own terms to cancel his appearance” - only to be replaced by none other than rant-fabulous, Kanye West?
EDM had its place at the festival though, however miniscule it was compared to the spectrum of Mr. Wests ego. Announced day of, Flying Lotus and Bonobo played DJ sets to an unsuspecting crowd, while Simian Mobile Disco and Kaytranada proved to us they warranted the anticipation we felt leading up to the festival. Goldroom live was a beachy disco delight per usual, but there was one set that stood out amongst it all – even through the cracks of the more represented genres at FYF this year…
It’s hard to stir a suspecting crowd, no less on the main stage, but somehow Flume took us to a level we had never seen him perform at before – and we’ll admit we have seen him A LOT in the past year. He played many of the songs we wanted to here, but in his mixing he was catering less to what we wanted and more to what we needed. He smiled more than we’d ever noticed before, feeling home on the stage in front of us, radiating those same emotions to everyone caught listening. Even Lorde jumped up with him during his remix of “Tennis Court;” and not to sing, no, but to simply dance and laugh with what seemed to be a long-time friend. A friendship we couldn’t help but imagine for ourselves.
Burning Man – Black Rock City, NV – August 30th-September 7th
No other festival or experience can be better described as – indescribable. The week long excursion in the desert is less of a musical festival and more of an other-worldly journey. It’s the one place on this Earth that someone can visit and be taken truly away from the grasps of societal norms and expectations.
Guided by “The Ten Principles of Burning Man,” – Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation, and Immediacy – the festival is able to create an utopian society of positive, yet mischievous energy. Music is a huge part of the experience, but with no lineup – art and community act as the driving force of the week long transcendental trip.
This year’s temporary community of an estimated 70,000 was brought an array of musical surprises – as is expected, and usually hinted as to who and where they might be, but somehow always taken by wonder. In theme with this pattern, one notable occurrence – an act of God some might say – was when Carl Cox played b2b with Diplo at the Opulent Temple.
In truth though, the Burning Man experience can neither be described completely through words or by an arrangement of photos. The emotion of watching the man burn in front of you, marking the end of another journey through spiritual growth, can never be truly felt through the eyes of another human being. It is an internal experience as much as it is a communal; significant and lasting – just remember to make sure you’re prepared first.
Until then though, enjoy this set Diplo so graciously posted for us on his Soundcloud. The music may be fun, but the crowds comments in the background are what we really enjoyed. Have a laugh, and we'll see you this Fall for all the festival delights waiting for us. First up, Dirtybird Campout.