Sep 06, 2012
LessThan3 @ Electric Zoo 2012
Alex Kenji vs Axwell vs Rob Adans vs The Knife - Blue Strobe Light-Abash-Nothing But Love-Silent Sh
Diplo feat Lazerdisk Party Sex - Set It Off (Original Mix) [Mad Decent]
Julio Bashmore - Au Seve (Original Mix) [Broadwalk]

Top photo credit: Bennett Sell-Kline for

With the expansion of the dance music bubble, the festival scene has become a staple in American culture. This past Labor Day weekend, thousands upon thousands of neon-clad ravers, self-professed music snobs, and party animals descended on Randall’s Island, New York City in a massive show of this growing phenomenon. The fourth annual Electric Zoo was a showcase of music from across the electronic spectrum; dubstep, techno, house, trance, electro, trap, and progressive were all represented in one of the most diverse festivals of its genre in the nation.

Entering the Zoo gates felt like a homecoming. This was where many in the tri-state area and beyond truly fell in love with electronic music and its culture. The lineups were assembled very well for the most part and the emotion at each stage was of overwhelming elation. Sunday School in particular felt like a tight-knit family–for 3 days, you’d see the same familiar faces in the techno/deep house/tech house tent, hugs and smiles all around for the devotedly like-minded. Truly, the entire festival is as much a celebration of love and friendship as it is about the music.

Photo credit: Bennett Sell-Kline for

The selection of artists is top notch here every year. Whereas many other festivals play it safe and stack their lineups with the most famous and the flavor of the month, the curators of Zoo love to switch it up year after year, introducing fresh new artists and interesting combinations.

Netsky brought the earliest dose of drum & bass to the festival, lighting up the energy at the main stage with his MC and a slew of classics that included DJ Kool’s Let Me Clear My Throat. Nicky Romero kept the energy high and stirred the crowd into a frenzy with his and Calvin Harris’ new track Iron, while Gabriel & Dresden played a very emotional set at the Hilltop Arena’s Group Therapy stage. Trance classics like Tracking Treasure Down were interspersed with crazy mashups such as The Beatles vs Dada Life, Eleanor Red Meat.

Many DJs found ways to work hip-hop into their sets as the genres continued their collision course; David Guetta notably dropped a new remix of his collaboration with Snoop Dogg, Sweat, while Dillon Francis worked in his own edits of Time Takers and Lil Jon to a massive crowd at the Riverside stage. Pretty Lights then closed out the night with his signature slowed-down beats and moving instrumentals.

Photo credit: Bennett Sell-Kline for

Also of note Friday was the takeover of Sunday School by the Vagabundos, Luciano’s pack of tech and deep house connoisseurs. Who can forget Frivolous speaking into his bright red telephone, or the tent singing along when Reboot dropped Mike Dunn’s Phreaky MF? The Ibiza standouts made a rare appearance in the states and left a tent of incredible vibes in their wake, capping off the night with an incredible performance by the Cadenza maestro himself that beautifully merged classic vocals and modern beats.

Photo credit: Bennett Sell-Kline for

On day two, the Bingo Players made a huge impression on the East coast crowd with the brand new Dear NY by Firebeatz & Schella, and Rusko played one of the most energetic dubstep shows of the festival with his own crazy MC work. Axwell’s inclusion of The Knife’s Silent Shout in a big-room mashup was also a main stage highlight.

The early Sunday School block of Claude VonStroke and Maya Jane Coles was an excellent daytime dance-fest, a mesh of ghetto tech house, UK bass, and sultry grooves. The remix that Maya played of Zebra Katz’s Ima Read was absolutely brilliant, and when Claude dropped Julio Bashmore’s summer smash Au Seve the tent went off!

Sasha’s old-school progressive house was understated and smooth, serving as a light appetizer for the absolute beatdown that Chris Liebing provided at the end of the night. Perfectly positioned as the headliner, Liebing left many terrified and buzzing in the best way possible. Above & Beyond gave the crowd chills of a different fashion with their second set of the weekend, a techy electro-trance set that worked in a rousing salute to those fallen this past year, including a farewell to Neil Armstrong.

Photo credit: Bennett Sell-Kline for

The most eclectic selection was left to the last day of the festival. Z-Trip, Congorock, Flux Pavilion & Doctor P, Benga, and Zeds Dead traded dubstep and electro blows between the Hilltop and Riverside tents, a dizzying whirlwind of bass that gave exhausted festival-goers much-needed doses of adrenaline. Better Lost Than Stupid played the most enjoyable daytime set of the weekend, Umek worked up a furious sweat, Apparat wowed with masterful diversity (and the ever-present Au Seve), and Dixon got ultra-deep, beautifully ending his set with Frank Ocean’s Lost.

Unfortunately the last day at Sunday School was a bit hindered by a programming no-no: the addition of Boys Noize. While I respect the hell out of the man and think that he is one of the finest producers and DJs in the world, his acid-electro sound did not belong in this particular setting. When he hopped on the decks the Sunday School faithful seemed displaced, replaced by fuzzy boots, hula hoops, and assorted wild ones with an affinity for getting into altercations with security guards. It was an ugly demonstration of the divide that still exists in dance music culture, but this was only a minor damper on an otherwise fantastic experience.

Diplo’s 3D show was really something special, a testament to the technology that the scene owes its roots and its evolution to. Finally, Marco Carola put school back in session one last time on a ride of the fullest basslines heard all weekend, and Skrillex closed out majestically with a moving piano outro of Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites.

Dazed, overjoyed, and pensive, we shuffled toward the exits, not ready for the end. New York City had been transformed into a colorful blowout for the fourth year, with 110,000 wild animals combined over three days calling the island their spiritual home. A necessary stop on the worldwide festival circuit, Electric Zoo was again a phenomenal success, turning the long weekend into a celebration of music, of life, of our generation.

Photo credit: Josh Stewart for

Contains content from LessThan3 writers Toothless and Tweetie