Electric Zoo: A How-To Guide (Day One)

Posted by on August 23, 2012

Labor Day weekend officially begins when the gates at Randall’s Island open at 11 am next Friday. Electric Zoo is second only to Ultra in terms of festivals on the east coast and its 2012 installment is sure to have have something for everyone. You will get to see some of the best talent from every end of the dance music spectrum, with festival mainstays like Hardwell, Above & Beyond, Axwell, Nicky Romero, Tiesto, Skrillex, Steve Aoki, Dada Life, Sander van Doorn, Zedd and many more. Electric Zoo also features legendary underground names like Sasha, Luciano, Boys Noize, Chris Leibing, and Marco Carola, and gives even the most casual viewer a chance to see some of the brightest young talent in the game, thanks to Porter Robinson, Pierce Fulton, Alvin Risk, Mord Fustang, Maya Jane Coles, W&W, and Norin & Rad. Finally, with seasoned tastemakers like A-Trak and Diplo topping out headlining sets, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have an amazing time.

It’s a tall order to attempt to concisely preview Day One in a single post. All four stages feature excellent talent, from Above & Beyond’s tranced-out Group Therapy tent to the absolutely stacked main stage lineup. Riverside brings a more eclectic sound to the festival, thanks to A-trak and Jack Beats, and Sunday School Grove provides that techy, old-school sound that the deepest and darkest house heads crave. So let’s dive headfirst into Friday — Middy and I will tell you who you must see, who you can miss, and the sleeper picks that will round out your Day One experience.

Check out the full list of Electric Zoo set times and create your own custom schedule for each day here.

Main Stage

Must See: Pretty Lights – Since many of us have never seen Pretty Lights, this is almost obligatory. This pick is admittedly a bit of a cop-out since he is the last act on the mainstage, but his glitch-hop-meets-dubstep-meets-electro-house style is in a league of its own, and each of his sets features something new and unexpected. That said, there are two things that remain consistent with Pretty Lights — incredible production, and an infectious energy that he’s known for bringing to the stage every time he performs. Nicky Romero or Laidback Luke are other borderline must-sees, as they are also excellent DJs who always get the crowd going with hard-hitting setlists, but the Pretty Lights experience is so unique that you really ought to capitalize on this opportunity to join tens of thousands of other main stage revelers to close out your Friday night. Pretty Ligths unfortunately conflicts with the incomparable Above & Beyond, but they will be headlining the main stage the following night, so we think you can make the sacrifice just this once. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Can Miss: David Guetta – While he may have garnered the highest booking fee (along with Tiesto), and while he has arguably become a household name that even your grandparents may recognize, he is definitely the main stage act to miss. He has good, polished house productions and lots of technical experience as a DJ, but he simply does not put them to use. His US performances are typically uninspired — he tends to heavily favor his blander pop hits because he assumes they will be crowd-pleasers (expect radio mainstays “Titanium” and “Wild Ones” to make appearances). He did show something different at Tomorrowland by playing Tommy Trash & Sebastian Ingrosso’s “Reload”, but do not expect such a display of festival kindness from the superstar Frenchman on Friday night.

Sleeper: Netsky – Difficult decision here between Alvin Risk and Netsky, but I feel like Netsky is slightly less well known here in the US than Alvin Risk (especially given that everyone and their mother has been dropping “Psychotic” and “Survival” into their sets lately). Thus, he qualifies more as the “sleeper” choice on the mainstage. Expect a fast-paced, high energy set from this DnB producer that will differ greatly from just about anything else you will hear on Friday.

Hilltop Arena: Group Therapy

Must see: Mat Zo – This choice was incredibly difficult, as both of us are huge trance fans and think that everyone should be seeing Ferry Corsten (who is coming off of his very successful album WKND), Above & Beyond (though they will be playing on Saturday night main stage and conflict with Pretty Lights), Jaytech (also fresh off of a recent album), Gabriel & Dresden…and frankly everyone, but Mat Zo has a genuinely unique sound and always tries to create the perfect atmosphere at any given moment. He is certain to mix it up in this set and will blend blissful progressive, harder electro and funky nu-disco with his own special brand of trance that has made him so highly regarded in the dance music community.

Can Miss: Zack Roth – We know it is easy to pick on the first guy, but this stage is so stacked with talent that we simply had to go with him. It is tough choosing the hometown kid, but compared to the acts that follow this choice is basically by default.

Sleeper Pick: Andrew Bayer – Andrew Bayer is getting ready to release the follow-up to his critically acclaimed and highly successful debut artist album “It’s Artificial,” which makes this the perfect time to check him out if you’ve never done so before. He will not only bring the euphoric style we hear on Anjunabeats, but is sure to switch it up with a smooth and at times minimalist vibe before bringing it back to an uplifting and energetic sound. He will definitely create the perfect atmosphere for you as you begin your day and your festival experience.

Riverside: Fool’s Gold Clubhouse

Must See: Nadastrom – Yes, this stage has big names like Dillon Francis, A-Trak, and Tommy Trash, but part of the fun of going to music festivals is finding new talent you didn’t know existed. Moombahton is at its best when you’re experiencing it live — its rollicking, sexy tempo gets people dancing in a way that progressive house, trance and dubstep simply cannot — and Dave Nada and Matt Nordstrom are the biggest dogs in the moombah game (since they, you know, invented it). Expect a unique and funky set interspersed with everything from cumbia to old-school hip hop that will be totally different from anything else you hear during the weekend.

Can miss: Gesaffelstein – All of the stages are packed with talent and Fool’s Gold in Riverside is no exception, so picking out one name is tough. It would technically be a cop-out to choose Nick Catchdubs because you’re probably going to wind up missing him anyway due to his incredibly early set time, so we had to choose Gesaffelstein. His eclectic, unique style would be something new for many viewers, but with Jack Beats, Dillon Francis, Tommy Trash and the like also gracing the stage, this pick had to be made by default.

Sleeper Pick: Treasure Fingers – Treasure Fingers at noon? Sign us up. They will be your opener because realistically it will take you a while to get through security and get your plan for the day set with your friends, so you will almost surely miss Nick Catchdubs. Treasure Fingers will provide you with some techy house and groovy nu-disco that will get your dancing shoes warmed up and your blood flowing so you can spend the next 11 hours (or 16 if you do an afterparty) going as hard as you wish.

Sunday School Grove: Luciano & The Vagabundos

Must See: Luciano – Yes, Luciano is playing at the same time as some other key people (A-Trak, Pretty Lights, A&B, Mat Zo), but if you are going to hit this tent, he is definitely the guy to see. He is without a doubt one of most skilled technical DJs in the game, at times moving effortlessly between four different tracks, and he is well versed in the subtle art of manipulating the crowd. His minimalist techy vibe will certainly get you in the zone like nothing else can and at this point of the night he is sure to bring you to another level. Here is a sampling of what you can expect from Luciano and his stage from an Ibiza recap video (note: this video is awesome):

Can Miss: Mendo – When we say you can miss Mendo that does not mean that you have to totally overlook him. He has a two hour set from 12-2 pm during the “exploration” period of the day, when people will be arriving in waves and the tents will not even be half full. In other words, moving around will be very easy, and we highly recommend you use this time to your advantage. However, if there’s an artist to miss in Sunday School Grove, it is probably Mendo — freeing up that block of time will allow you to check out the talent at other stages (like Jaytech or Adrian Lux).

Sleeper: Argy – In a genre of dance music ruled by the generation of fans and artists who reigned from 1990-2003, Argy (at only 23!) has managed to distinguish himself and impress with his mix of soulful house, disco and techno. He may not be the most exciting billing for the Sunday School Groove regulars, but his distinctive, interesting sound makes him someone who is worth lending your ear to. Check out a preview of his upcoming EP below.

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