Photos by Jose Martinez & The Party Chief
The sky a distinctive shawl of grey as clouds bore over the blossoming Downtown Miami skyline, bringing with them the foreboding specter of downpours as a vibrantly neon-colored throng of ravers made their way across Biscayne Boulevard, eager to see the new era of electronic dance music festivals; a touring juggernaut that made its nationwide debut last year, but forewent an obligatory Miami appearance due to inclement weather: Identity Festival. The rain never came though, and while it can be argued that the inaugural lineup boasted some stronger talents than this year’s installment, the merits of attracting a billing that featured the likes of Arty, Madeon, Porter Robinson, Wolfgang Gartner and Eric Prydz outside of the calamity of Winter Music Conference/Miami Music Week are certainly admirable; especially when you take into consideration the attractively low price point.
While it looked as though the elements of nature were planning to encroach and otherwise interfere with the festivities, thousands were nonetheless in attendance, filling the areas in front of both stages to the brink of their capacities. The main stage was adorned with massive LED screens that flanked the performer in an array of images that constantly shifted, projecting figures, amorphous fractals, striking colors – all sorts of imagery that clearly pandered to the heightened sensitivities of anyone in attendance who was under the influence of some sort of psychotropic substance. The areas adjacent to front of the stage quickly filled with some of the most ardent fans in attendance, swaying and bobbing ubiquitously like a patch of seaweed against some invisible current – which was clearly the music. The staff quickly closed off the area, which provided the best vantage points, and prevented those who already taken their place there from leaving to get beverages. This logistical snafu resulted in people jumping the fences to get to and fro, only intensifying the clamor.
The opening acts, The Eye and Eva Simons were subpar in terms of their ability to play to the energies and the preferences of the audience, it soon became apparent that energies would be tested and certain wills would be broken the moment that young Russian sensation Arty stood behind the control decks. He recovered gracefully from a technical hiccup that resulted in all sound being cut from the stage for a minute or so, and delivered a set that alternated gracefully between genres, encompassing some of the trance sounds that has become the hallmark of the Anjunabeats label to which he is signed, as well as the glitchy electro sounds that have come into favor with mainstream audiences as of late.
Even more impressive due to his youth and the enormous ambition with which his productions are scaled is 18-year-old French DJ/producer Madeon’s set. It was impressive to discern the diffuse influences that inform his musical palette. The youngster possesses the ability to channel the sheen of traditional electropop into fuzzy, heavily distorted bass music, resulting in something entirely his own. His breakout track “Icarus” stands out as the ideal example of his talent, and it certainly fared well with the audience. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the festival was 20-year-old American prodigy, Porter Robinson.
Having seen Robinson several times, there was no other way to describe his mastery of his warped, dubstep-infused electro sound other than stellar. He has progressed immensely since Ultra Music Festival, particularly in terms of his ability to ratchet the intensity of his sets to a fever pitch with impeccable track selection and mixing. He used a majority of the tracks from his own repertoire, playing other selections as a foil to his own strengths as an artist. The decision to use him as a forerunner to Wolfgang Gartner’s set was a very savvy one. It was the perfect example of contrast by similarity, with Robinson wielding his hard-hitting brand of electro like a blunt instrument, while Gartner used more in the way of finesse to drive home his convictions. Gartner, who has become one of the premier producers of electro house and is unquestionably one of the stronger American purveyors of EDM played to all of his strengths and practically none of his weaknesses, avoiding the monotony the marred his set at last year’s Dancegiving Festival. Without question however, the biggest let down of the entire lineup was the headliner, which is often the case when you spend a great deal of time hyping up the merits of a legendary producer who does not happen to tour internationally very often, due to his fear of flying.
Eric Prydz’s place in popularizing EDM is unquestionable. His hallmark tracks “Call On Me” and “Pjanoo” were standouts in an era where progressive house dominated the popular conception of what dance music was. Nonetheless, times have changed, at times during his hour-and-half-long set, it felt as though Prydz hasn’t. Sure, he attempted to mix in elements that were not characteristic of his aesthetic as Cirez D, Pryda or Eric Prydz (the three monikers he uses), but they seemed forced and out of place. He was at his best when he was was ratcheting up the intensity to 11 with his long, synth-laden progressive pieces, which almost always erupted into high-energy drops. All told, the production values coupled with the aesthetic, the talent all congealed perfectly to deliver a high quality festival experience at a great price, and at a time where EDM fans are most desperate to see something of this magnitude.