That name feels appropriate to mention not in that he appeared yesterday at Electric Zoo, but that the spirit of Yeezus informed the proceedings yesterday evening at 9:30 PM when Gesaffelstein—yes, the Bromance Records-affiliated dissonant heavy techno maestro who stormed onto mainstream radars with the hand he had in producing Yeezus tracks "Send It Up" and "Black Skinhead"—played his tent-headlining set surrounded by the likes of one-time close West consigliere A-Trak and yes, West associate, DONDA Creative Director, "Been Trill"-clothing designer and Day 1 featured DJ Virgil Abloh in attendance. And yes, there was Carnage and Brillz there too, as well as a sea of black and white Bromance gear in the crowd, kids united by their love of a rising iconic producer whose set of acid house, New Wave and Detroit techno felt entirely out-of-place, yet oh so cool at the festival, too.
Gesaffelstein may have been the only DJ booked in the entire day to have an irrepressibly dispassionate air to match a very present rock-star cool in playing raw and fierce productions, especially when compared to the man playing Main Stage West at the exact same time, David Guetta. Guetta's a fellow acid house guy, too, but the year one Electric Zoo headliner's set felt six-years-old in a way where if big room house, lazer shows that expanded across a field, blasts of fire shooting forth from stacks of speakers piled fifty feet high into the darkness and being told that you're loved and respected by a heavily accented French voice is what you need from dance music, it was everything.
The festival's first day was overall a subdued affair with a sense of awareness over the early-arriving crowd that this event was certainly all about the music, and nothing else, namely MDMA. With multiple pat-down checkpoints, needing to have even your shoes removed and checked before fully entering the grounds of Randall's Island Park, that anti-drug PSA video playing on repeat, and New York City cops and event security present, either bringing drugs into the festival or getting turnt up before even walking through the gates is an ill-advised idea. As well, personally watching spiked-haired, neon-geared, and kandi-wearing undercover cops-as-"festival bros" busting the very few who made it through and were attempting to make on-site narcotics sales was impressive. Of course, Saturday (today) was the festival day in 2013 where glassy-eyed and pupil-dilated teens and post-teens were quite prevalent at the festival, so, security measures may be yet more heightened today.
Once inside the festival, "American EDM" ruled the day. A youth movement and a particular vibe was seemingly everywhere on all stages. Whereas five years ago, the American sound owed more to the influence of Euro-friendly trance and hard electro, the closest thing to anything bearing a similarity to trance dean (and Saturday Main Stage West headliner) Armin van Buuren were "Carnage Van Buuren" t-shirts mockingly worn by supporters of "festival trap"-lord, #ChipotleGang leader, and Main Stage West-featured DJ, Carnage. Of course, A-Trak displayed his DMC-level scratching skills on his game changing remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Heads Will Roll" at the end of a Main Stage West set that was more hard electro than "Low Pros," ensuring that nobody could forget his hip-hop roots. He wasn't the only rap and trap practitioner here, either. The Hilltop Arena featured a two-hour piledriver of half-time 808s and snare rolls from the likes of Kennedy Jones and Ookay going back-to-back, as well as Brillz, whose day-glo"Twonk" gear outfitted hype-men scaled the scaffolding near the stage as Brillz dropped pure rap jams like Three Six Mafia's "Stay Fly." Trippy, indeed.
There was an intriguing notion developing at the dark recesses of the festival, too. Beatport's Riverside Tent and the magical, pure techno-friendly, stained-glass adorned circus tent that is 2014's "Sunday School" Grove were blessed with amazing sets that were showcases for similar sounds favored by nuanced ears of different generations. Due to Hot Since 82 missing his flight, French techno trio Apollonia went extra-long into the afternoon inside the Sunday School tent, while there may have been no more curious and exciting moment on the pulse of next than Bonobo, Jamie xx, and the aforementioned Gesaffelstein closing out the day in a heavy, deep, "futuristic," and tech-friendly manner that felt nuanced instead of delivering ham-handed pounding by pop-friendly melodies. As if aware that there's a new generation of American listeners for whom turning up is a fate worse than death, the happenings far from the maddening crowd were certainly intriguing.
When one is willing to leave the "bananas" vibes of Dada Life and intensely popular sounds of Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike alone to stand in a corner and hear a chain-smoking and designer-suited Frenchman play bone-chilling techno and nary a kandi or #PLUR can be found, global dance's vibe is evolving yet again. With two more days of music in the offing, Electric Zoo six years later is wilder, more diverse, and arguably more entertaining than ever before.