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Electric Zoo: The Big Ten Experience

The Electric Zoo at Randall's Island Electric Zoo was the perfect marker to end the summer of 2018. PHOTO/ The Knockturnal

By Edmund Zhen

Published: September 12th, 2018

With just a week into the Fall semester for many college students, Electric Zoo (EZOO) was the perfect marker to end the summer of 2018. This three-day spectacle at Randall’s Island drew thousands of people from all around the country and world to make the pilgrimage to the annual Electric Zoo fest. Being that 2018 marked its tenth-year anniversary, the crowd this year was a lot larger and a lot more frenetic. On Sunday, I met with party-goers from other cities (one from Belgium) who brought their spouse, friends, and family members to be blessed by EDM giants such as Marshmello, Kaskade, VirtualSelf (Porter Robinson), Martin Garrix, and Tiësto. Here’s how it all went down: 

After crossing the entrance, a 5-minute walk landed me in the security clearance section, and I was patted down by staff members. Water bags were asked to be emptied and any outside food or drinks were confiscated. I had to then go through another gate where the crowd was separated into lines to get admitted in. After what seemed like hours under the scorching sun, I finally stepped into the magical realm of Electric Zoo.

The setup of EZOO was the same as every year: 4 water refill stations, a fort of portable potties, medical and information tents, and neat arrays of snack shops. One special thing about EZOO was its system of handling monetary transactions. All purchases can only be made through a wristband. It reminded me of the same paying method the social media conglomerate WeChat utilizes. With a barcode, a scanner, and enough money in the bank, you can conveniently purchase anything. This is how EZOO’s paying method works: before entering the island, party-goers are supposed to activate their wristbands and “top off” (load up/refill) the amount of money they want in the wristband. They offer options such as auto-refill, which automatically refills money into your wristband after it goes under a certain amount. But one would need to monitor their spending habits if they want to leave Randall’s Island with money still left in the bank. I bought 2 cans of Heineken and a bottle of water for my friend that cost me a hefty $27.00. The beers were $11.00 each and the 16 oz bottle of water was $5.00. The prices of drinks and snacks are a lot more expensive than what you would get at your local store, but since accessibility was difficult, I had no choice but to break my bank for small luxuries like those. It’s no wonder why security guards at the front made everyone empty out water bags and confiscated drinks and food from outside. EZOO is really trying to make some serious bucks out here.

Around 6:00 p.m., 3Lau’s set started to draw party-goers towards the main stage that made the gathering mass looked like a circus troupe. Flamboyant clothing and themed costumes were on the backs of the majority, while the others were either shirtless or plainly dressed. It was a good mixture of creativity and unoriginality. Perhaps the most baffling costume I saw was a man in a bright red G string, a cropped tank top, and topped off with a pair of impressively detailed Satan horns on his head. He completed his look with goggles that resembled a lot like Dr. Emmett Brown’s from the trilogy, Back to the Future. Need I say more?

The real party started when Illenium came on with soul-moving bangers like “Crawl Outta Love”, “Beautiful Creatures”, and “Fractures”. The crowd was getting stirred up with sporadic fist pumps and constant head-banging confirming their excitement. At the same time, people were moving around in the crowd in search for familiar faces, causing many angry heads to turn. It seemed like someone was FIFO’ing (first in, first out) the crowd, with newcomers forcefully shoving to get to the front, pushing the previous spot owners slowly to the back. It wasn’t long until people at the front began to push back. Then, in just a few minutes, the whole main stage crowd followed the motions of a wave. But not everyone was mad. A good handful of party-goers just partied on inattentively to the notions like zombies. I wasn’t sure if whether or not they were just captivated by the set, or brain dead from being under the influence of something. Alesso finally came up for his set around 8:30 pm and played his chart-topping songs like “Heroes”, “If I Lose Myself”, and “Cool”. He also paid tribute to the late EDM giant Avicii with his song “Wake Me Up” that caused a frenzied uproar of remembrance and grievance. But the real deal, the cherry on top, the definite highlight of Sunday, happened at the entrance of Tiësto.

Tiësto first tested the water by playing his newly released song “Wow”, that resulted in the crowd maniacally leaping into the air and coming down with fervent head bangs. Like a true master of his craft, Tiësto amplified the atmosphere with more songs and trance-like visuals that caused a surge of adrenaline to rise. Unlike other DJ’s on that day, Tiësto’s visual displayed warm colors with the intensity of its shades oscillating back and forth in matters of seconds. It was also accompanied by flickering light beams that created an Armageddon-like scene.

At that moment, it looked like Tiësto was a fearless leader rallying his devoted followers to war. It was a powerful, inspiring experience. His set finally ended around 11:00 p.m. with fireworks to commemorate the 10th year Anniversary of EZOO, and the signaling cue for us tired, yet enlightened party-goers to embark on the journey home.   

This year’s preparations for EZOO couldn’t have been any better. The lineup was amazing, and the staff was kind and professional while performing their duties. They sprayed the crowd with water when it got too hot, helped fallen party-goers seek the medical help they needed, and instilled order back to where there was chaos. Without them, there was no way EZOO could have had a successful festival like this year. If I was to think of something that could have been better, I would say to set up more water refill centers at other spots to prevent party-goers from overcrowding one area. Another thing would be lowering the costs of food and drinks! As a college student, money is the next thing I desperately need after sleep! EZOO is really setting up a trap for us college students to throw the last $20.00 in our banks to their food stands. Maybe in the future, I should just volunteer to work for EZOO and help them set up just so I can get free tickets and food. Maybe you all should too. If we do end up doing that next year, let’s all be a part of the magic that makes EZOO so special and get wild like animals.

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