IDENTITY FESTIVAL @ ASHLEY HOMESTORE PAVILION | 8/19/12
See also: Live Nation Looks to Cash In on EDM Rage with Identity Festival See also: Paul van Dyk on Why He Dissed Madonna, His Quest for the Perfect Track, and the Growth of EDM in America See also: Luke Romero on The Psychology of Club Nights, Star Wars Jokes, The Plight of Newbie DJs, and His Gig at This Weekend's Identity Festival
When the concert gurus from Live Nation are planning out next year's Identity Festival, it might behoove them to push the summertime tour a bit into the fall, especially when they inevitably schedule its Phoenix stop.
That's because the oppressive August heat that baked the Valley resulted in the Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion being half-full (at best) during yesterday's visit by the big-dollar touring EDM extravaganza. Those who chose to stay cool and stay home missed out, however, as Identity Festival was worth weathering the heat.
A eight-hour all-you-can-eat beat buffet was served up to a sea of rave fanatics, club kids, and EDM aficionados at the outdoor venue, offering a mix of acts and artists of the highest caliber ranging from electro-house, trance, hardstyle, drum 'n' bass, and dubstep (natch).
It has all the hallmarks of a primo rave, only in a much bigger venue with a far more star-studded lineup. (Sadly, one superstar who was conspicuous by his absence was Dutch electro-house bigwig Hardwell, who had to cancel several recent appearances this past week due to a bout with the flu.)
The official color of the festival was neon, as attendees came brightly dressed in their finest dayglo wear and were ready to party. And the official slogan of the event was undoubtedly "jump," which was spat by many a DJ in order to induce leaping and dancing amongst the crowds gathered at either of the two major stages. (Many artists also utilized the oft-dropped clip from Chuckie's "Who's Ready to Jump?")
The plastic seats populating the lower level of the erstwhile Cricket Pavilion truly make for a lousy dance floor, but the Identity Festival attendees made the best of the situation as they bumped, bounced, and greeted each EDM artist with an ultra-enthusiastic response.
Audrey Napoleon got the crowd primed for a day of dancing with her early afternoon set of remixes and bootlegs, including her potent reworkings of "I'm Free" by William Orbit and The Cure's "Just Like Heaven," which boasted Robert Smith's memorable lyrics processed and transformed into a robotic Daft Punk kind of vocal vibe. She also pulled out sounds from her trademarked "Sex Tape" mix tapes that are available online.
When I asked Napoleon prior to the Identity Fest's stop in Phoenix why hearing tracks such as these, or any other EDM artist, in person was preferable instead of listening in your bedroom, she stated the following:
"It's different, for the experience of it all. You can listen to a mix of their songs all day in your bedroom but when you actually see it live and you see the passion behind it and watch the artists give their all into a performance," Napoleon says.
Russian-born trance trickster Arty certainly was giving his all during his main stage gig, getting heartbeats pounding and asses moving with an invigorating mixture of high-energy tracks firmly in the four-on-the-floor genres as the graphics of his video package declared, "No Arty, No Party."
That certainly wasn't the case over on the Rockstar Energy Drink stage in the Pavilion's east parking lot, featuring artists who specialize in more of a harder-edged and grittier sound, including British dubstep wunderkind Doctor P. The 26-year-old induced movements and a unhinged party atmosphere with his signature tracks like "Tetris" and "Watch Out." Mohawked songstress Eva Simons also joined him at one point, lending her sultry vocals to a few of the good doctor's songs.
Dancing on hot asphalt was like an endurance test for the crowd, seeing how long they could shuck and jive with their fists pumping up a storm in the sweltering heat. (Or as one spaced-out dude, who was likely rolling hard based on the size of his pupils, told me to write after watching me scribble away in my notepad, "It's like a costume party with a hodgepodge of old school ravers and new people.")
The dance party got even bigger after dark. As with any music festival or tour during the spring and summer, there's a certain jubilation that ensues when after the sun drifts below the horizon, either because temperatures drop or attendees celebrate surviving the day. Such was the case at the Identity Fest, where -- like at Coachella or the Electric Daisy Carnival -- the crowd size increased as the pansies who didn't dare come out during daylight hours showed up for the headliners, including folks who aren't quite in EDM's typical 18 to 35 demographic.
If one of Identity Festival's goals was to expand interest in the world of electronica, DJs, and dance music, it most certainly succeeded in that respect, as there were many people in attendance that you wouldn't normally see at either a rave or a club night. It wasn't just housewives and moms who drove their kids out to the West Valley (although they were there too) and included 40somethings dressed in furry boots and fishnets, as well as a variety of bearded biker-looking dudes and weekend warriors in the house.
But while they may not be in EDM's target demographic or were as energetic as the illuminated masses wrapped in glowing plastic, who took on the appearance of extras from the latest Tron remake after nightfall, they certainly seemed to have an enjoyable time during the festival's evening hours as the biggest names hit either stage.
Like Bingo Players, for instance, who offered an extended set (thanks to the absence of Hardwell), who dropped a number of hits like "Rattle" with pumped-up hip-hop (Jay-Z and Kanye's "This Shit Crazy," Wiz Khalifa's "The Thrill") and remixed sounds co-opted from their stunning EDC set (Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction," Daft Punk's "One More Time").
Paul van Dyk's set was equally stellar as the venerated veteran of the DJ game served as a mixmaster of ceremonies during his 60-minute performance. An array of orange beams pierced the fog-filled air and illuminated a sea of outstretched hands in the audience seemed to beckon the blended beats skirting the realms of trance, house, and electro that the German-born artist was offering.
But if you weren't into the manic nature of either Van Dyk or the Bingo Players, then the members of Showtek were over on the Rockstar stage creating a major rager. The Dutch siblings Sjoerd and Wouter Janssen had a simple anthem: "We came to fucking party, Phoenix."
And they did just that. While Sjoerd worked the decks on the hardstyle tip, his brother Wouter played the role of hype man on the microphone and occasionally sprayed the crowd with a CO2 cannon. They also created the evening's most memorable moment, pausing the music long enough to get the entire crowd to sit down before causing everyone to leap up en masse with a massive drop, sending a large amount of water bottles, hats, and glowsticks flying through the air in the process.
It's a good thing they saved both Excision and Eric Prydz for the last acts of the evening on either stage, because -- frankly -- they blew away every single artist that preceded them with epic sounds and killer stage setups. The Sweedish expat's dreamy pastiche of progressive tech-house was backed by a trippy video package featuring starscapes, flocks of birds, and futuristic animation.
Meanwhile, Excision was frying eardrums and synapses when he killed it with a murderous grind of dubstep beats amid a crystalline-like DJ riser that featured a nonstop video stream of skulls and dystopic visions.
The festival's patrons seemed happy to head home once things wrapped up and final beat was dropped, having spent the last of their dancing mojo. It's a sentiment that was likely shared by homeowners across the street from the Pavilion's parking lot, who probably were wondering when the day-long invasion of bass was going to end.
Last Night: Identity Festival at Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion
Personal Bias: I fucking love
Overheard: "Don't get ketchup on your bra," one scantily dressed girl dressed in lingerie said to another while munching on snacks at the food court.
Number of knockoffs of the infamous "Sex Drugs and Dubstep" t-shirt spotted: Eighteen.
We Don't Need Tickets: Numerous people gathered along the chain link fence surrounding the parking lot along Encanto Road and got a free view of all the acts on the Rockstar Stage.
Better Than: Attending a packed EDM gig at a Scottsdale club
One More Thing: Much like during any other EDM event where I bring my camera and a notepad, I was repeatedly asked, "Are you a spotter for DSI?"
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.