The term EDM -- short for "electronic dance music," a catchall term for the floor-filling, beat-heavy tracks that dominate clubs -- has become one of the music business' most important stories over the past few years, thanks to the way its big synths have bubbled up on radio and the way its DJs have raked in massive amounts at residencies in Vegas and festivals. The Electric Zoo Festival, which brings its sixth installment to Randalls Island this weekend, is a crash course in EDM that brings together hundreds of artists and tens of thousands of dancers. Some attendees will take the festival's "zoo" idea quite literally, adding animal touches to their outfits or getting full-on suited up as another species as they relax. Here's a quick guide to the three-day, six-stage party.
This year's Electric Zoo is headlined by a few artists whose works have transcended clubland. David Guetta, the French DJ headlining the festival's first night, was one of the first EDM stars to plant a flag in top-40 radio through his Kelly Rowland-fronted anthem "When Love Takes Over" -- which was co-written by the Australian sister act Nervo, who hit the main stage tomorrow.
The Russian-German producer Zedd, also scheduled for tomorrow's main stage, collaborated with Ariana Grande on her smash "Break Free" and reached the top 10 with his pleading 2012 track "Clarity." And the Chicago-born Kaskade, who closes out Sunday's main stage offerings, worked with the Canadian singer Lights and the dreamy Brooklyn outfit School of Seven Bells on his 2013 album "Atmosphere."
Electric Zoo's six stages allow for a lot of variations on the EDM theme to exist apart from the main stages' hot glare. The Sunday School Grove will showcase house veterans such as Danny Tenaglia, a staple of New York's dance scene in the '90s, playing music that has a throwback appeal that could seem downright subtle in today's high-intensity dance-music climate. The Philly-born Sunday School DJ Josh Wink will also head up the Vinyl Only stage, which will pay tribute to the now-quaint art of mixing with turntables. Destroid, a dubstep supergroup made up of the producers Excision, Downlink & KJ Sawka, combines the robot-rock aesthetics of Daft Punk with the kind of full-band sonic assault normally associated with face-melting metal, and their intense live show will cap off Friday's performances at the Hilltop Arena.
Last year, two Electric Zoo attendees died from drug-related causes, and the festival's third day was canceled as a result of what then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's office called "health risks." This year organizers have brought safety to the fore with "Come To Life," a program that attempts to formalize the old-style rave ethos of "PLUR" (peace, love, unity, respect) by, among other things, giving concertgoers tips on how to look out for others' well-being and offering free water.
This year's Electric Zoo will be a cashless affair; each attendee's wristband, which functions as a ticket, contains an RFID chip that can be loaded up with credits for concessions and merchandise. In keeping with the event's tenor, ticket holders must watch a PSA outlining "Come To Life" and its aims to make their wristbands functional; they can also input emergency contact information into the chip's data.
WHO Electric Zoo Festival
INFO $119-$549 for single-day tickets with transportation; electriczoofestival.com