10 Years of Electric Zoo

10 Years of Electric Zoo

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In honor of our 10th edition of Electric Zoo, we are taking a walk down memory lane and diving deep into the memories created and shared over the last decade. We will be adding a new chapter each week – one for every previous edition of the festival – as we make our way to Labor Day Weekend 2018, and celebrate Electric Zoo: The Big 10.
Expect stories and insider memories, beautiful photos and enchanting videos, as well as a curated playlist weekly, as we transport you back in time through every medium.

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The year was 2009. Dance music was in a slump. The Minimal era had come to an end. But things were about to change…

Our fearless zookeepers, Mike Bindra and Laura De Palma, kept a lot of the planning under wraps. Even the people they had been working most closely with had no idea what to expect. When the crew arrived on site and saw the stages and tents for the first time, they could feel an electric energy building beneath them.

Suddenly, it dawned on them… “Wow, this is a real festival!”

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Headlined by David Guetta, Armin van Buuren, and a very young deadmau5, the lineup was an all-star cast of dance music’s enduring stars mixed with the exciting new generation of tastemakers. Future headliners, Kaskade and Steve Angelloall occupied space in the lower rungs of the billing.

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Long before Steve Aoki started throwing cakes and raising a ruckus’, he was laying down fresh beats at the Respect Grove. The very next day you would have heard the late great Frankie Knuckles throwing down one of his classic sets. May he rest is peace!

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If underground was your liking, you’d be over at the first NY-side Sunday School Grove. There you would find a full school bus – glowing in neon green with fog and steam rising from within almost as though it was ready to take you back to the future.

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A chipper young Detroiter by the name of Seth Troxler had rolled onto Randall’s Island from Black Rock City, Nevada after a dusty week at Burning Man. Even as he opened the main stage to a smattering of people, you could tell that Seth’s future looked bright.

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2009 Playlist

Relive the sounds of the very first Electric Zoo with this curated Spotify playlist

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Randall’s Island was bone dry Labor Day weekend 2010. Dance floors were coated in clouds of dust as the animals kicked and shuffled furiously to the music. Marco Carola went hard at the Sunday School Grove with a bandana over his face, and the dust cloud coming from the crowd was so thick, it caused the vinyl to skip!

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The good people at Ultra Records set up a Signing Booth where fans could meet their favorite artists. NYC acid house legend Moby — known by many for his pastoral record Play — came from way out of left field with an intense, aggressive set on the main stage. And for those in the know, he also made a super-secret surprise appearance at Sunday night’s afterparty.

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2010’s hallmark lineup included Markus Schulz, Benny Benassi, Kaskade, Above & Beyond, Grum, and Armin van Buuren, giving us a glimpse of the fast-building fandom that would define the years to come.

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Legendary New York DJ Boris played an unexpected early set on the main stage Friday, years before joining the techno-heavy lineup at our 2017 Awakenings tent.

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At the Hilltop Arena on Sunday, Above & Beyond played one of their high-energy and emotional sets, with a support set by the late Avicii before he became the legend he is known as today.

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2010 Playlist

Take another trip down memory lane with some of the biggest tunes heard at Electric Zoo in 2010

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Due to popular demand from both fans and artists, Electric Zoo went from two days to three in its third year, a tradition we’ve kept ever since. The lineup was packed with over 100 artists, including Zoo veterans like Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Above and Beyond, and Alesso — but it also included Zoo newcomers Porter Robinson, Gramatik, Big Gigantic, and Hardwell, who have all returned to perform in more recent years.

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With all the excitement came a little drama, however, as Hurricane Irene ripped through New York on August 28th. Our intrepid zookeepers worked ‘round the clock to tear down tents and stages as the storm landed in Brooklyn. But we weren’t going to let a little hurricane stop the thumping and bumping. In true zoo fashion, the stages were built back up just in time for the three-day extravaganza.

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And what a show it was! Carl Cox took a day off from his busy Ibiza residency and flew into New York just for Electric Zoo’s Friday night. It was his first and only time playing the festival, but it’s fondly remembered by fans as a once-in-a-lifetime occasion – check out the set here. The undisputed heavyweight hosted Carl Cox and Friends, inviting Loco Dice to play.

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Just when we thought Irene was dead and gone, she struck again. EZoo legend says Richie Hawtin was scheduled to appear under his fabled Plastikman moniker on Friday, but the hurricane damaged his gear. Undeterred, he appeared as Richie twice at the festival: once at Hilltop Arena, and at the Sunday School stage later in the weekend.

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Perhaps one of the best, and most memorable sets of the weekend, was performed by DJ Snoopadelic, a.k.a. Snoop Dogg, pre-Snoop Lion days. The D-O-Double G mixed a few tracks, but ended up rapping some of his classics, like “Ain’t Nothing But a G Thang.” One Zoo VIPer told us they remembered crowds from every tent running over to Snoop’s set – an epic sight from the VIP upper deck.

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2011 Playlist

Throw it back to the sounds of Electric Zoo 2011

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The twelfth year of our millennium is often referred to as the year dance music went mainstream, and as our good friends at Rolling Stone put it, 2012 “will be remembered as the year that electronic dance music officially outgrew the U.S. underground, exploding into the mainstream in a tidal wave of neon-clad twentysomethings desperately seeking that new ‘it.’”

Well kids, here in the Big Apple, we’d already been repping dance music’s favorite festival for four years. And in 2012, we were mature. We were ready. We were starting to hit our stride. Not to rub in the praise, but Billboard summed it up perfectly when they wrote, “Electric Zoo might not be the country’s largest, splashiest, or most hyped electronic dance music festival. But we’re going to go on record and say that it’s the best.”

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Once again, Randall’s Island was packed with tens of thousands of fans, all there to see some of the biggest acts in the biz, including David Guetta, Axwell, Dada Life, Tiesto, Knife Party, Hardwell, Nicky Romero and so many more. Porter Robinson played for the second year in a row, before even turning 21.

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Skrillex wasn’t announced until much later, instead billed as “eXtra SpEcIal KiLLeR special guest TBA” – attentive animals descrambled it to reveal the legend. His set included custom stage production with a rising space ship deck that was one for the books.

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Hilltop was taken over by Above & Beyond’s Group Therapy on Friday, and for the first time in EZoo history, our LED screens played 3D content near the Hilltop Arena. We even handed out some sweet 3D glasses so everyone could experience the show in a new dimension.

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“The only way to truly understand Electric Zoo and the dance music culture is to experience it – to put yourself dead center, amid the furry boots and and driving bass lines,” Rolling Stone wrote of 2012’s festival, and for those lucky enough to be in the center of that year’s show were privileged enough to see Better Lost Than Stupid, consisting of Davide Squillace, Mathias Tanzmann and Martin Buttrich, for the first time.

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2012 Playlist

Dive into the beats of Electric Zoo 2012

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2013 was one of the most epic festivals we’ve had the pleasure of producing. For the first time we expanded to two main stages, Main Stage West and Main Stage East, allowing us to bring the biggest lineup ever.

Some returning stars included David Guetta who played Main Stage for the fourth time since EZoo’s founding. Benny Benassi played his fifth year in a row, making him one of the artists who played at every festival since 2009. Flux Pavilion made his shift from the Hilltop Arena to Main Stage for the first time, and the late Avicii was riding high on 2013’s party anthem, Levels.

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It’s hard to look back on 2013 without addressing the tragedies that occurred when two fans passed away on Saturday. Nothing is more important to us than our patrons, and out of an abundance of caution and in an effort to keep everyone safe and respect the lost, Sunday’s show was canceled.

For this chapter of our story, we’ve decided to show our favorite photos from the festival without comment.

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2013 Playlist

[Re]Discover the Sounds of 2013

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After a tough 2013, we were ready to throw down at 2014’s festival. Once again, we separated Main Stage into East and West. Diplo and Skrillex were set to perform as the dynamic duo Jack U. Kaskade and Alesso were set to close out Sunday night. But alas, the weather gods were not on our side for Sunday’s lineup.

But let’s not let a little rain dampen our party – Friday and Saturday were still packed with a sick lineup, amazing production, and the little things that make Electric Zoo “summer’s last hurrah for dance music revelers in New York City, a three-day weekend to grab the bull by its metaphorical horns and delight in some bass and beats before returning indoors,” as Rolling Stone wrote.

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Before your favorite bands were selling vinyl with every new album release, EZoo and our artists repped vinyl – hard. In 2014, we had a Vinyl Only stage, where acts came ready with crates of tunes. With an on-point sound system and an intimate wooden dance floor, DJs spun it old school as dancers packed the dance floor. Occasional mixing hiccups were met with cheers as fans danced in the shade of the Grove to some raw DJing.

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The Sunday School stage was a Spiegeltent, Dutch for “mirror tent” – and it remains one of our favorite production designs to this day. Decked out with wooden beams, red and orange drapery, bulb lights, and mirrors on all sides, Sunday School was a sexy, vibrant place for artists like Dubfire, Chris Liebing, Sasha, and Danny Tenaglia to play intimate techno sets for adoring fans.

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Zedd — who made his EZoo debut opening the Riverside stage just two years earlier — headlined the Main Stage next to the legendary Armin van Buuren (who played his fourth Electric Zoo) on Saturday. Damn son!

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A then-unknown duo dubbed The Chainsmokers opened the Main Stage on Sunday and were just about to bring out the infamous Bobby Schmurda when a torrential flash flood washed through the city, forcing the festival to cut short. But The Chainsmokers? Don’t worry about those guys. They headlined Electric Zoo two years later (before they were the Grammy-winning radio giants they are today).

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2014 Playlist

Throw it back to the sound of 2014’s greatest electric hits

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Two difficult years for our festival marked time for change. And from the ashes rose a Phoenix – literally. In 2015, we decided that it was time to shake things up and take our already legendary production in a bold new direction. In partnership with our sister brand ID&T, the producers behind Mysteryland, Sensation, Tomorrowland and TomorrowWorld, to create the first of our wildly loved, wickedly awesome, animal-themed stages. The Phoenix marked a new beginning for Electric Zoo, and we Transformed in more ways than one.

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The party began for some before they even stepped foot on festival grounds. A lucky group who boarded the T-Mobile ferry to Randall’s Island heard trance dons Above & Beyond play a secret set – on a boat!

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On the mainland, Dutch techno powerhouse Awakenings made their first appearance stateside at the Sunday School Grove. Get Real, the DJ pairing made up by Green Velvet and Claude von Stroke, debuted beneath the Awakening’s Tent, which has been a fan favorite at Electric Zoo over the years.

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Headliners for 2015 included The Chemical Brothers, Above & Beyond, and Alesso, but the list of festival newcomers was equally exciting. The masked man himself, Claptone, made his first Electric Zoo appearance on the Riverside stage; Black Tiger Sex Machine’s EZoo debut occurred on the Hilltop Arena, and for fans of The Fault in Our Stars, Ansel Elgort, aka Ansolo,, played the main stage on Saturday.

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Transformed also gave fans a new part of the grounds to explore, The Hideaway. The wooded area let festivalgoers escape the crowds while listening to local NYC talent play in the Treehouse.

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As Dancing Astranaut wrote, “…when Electric Zoo: Transformed rolled around this Labor Day Weekend, expectations for Sunday were all over the place. By the end of day two, Zoo had already blown those expectations out of the water with all­newproduction, crowd control, festival grounds carefully arranged in attendees favor and flooded by performers andart; Awakenings and blessings from the techno gods, VIP lounges fit for even New York City’s most daring partiers, fireworks that could’ve woken up neighbors all the way in New Jersey, and not to mention af*cking massive Main Stage that will now be put in the conversation with the Ultras and Tomorrowlands of the world.”

Electric Zoo: Transformed also featured a three-part end show, “The Transformation”, over the three days of the festival. Catch Sunday’s finale below.

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2015 Playlist

Throw it back to the sounds of the Transformation

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Following our Transformation, we decided to continue with themed editions and took it one step further and branded 2016’s festival ‘Electric Zoo: Wild Island.’

Who can forget the sleek, omnipresent gaze of the “Temple of the Cobra” Main Stage? And the fact that the cobra shot lasers from its eyes? Certainly everyone who got done on the dance floor will never forget the gaze of the serpent looking down.

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Wild Island marked influential LA imprint Dim Mak’s 20-year anniversary, which they celebrated by taking over the Riverside Stage on Saturday. Label boss and cake-launching provocateur Steve Aoki played a last minute, back-to-back set with SBCR, aka The Bloody Beetroots. And of course, there was cake.

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The stages and curator takeovers for 2016 were some of the wildest we’ve had since our humble beginnings. Elrow, the ultra-famous, wildly out-of-control Spanish party brand appeared in the United States for the first time in its 148-year history. There ain’t no party like an Elrow party, because at an Elrow party, you never know what to expect. And they did not disappoint taking over the Sunday School Grove with their Sambodromo Do Brasil takeover.

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Let’s not forget the 2016 lineup, which included Bassnectar, Tiesto, Porter Robinson, Hardwell, and The Chainsmokers. The bass god, Bassnectar, closed the festival Friday night, but threw down so hard on stage, he didn’t use any of his pyrotechnic allocations. While we certainly don’t blame him, what’s Electric Zoo without the bing, bang, boom of fireworks? As fans were exiting the island, we threw an impromptu firework show above a dark stage to bring the night to a close.

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Fresh off the release of Kanye West’s majorly hyped album, The Life of Pablo, Tiesto played a comical version of West’s song, I Love Kanye, changing the lyrics to “I miss the old Tiesto.” Not to play favorites, but Tiesto’s version definitely gave West a run for his money.

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The Chainsmokers, who were washed out by the rain in 2014, rose to mainstage status by 2016, playing just before our closer, Hardwell. The funky-fresh duo tapped into the nuances of millennial culture and made their stage graphics look like the Stranger Things logo, a reference that didn’t go unnoticed by fans who like to Netflix, Chill, and party.

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The hype surrounding the weekend must have convinced last-minute music fans’ heads to turn and head over to Randall’s Island, because by the time Sunday rolled around, we’d sold out the final day of show and announced we’d be back for 2017.

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After two years of successful shows, we weren’t ready to stop. By 2017, we’d introduced something entirely unheard of to New York. Check back next week to see the lengths we were willing to go to make Electric Zoo a mainstay in the Big Apple, paying homage to the city by becoming it’s 6th Boro.

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2016 Playlist

Bump some of your favorite 2016 jams

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You probably know the five New York boroughs by heart: Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. By 2017, we’d been in the Big Apple long enough, we decided to add another – The 6th Boro – to pay homage to our hometown, and solidify our relationship with the city we love so dearly.

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Randall’s Island is positioned perfectly in the heart of the city, and on our island home we wanted to showcase what makes NYC the greatest city in the world. The 6 Pointz stage, for example, paid tribute to the famous 5 Pointz graffiti spot, with some of the finest artists spraypainting throughout the weekend.

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Of course, no one can forget the Main Stage – a giant elephant – complete with tusks, huge ears, and enough pyro and special effects to get us through any NYC power outage. Although it rained during Saturday’s evening show, the night sky sparkled as fans danced wildly, whipping their wet hair back-and-forth to electric sets by Zedd and Above and Beyond.

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Dutch techno powerhouse Awakenings made a dramatic return to Electric Zoo with their own stage the entire weekend, and featured industry legends Sasha & John Digweed,, Claude VonStroke, festival favorite Danny Tenaglia, and Henrik Schwarz.

The born-to-rage Dada Life brought the party and took over the Hilltop Arena, turning it into an inflatable filled Dada Land Compound.

And Elrow returned for the second year in a row to take over the sizeable Hilltop Arena, rarely host to underground music, turning it into a Bollywood dream.

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Jauz hosted the Off the Deep End stage on Sunday, with Slushii, Sub Focus, Joyride, K?D, Saint WKND, and Bijou making up the day-long curation. The LA-based artist also celebrated his birthday that day with his good friends Crankdat, Slushii, and OOKAY, surprising the birthday boy with a cake, while fans sang a special rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to the ecstatic artist.

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To close out a wild weekend one could only experience in New York, the King of Trance Armin van Buuren enchanted the tens of thousands of party animals, followed by legendary artists Deadmau5 and Eric Prydz going deep in playing a very rare back-to-back set.

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2017 Playlist

2017 Isn’t Much of a Throwback, but We Still Love These Hits

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Thank you for reminiscing on the years past with us…

Now get ready to create the wildest memories at our 10th year birthday bonanza

Get tickets for #EZooTen