This is a continuation from PART ONE: https://weirdjournalism.com/2015/05/28/form-ascrosanti-festival-day-1/
Seriously? Skrillex? At least it was a good conversation starter. Most everyone I spoke to was initially turned off by seeing one of the highest paid DJs in the country for free. I was too. What the hell was the prince of brostep doing at our weird magical desert music festival? I guess that’s what people at Burning Man were asking last year too, when he was allegedly boo’d off the stage for playing “Turn Down For What”.
I came to the festival with what I thought was an open mind, ready to appreciate the experience for what it was, but this was a greater test than I was expecting.
Spazzkid started the day off with a vaporwave set (maybe? I’m still figuring out that genre); banging away on his ableton controller and singing into a microphone on occasion. His style sort of a funky, hous3y, 80s pop thing, with a shout out to Saint Pepsi halfway through his set. He was actually my favorite performance of the day.
The next DJ was just running iTunes, no crowd. I found out later that The Range couldn’t make it for whatever reason.
I wandered the grounds most of the day, the stark beauty of the Arizona desert surrounding the experience. Paolo Soleri, the architect behind Arcosanti, had incredible vision, but as my boyfriend who works in construction pointed out, not as much of an engineer. The place was weathered and sturdy.
I missed most of the Kodak to Graph set, the first set in the ampitheater and not the vaults. A resident of Arcosanti told me how happy they were to host such a wonderful event. I thought the vibe might be of resentment for interrupting their peaceful desert town.
Jacques Greene played after that, a dj whose work I’m actually a really big fan of. It’s like glitchy brainy house music, so I was surprised that I didn’t enjoy it that much. Music always sounds different at home in your headphones than it does in a ‘live’ context.
Tokimonsta played in the ampitheater as the sun set, her smile and head nodding seemingly plastered on but genuine at the same time. My second favorite set of the night. Machinedrum right afterwards, playing in the dark with little illumination, just a projector running abstract computerized human shapes. The two most talented musicians of the night. Those glitchy drum n bass drumbeats were performed by a live drummer. The name suddenly made sense. One guy on the machine, a small synth and what looked like an MPC or something, and a drummer with a full kit and a drum pad triggering abstract noises.
The next act spent most of his time bobbing along to a mostly disinterested crowd waiting for the main event. I went to the merch booth and asked who it was, because no one really knew. The guy told me that Skrillex was late but The Range had finally shown up, so he was taking over for now. We went back and found a place to sit.
It was loud, it was stupid, it was intense and immediately accessible. I managed to enjoy it. He played a lot of songs I didn’t like, but he mixed out of songs usually in less than a minute, sometimes in less than 15 seconds. Huge build-up, then drop, creative transition to the next track, repeat. He had command of his mixer, was really creative and talented. Most of the crowd filtered out during his set, leaving a dedicated 50-100 people in the auditorium. Security was so lax that the stage ended up full of his fans, crowding around him and his mixer as he tried his best to hype an experimental ambient festival in the middle of the desert, stuff like “what’s up arcosanti let’s scream to the stars yeeeeaahhh”