I’ll admit, I’m not a huge raver. You won’t catch me wearing kandi or cutting shapes, though I wish I knew how. So it was cool to be immersed in that culture for a few days in a culture that was new to me, in Arizona at Phoenix Lights. I was at Margaret T. Hance Park a few weekends before for McDowell Mountain Music Festival, but this was a whole new experience. Say goodbye to your family fun zone and daytime clown shows. Phoenix Lights was all about the music.
Pumping a solid 8 hours of heavy electronic music from two stages, the festival attracted your average 20-30 something festival crowd. I noticed these guys were different though. They had experience. They planned their outfits, coordinated with their “fam” and created totem poles. I noticed the community while immersed in this rave culture. People were generally friendly, helpful, and smiling. I saw a guy transfer his kandi onto the wrist of a security guard. I saw people sharing hammocks. I saw strangers sharing party supplies. I saw human centipede backrubs. The vibes were good!
Seeming to be a trend for me, I found myself enjoying the smaller stage, appreciating the dance space and less aggressive music. I still didn’t miss the legend Eric Prydz on Firday night despite having a tough time shooting him because he was completely backlit for the first half of his set, but it was all part of the journey he took the crowd on. When most popular DJs don’t go a minute in between a heavy drop, Prydz had no problem slowing down the tempo and volume to let the crowd buildup again. It was a breath of fresh hair among the commonplace overwhelming sensual explosion found at other sets.
The smaller stage not only had more interesting music, but a way more interesting stage setup: inflatable tentacles, a shark mouth encapsulating the DJ and blinking eyeballs up on top. The smoke machines were usually pumping, and despite the fewer people, it was always a cozy dance space.
Kaskade closed down Saturday night with a full 90-min set of crowd pleasers. It was hard to say whether he asked people to print out huge cut-outs of his face so he could admire himself as he played or if the crowd was that crazy about him. I’ll give him 3 big Kaskade heads out of 5, for the pyrotechnics.
Sunday, Excision made my ears bleed. I lost my earplugs somewhere and found solace at the Sharktopus stage. While I was really looking forward to DJ Snake, after his production on a few popular radio tracks I’d heard, I wasn’t totally feeling his live performance. He requested the crowd to “put their hands up” quite a few times, and his music was too aggressive for me to get down to.
Back at Sharktopus, the whole groovy fam was getting down in the smoke. A few highlights from that stage were Claude Vonstroke, SNBRN, and Jai Wolf. I also really enjoyed the pop-tropical vibes from Tritonal, and I may have thrown up my hands to make a triangle.
This weekend, we’re at Munduzer, out in West Phoenix for 3 nights of music, yoga, and health-conscious workshops. I’ll be glad to have some rest and healing.
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: James Oborne