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The 2016 Imagine Music Festival Experience

Imagine Music Festival 2016 Mainstage Pyrotechnics

Imagine Music Festival celebrated its third year, last month at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, in Atlanta, GA. Previously held at Atlanta’s Historic Fourth Ward Park in Downtown Atlanta, Imagine moved to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first time this year, in order to accommodate larger crowds, camping, and later noise ordinances. In previous years, Imagine had to end at 11PM (with after-parties going later in the night), while this year, performances were allowed to go until 3AM (with after-parties like the Silent Disco going later in the night). On top of the new venue, addition of camping, and later sets, Imagine also added an additional day, making the festival a three-day event.

Glenn and Madeleine Goodhand, the founders of Imagine and the Atlanta-based Iris Promotions LLC and Iris Presents Inc., told the Atlanta Business Chronicle that previous years saw an attendance of 25,000-27,000. They expected to host about 30,000-35,000 fans this year. They were thrilled when the festival ended up hosting about 45,000 attendants, saying: “The magnitude of growth we experienced this year is humbling.” The couple are looking to continue the festival’s growth, noting that “The Atlanta Motor Speedway has endless potential and we look forward to growing into the massive site.”

In order to enter the venue, patrons had to navigate through a pedestrian tunnel that led underneath the speedway and onto the center field, making the journey feel like a portal into another realm. As soon as fans made their exit from the tunnel and onto the center field, they were immersed in an aquatic music and art spectacle. Imagine teamed up with AQUA this year, a special effects company that enhances concerts and festivals. The production company started years ago, in an effort to put their own spin on music events. “By combining lights, lasers and projections we can create 3D visuals, water holograms and mezmerizing [sic] fountains that dance to the beat of the music.” In addition to the visual aspect, AQUA also makes it a point to give back. For every ticket that is sold to one of their events, they donate one month of clean water to a person in need. Complementing the AQUA production and the general theme of water was a large pool in the center of the venue, which was open to the patrons. Additionally, a water slide was available for patrons to use near the Amazonia stage.

Zeds Dead Fireworks at Imagine Music Festival 2016

Fireworks going off at the Oceania Stage

With seven stages at the event, there was no shortage of music. Imagine has an eclectic mix of music ranging from Jam Bands and funk, to Disco and Tropical House, and the heaviest Bass and Dubstep music you’ve heard. The national lineup included the likes of Adventure Club, Benny Benassi, Borgore, Dillon Francis (and his House alter ego, DJ Hanzel, his first performance under that name), The Disco Biscuits, Excision, Gramatik, Nero, Steve Angello, Zeds Dead, 3lau, Dirtyphonics, Lotus, Thomas Jack, SNBRN, Snails, Keys N Krates, and many more. Iris also enlisted the talents of local artists, including Midnite Panda, Daddydough, Alex Lucas, Ployd, Scales (a regular performer at Iris-sponsored events), and more.

While the music selection was great, make no mistake, Imagine fans are some of the most passionate and they come to dance and party. On day two, Chris Lyda, Director of Public Relations at Iris Presents had to politely ask the crowd to tone down the excitement a bit, so that fans at the front row didn’t move the front barrier forward. Apparently patrons were dancing a little too enthusiastically on day one. It must be an interesting problem to have for the festival. On the one hand, it’s a sure sign that the music selection is on point, but on the other hand, the festival has to look out for the safety and well-being of others.

Imagine Music Festival Main Stage 2016

Caspa & Rusko perform at the Oceania Stage

Day One of the Oceania Stage had a great performance by Liquid Stranger early in the day. Following Liquid Stranger, Black Tiger Sex Machine took the stage as the day gave way to night. After BTSM, The Bloody Beetroots got a bit of a late start, but wasted no time turning up the speed once he got going, throwing down heavier and faster-paced music. While The Bloody Beetroots kicked up the tempo to get the crowd going, Caspa & Rusko slowed it right back down, playing a set that paid homage to older Dubstep, a style much more reminiscent of ten years ago. The duo kicked off their set with a newer tune, Blouse An Skirt, but made sure to throw in many of the original Dubstep classics like Woo Boost, Jahova, Pro Nails (Rusko Remix), and California Love (Rusko ‘Da Cali Anthem’ Remix). Caspa & Rusko demonstrated their true performance abilities by utilizing negative space, creating an atmosphere of suspense and tension, making the whole set more cerebral than an average Dubstep performance. Steve Angello followed Caspa & Rusko, while Borgeous capped off the night.

 

Day Two at the Oceania Stage experienced some heavy sets early in the day, with Funtcase B2B Cookie Monsta, followed by Doctor P. Over at the Amazonia stage, G Jones threw down some masterfully crafted bass tunes. Minnesota followed as the sun dipped low into the sky. He made sure to sync his music with the natural light around him; the later in the night he went, the heavier the music became. The live band Papadosio changed up the pace a bit as they played their funkier songs.

Over at the Disco Inferno Stage, Dillon Francis made his debut performance under the alias DJ Hanzel, his more House-y alter-ego. After DJ Hanzel, EDX adjusted the vibe when he got on and started playing his bubbly House tunes. The Amazonia stage continued the Jam Band/Funk theme with Lotus playing the midnight slot. In addition to the music, Lotus’ visual team does a great job complementing the mood of the music with their spectacular light shows. Back at the main stage Dillon Francis played for the second time of the night, this time as Dillon Francis. As he took the stage, he proclaimed “Fuck DJ Hanzel!” While most people in the crowd laughed, the joke was lost on some fans, not realizing that Dillon Francis and DJ Hanzel are the same person. While Dillon Francis has had mixed results in the past, he put on a good performance at Imagine as he warmed the crowd up for Zeds Dead to close out the night. Unsurprisingly, Zeds Dead put on a stellar show. Their years of experience as producers and DJs are evident in their performances, as they are able to smoothly transition between genres and keep the crowd engaged.

Zeds Dead at Imagine Music Festival 2016

Zeds Dead playing at the Oceania Stage

Day Three at the Amazonia stage saw rising star Opiuo play his multi-genre music, a style he describes as “Broken-frog-stomping-funkadelic-hippo-hop-monkey-crunk-chunky-bouncy-stomach-morphing-bassdolloping-scrumptious-bowl-of-glitchy-bass-love.” He was quite mobile on the stage as he bounced between drum pads, a MIDI controller, and interacting with the crowd. At the Disco Inferno Stage, local artist Alex Lucas played some fun tunes as his set gave way to SNBRN. SNBRN had an appropriately timed set that coincided with the sunset. Back at the Oceania Stage, pantyraid played their signature slow progressive bass music. The duo consists of Marty Party and Ooah (of The Glitch Mob), two producers who frequently work either solo or on other projects. Together, they make a powerhouse of a music team that puts out unique music and performances.

SNBRN at Disco Inferno Stage, Imagine Music Festival 2016

SNBRN at sunset at the Disco Inferno Stage

Over at the Amazonia Stage, Break Science showcased their fusion of styles as they moved between live instruments and DJing. Thomas Jack closed out the Disco Inferno Stage with an 11PM set time. His music matched his tropical attire, playing a relaxed House set continuously through the night.

Confetti at Borgore, Imagine Music Festival 2016

Confetti shooting off at Borgore at the Oceania Stage

Back at the main stage, Borgore demonstrated his technical abilities as he kept the crowd dancing through the night. His performance was quite a sight, as confetti blasted through the air and giant beach balls bounced above the crowd. After Borgore, Nero played a more theatrical set, reminiscent of a movie soundtrack. Nero made sure to include many classic Nero songs like Me & You, Reaching Out, The Recluse, and Promises, while also including some newer material like Satisfy.

Although Imagine showcases a range of top-notch artists and a variety in genres across seven stages, the selection of Excision for the closing set of the weekend on the mainstage highlights Imagine’s most represented demographic: Bass heads. Unsurprisingly, Excision threw down a heavy and grimey Dubstep experience that had the whole crowd going nuts, with no shortage of headbanging. As the night came to a close, festival founders Glenn and Madeleine came on stage to give a special thank you to the fans, staff, and performers, and to announce a quick encore by 12th Planet to close the night out.

 

The closing ceremony with comments by Glenn and Madeleine highlighted a feeling that I had the whole weekend: Imagine Music Festival is a family affair. The comments were a nice gesture, but more important was the festival as a whole. Although the festival hosted 45,000 fans, the event felt like a smaller community coming together to celebrate the hard-work and effort that Iris and their team invested into the festival. There is certainly some room for improvement; however, the missed opportunities were not unique to Imagine. For example, the placement of free water stations and the general layout of the venue could be improved, as well as an increase in staff. The issues pale in comparison to the overall success of the festival, and fans should be optimistic that this independent festival is produced by a passionate team of locals who wish to see the festival and the Atlanta music scene grow and thrive.

To see all of our Imagine Music Festival coverage, make sure to follow us on Instagram, check out our Facebook page, and take a look at our photos.

Imagine Festival 2016: Artist Preview

Imagine Festival - 4 Days Away

Imagine Music Festival 2016 is just days away from kicking off at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Atlanta, GA. If you haven’t grabbed tickets yet, check out the options that are still available. The daily schedule has also been released, so make sure to take a look so you can plan out your weekend. With that in mind, we wanted to point out some artists that we’re looking forward to seeing. We picked out the following six artists (plus a bonus) by focusing on performers at Imagine that have a unique and original sound and are relatively removed from the mainstream. That’s not to say that we think mainstream music is necessarily better or worse, we just like to highlight artists that we think have a lot of growth potential. Additionally, we tried to have representation from each day, specifically focusing on artists that we think will perform particularly well in their given time slot.

Caspa B2B Rusko

While Caspa & Rusko likely have some of the best name recognition at Imagine, we still wanted to include them on this list given the circumstances. Both hailing from the UK, Caspa and Rusko have a long and storied history of working together. They are frequently cited as some of the earliest and most influential dubstep producers and often take credit in shaping and popularizing the genre. After spending seven years of DJing and producing solo, the two have come together again to rock the stage, and we couldn’t be more excited. The two were largely out of the limelight for the last couple of years, until they started making festival appearances this 2016. It will be really exciting to see what these veteran DJs and producers will show us this Friday at 10:30M, Day 1 of Imagine.

Minnesota

Christian Bauhofer, who goes by the stage name of Minnesota, has been kicking around for quite some time. He has dominated a corner of the bass music scene with his astral music that seems to shoot you through space. He has carved out a unique sound for himself; he knows how to bring the heavy bass when appropriate, but also pull back and present a softer, more emotional side of music. Performing on Day 2 at 8:15PM, his set time will coincide with sunset, which should make for a particularly spectacular setting as daylight gives way to night.

Phutureprimitive

Bay Area producer and songwriter Rain, better known as Phutureprimitive, describes his music as “dripping wet love drops of nasty mind melting sonic bliss.” Like many other artists at Imagine, Phutureprimitive occupies some of the more bass-heavy genres of music, crafting his own signature style of “lush melodies” and “fuzzy bass.” You can catch Phutureprimitive at 11PM of Day 2.

Lotus

This five-piece band has previously described their music as Rock, Electronic, Post-Rock, Jamband, Electro, Funk, and most recently, Dance Rock. Imagine Festival has its share of heavier and more electronic acts, as well as jam bands and instrumentals. Lotus is one of the groups that you can expect to bridge that gap, playing a style of music that is heavily instrumental, but very upbeat and easy to dance to. These guys are all around just tons of fun! You can look forward to their music and spectacular accompanying light design at 12AM on Day 2.

Opiuo

Broken-frog-stomping-funkadelic-hippo-hop-monkey-crunk-chunky-bouncy-stomach-morphing-bassdolloping-scrumptious-bowl-of-glitchy-bass-love. That’s what Oscar Davey-Wraight, AKA Opiuo refers to the genre of music he produces, not wanting to pigeonhole himself into a genre that might not fully encompass the sound of his music. Originally hailing from Ngatimoti, New Zealand, Opiuo has been crushing the bass scene for the last couple of years. If you’re a Bass or Glitch fan, definitely make sure to check out Opiuo and his chunky and scrumptious bowl of glitch sounds at 6:30PM on Day 3.

Thomas Jack

With a lot of representation of the bass, funk, and spacey realms of music, we wanted to make sure we got a little representation from the traditional club scene. Originally from Bemboka, Australia, Thomas Jack has been spending a lot of time recently making a name for himself in the US. While he may be most known for his Tropical House music, a style which he helped popularize, he also branches out into other styles frequently, making his sets dynamic. His music seems to take after his own persona, as he always appears to be having ton of fun on stage, dressed in his signature laidback tropical outfits. You’ll be able to catch Thomas Jack on Day 3 at 11PM.

Bonus Banger Set: Zeds Dead

Call it the fanboy in me, but I couldn’t resist giving a shout-out to Zeds Dead. As a fan, this lineup is particularly special for me because it features many of the original dubstep artists that sucked me into the scene around 2009-2010: Doctor P, Caspa & Rusko, Nero, Excision, Zeds Dead, and many others. Needless to say, if you’re a headbanger, Imagine must be looking pretty appetizing right about now! Zeds Dead have been such a dominant force in the Bass music world for years now. They consistently produce phenomenal bass and dubstep tracks, and venture into other genres when they feel like it, and their live shows are one of a kind. I had to make sure to include Zeds Dead, because one can only imagine how rowdy the main stage will be at 2AM on Day 2 with Zeds Dead closing out the night!

See you this weekend!

Okeechobee Music Festival Returns in 2017

Okeechobee 2017

It should come as no surprise to anyone who attended Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival 2016 that Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival will be returning in 2017. Okeechobee 2016 was a smashing success, so the festival was all but guaranteed to return. The festival will return to its home, Sunshine Grove in Okeechobee, FL, March 2-5 2017. The privately owned ranch features a sandy beach, grassy flat lands, and tropical jungles. The festival promoters have vowed to build upon last year’s success; Chief Creative Officer and co-Founder Paul Peck says, “There were so many once-in-a-lifetime moments at Okeechobee ’16. In 2017, we’re going to build upon the magic we created last year by adding new, next level surprises. Those special, shared experiences that will never happen again is what Okeechobee is all about.”

A very limited amount of pre-sale tickets will be available for $229.50 for General Admission, and $599 for VIP, tomorrow (Wednesday, August 17) at 11AM EDT.

Euphoria Music Festival Returns in 2017

Euphoria Music Festival 2017

Euphoria Music Festival, produced by Vivid Sound Entertainment, returns to Carson Creek Ranch in Austin, Texas April 6-9, 2017. Euphoria 2017 will mark the fourth consecutive year at Carson Creek Ranch, and the sixth year overall for the event. Last year’s event saw a record-setting 50,000 fans in attendance, with musical acts such as Above & Beyond, Adventure Club, Bassnectar, Cherub, Crizzly, Dillon Francis, Eric Prydz, Pretty Lights, STS9, and more.

In response to fan feedback, the festival producers claim that they are improving the camping experience by making it easier to camp in groups, decreased wait times for entrance, and improved shuttle service. Additionally, Euphoria is continuing its partnership with Keep Austin Beautiful. The partnership is part of a green initiative titled “Ecophoria,” which aims to keep the area clean and green through river cleanups and additional programs that will be announced in the future.

A limited amount of Loyalty tickets will go on sale on Friday, August 12th at 10AM. A 3-Day general admission pass will cost $119, while a 3-Day pass with camping will cost $199. VIP “Fly Life” passes, which include preferred viewing areas, private bars, VIP restrooms and showers, concierge service, luggage drop off, and express entrance, start at $219 (without camping) or $349 with camping. The early entrance pass, which allows Wednesday access for up to 2500 fans, can be purchased for an additional $30. Additionally, financing options will be available for fans looking to pay for the ticket in installments.

Imagine Music Festival Releases 2016 Schedule

Imagine 2016 Schedule

Imagine Music Festival takes place at the Atlanta Motor Speedway August 26-28 in Atlanta, GA. The festival producers have just released the full schedule, along with daily ticket passes. In addition to the schedule, the festival producers have teamed up with AQUA for the main stage experience, which includes their 3D water hologram production. Water fountains and 3D images will float next to the headliners, as they play out their set. For more information, check the official press releases regarding the daily schedule and AQUA partnership.

Meet the Founders of Imagine Music Festival

Imagine Music Festival 2015

(pictured above, The Glitch Mob perform at Imagine Music Festival 2015)

Summer is in full swing and for music fans that also means Imagine Music Festival is just around the corner. Imagine Music Festival will be taking over the Atlanta Motor Way in Atlanta, GA August 26-28. The final lineup has been released and includes some big names like Adventure Club, Benny Benassi, Borgore, Dillon Francis, Excision, Steve Angello, Zeds Dead, The Disco Biscuits, Gramatik, Caspa B2B Rusko, The Bloody Beetroots, and many more artists. If you haven’t purchased tickets yet, a range of options are available with General Admission tickets starting at $199 (plus taxes & fees).

Leading up to the festival, Dancebreak had the opportunity to talk to the founders of Iris Presents, Inc. and Imagine Music Festival, Glenn and Madeleine Goodhand. Continue reading below to get a look into what goes into planning Imagine Music Festival and what to expect at this year’s event. For clarity, Dancebreak comments are italicized, while responses from the founders are not.

You folks have been putting on events long before Imagine. How did you come to decide to create Imagine Music Festival?

We have been putting on events for over 20 years. The impetus behind creating Imagine started from a void of authenticity felt at other festivals. We felt that the experience was lacking and people were not being treated right.  For all of our events, our motto has always been “treat others as you would like them to treat you.” With this core value in mind, we sought to create a festival that was 100% customer-centric, maintained its integrity and had the thickest vibe possible.

Have either of you been involved with writing or creating music, or have you primarily been focused on putting on events?

Our primary focus is putting on events, however we also are passionate about helping develop local up and coming artists. By providing the highest quality production – our stage creates a platform like none other for local acts to practice and grow their fan base. We believe Atlanta has some of the best talent in the land and we are blessed to be able to showcase it.

What goes into creating something like Imagine? For patrons, it can seem like new festivals pop up rather quickly and without warning. What kind of work goes on behind the scenes leading up to a festival? How long was Imagine in the works before its debut?

A lot of blood, sweat, tears and more work than you can “imagine.”

What sets Imagine apart? Objectively speaking, it seems like you have gained quite a bit of recognition. But, at the ground level, what makes Imagine different? If you were to teleport someone to Imagine without telling them where they were, what sights and sounds would that person see that are unique to Imagine?

The biggest difference that you will feel is that we are one of the few remaining independent festivals. At Imagine you will experience a spectacle of aquatic themed performers; circus acts; transformational village; a colorful lineup with many gems to discover; and an incredibly positive vibe from both festival-goers and our staff.

Is IRIS primarily an Atlanta-based initiative? Are you involved with other events outside of the Atlanta area? If not, do you have aspirations to grow outside of the Atlanta area?

IRIS is currently based out of Atlanta, with most of our events happening in the area. We have been involved with almost every major EDM event to come through the city, since the nineties. It’s our home and therefore has been a great place for us to start. We are always looking for opportunities to expand and eventually would like to be an internationally recognized brand.

Are you primarily focused on dance music, or do you have other ventures unrelated to dance music that you’re involved in that you would like to share?

Our roots are in electronic music – it’s where we got our start and is what we know best. Music is always evolving however, and we will evolve with the music. That being said we have some other projects in the works that would open us up to experimenting with other genres and new experiences.

Dance music used to be more of a counterculture idea; the artists, patrons, and enthusiasts tended to be more on the fringe of what society considered “normal.” Yet these days, it’s everywhere. In your opinion, what caused that change? Did dance music become more “normal” or did society become more “weird?”

At its core, the scene was always about the music and gathering together for the music, the love, the party, and the knowledge. Dance music makes you feel good and creates an environment free of judgment where you could express yourself. I wouldn’t say that the participants were not normal, some were perhaps the most ordinary of people looking for an escape from their everyday lives. It’s hard not to like electronic music as it can be very uplifting. It was only a matter of time for the mass-market to catch on – we believe the internet and social media perhaps played the biggest role in lifting the music out of the underground. It simply became easier for more people to connect and share a common love for the music.

Has this changed the way you plan, promote, and throw events at all?

To keep some of our old school flavor, we still employ some traditional promotional methods, but Social Media sure has made getting the word out much easier.

What challenges has the commercialization of dance music presented for you guys? How have you benefited?

Most promoters will agree that skyrocketing DJ rates has created the biggest challenge for festivals. Now there is a larger market out there opening our events up to more people, but there is still a great deal of risk involved.

To wrap things up, can you comment on what patrons can expect for this year’s Imagine? What’s something that a returning Imagine fan can look forward to? What about someone who is coming to Imagine for the first time?

At the end of last year’s show, we took to the stage and promised everyone that things would only get bigger and better – and that still holds true. From a bigger lineup, more performers, more days, bigger venue with camping – there is a lot to look forward to this year. For someone coming to Imagine for the first time, we hope they feel the same energy and love that was felt by every first-timer before them.

Thank you for your time, we look forward to seeing you all at Imagine Music Festival this August!

Life is Beautiful 2016 Lineup

Life is Beautiful returns to Las Vegas this September 23-25 for its fourth year. Started in 2013, Life is Beautiful regularly features a healthy mix of hip-hop, alternative, rock, indie, and dance music. This year’s boasts one of its most robust lineups with artists like Bassnectar, Mumford & Sons, Flume, The Temper Trap, Third Eye Blind, Crystal Castles, Galantis, Die Antwoord, Chromeo, G-Eazy, The Shins, Duke Dumont, Gryffin, and many more.

On all three days, the festival opens at 2PM and ends at 1AM. Tickets are currently on sale with 3-day general admission tickets starting at $285 and 3-day VIP tickets starting at $655. A range of other ticketing options are available.

The event touts itself as a “movement,” a “soul collective” of “dreamers and doers.” Because of this, the festival boasts a number of attractions in addition to music, including art installations and learning workshops. The event looks like it will be a spectacular experience. For more information, check the Life is Beautiful website.

Sunset Music Festival 2016 Takes Over Tampa

SMF 2016

Last weekend, approximately 30,000 patrons per day took over Raymond James Stadium in Tampa for Sunset Music Festival, leaving behind the bitter-sweet memories of a weekend packed full of music and dancing.

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Take us back #SMF16

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When Sunset’s lineup was released, I was a little disappointed to see that there were a lot of repeat artists. However, I think I was a little quick to judge, because once I got into the festival, I was reminded of why I always have so much fun at SMF: carefully crafted stages that cater to different styles of music. SMF is by no means the only festival that does this; they just seem to do a particularly good job of balancing the stages with great headlining artists for specific styles of music. On both days, the main stage naturally attracted the more popular and mainstream styles of dance music, artists that are more likely to be played on the radio. Over the weekend, the main stage had performances including 3LAU, Hardwell, Galantis, Borgeous, Jack U, The Chainsmokers, Cash Cash, Jauz, Marshmello, and others. Regardless of your tastes in music, it’s healthy to see big names like this at a festival like Sunset. The big names attract a large crowd and allow promoters to make the entire event a much bigger spectacle. There’s a trickle-down effect, so that when patrons pay to see big names at a festival, the other stages that showcase less-popular, but still immensely talented artists, benefit. Speaking for my own personal preferences, this is something that I love to see. Even though I don’t spend much time at the main stage, I still appreciate the presence, because that means I can spend my days and nights dancing and marveling at the side stages.

Day One of the Eclipse Stage targeted the trance crowd with artists like Pierce Fulton, Andrew Bayer, Ilan Bluestone, Tritonal, Ferry Corsten, and Seven Lions. It’s always a pleasure to see veterans like Ferry Corsten. He put on a spectacular show, and his decades of experience as a DJ and producer were evident with the way he captivated the Eclipse Stage.

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Rezz SMF 2016

Rezz gets the crowd moving at the Horizon Stage

Day One of the Horizon Stage targeted House and Techno fans with artists like Rezz, Shaun Frank, J.Phlip, Mija, Justin Martin, and Claude VonStroke. I was not previously familiar with Rezz (shame on me), but she was the first artist I caught a glimpse of at the Horizon Stage. It’s been a while since I walked onto a dance floor and been completely caught off guard with the music, but Rezz did just that, in the best way possible. Rezz’s take on music feels a little dark. She blends different genres together, with the core element of her music seeming to be bass. Transitioning between dubstep-ish and bass-heavy house music with thumping beats, Rezz throws down tracks that sound like they come from an earlier, less pop-influenced time of dance music. Originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario, and with releases on deadmau5’s label, mau5trap, Rezz showed her support for a fellow Canadian producer by throwing in some older deadmau5 tracks like Right This Second and Raise Your Weapon; the nostalgia in me was giddy with joy.

As Rezz’s set came to a close, Shaun Frank took the stage and put down some more upbeat tracks with his signature wobbly house sound. The Tampa Bay area is no stranger to Shaun Frank, as he performed last summer at Shephard’s in Clearwater. It was nice seeing him back in the area in front of a larger crowd. After Shaun Frank, J.Phlip took over with some alien-sounding house music, which was followed by another female DJ, Mija. Mija had a great performance at SMF last year, so it was cool to see her progression as an artist, with her set being scheduled for later in the evening this year. It’s refreshing to see artists like Rezz, J.Phlip, and Mija, three females that have a fresh take on dance music, commanding the stage for a good period of time. I took a short break from the Horizon Stage to catch some other artists, but made sure to get back for Claude VonStroke. I had high expectations for this veteran, and I was not let down. His mastery of the DJ decks was evident as he closed out the Horizon Stage.

Day Two of the Eclipse Stage showcased bass-heavy artists like Team EZY, Party Favor, Funtcase, Bro Safari, Snails, Zomboy, and Borgore. Team EZY played a nice blend of Hip-Hop and electronic music. I really appreciated that at an early slot like 3PM, he played music that was upbeat enough to get the crowd dancing, but not so heavy that it wore the crowd out early in the day, a trait that other opening artists could take notes from. He fills the opening set appropriately, but with his technical skills, it’s clear that he is destined for bigger sets as his music gains in popularity.

Day Two of the Horizon Stage had a mix of Bass music early in the day with House music later in the night. Louis the Child, like Team EZY, injects a bit of Hip-Hop into their productions and sets. Throwing in some old-school Kid Cudi was a pleasant surprise. After Louis the Child, Jai Wolf took the stage and graced the dance floor with his cerebral sound. As the sun dropped lower in the sky, Jai Wolf transitioned into more appropriately rowdy music.

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After Jai Wolf, I made my way to main stage to catch a little bit of Anna Lunoe and Marshmello. Anna Lunoe was the fourth and final female artist to perform at SMF, and like the three that came before her, she did a stellar job. With the sun low in the sky, she played suitably groovy music to close out her set. Marshmello was up next. Although he produces some great music and can play a fun show, his set seemed far too similar to another Tampa set that he played at the Amp in Ybor in December 2015.

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Back at the Horizon Stage, Lane 8 was playing his signature feel-good tunes that seem to cross between Progressive Trance and House. As he played “Midnight” with the sun beaming through the partly-covered Horizon Stage, I couldn’t help grinning ear to ear, knowing that the song was just getting me primed for the sun to go down and the music to kick it up a notch. Thomas Jack took the stage next and boy did he put on a show! Thomas Jack knows how to read a crowd and smoothly mix together a nice blend of Tropical House and House music, sure to get your feet moving. His complementary light setup is one that sets the mood through subtlety. Sam Feldt came up next, closing out the night at the Horizon Stage. Although his transitions are a little less subtle than that of Thomas Jack, he has a ton of fun with the crowd. He also brought along his live saxophone player, Justin Ward, which was a pleasant surprise as the sounds of the sax closed the night.

 

Unfortunately, SMF was not fun-filled for everyone. Tampa police said they made 25 felony arrests and 8 misdemeanor arrests. Additionally, 57 people were hospitalized, and two tragically passed away. 21-year-old Katie Bermudez of Kissimmee and 22-year-old Alex Haynes of Melbourne were both hospitalized, but ultimately perished. Toxicology reports have not been released yet, but heat was undoubtedly a contributing factor, as temperatures reached 93°F, with no relief from any rain this year. It’s always unfortunate to hear about deaths like these. An event like this should serve as an opportunity to educate patrons and improve the experience in the future. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn hopes that this spells the end for Sunset Music Festival, but ending Sunset Music Festival is a seemingly simple solution for a complex problem. It may be the politically expedient thing to do, but it’s not any kind of long-term solution that would do anything to end drug-related injuries or deaths, and ultimately results in events going underground, where rules and regulations do not apply.

Tragedies like this should act as a reminder that the best way to address drug-related deaths are through education and promoting safety and harm-reduction. Unfortunately, the 2003 RAVE Act makes it very difficult for promoters and venues to educate the public, out of fear that they would be punished harshly. Due to the language of the law, promoters fear being prosecuted if their venue appears to condone drug use by providing cool-down rooms, free water, glowsticks, drug testing, or other amenities that are sometimes associated with drug use. Oftentimes, drug-related deaths at large events like SMF are a result of patrons unknowingly buying and using adulterated drugs, a problem that could easily be mitigated by allowing on-site drug testing. On-site drug testing should not be seen as condoning or encouraging drug use, but instead, it is a realistic attitude that encourages patrons to be as safe as possible. The majority of Americans believe that the most effect approach to sex education is to realize that adolescents are going to have sex, so the best way to address the issue is to ensure that they are properly educated and have the tools so that they do it in the safest way possible. Why would we not take this same approach with drug use?

Sunset Music Festival goes to great lengths to ensure the safety of its patrons; they were not negligent in this regard. At check-in, there is police presence, drug-sniffing dogs, and TSA-style searches. Once inside the festival, there are EMS, police, and security patrolling the venue. Additionally, free water is provided throughout the venue, as are cool-down areas. Ryan Raddon, AKA EDM superstar Kaskade said it best: “Clearly, if the US Government hasn’t come up with the magic bullet to quell the problem of drugs in this country, it is not reasonable to expect an event promoter to pull this kind of trick out of his hat either.” Banning EDM events is a short-sighted solution that does a disservice to the public. If we truly want to address drug use in the US and the world, the most effective approach is a realistic one that understands that drug use is a social problem, not a criminal one, which calls for social solutions, like prevention, harm reduction, safety, and education.

The promoters running SMF care about its patrons and the local community. I am confident that if they work with local law enforcement, EMS, and politicians, they can come together to create a solution that allows Sunset Music Festival to continue to spread the joy of music in the area, while also maximizing safety and preventing issues in the future.

Sunset Music Festival 2016: Artist Preview

Sunset Music Festival is just around the corner (make sure to get your tickets!) and with that in mind, we wanted to let our readers know of artists that we’re excited to see. This year’s lineup is pretty star-studded with the likes of The Chainsmokers, Jack U, Galantis, Hardwell, and other big names. However, we like to shed light on some of the lesser known artists that are busy making fresh waves in the ocean of music. If you don’t already know about these artists, make sure to keep an eye out for them as their following only gets larger.

Team EZY

LA-based Team EZY AKA Drew Gold spent the last five years touring with Skrillex in various management roles. His debut single (Pretty Bye Bye) released earlier this year was a collaboration with Skrillex. Now he’s starting his own artist venture and Sunset Music Festival is one of his first stops. His music style ranges from chill and liquid to hard and raw. The influence from Skrillex and OWSLA on his music style is evident, yet he still brings his own special touch that brings his bass music to life.

Lost Kings

This duo consisting of Robert Gainley and Dr. No have been blazing their trail through the dance music scene over the last year, most recently inking a deal with Spinnin’. These make some really fun music and seem like they really know how to have a good time on stage.

Jai Wolf

Jai Wolf has been making moves in the dance world lately, having done official work for Alesso, Dirty South, ODESZA, and more. His style brings in hip-hop, pop, and bass elements, resulting in some smooth and euphoric tunes that fill the room and capture the moment. His remixes of Miss U, Heroes, and Say My Name are all great examples of his ability to take a popular song and put his unique feel-good spin on it.

Vanic

British Columbia native Vanic AKA Jesse Hughes has been absolutely crushing the bass music scene. With a wide selection of originals and remixes, his style is a nice balance of rowdy and euphoric. Vanic knows how to bring the party atmosphere, so definitely check out his set at SMF!

Louis the Child

This duo hailing from Chicago says their goal is to make music that makes people happy. With releases on Skrillex’s label OWSLA, the two have enjoyed widespread critical acclaim with their single “It’s Strange” having been featured on popular radio shows like BBC and Triple J. The two set the atmosphere with their chill bass beats.

Bonus: Claude VonStroke

Ok, so Claude VonStroke is not up-and-coming by any means, but he really needed his own little shout-out. He has been a dominate force in the house music scene for over ten years. This is one of those artists that knows how to produce, but if you ask me, he really shines while on the decks. His technical skills when it comes to DJing will leave you floored. His set will undoubtedly get the feet moving!

Imagine Music Festival 2016: Lineup & Info

Imagine Music Festival Logo

Imagine Music Festival returns to Atlanta, GA for its third year. Previously a two-day event, Imagine expands to three-days this year, taking place from August 26-28, 2016. The festival previously took place at Atlanta’s Historic Fourth Ward and Masquerade Music Park, however, the location for this year’s event has not yet been unannounced. Undoubtedly, this has to do with their expansion, as this will be the first year that Imagine has the option to camp at the festival. This should be a great indicator of the festival’s prospects; Imagine has been hailed as one of the top festivals in the country, and continues to show its dominance as a music and arts festival. This year, the festival boasts an impressive lineup, with artists like Nero, Zeds Dead, Gramatik, Benny Benassi, Borgore, Dillon Francis, Excision, Beats Antique, Caspa B2B Rusko, Pantyraid, The Opiuo Band, Lotus, Doctor P, EDX, and many more. This is only the first phase of the lineup release, so expect even more top artists to be added!

In addition to the music, the festival curators have gone to great lengths to differentiate Imagine from other festivals by putting an emphasis on performance art and other attractions. This year’s festival will include special events and workshops, amusement rides, aquatic environments, circus performances, and a silent disco. Tickets are currently on sale: General Admission tickets are $188.44 (fees included), while VIP tickets are currently selling for $324.94 (fees included). For those looking to camp, all patrons must have both a festival pass and a camping pass. GA camping passes are selling for $84.43 (fees included), while VIP camping passes are going for $125.44 (fees included). This means that the total cost for GA camping is $272.87, while the total cost for VIP camping is $450.38. For those that are not camping and instead need a weekend parking pass, those passes are selling for $47.94 (fees included). A range of other options and amenities are available, including RV camping and shuttles. Make sure to check out the full list of ticket options and read the fine print carefully so that you buy the correct selection of passes! It looks like the Imagine Music Festival website still has some parts that are under construction. As the date gets closer, make sure to check back to see what FAQs and information are available.