On the Road with Identity Festival
When reporting on EDM festivals previously I have taken the perspective of a rock fan at an electronic music show. While it would be enjoyable to write here about Identity Festival the same way I wrote about Ultra, it seems the blog I wrote from that perspective has been imitated by others reporting on the festival. While I will take that as flattery, it seems redundant at this point to take an outsider’s perspective. In fact I have been immersed in the EDM sound for over a year now (a little late to the party I know) as well as the production it takes to craft a festival worthy track (only witnessed and not a party to). With a better understanding of the music, sub genre after sub genre, and the supporters of the EDM scene, it seems more appropriate to give you all a review of the festival as well as some news from the stops on the tour that some of you may not be privy to.
Identity Festival, now in its second year, hosted some of the biggest names in EDM last year including Kaskade, Steve Aoki, Rusko, and Datsik just to name a few. Datsik was one of the few that tagged along for this years tour (only one stop in Virginia) mostly because the big headliners last year are either on their own tour like Kaskade, or jet setting and performing around the world like Steve Aoki. This year saw some big names as well as some newcomers to the scene. If history repeats itself, acts like Eric Prydz, Madeon, Wolfgang Gartner, and Le Castle Vania who are headlining the stops on this year’s tour, can be expected to gain some serious popularity at tour’s end.
While the shows were great and getting a chance to meet and talk to festival goers was its own special treat, the real fun was happening on board the Mobile Studio. While this is as much a report on the four dates of the Identity Festival that the Mobile Studio visited (Mansfield, Wantagh, Philadelphia, and Atlanta) it’s also a preview of the blogs and videos that will be coming out of our trip to Identity Festival.
The first stop for us on the Identity Festival tour was Mansfield, Massachusetts. While a small town outside of Boston, it has the Comcast Center amphitheatre which has had a sordid history when it comes to keeping festival goers safe. This year was no exception with the day’s events resulting in two deaths and forty-five arrests. Our condolences go out to the families of the two who passed away at the Mansfield show. While this was a sobering reality that hit many of the artists when the tour landed in Wantagh the following day, the vibe in Mansfield was very positive and the artists were running at full speed. Korn frontman and electronica DJ Jonathan Davis (aka J-Devil) was just as fired up and full of energy as he would be at any Korn show and the crowd was enjoying the hard and gritty sounds from Path of Totality. Davis stopped by the Mobile Studio which was parked directly beside the Rockstar Stage. He toured the studio, gave us his impressions on what we need on board, and talked a little about his own studio tour bus.
Mansfield was the first place we met Stephan Jacobs, a DJ/Producer based out of California who toured the bus and immediately wanted to get to work on some of his new music. Keep checking back to the blog and YouTube channel for a first look at Stephan working on the bus. For Mansfield we were just getting our footing together for what was to come in New York.
Arriving to the Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre in Wantagh, New York we had just enough time to get the studio prepared for the day’s activity. It wasn’t long after we got everything fired up that we had Canadian DJ/Producers DVBBS come on the bus to add vocals to a track they were currently working on. They used a Sennheiser e935 and a TC Helcion Vocal Effects Pedal to do some interesting vocals for a track that had all the flair of a summer track with a Red Hot Chili Peppers inspired guitar melody. We will have an interview with these DJ/Producers coming soon. After the session we got a chance to sit down with Le Castle Vania for an interview about his studio setup and the gear he uses to make his music. Le Castle Vania, an Atlanta native and Identity Festival alum, brought the house down in every city we visited. Wantagh was no different for Le Castle Vania playing to a packed crowd on the Rockstar Stage. He gave us insight into the many producers he has worked with and how he is able to collaborate and work with artists with studios in Los Angeles. Check back with us to get a recap of the topics discussed with Le Castle Vania and some footage to his insane performances. At day’s end it was time to pack it up and head to Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia stop took us to Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing, the site of previous festival tours like the Vans Warped Tour. The venue was considerably smaller compared to other amphitheatre stops we had been to previously, but that just meant that concert goers got a lot more intimate with each other at the show. There were more people at this show early in the day and you could see the passion and admiration from the Philadelphia crowd directed at the artists performing that day. It was in Philadelphia that we met up with artist/producer MR. DOT for an impromptu recording session. He began building a song completely from scratch and using the Akai MPK 61 as the controller to make the initial rhythm and bass section. While in the middle of the session, Stephan Jacobs came through and added his flavor to the track in progress making the session a truly organic collaboration with artists of different styles. With a working song put together, I sat down with the guys to talk about the process, the gear they use for their production, and where they pull their inspiration from. A full interview with footage of the session will be coming soon. The city of brotherly love was certainly that as the crew, artists, and festival attendees were in high spirits. From here it was off to Atlanta for the Mobile Studio homecoming.
For those of you following the Mobile Studio you may have noticed that we have been on the road constantly since SXSW Music and Arts Festival in the spring. With the Atlanta stop on the Identity Festival, it was truly a chance for us to reconnect with our Atlanta friends. The Rockstar stage hosted Atlanta natives Street Lurkin and cleverly dubbed the stage the F*** Yesss stage in homage to the Atlanta party of the same name. Le Castle Vania is a regular headliner at the F*** Yesss party and it was clear from the crowd of Atlanta fans that they were there in support of Le Castle Vania and Atlanta DJ’s. Atlanta gave me a chance to watch several acts on the main stage including Wolfgang Gartner, Madeon, Le Castle Vania, and Eric Prydz. the visuals for these shows were intense and quite fun to watch. A trip backstage allowed me to see the visual effects coordinator getting down just as hard as some of the DJ’s at the show. In addition I got a chance to get close to Madeon for his set and marveled at how much work he puts into his live arrangements. The glorified button pusher stigma surrounding some DJ’s was quickly dismissed for me when watching Madeon perform. Stephan Jacobs played a great set in the rain and came on the bus to work on a couple finishing touches to his new track as well as discuss his Ableton workflow with myself and up and coming producer Mysteria. At the days end it was time to say goodbye to all the artists and crew that we were working with along the way. A huge thank you to the crew who helped get us to and from the festival as well as the artists who came on board to check out our setup and talk gear with us. We hope to see all of you in 2013.
Atlanta was the last date for us on the Identity Festival but the festival is still going strong with dates on the west coast right around the corner. For those of you in the Atlanta area that didn’t get a chance to check out the show, you have Counterpoint to look forward to next month with headliners Skrillex, Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, and plenty more at the 3 day EDM festival. As mentioned throughout this article there will be a plethora of blogs and videos to come form Identity Festival to give you all a peek at the happenings on the Mobile Studio and around the festival. For those of you that did make it to Identity, what was your favorite moment? Which artist was your favorite? What do you think of EDM festivals? Give us some feedback so we can give you the content you want to see.