It was one of those days where you wake up calmly, batting your lashes in the morning light seeping through the window overhead, peacefully adjusting to the reality of the hour and day…and then, in an instant, flail in panic, cursing every essence of yourself because the sun is way too bright to represent the time your piece-of-shit alarm clock was supposed to wake you up for your fucking job. The clocks reads 10:01 a.m., and my phone tells me I’ve accumulated more than a few missed calls and text messages from around the time (an hour and a half ago) I was supposed to be in the company van headed north on the BQE toward Randall’s Island for the third and final day of the giaganto EDM festival Electric Zoo.
Expecting the worst condemnation a boss could muster, I don’t bother to read the texts or listen to the voicemails. I, naturally, call immediately.
“Hey man, I’m sorry! I set like three fucking alarms! I’ll get on the next train and be there in an…”
He interrupts my groggy, babble.
“Don’t worry about it. The event’s cancelled. Too many people died. I’ve got to go, I’ll talk to you later. Get some sleep.”
It’s Sunday, Labor Day weekend, and I had been working in a food stand at the fest for 36 of the last 48 hours and didn’t quite believe what I was hearing. I mean, one of my co-workers did assert the first day of the fest that “if no one dies at this thing, then Darwinism isn’t real.” But, that’s just something people say when frustrated with a long day serving some of the most impatient and absent-minded customers the E-World can offer, right? My head’s spinning, and I’m more worried about the implications of the future of my employment than the assumed overdoses of some kandi kids. I’ve been awake for ten minutes and am still struggling to absorb the growing number of posts reporting that the Zoo’s cancellation was the result of two deaths and four hospitalizations over the course of its first two days.
<p>Thanks to the morbid mulligan, I have the day off and decide to meet up with one of my friends for lunch who is in town for Captured Tracks Five-Year Anniversary Festival known as CT5. Ian Signore is also a journo, and reports on the DC scene. I sit down with him and a couple of his friends at a cafe in Williamsburg. He tells me a little about MINKS and Mac DeMarco’s sets from CT5's first day while I regale the gang with tales from my last 48-hours at Randall’s Island. “Their eyes, you should’ve seen their eyes!”
Around dusk on Saturday at the Zoo, the population vying for eats at the stand I was working were far from what I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’ve never seen the likes of tens of thousands of Lisa Frank-inspired amphetamine hounds concentrated on an island of dubstep. Out there, there are linebacker motherfuckers, riddled with acne and completely shaven, decked out like some suburban thirteen-year-old’s middle school fantasy calendar. Kandi beads expressing their devotion for “Erica” or “Christina” wrap clear up the EDM juggernauts’ arms. A girl accompanying one such character dawns “slut” on one of her kandi wristbands. The girls with these types aren’t allowed to order for themselves, the men do all the talking.
Pairs of girls with plush, rainbow leg warmers approach the booth only diverting their attention away from sucking on light-up pacifiers for a moment to ask for food. “I wasn't even hungry, but I had to put something down there,” one teenage drug noid conveys. Weekend warriors in button-ups, losing their shit, no color left in their eyes, contend we are taking too long to make their food after a minute. “Where is Tiësto playing?!” Shredder Ewoks — those wearing beaded masks and long, fuzzy bear hoods — roam the field with confidence; I feel like they know what they're doing. Dayglo chumps, sporting all the overstock tennis gear from some Nike outlet in Jersey, find their way to the water station adjacent to me without an apparatus to put the liquid in. This place was all fucky, and Datsik sure wasn't helping with that video of steel teeth chomping and grinding in front of flames on the elaborate video screens wrapped around the Hilltop Arena tent during his DJ set. The beauty of ravers sprinting across the field to be involved in a bass drop was long gone by sun down. Darkness dominated the dilated pupils of the E-Zoo once the amalgamation of various powders and cleaning supplies disguised as designer drugs took hold.
Finishing up lunch, Signore and I say goodbye to his friends and walk over to No Name in Greenpoint for a couple two-tree. We share terrible stories about the frustrations of writing, women and fighting the good fight; healthy talk for an afternoon buzz. He tells me I should just go to CT5 with him. Might as well do something redeeming for the day besides taking a shower. It seems like a decent idea, and it’s only $30 which seems reasonable compared to Zoo's rate of $120/day.
Upon arrival at The Well in E. Williamsburg, where Captured Tracks’ festival is being held, the crowd is a lot more sedate. Chuck Taylor’s, flats, cut-offs, black stockings, shredded earth-tone tees and drab dresses dawn the stock of this party. You can’t really compare an experience full of Molly zombs gnawing their enamel away in an open field verses hundreds swaying to the bubbly sounds of hazy, saddo rock in a Brooklyn back alley. If anything, it just goes to show the variety New York has to offer on a weekend-to-weekend basis; granted this is an extended weekend latching on Labor Day. At most, pot is the most apparent illicit draw for kicks at a place like this. I brain storm with Signore over a spliff while an all-star Captured Tracks band featuring Z.C. Smith (of DIIV), Dustin Payseur (of Beach Fossils), Jack Tatum (of Wild Nothing) and Mac DeMarco, Esq. play through a series of covers including a couple of Blank Dogs (Mike Sniper, founder of Captured Tracks’ band) numbers. He tells me the title of the story should be: CT5: Death Count '0'.
I make an attempt to find someone else who also attended the Electric Zoo, but realize I may be the only one after talking to Jack Tatum and Juan Wauters of The Beets. But, Z.C. Smith keeps me curious.
Over the course of Widowspeak, Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing’s sets I get some time with the guys to talk their involvement with the iconic Brooklyn label and their thoughts on EDM…you know, to keep the whole Zoo vibe alive. After all, its absence is the only reason for my presence at The Well.
Here’s what they had to say:
Jack Tatum of Wild Nothing
What does it mean to you being involved with CT5, having been a part of Captured Tracks since your beginnings?
It means a lot. It’s cool. It seems like a really good time to do this; it’s a really good time to get these bands together. A lot of the bands on the label–we kind of know each other and we’re familiar with each other, but it’s hard to get everyone together at the same spot at the same time to do something like this. The fact that it was able to happen in general is kind of amazing. It’s a really good chance for us to be together as a label. I didn’t think of it as anniversary or as like a celebration, more as a reason to get everyone together.
Do you ever listen to EDM, and have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were interacting with it?
No, but I have because we’ve played a lot of the bigger summer festivals this year. We played Bonnaroo, we played Lallapalooza and Coachella; and that’s a part of that festival culture. It’s so strange, though, because I feel like that someone who doesn’t listen to that, it’s not my prerogative to go see those acts when I’m at a festival. But it’s there, and you know it’s there. It was funny for me being at Coachella because there was this one tent that was specifically the EDM tent, and it was just a non-stop party. I’m the type of person who can’t really find fault in what someone else likes. If you’re into something, that’s you, that’s your thing. That’s true. Who am I to tell someone what to like? I have my own taste: I don’t like EDM. But that’s a different environment, and it’s such a young thing. It’s very noticeable at a lot of these bigger festivals when you would walk past this sort of EDM zone. It’s very young: teenagers, early 20s.
Have you ever joined in on a build and drop at one of those sets?
Nothing like that. There’s things that are relatively connected to that that I’m kind of into like…I like some Major Lazer songs. Not that that’s part of that, but it’s sort of in that world with festival bookings.
You know Diplo was going for the world twerking record at Electronic Zoo today, but that’s not going to happen…
That didn’t happen. [Zoo’s] a very different world then what I’m used to. I’m sure there’s people here that listen to EDM.
There’s gotta be one person from Zoo here, right?
Maybe, I dunno. It’s a far shot.
Juan Wauters of The Beets
What does it mean to you being involved with CT5, having been a part of Captured Tracks since your beginnings?
To me it means a lot to be here tonight, and to be able to appreciate how many people have liked it and how people who have shown up here. The label keeps changing character but the relationship that we have kept with the label and with [Mike Sniper] has been great, so it’s fun to keep in touch and be around.
Do you still find that you have a lot of connections with the people of Captured Tracks since you had the first LP the label released with Spit In the Face of People Who Don’t Want to Be Cool?
The first band that came through while we are on that label was Beach Fossils. With them, we have a great connection. I don’t see them often, we’re not friends but they’re people that I see and we have a connection.
Beach Fossils was the first band to kind of like make a sound for the label, cuz what we do is very unique so not many other people want to recreate it or do it, it’s kind of hard. We’re based in song writing that comes from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, the Ramones…these bands are based on a sound that is being created now, which seems like an exciting thing but we shoot for something that is timeless. At the same time, we have a connection through the label. We’ve always been team players, and when it comes down to it we’re boys.
Have you been to, or played, a scene as The Beets with EDM involved?
I’m a big rock ‘n’ roll, American songwriting guy. Never at that kind of show. We can play here, at a dive bar, at a fashion party. That’s my mission as an artist to create accessibility. If we go to an electronic party, maybe they will like it. Keep it in mind that we are artists and have a mission and a statement.
Have you ever listened to a Skrillex song on your own accord?
I don’t know who this is. I wish them the best luck. I’m caught up with the Ramones and The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Howard Stern. I’m caught up in that loop.
Z.C. Smith of DIIV (Bushwick Ave. en route to retrieving a burrito and Sky Ferreira’s salad)
Being that you started off playing drums with Beach Fossils and moving to the level you’re at through this label with DIIV, how do you feel playing a festival where you’re able to watch your old band and hang out with the people you more or less have grown up with since you started creating music associated with Captured Tracks?
It’s so awesome to be a part of this family thing, it’s just a family vibe the whole time you’re there. It’s rare where you find a festival where the frontmen of five bands will get together and form a new band and play a bunch of songs from other bands on the label. Today, it was me, Justin from Beach Fossils, Jack from Wild Nothing, Mac DeMarco and our friend Matt Kallman–we had Justin [Vallesteros] from Craft Spells come up and sing a bunch of his songs. We just did this thing for fun, played a bunch of those songs from other bands on the label. It just felt really good, it’s a family vibe. I think there’s something about the label that kind of forces you and pushes you up to this next level. Every band has to get their shit together really fast because we all started as kind of solo, home projects. Not like bedroom projects in the classic sense–I hate that kind of cliche idea of a bedroom pop project. We all started as just one person, each of us starting our own band: Justin or Jack or any of them. Captured Tracks has so much cred, it sells all these records. And the bands have to get their shit together so fast because all the sudden you have to be playing these shows to support these records you’ve sold, and all the sudden you have all this attention and people want to watch you play. It forces you to step up and do it, it’s really cool.
What do you know about Electric Zoo?
I didn’t know it was happening right now, but it sounded like a cool thing. I heard something about it that made me kind of cringe which was the Diplo [twerking record] thing. I was like, ‘this sounds really stupid.’
Do you ever find yourself listening to the harder variety of electronic music?
Not really. Sky [Ferreira] is friends with [Diplo], and I think they’ve collaborated before. As far as EDM, no. I do listen to electronic music, but I listen to a lot of dub. I listen to a little bit of electro-pop, but [EDM] is not really where my interest lies.
Have you ever found yourself around an EDM tent in the various festivals DIIV has played?
Yeah, at Melt! Festival in Berlin there was some crazy dance tent. There was one at Coachella where I wound up watching Tiësto, but I don’t really know where his stuff falls genre wise. It’s fun to just dance and get crazy with a bunch of people you don’t know.
So you’ve definitely been a part of a build and drop at one of these harder electro shows?
Actually, kind of one of the most fun experiences of my entire life was when Beach Fossils was on tour on the West Coast. We played a show in Santa Cruz, and in Santa Cruz there was this place where downstairs there was this rock venue and upstairs there was this huge club…huge fucking club. It was during the summer, so there weren’t that many college students there. We ended up playing to 50 people, or something like that. Then we walk outside and there’s this crazy line around the entire block getting into the same building as our show, and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, blah-blah-blah is playing upstairs.” Some big dubstep name, I have no idea who it was. So me and Dustin [Payseur] went completely ape shit. I think I got my hands on some drugs. I definitely got my hands on some drugs, and we’d been drinking all day. We just went crazy, dancing. Just acting like total idiots. It was one of the most fun nights of my entire life. And we didn’t stay till the end or anything like that by any means, but just danced crazy for an hour and woke up the next morning and could barely move, just so sore. It was so crazy, we’d just find some person and imitate that person, just playing all sorts of games. It wasn’t really like sincere appreciation. We were definitely engaging it in the way of being dicks, but we weren’t detracting. We were definitely giving energy, trying to be the life of the party.