Fall is definitely upon us, but there’s always room for one more music festival, right? This past weekend, the inaugural Escape Music Festival took place on Governor’s Island. Rainy weather and a last minute venue change couldn’t keep thousands of fans from flocking to the island to shed their inhibitions and enjoy one last rave under the stars.
I arrived to the island as I usually arrive to any show, unfashionably early. Luckily for me, it gave me a chance to get the lay of the land. The festival was divided into two stages, main stage, and a smaller stage called The Courtyard. The latter would be used mostly for deejays.
I wouldn’t call myself an electronic music aficionado by any means, but who doesn’t enjoy thumping bass lines?! Killing two birds with one stone, I found myself two stepping, (my answer to being a terrible dancer), and sheltering from the rain while listening to JDH & Dave P rock the crowd. The duo, who midway into their set, the clouds parted, and I decided to head over to the main stage to catch Basecamp’s set. Dressed in all black, wearing black beanies, the trio crafted a sound that drew me in. Lead singer Aaron Miller had a great, soulful voice, with lyrics to match. They definitely earned a new fan with the set they threw down.
A short pit stop to grab mini pancakes from the food vendor and it was time for Ra Ra Riot to take the stage. This is a band that I’ve been a casual fan of for a while now after one of my coworkers talked incessantly about how “sick” they were. My coworker was accurate. Lead singer Wes Miles has a voice that is effortlessly flawless. He was so good that I swore I was listening to the recorded versions of the songs. They had a small snafu with their drum kit that forced them to perform a song that conveniently doesn’t need drums called “The Orchard.” Thank goodness for technical difficulties because while it served to further showcase Wes’ badass, flawless vocals, you could clearly hear Rebecca Zeller on violin, and Milo Bonacci on guitar. They were definitely one of my Saturday favorites.
A quick sprint across the grounds back to the Courtyard to see Wolf + Lamb heat things up. By this time, there were many people stripped down to the barest of clothing, or donning different costumes. I stayed to watch the festivities, participating again with my signature two step, and smiled at the crowd clearly enjoying themselves.
Next up was electronic duo The Crystal Method, absolute veterans of the electronic dance scene. By that time, the crowed had doubled in size, partygoers young and old pressed against the barriers trying to get as close to the oversized speakers as possible. It was easy to tell how they earned their legend status, as it didn’t take much to get the crowd moving. Their set was quite exciting; lasers shooting off wildly in every direction, and every now and then Scott Kirkland would hold up an iPad while messages to the crowd would scroll across the screen.
Another act at the Courtyard I really wanted to see was Plastic Plates and Sam Sparro. I’ve been singing Sam’s song “Black & Gold” for ages now and I hoped to hear it live. They didn’t disappoint. Every now and then Sam would break out singing, while Felix would continue on deejay duty. They had a great kinship onstage; smiling and joking around with each other while they worked. I really enjoyed their set and would definitely check them out again.
The siren song of buffalo wings led me astray for 15 minutes, but I managed to make it back to the main stage for Yeasayer’s set at 6:30. Throughout the day, Yeasayer was a band that many people mentioned they were excited to see. That was evident again as they took the stage to a round of rousing applause and shouts of “I LOVE THESE GUYS!” I had to admit I wasn’t familiar with their music until now, but they put on an excellent performance. I looked around me and saw no less than 3 photographers sitting down and watching the show. Everyone was truly captivated.
Placebo sauntered on stage shortly after 8pm, and with a near full house, rocked everyone’s faces off for close to 90 minutes. They played most of their newest album “Loud Like Love” including “Too Many Friends”, a song about the hazards of having too many online friends you don’t actually know and the grandiose love song – “Hold On To Me”. Placebo and lead singer, Brian Molko, reminded all of us why they continue to sell out arenas across the world for the last 18 years.
And finally Saturday’s closing set was none other than Moby. While some were hoping for a full on performance, Moby delivered a deejay set, that whipped the crowd into chaos. All and all a great opening day for Escape Music Festival.