Crush Music Festival - Arizona Event Center - 2/15/14
It wasn't without a few downers, however few there were. Specifically, there were really only two things: the heat and the packed crowd near the main stage. The former is sort of inevitable, given the sheer amount of sweaty bodies in attendance. There was literally a thick mugginess to the air inside the Arizona Event Center all evening that just kind of smacked you in the face when you entered, especially in the mainstage room, and it's all people were talking about towards the end of the night.
At the same time, there hasn't ever been to rave that didn't get a little warm and once you became acclimated to the swelter, it tended not to be such a big deal. And the excitement of seeing all the DJs headlining the Crush Fest (divided between two stages) probably helped with that.
Unfortunately, as is true for most festivals, it's nearly impossible to see every single act that's booked. Luckily, I was able to catch some of must-see DJs that I included in my Crush Fest preview, as well as some bonus artists.
While I caught glimpses of almost all of the acts featured, I really paid attention to ill.Gates, Henry Fong, Dirtyphonics, and DVBBS. And although I honestly enjoyed all of the sets I watched, I have to say that Dirtyphonics totally killed it, hands down.
Their energy was so intense that it's safe to say that their set basically ear fucked the shit out of the crowd. Not to mention that they endured the swamp-like feeling in the mainstage area.
As for ill.Gates' performance, the Toronto-based artist slowly mixed into the CDJs and it took him a few minutes to fully transition from downtempo to what would be a pretty bass-heavy set.
He changed up the vibe, however, with a fat bass track and remix of Eminem's "My Name Is," as part of an overall ebb and flow to things, going between long builds with heavy bass lines that led into intense drops and faster, louder dubstep and drum 'n' bass. He'd also occasionally cut off into a hip-hop track, throwing the crowd off -- in a good way. I personally like when DJs mix it up and give the crowd time to breath between high-energy tracks. I think this "marathon, not a race" approach keeps people from getting worn out too quickly.
It's something that ill.Gates agreed with when I spoke to him afterwards. He talked about how he likes to change things up and wants each song to sound naturally different, something that "just kind of happens" for him due the amount of collaborations he does with different MCs.
"I listen to a lot of rap music. Today I went easy on it because these kids want bass and raging. So I didn't really play too much vocal stuff today. I try to keep the sets different each night," he says. "Those kids were up for it, they were just ready. I get to have the most fun ever because these awesome people buy tickets and dance to my music, and tell their friends about it. It's great. It's a blessing and something I'm never going to take for granted."
ill.Gates is currently on a tour with fellow Crush Fest performers Excision and Dirtyphonics. He's also a regular performer at Burning Man and Shambala and will be playing at Walkarusa in June. He noted that this year he would be playing other festivals. And will Bonnaroo be one of 'em? "We'll see," he says. "We'll see."