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Welcome to the Universe: A Phoenix Lights Festival 2016 Review

April 8, 2016 - by Kayle Kvinge

Phoenix Lights Festival, an 18+ Electric Music Festival in Phoenix, Arizona took place this weekend, keeping festival season in full swing. Phoenix lights kept the rave alive in the southwest, being the third major electronic music festival in Arizona this year after Decadence and Crush - officially putting Arizona on the map for EDM fans everywhere. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to attend!

The Venue

Phoenix Lights, put on by Relentless Beats, took place at Margaret T Hance Park, right in the middle of Downtown Phoenix. Parking at the venue was a breeze if you arrived early. The park was surrounded by multiple parking lots and residential areas with plenty of street parking available. However, those who arrived later to the festival found that parking was more of a challenge. Uber was also an affordable option for festival-goers. Since the venue was downtown, most hotels were no more than 15 minutes from the venue, making Uber or Lyft a great option for those not wanting to drive. The venue was on the smaller size compared to festivals with similar lineups and artists. However, the smaller size created a more intimate experience, something rare in more massive electronic music festivals. People gave each other room to dance, and making your way to the front for a specific set was not much of an issue.

The festival had two stages, Mothership State and Invasion Stage. The secondary stage, Invasion Stage, was made to look like an alien with the DJ booth being in the jaws of the alien as six tentacles extended out, accompanied by LED screens projecting high intensity visuals and intricately choreographed lights and lasers. The main stage, Mothership Stage, was significantly larger than Invasion Stage. At Mothership Stage, the dj booth was surrounded by four larger-than-life LED panels, that projected massive visuals that could clearly be seen by those dancing as far as the food vendors. What seemed like hundreds of laser and lights constantly danced in tune to the music it accompanied, creating face-melting colors and patterns.

Smooth Sailing

Phoenix Lights is a young festival, having only started last year. With a newer festival, problems are expected as it is assumed that the staff and management have not worked out all the clinks to create a smooth running system, but this was not the case. From ticket check, ID check, and all other security measures, there was organization on all levels. The longest I waited in line to enter the festival was only about 15 minutes. That in itself was a nice change from the excessive lines and unorganized crowds at the bigger festivals I am used to in California. Inside the festival, there was ample water, plenty of porta potties, and “Relentless Rangers,” serving a job similar to Insomniac’s “Ground Control,” helping people in need and being a less intimidating, extra set of eyes for security. Lines for food and other vendors moved quickly, and there was a surplus of alcohol.

Arizona vs. California Comparison

Being only the 2nd festival in Arizona that I have attended, I was pleased to see that Arizonans get down. For a purely electronic music festival, the crowd did not disappoint in outfits or positives vibes. PLUR was alive and well in Arizona, something I was not expecting since at other festivals I attended out of state, such as Ultra in Miami Florida, PLUR was nonexistent. However, there were some differences about Arizona that made it hard for out- of-state festival goers. Arizona does not accept vertical out of state IDs as a legal form of documentation when trying to buy alcohol, despite if the person is 21 or not. This means that if you are from California, over 21, but have a vertical ID and have yet to renew it, you cannot buy alcohol in the state of Arizona. The festival operated in line with this rule and did not distribute 21+ wristbands to 21 year olds who obtained a vertical license.

Bass Heavy Lineup

The first day’s lineup was all about the feels with artists like SNBRN, Eric Prydz, and of course Kaskade bringing uplifting and melodic tunes. The second day lineup, however, laid out the perfect atmosphere to get down and rage. Groovy house music kept everyone dancing all day with Drezo, Troyboi, MK, and Claude VonStroke. Tritonal broke up the harder sets for a good breather. Their set brought the emotion, playing classics like Colors and Until You Were Gone. Ghastly, Ephwurd, Excision, and DJ Snake brought the bass, and hard. It was apparent that Ghastly, a Phoenix native, saw Phoenix Lights as somewhat of a homecoming, and that energy was visible during his fun set. Unfortunately, there were some technical difficulties during Ephwurd’s set. The music cut out three separate times during their one hour set. It was obviously a mechanical error, and not the fault of either Datsik or Bais Haus, the two men behind the alias of Ephwurd. Although unfortunate, Ephwurd was able to keep energy levels high and make fun out of the malfunction, using the time to comment on all their favorite totems and laugh with the audience. Excision’s fans came out in full force. The second day, it seemed everyone was rocking the Excision “X” in some way, and this showed during the set. The energy level blew through the roof and the surrounding area was packed.

Headlining, DJ Snake played many of his own songs, plenty of bass heavy tracks, and mostly mainstream tunes, ending in the crowd-pleasing new track, “the Middle.” His set was a nice contrast to the emotional, melodic set of Kaskade’s the night before, ending the festival in a bang, making sure everyone turned up one last time before heading back to work the next day.

Moving Forward

Overall, Phoenix Lights was a well organized, fun festival with a hard hitting lineup. For being so successful in its second year, I anticipate seeing much growth in years to come. Phoenix Lights, although not known nationwide, is well on its way to being known by ravers throughout the country. I’m looking forward to seeing what Relentless Beats and Phoenix Lights bring in 2017.

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