The Evolution of Electric Zoo
Aug 31, 2022
6 min read
Labor Day weekend is almost here and if you live in New York City, that means the annual pilgrimage of New York festival-goers is upon us! Electric Zoo, founded by Made Event, is NYC’s first and largest electronic music festival with a long-standing history of stacked lineups, meticulous stage designs, and innovative themes. The festival brand has even branched out internationally in cities like Mexico City, Tokyo, and Shanghai.
In its inaugural year 2009, the state of electronic music in the United States was at a much different point than Europe. Inspired by dance music events overseas, event organizers Mike Bindra and Laura de Palma created a weekend-long EDM festival that showcased top-notch artists from across various subgenres, a “literal ‘zoo’ of electronic music” as they put it. Tucked away in the wilderness of Randall’s Island, festival-goers can escape the hustle and bustle of New York City and find themselves in pure bliss. In 2009, most artists only ever performed in dark nightclubs. Attendees were curious to see how that would affect the outdoor, open-air environment Electric Zoo was to offer.
Electric Zoo against the Manhattan Skyline
“We’re going to have four different environments. We’re going to have an open-air main stage, which we’ve had experience with before in the past, and it’s worked very well.” Laura de Palma said of the first Electric Zoo. “And in the tented environments, we’ll have the opportunity to create an experience-not like a club-but a unique experience within a unique environment,”
The first-ever rendition of Electric Zoo was a great success, reeling in about 26,000 attendees over two days. It also sparked a newfound excitement for the dance music scene in America.
Electric Zoo expanded to three days in 2011, and 2012 was their biggest turnout yet with 85,000 festival-goers. In 2015, Tomorrowland organizers ID&T announced their creative partnership with EZoo. Billed as “Electric Zoo Transformed,” they were looking for redemption as the festival’s third day was canceled the previous two years due to drug-related deaths and severe weather. The festival experience stood true to its title for the production was completely refurbished, featuring a massive, phoenix-inspired main stage, Riverside stage, Hilltop Arena, and the Sunday School tent. From 2015 on, Electric Zoo provided a more immersive, zoo-themed environment topped with brand new animalistic stage designs.
Electric Zoo Transformed 2015
Electric Zoo 2016: Wild Island
For its eighth anniversary, Electric Zoo turned the festival experience up a notch, impressing Zoo-attendees with an increased emphasis on its stage designs, epic art installations, and astounding performance artists. Transforming Randall’s Island into a literal “Wild Island” festival-goers could explore five unique stages: Temple of the Cobra main stage, Riverside, Sunday School Grove which brought Ibiza institution ANTS to the US for the first time, the Treehouse, and a re-designed Hilltop as the Crystal Cave.
Electric Zoo 2016 Mainstage
Electric Zoo 2017: The 6th Boro
Electric Zoo stepped up their social media game for The 6th Boro, as they revealed the newly designed stages on their YouTube channel. The video offered festival-goers a look inside the minds of the creative directors.
Electric Zoo creative director Jeff Wright explained that they were, “creating stages that allow you to get lost in the moment, feel like you’re in another place, have an experience of awe, and make memories that last a lifetime, those are the things that are important to us.”
The 2017 edition featured a jaw-dropping elephant mainstage named the “Elephant’s Roar,” an aquarium-themed Riverside stage renamed the “Undersea Dome,” Hilltop reconstructed as the “6th Boro Station,” and was the first time European legends Awakenings and elrow touched down in America, a real-life representation of the renowned warehouse district named “6th Boro Industrial Zone,” and lastly “6 Pointz” which offered local/underground DJ’s the chance to perform.
elrow at Electric Zoo 2017
Electric Zoo 2018: The Big 10
2018 was Electric Zoo’s tenth birthday, and what better way to celebrate than to throw their biggest festival yet? Hosting more than 100,000 attendees, the three-day festival was jam-packed with world-renowned DJ’s and production never before seen in EZoo history. However, they let their stages be a mystery, only those who attended were treated with the official reveal. Electric Zoo also spoiled their guests with curated stages throughout the weekend. The Sunday School Grove featured Anna Lunoe’s Beats 1 Radio Show Hyperhouse, AC Slater’s Night Bass, and Berlin techno institution HYTE. The Hilltop Arena was handed over to Zeds Dead’s Deadbeats on Saturday, and Brownies & Lemonade took over on Sunday.
HYTE at Electric Zoo 2018
Electric Zoo 2019: Evolved
Inspired by the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, Electric Zoo: Evolved was the pinnacle of the festival’s evolution. Once again taking to social media for a glimpse of the main stage, festival-goers got a sneak peak of the “tallest and widest mainstage ever” featuring the mesmerizing New York City skyline. They also announced five prominent stage takeovers including DESTRUCTO’s brand All My Friends, the return of Brownies & Lemonade, Gud Vibrations, Eric Prydz’s Pryda Arena, and Seven Lions’ Ophelia Records.
Wax Motif at Electric Zoo 2019
Electric Zoo 2021: Supernaturals
After the 2020 cancellation due to the COVID pandemic, Electric Zoo: Supernaturals had to take extra precautions such as entry requirements and cleaning policies to ensure the safety of all zoo-attendees. New York City was also the direct target of Hurricane Ida just a few days before the festival, so there must have been some “supernatural” energy protecting EZoo. Taking a step away from the animal-inspired stages, the supernatural-themed stage designs did not disappoint. The 2021 edition featured “The Den” which showcased the top house and techno acts, “The Gateway” with melodic trance and melodic bass acts, “The Teleporter” and last but not least, the main stage renamed “The Hive.” Even after battling a pandemic and a hurricane, Electric Zoo: Supernaturals lived to tell the tale.
Electric Zoo 2021
Electric Zoo 3.0
Keeping up with the ever-evolving state of technology, the 2022 edition of Electric Zoo presents 3.0. In response to previous concerns, the newly reconfigured festival grounds provide an increase in VIP areas and free water stations, and also address their solution for sound bleed issues.
“Think of it as a system update. The value and importance of community is higher than ever, crypto has caught up with cash, and digital wallets are becoming more practical than the leather ones. It’s the year of advancement – and EZoo is entirely here for it.” - EZoo
Hyped to be the most immersive outdoor festival experience New York City has ever seen, they revealed the next generation of stages. “Antheon: The Temple of Anthems” has taken on mainstage duties, “The Landing” which will provide festival-goers with an interactive visual-audio environment, “Levitron” an otherworldly, deep space experience, and “Morphosis” the new home for house music.