Oliver Heldens plays the Shadowlands Stage on Saturday of Something Wicked (Photos from Rukes.com)
Sam Houston Race Park became a destination for all things neon last weekend when Something Wicked returned to Texas for two packed days of electronic music, dancing and good vibes. Disco Donnie Presents and Nightculture curated a diverse lineup of DJs, elaborate stage designs and appearances from the Wicked Creatures, a dance tribe with tricked out costumes that heightened the outdoor rave’s ethereal, Halloween theme.
Lovers of trance and top-40 pop found no shortage of fun at the Shadowlands Stage which stayed consistently crowded from about 4 PM Saturday until Kaskade closed out the festival on Sunday night with an assault of soaring vocals and multi-color fireworks. This was the same stage where Tony Junior would remind us that we are Immortal, where Oliver Heldens would prove why house is still king with a varied sunset show featuring 90s throwbacks and fluid bass lines. Panda Funk frontman Deorro brought a comedic touch to his set on Saturday night when he played When Will the Bass Drop (Turn Up to Death!) as made famous by SNL earlier this summer when Andy Samberg played an overpaid DJ named DaVinci in a digital short with a talent for blowing minds with the push of a single button labeled “bass”. He used the satire sketch that poked fun at the EDM industry to get the crowd totally TURNT.
Deorro plays Shadowlands Stage on Saturday of Something Wicked (Photos from Rukes.com)
Speaking of TURNT, VIP was straight killing it on Saturday night! “IS THIS YOUR DAD?” an excited concert goer inquired. With my instant response of “F&A! YEAH!”, I learned that this party crew was vibing with their mom in tow. It was the kind of magic that only comes to life at festivals, and voila, new friends were made. THAT IS WHY I LOVE FESTIVALS. And unlike most VIP sections I’ve encountered, these people came to DANCE! It was a lively crowd, all of whom were fun, friendly and happy to be living in the moment. THUMBS UP, VIP!
By the time Fool’s Gold crusader A-Trak took the stage, it was officially party time. This crowd must have been itchy because his scratch felt so right. A tall dude standing next to us explained to my pops, “You’ll see why this guy is different! He’s actually up there spinning and scratching!” The Duck Sauce DJ was bringing hits, including a remix of one of my summer’s favorites, NRG (also featuring Milo & Otis, Kill the Noise and Skrillex). He repped his label by throwing in Danny Brown’s 2013 playful drug anthem, Dip, in between impressive scratch breaks. He made that shiz look easy too.
Dillon Francis plays the Shadowlands Stage on Saturday of Something Wicked (Photo from Rukes.com)
Then it was time for my cat loving, pizza eating, toilet selfie taking lover to grace us with his presence. Dillon Francis was undoubtedly my most anticipated show of the weekend, and I was not disappointed. I wasn’t that surprised to see him bring a more polished persona to the table, playing through most of his new release Money Sucks, Friends Rule with pleasant audience interactions, an an “all biz” attitude. There were no appearances from DJ Hansel, and The Fat Jewish didn’t show up to drink jars of nacho cheese mid-set (I’ve seen this happen before). Instead, what we did get was a really solid set that proved why Mad Decent’s former class clown deserves to be #1 on the dance charts right now. Opening with All That, intertwining enough signature moobahton grooves and finally closing out with Love in the Middle of Firefight, it was a beautifully crafted set that shined a promising light on what’s to come for my future husband. Ah! We are going to have a good life together. Thank you to my new friend who raised me up on his shoulders for the finale! That was super rad.
Flosstradamus plays the Beatport Stage on Saturday of Something Wicked (Photo from Rukes.com)
BassNectar brought the rumble to Shadowlands with his signature dub assault. The crowd was definitely feeling his new stuff, but my dad had never seen Flosstradamus, and I was still riding that Mad Decent high so we made our way across the venue for their old school set of hip-hop throwbacks featuring DMX, DJ Kool and basically everything else you wanted to hear from back when you were grinding all dirty-like at your middle school dances. The #HDYNATION was in full force, throwing their triangles up and tossing glowsticks, hats and whatever else they could find in the air on command. Floss talked a lot, as he tends to, but whatever, when you’re bringing that much trap and energy to the table, you can do whatever you want. They closed out Saturday with Turn the Crowd Into A Mosh Pit, setting the tone for how wild that stage would remain for all of Sunday.
House artists played the Beatport Stage on Sunday of Something Wicked (photo from Rukes.com)
Sunday was a day of discovery for me. With the majority of my must-see sets having taken place the prior day, I was up for winging it. While I would have pegged myself as one to go full blown dubslut at the Bass & Crypt Stage for the majority of Sunday, I ended up soaking up deep house at Beatport for most of the afternoon. Michael Brun and Amine Edge and Dance brought the chill vibes, providing a perfect backdrop for catching up with an old friend I’d run into earlier in the afternoon. We eventually made our way back over to the Shadowlands VIP area for Cedric Gervais, and after hearing Runaway for the 98th time, and my dad being compelled to yell, “I can’t turn into a little girl at 56-years-old!” We let the house bring us back to Beatport. We chilled back for Alex Metric’s set, which was more upbeat and fused more vocal-heavy hits. I’m a big fan of his single Heart Weighs a Ton, so it was cool to see just how versatile the young producer could be.
We’d had our fair share of house so we decided to catch the end of 12th Planet. By the time we arrived at Bass & Crypt, his crowd was next level. He closed his set with a rare, unreleased Skrillex remix of Lady Gaga’s Born this Way, and I knew the night had arrived. We stayed through Bro Safari, who always brings it with the drops. It was during Bro Safari’s set that my dad had a revelation and said, “Oh okay, I think I get dubstep now! So you just do whatever?” I’m not sure what that meant, but I can assure you that he had a good time. A couple of kids approached us to take photos with Rave Dad and let him know that they’d been monitoring his whereabouts all weekend. If my dad and I don’t turn up as a GIF after this weekend, we did not do our job.
Madeon plays the Beatport Stage on Sunday of Something Wicked (Photos from Rukes.com)
I warned my dad that Excision was up next. I say “warned” because I consider Excision to be the METAL of EDM. The last time I saw Excision, I could feel my hair follicles vibrating amidst the bass from his 150,000 watt sound system. We opted to see Madeon back at Beatport, and it was high fives all around. It was exactly the fun, happy closer that I needed for the weekend. At one point, I was certain that Madeon was some kind of mind reader because he played everything I wanted to hear: Dillon Francis’ Not Butter, a number of tracks from Porter Robinson’s 2014 album, Worlds, Chromeo’s Jealous (I Ain’t With It), Duck Sauce’s NRG Oliver Heldens’ Gecko . . . it really felt like the perfect set. AND, I never once saw him pick up his headphones to monitor his set progression. He was playing by ear, incorporating his scratch, and it all sounded EFFING DOPE. You’ve got a new fangirl, Madeon!
In an effort to beat the crowd, we tried ducking out early, but got pulled back into the crowd at Excision for one last dance. We were lucky enough to roll up during the finale when they were playing the Excision/Space Laces collab, Get Stupid. And so we did, dance and get stupid, one last time before saying goodbye to Something Wicked.
Excision plays the Bass & Crypt Stage on Sunday of Something Wicked (Photo from Rukes.com)
Overall, I thought the festival was remarkably well organized. We never had to wait long to get into the grounds, which remained fairly clean and well-monitored throughout the weekend. Security was mostly friendly and helpful. What I really appreciated most was that people seemed safe. Everyone appeared to be taking care of each other, and for once, I wasn’t seeing kids dropping like flies every two seconds. I do think that the festival could have benefited from a cooling tent, or some other place where people could go to calm down and escape the music for a minute. There was really nowhere to just “sit” if you needed to take a breather, and the food options were limited. But let’s be real – when you’re dancing that hard and having such a good time, does it even matter? Overall, I give the festival two thumbs up and recommend it to anyone looking to throw down in the Houston area. It energized me and made me excited to see some of the other tricks that Disco Donnie has up his sleeve. BRAVO FOLKS.