Fleeing the LES after a long brunch shift at the hip speakeasy, Sons of Essex, I hopped on the subway J train and made my way to catch the ferry. A boat instead of a car or train would serve as my vehicle for the night. My destination? Governors Island.
Governors Island hosts a slew of events from hiking and biking to outdoor concerts. On this particular Sunday, EDM powerhouse producers and 20-something year-olds dressed in their finest Dayglo invaded it. The occasion? Berlin-based deejay and producer, Thomas Gold. Gold has been on the scene since the early 2000’s, but has blown up over the last few years. Although I was tardy to the party, the line for the ferry was still quite long. Young women in barely-there tops, cutoff denim shorts, and heart-shaped sunnies glared as I sashayed my way to the front of the line. Ah, the perks of being ‘Press.’
The ferry ride was shorter than expected and I soon found myself on dry land again. Welcoming me was the New York City skyline and a sea of brightly dressed people all there to lose themselves to the music. Similar to many outdoor festivals, a large white tent was constructed to house the ravers as the deejays slayed their souls with beats on stage.
Prior to my arrival, Carl Kennedy did his ‘thang and Tim Mason was winding down as I got there. As the sun began to set, it was Norman Doray’s turn on the decks. I found myself torn between watching his visuals on the screen and turning around to see the pink picturesque sunset. Both we quite stimulating and mesmerizing to the eyes. It was at this moment that I truly appreciated the location of such an event—so much beauty!
When the sun finally began to say good-bye and darkness approached, you could feel the mood of the crowd change. They became more alive, much like the multi-colored light-up palm trees used as decorations on the island. As Doray closed and the audience geared up for the man of the hour, you could sense their anticipation. Hands were in the air; some fists were pumping. Others had their iPhones out and ready to record their view of the stage. Two young women in front of me were perched on the shoulders of their male friends to get a better view. They wore matching white tank tops that read ‘TEAM GOLD’ across the back in metallic block letters.
My eyes caught focus of movement at the right of the stage. About half a dozen or so men lined up in a single file line. Dressed in black from head to toe, the men began to walk across the dark stage. Each had a white headband to match the white drum each held. Turning to face the audience they began to beat on their drums. The stage turned blood red and it was hard to hear the drums over the screams of the crowd. They were going wild as the drum-line was beating along to “Marsch Marsch.” Thomas Gold’s use of the drum-line was an amazing introduction into the tribal progressive house set that followed.
One of the largest complaints heard from music aficionados who don’t ‘get’ EDM, is that they feel like deejays and producers aren’t really playing music; there isn’t a live element to the show. Many deejays get labeled as button-pushers or one step up from an iTunes Genius playlists. Of course fans of the genre disagree, but Thomas Gold’s drum-line provided a rebuttal on its own. Even a newbie to House or electronic music would attest it was an entertaining live show.
Aside from the drum-line, Gold incorporated other live elements for the audience’s enjoyment. Cannons of smoke erupted. Confetti filled the air, so much so it felt like I was inside of a snow globe. Lights and lasers created a colorful celebration as ribbon dancers donned in gold pranced around the stage. It was a pulsating sensation filled with great vibrations. His energetic and uplifting builds were mirrored in the crowd. People were swaying, jumping, and wiggling to the beat. The music was in their bodies.
When Gold dropped the oldie but goodie, “Apologize” by One Republic I was suddenly transported back to my college years. I don’t think I was the only one it had that effect on as the crowd broke into a giant sing along. A tall young man in nothing but a snap back, Ray-Bans, and cargo shorts began to interpretively dance to the vocals. It’s safe to say, the majority of people were having a good time.
What I appreciate about European artists such as Norman Doray or Thomas Gold is their dedication to the craft. It’s about the creating an environment— an escape for the crowd. Egos are placed on shelf as the deejays guide the fans through a spiritual journey using music. Sure, they could drop every top ten track from Beatport, playing banger after banger. Instead artists like Gold mesh together a potpourri of familiar and unfamiliar tracks. They have the crowd’s best interest always, not their popularity. Incorporating a familiar track into the set, like Gold did by using Coldplay or the One Republic song for example, is a tactic artists use to build rapport with their audiences. Utilizing the familiarity of mainstream radio song to transition into something foreign or introduce them to a new remix works exceptionally well with those unfamiliar to the genre or scene. It really is an art. It was my first time on Governors Island and my first Thomas Gold show. Definitely a night I will always remember!
~Scarlett Stack aka Breathless Mahoney
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