Festival Report Card

Festival Report Card: Electric Zoo 2023

Electric Zoo (best known as EZOO) took place (sort of) on Randall’s Island in New York City during Labor Day weekend.

With an estimated 88,000 attendees (according to NYPD), NYC’s longest-running electronic music festival has been a staple for most New Yorkers. 

However, 2023 almost did not happen. This year’s festival had many hurdles to jump over. Unfortunately, the festival had to cancel the first day just three hours before the gates opened, leaving attendees with flights and hotels that were not reimbursable.

Rumors spread that Ezoo would cancel all three days, but on Saturday morning, there was an official announcement that days two and three were confirmed. However, the rest of the weekend did not go as planned. The festival had extreme disorganization, lackluster security, and unfinished stages. 

EDM Maniac experienced the full weekend and has the inside scoop on this wild experience.

Vibes: D-

The ravers at Ezoo were friendly and nice. They looked happy to be there and grateful that the festival did not cancel all three days. We saw some kandi trades, smiles, hugs, and tons of dancing earlier in the day.

But as the night progressed, we could feel the atmosphere deteriorating. As the number of people in the area increased, there was an increase in pushing and shoving. The two evenings we were there, pickpockets took advantage of the crowds to take people’s phones.

Ezoo attendees who arrived after 3 PM looked extremely annoyed, and for good reason. Some attendees saw “the glass half full” and made fun of the situation by making festival meme totems and wearing Fyre Festival shirts.

The vibes were mixed this weekend, not only with attendees but also with security. Security had a challenging time understanding which credentials meant what kind of access.  Some security guards were fed up with the lack of communication and were seen retaliating by throwing water at ravers; some security guards went as far as getting into fistfights with ticketholders trying to enter the festival

The atmosphere varied from one part of the event to another. It was a perfect atmosphere for Platinum VIPs since there was plenty of room to dance and no waiting in line. Being GA meant being pushed, squished, and having little place to maneuver.

Production: F

When day two of the festival rolled around, and the gates finally opened, the stages were smaller than advertised, and they all seemed incomplete, despite the event’s claims that this year’s edition would include jaw-dropping production throughout the year.

What little was produced at Ezoo was highly disappointing. The fog machines, pyrotechnics, and rockets were saved on most stages for the final performance. The LED displays were unimaginative, and the audience only seemed interested when the pyrotechnics and lasers went off on the main stage. This year’s main stage featured a partial arch and LED displays despite the heavily marketed “immersive” HyperSpace theme. It felt like a complete money grab, and that’s what it was.

The only positive was activation in the center of the festival, where attendees could enjoy lying on the grass and letting their senses enjoy some trippy sounds and lights. This would be a perfect place if you were looking for a break from the crowd.

A festival’s production can make or break an experience, and this year, EZOO was unable to deliver on its promise of being the most immersive and best EZOO yet. It was anything but.

Music: D+

This year’s festival’s initial roster was extremely impressive and piqued the interest of dance music fans worldwide. However, the reality is that some unfortunate partygoers only heard a few hours of music all weekend because they were turned away at the door.

Those who finally made it inside could be seen enjoying the sounds of amazing acts such as John Summit B2B Dom Dolla, Eli Brown B2B HI-LO, Zeds Dead B2B GRiZ, Nora En Pure B2B Franky Wah, Zedd, Marshmello, Gryffin, and more.

Some of the festival’s best performances occurred during the last two hours, but scheduling difficulties prevented them from occurring sooner. Attendees paid for the weekend lineup, yet only 60% of the artists ultimately played. This chaos showed an extreme lack of respect for the audience and the numerous artists who had put forth much work to create their sets.

The sets that did happen were amazing, and the sound was loud and clear, but the speakers were super close to the rail. Also, when ticketholders asked the medics for earplugs, they did not have any to spare.

Venue: F

The location was promising. The venue was at Randalls Island, which is technically part of Manhattan. The beautiful thing about an island is the privacy for the festival and those attending.

There were only a few ways to get to the island. The best action plan for arrival was to be there super early by taking the subway and then Ubering to the entrance. Others were seen walking on the bridge or walking through the side trail.

However, the attempt to leave the island was a total failure. All the festivalgoers left at once, and there was only one route off the island, so many were observed going back over the bridge or side path and then hailing Ubers when they were around an hour’s walk away. Because there weren’t enough exits, some attendees had to wait for hours to get out.

On Sunday, the event asked ticketholders not to come to the island. It turns out the event organizers had oversold 7,000 tickets despite having a capacity of 42,500.

People were seen breaking through the festival entrance fencing, and they all rushed to enter the already canceled festival on the final day once the festival was at capacity. People were seen getting crushed, hyperventilating from panic attacks, and getting from one stage to another was almost impossible by 8 PM. This was extremely unsettling to see happen, and many lives were endangered. 

Overall (average of all categories): F 

Some of us had a good time, while others spent the whole weekend waiting at Will Call, on the bridge, at the security gate, or doing something else in the city. The Mega Mirage stage had an offensive odor, there were few supplies in the medical tents, and the security personnel were physically aggressive with attendees. The lackluster effort from the festival organizers to produce a safe and high-quality experience shouts “money grab.” Knowing the atrocity waiting inside, this event should never have opened its doors.

On the third day, one of the attendees we spoke with overheard a Will Call staffer being instructed to slow down, likely to allow fewer people to enter the festival. This was a calculated effort to have as few paying customers enter the festival as possible. Getting out of the event was a major hassle, and the presence of huge exit lines was dangerous.

Notifying ticketholders as soon as feasible would have given them time to reschedule their travel plans if the festival was not prepared on time. This utter lack of consideration for the attendees, who had likely been saving and waiting for this event for months, was offensive. The food sellers, the aquatic vibe of the Morphosis stage, and the spacious VIP section with plenty of tables and chairs were the only highlights.

It would be unfair to give this event a better rating if some people who had been waiting all year to get in were denied entry. This was a disaster for a festival that promised to be the finest three days in Electric Zoo’s history. The fact that some attendees only spent a few hours there is extremely unfortunate and shows how little the organization cared about providing an exceptional experience. We hope the organizers are held responsible for their appalling management of the entire weekend and have no plans to attend again.

All images credit Electric Zoo

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