As we packed up our campsite at the Gorge, a lot of people had to ask me, so how does this compare to the east coast? I looked around at the endless blue skies and vibrant gorge, the limes and beer cans littering the grass, the half man/half banana that had passed out on the roof of a car, and couldn’t even answer.
It doesn’t compare. Here
I went to Ultra– it was incredible. I’ve been to Counterpoint in Atlanta. I go to shows in Miami, DC, Manhattan, and Philadelphia. So I thought that I was well versed in this stuff. In the east, music is entertainment, it’s the party, it’s the rage. At Ultra you are encased in the lights of Miami and the beautiful people pressed up against you. You battle for your life to get toward main stage and dance like a porn star for the cameras. I’ve been there; the adrenaline and excitement is unreal. And I’m not saying I’ve found something better—but there is another way. at Paradiso, I had discovered an entirely new way to experience electronic music. I am a convert. I am sold on West Coast EDM.
Paradiso, held at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington, is a two day electric music festival set against the breathtaking background of the Columbia River. This place has the capability to completely remove you from the world. There is no such thing as time. There is only sky and music. Paradiso gives you all the space you want. Even in the front lines of the pit, 50 feet from Madeon, you can spread your arms out wide while an a cappella version of Raise Your Weapon pulses through you. What I came to learn is that in this place, music is about the heart. Paradiso creates families. We came together, new friends and old, to celebrate our favorite sounds.
We arrived Thursday as the sun was setting. At the Gorge, this means spectacular views as the sun disappeared below the mountains. I explored the camping around me to discover I was probably the only one in attendance coming from further east than Utah. I immediately found myself in culture shock. Usually at camping fesitvals, I expect noise and partying in the campgrounds. But at Paradiso I also felt this intense magnetism where everyone needed desperately to be together at all times. Everyone wanted to meet as many people as possible, to attract big crowds, to pull out their DJ boards and throw down. I was taken by the hand on multiple occasions by strangers who would skip with me back to their site to introduce me to their friends. I laid in a pile of 20 people I had just met lounging in the grass. Suddenly I was adopted into a new family.
The first day of music was 100 degrees. The artists and stage hands took to spraying the audiences, but lines for water were almost an hour long. We started the day off strong, making it down to the pit in time for Cazzette. We came, we raged, and we failed. Pace yourselves? Okay. So everyone filled up on water, trekked up to the top of the hill, and set up camp under the shade of the trees. One of the nice things about the Gorge is that you can sit at the very top and still feel the base reverberating through your chest. So from our little oasis, we sunbathed and listened to Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Tommy Trash, and Morgan Page. I actually stood for about an hour just clutching one of the trees and staring down. The sheer size and incline of the amphitheater almost had me convinced I would fall in. People kept coming up to me to ask the same thing, “This is your first time in the Gorge, isn’t it?”. It must have been obvious; I was holding on for dear life, mouth open, and repeating oh my god in regular intervals. With the end of Morgan Page’s set, the sun started going down, and all of a sudden everyone came alive. Over the next 32 hours we would see Kill the Noise, Borgore, Adventure Club, Nervo, Tiesto, and so many more. The following are the three most notable performances.
Top Three Artists
We had to pull ourselves away from Myon and Shane 54 in order to make it to Porter Robinson, but ultimately without regret; Porter was the winner of the weekend. He paid homage to his most popular tracks, and tried out some new tricks with trap and jarring rhythms. He made what we had come to expect completely unexpected. From the top of the Gorge, looking down at the 20,000 people, we began the ten minute decent towards the pit singing cause lovin’ you is easy and laughing all the way. We arrive as Porter is pounding the crowd with some wild trap (you know, the kind where you want to yell, oooohhhh what is happening in my ears?!?). When the introduction to Language began, all the lights went out. Suddenly, I was just floating in this glittering sea of neon lights. There was no light from civilization in the gorge, just the light that we made. People around me braced themselves as the music was building. Then bridge broke, blinding white light flooded the audience, and every hand went up because we’ve just forgotten how to breathe.
Gramatik held down the fort at the Digital Oasis, a stage on the other side of the venue. He gave us a break from the bangers of the weekend and made you just let loose. The stage was smaller, more intimate, in a flat field in the wake of the ferris wheel. The crowd was smaller too; main stage tended to hypnotize you into thinking there was nothing else on the planet. But Gramatik was worth the move. As I’ve come to expect from him, his music just made you move. We grooved and danced without regard. We shook out our shoulders and stretched our necks and sang no diggity. Hoopers and glovers were abundant, since there was enough space to do whatever the hell you wanted. He had a great mix of new school electric you get from “Digital Liberation is Mad Freedom” set against some really classic tracks from as early as the 20’s. Put simply, it was straight up fun.
Kaskade closed the weekend at mainstage on Saturday night. We were dirty, tired, sunburnt, and dehydrated…even more so than after three days of Ultra (I blame the whole not sleeping thing that tended to happen in the campsite and the 2 hour line for showers). Eric Prydz had just left us all in a mesmerized stupor. That man knows how to play an audience. But he left us with almost nothing left to run on. We needed something spectacular to bring us back up. Kaskade nailed it. And after everything that weekend, we were up for it. We pulled ourselves off the ground to stand in the pit. His opening with Atmosphere sent chills and cheers across the audience. Eyes and Reload is an entrancing mix– Truth is truth and time could never leap it… Lana Del Rey’s slow voice came floating toward us, but then the bass brought us back up and made us rage. The crew cast hundreds of yoga ball sized balloons upon the audience that changed colors as you hit them. It wasn’t just Kaskade. I think I enjoyed the performance most because Kaskade represented the eminence of the end. We managed to find everyone we had come with. Friends and friends of friends congregated and held hands and looked up with eyes closed, mouthing the words that we felt the most (We are right now). We sought out our friends eyes and smiled (We’re not lost we’re not ashamed). And finally, when we couldn’t stand on our own feet anymore, we cuddled up on the hill to watch the fireworks as the artist mounted the set and drank us in (no one knows who we are). It was everything.
Paradiso is a celebration of music that comes inextricably linked to love and loyalty. This was about family. And handles of rum. It was about being happy and enjoying yourself without the pressure and expectation of other hyper-publicized events. If you ever find yourself out west, give it a try. But be warned; it’s really hard to come back.