Phoenix, Arizona is quickly becoming one of the nation’s hottest music festival destinations, drawing an increasing number of top-tier artists and events to the Valley of the Sun year after year. This year was perhaps Phoenix’s biggest yet, hosting events like the debut installment of Lost Lake Festival and Hundred Waters‘ annual FORM at Arcosanti, an artistic community about 30 minutes outside the city. But for ravers and hip-hop heads alike, one event’s talent roster may have stood head and shoulders above the rest, with Goldrush Festival also delivering its inaugural lineup, stacked with genre-hopping talent. Dillon Francis, Marshmello, Migos, Claude Vonstroke, REZZ, Lil Uzi Vert and a slew of the year’s most sought-after artists flocked to Arizona just as the state’s sweltering temperatures began to break, only to heat things back up again for two days of festival chaos wild west style. Here are Dancing Astronaut‘s top five takeaways from the inaugural Goldrush Festival.
Baauer and A-Trak’s highly anticipated b2b set
Lined up for only a handful of joint shows to close out 2017, Baauer and A-Trak finally joined forces for the back-to-back performance we all deserve, and boy did they deliver. With Baauer’s ever-variant track selections and A-Trak’s brilliant scratch routines, the pair put together a set that hit the crowd from every angle, complementing each other like they’ve been playing together for years. The chemistry was definitely there, it was like watching Carlos Santana and Slash trade solos for a full hour. The Fool’s Gold Records veteran and his LuckyMe counterpart delivered one of the best sets of the weekend and are hopefully planning to bless fans with additional back-to-backs in the very near future.
Once the representatives from Dirtybird Records touched down at Goldrush, the endless shuffling began, and the massive cloud of dust didn’t settle over the venue until well after the weekend’s final performance. Claude Vonstroke and his Dirtybird cohorts undoubtedly ruled the roost at Goldrush’s debut weekend. The band of (mostly) California-based house heroes including Walker and Royce, Christian Martin, and more descended upon the desert to deliver some of the weekend’s top highlights. From the label head’s double duty playing by both his Vonstroke and Barclay Crenshaw monikers to Shiba San‘s top-billed performance, Dirtybird Records took over the party with a commanding presence and the swelling Arizona crowds knew exactly what to do.
Curation and programming
For a new event concept in an emerging festival market, it can be difficult to rope together the perfect blend of talent for a debut lineup. Beyond that, there’s an additional set of difficulties in nailing the festival’s overall programming, though Goldrush navigated these challenges impressively well in its inaugural installment. The lineup included hip-hop and dance music’s top-tiered and newly emerging talents alike, pairing acts like RL Grime, Excision and San Holo with Rich Chigga, Lil Pump and G-Buck. The lineup showcased well-rounded bookings that spanned the spectrum, from Flatbush Zombies to Jeremy Olander, Öona Dahl to Justin Jay offering up a balanced blend of talent with a clearly electronic-leaning focus. Beyond the lineup’s composition, the rest of the event’s overall complexion was a highlight worth its own mention. While the wild west motif came off a kitschy at times, with fans panning for gold and old timey saloons selling neon shutter shades, it generally came off as well-intentioned, well-produced thematic appreciation for Arizona. The western town venue was spacious and open, and while stages experienced some clustering at times, the event’s layout generally held sway. Ahead of Decadence New Year’s festivities at the same venue, Goldrush tested the grounds and successfully delivered a wild west experience that comfortably accommodated thousands of attendees.
Plenty of music festivals opt for cashless alternatives, though few execute as smoothly as Goldrush did. Communication with attendees was thorough and clear, and assistance at the festival was prompt and efficient. The event was strictly cashless. Once an attendee’s personal payment information was secured, wristbands with magnetic tokens managed the sale of concessions, merchandise, and more. The event that was so heavily authentic to its wild west themed production, though Goldrush also directed the proper amount of time and resources at ensuring a safer and swifter experience between performances. It is easy to overlook the small details of such large-scale events, but Goldrush managed to nail down the little details that made the dusty main drag of the micro-western town replica venue an amusing open-air marketplace packed with buzzing ravers.
Los Angeles is undoubtedly the foremost incubator of electronic talent in the U.S., but only a few hundred miles east sits Phoenix, which has also been called home by some of today’s top-tier DJs. Goldrush did a credible job of including local Arizona talent on the lineup, but seeing heavy hitters like Mija, Drezo, and Ghastly come home and play before their hometown crowds made for some of the weekend’s most memorable moments. Longtime local fans will remember Mija’s resident sets at dance clubs downtown, while droves came out to support dark house protege Drezo as he continues to carve out his own brooding, club-rattling house fare. Goldrush ensured that Phoenix is on the map, and it brought strong representation along to promote the hottest new stop on the major festival circuit. Among waves of internationally touring talent, Arizona’s brightest exports came home to round out a successful event with some special, personalized touches.
Images: Jacob Tyler Dunn