Festival season is out of the gates quick and 2012′s main attraction in Northern California was ETD POP 2012 at the Oracle Arena which was being put on by Skills DJ. POP has a bit of a troubled past but is also the only true large scale event NorCal has in the first six months of the year. The lineup was very strong featuring Nervo, Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano, Sander van Doorn, Dash Berlin, Fedde Le Grand and Benny Benassi. After a successful event for LovEvolution After last year, anticipation for the return of POP was high. Fortunately, all expectations were exceeded.
We arrived slightly after 7pm after a few members of our group were slightly behind schedule in joining us. After some drinks (okay, a lot of drinks. Patron is delicious, let’s be real) we departed the nearby hotel where we met up with another portion of our crew and walked over to the Oracle Arena. The weather was rapidly clouding up and the wind was freezing. I was already concerned that we would be stuck in line and exposed to the elements which, if you have ever gone anywhere with girls any time, you know would not get the night off to a good start. Especially girls who didn’t have much clothing on. Instead of having to turn my body into a human shield against the elements, we approached the venue and were met with ID checkers who checked our IDs rapidly in an organized fashion. Awesome, this is way better then 2010 already. As we walked into the venue, we were checked by security and had our tickets scanned in less then three minutes. No line. Yes, you read that right, I did not have to waste part of my night in a line. This might have been the greatest thing since the invention of fanny packs. Once we were inside we took a peek at the stage and DAYUM. Some serious business there.
We had friends in section 128, so after a bathroom stop and some water acquisition ($6.50 a bottle was not cheap) we cruised over to meet them. From there we dropped down below them onto the spacious dance floor and settled in for a long, glorious night of electronic music.
Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano
The two dutch cats were up first and after seeing them at Ruby Skye I was a bit concerned if they were going to be too techy/deep/funky for this crowd. Instead, they were the exact opposite. They brought some serious upbeat funky progressive house that I really enjoyed. To illustrate this point, a certain member of our group said he was not worried about missing them and he thought they would suck. After he arrived with the rest of our crew about twenty minutes into their set he was getting down on the dance floor hard. We proceeded to talk shit to him about this for the next twenty minutes, primarily about how dumb he was. They dropped some big bangers like SHM’s ‘Greyhound’, their remix of Tiesto’s ‘Lethal Industry’, Hardwell’s Spaceman, Axwell’s rework of ‘One Look’, a dope mashup of Flash + The Island along with their new single. It really was a great set and they set the mood nicely for the evening. The video below is a nice clip of their set plus shows you how awesome the production was. A+ work from SJ & RM, they were really enjoying themselves on stage (one of them got up on the dj booth multiple times) and played a killer set.
DEM LIGHTS RIGHT!?!?!?
My major concern for the evening was TyDi’s set. From his original tracks and sets I have heard in the past, he just seems to be pretty straightforward trance, which is fine, but I’m not a huge fan, and POP previously has been more house music driven. Fortunately he played a good set that I enjoyed, although I did not know a ton of the tracks. He spent half of his set standing on the DJ booth and talking to the crowd though, which made us laugh quite a bit. His accent is very Australian and I think all the girls were swooning. C’MON MAN don’t steal all the girls, I am here to dance with them, not have them pay attention to you! He did say multiple times ‘Forget house, forget trance, forget dubstep it’s all just music and we are all here to party’ which was pretty spot on. He did seem more interested in standing and talking, but his set had bangers like ‘Concrete Angel’ and ‘Love Comes Again’ so after a slow start, TyDi ended up being pretty solid. Best track of the set was the ‘We Are The People’ remix which I finally realized was a remix of We Are The People like 75% of the way through the track. I’m slow, sue me.
Sander van Doorn
Sander Sander Sander. Where do we start with you? The last (and first time) I saw Sander was closing the main stage EDC day 1. That is a magical set that will always be a special moment in my life with three of my best friends. So to say I had high expectations for Sander would be a weeeee bit of an understatement. Fortunately, Sander is like FedEx. How you might say? Well they both effing deliver. Sander’s set was the second best of the night for me. The crowd was really into it, the dance floor was very crowded and I happened to look back a couple times and it was magic seeing all the lights and people dancing. The biggest disappointment for me during this set was… my bladder. I had to pee about halfway through the set so couldn’t enjoy all of it on the dance floor. Fortunately the bathroom was super easy to access AND the line was minimal. Did I mention that it was in the club level? Can I tell you that I love this venue, because I do. I effing love it. The highlight tracks for me were Sander opening with ‘Inside’ which is one of his newest tracks, dropping ‘Chasin’ which is honestly just pure fire, playing both Third Party vs Cicada ‘Feel’ and Hard Rock Sofa’s ‘Quasar’ which are two of the biggest house jams around right now, and him sneaking in Cedric Gervais ‘Molly’ into the set which had me laughing quite a bit. Just a bangarang set which started the SanderDashFedde section of the night off perfectly. Fortunately, the youtube legend NartNoSide happened to catch this entire set for your viewing pleasure. Be sure to have a change of pants nearby, I promise you will need them.
To say I was amped to see Dash Berlin for the first time would be right on the money. After missing him at EDC and Love After, I was stoked to have no time conflicts and no personal conflicts (seriously people, schedule your weddings around the only two major NorCal events each year please? It can’t be that hard. Think of me before you think of you. JK) and I was ready for some emotional vocal singalong trance or however you want to describe Dash. Regardless of what you want to call it, it was awesome. My favorite track had to be the California Love remix he dropped which was so legit.
Do you see all this confetti and streamers and smoke to go with the lights? So cool. And bubbles! There was a bubble machine that was going for a large portion of the night, and when you would look up you would see bubbles. These little touches were quite special and contributed to the great production of the event. Dash brought it with massive mashups like DJ Ease My Mind vs. Apollo Road, Man on the Run, Better Half of Me, and Disarm Your Sun & Moon. But why read my tracklist when you can listen to the set yourself: DASH AT POP 2012. Big ups to Daniel for this and the Fedde set that he recorded.
Fedde Le Grand
This was the set I had waited for since the lineup was announced. I think currently Fedde is the best combination of producer and dj in the world. His tracks are bangers (you might know his remix of Coldplay’s Paradise, Control Room, Autosave, and his remix of Rye Rye’s ‘Never Will be Mine’) and everyone raves about his sets. And for good reason. His Ultra set was by far the most talked about on twitter as the best set of the weekend. He also was in a tough spot in the lineup, as he had to transition the crowd out of a blissful state induced by Dash Berlin into crazy party people mode. He did it flawlessly. He opened with the groovy ‘So Much Love’ then got things rolling with Benjamin Bates ‘Hello’ bootleg followed by his new track ‘Freaky’ with Nicky Romero. At this point the energy in the crowd had shifted from trance bliss to house madness. Everyone was feeling this set and we were dancing our asses off. Bangers like Generation 303, Autosave, his Praise You rework, Body Metrum, his bootleg of Insomnia, a killer mashup of By The Way with something I didn’t recognize were all unleashed on the crowd and at this point you could say the set was massive. However the last 15 minutes Fedde displayed what makes him the best. He went even harder, starting with his remix of Paradise, which the crowd went crazy for and followed it with the dBerrie bootleg of Somebody That I Used to Know, which is the best out there right now. The crowd went bonkers.
After that he dropped the giant hammer that is Rocker 2012 (Patric La Funk & Dohr & Mangold Bootleg.
Just when you were like damn, this shit cray, the stellar lyrics of One Republic’s Apologize came on. At this point everyone was singing along but I had no idea where he was going with it. Oh, you mean Fedde remixed Apologize into one of the biggest bangers I have ever heard live? Yeah, not a surprise. This track is WOWOWOWOW, I cannot get enough of it. The vid below has the perfect transition that just made the place go apeshit.
Yeah, those lights. Trust me, we were all singing like the guy in the video, it was just that good. Fedde closed his set with Turn It, and I think everyone at that point was wishing Benny had slept through his alarm or got in a fistfight with wild monkeys and could not make it. What a set. You can bump it yourself and tell me if I am wrong, but don’t bother, I know I am right.
After what I thought was a mediocre set from Benny at Ultra, I was prepared for the worst at POP. I mean there was no way he could top Fedde! However, Benny delivered a set that was better then his Ultra set or his White Wonderland set and he closed out POP quite nicely. It was a pretty classic electro set from Benny, he opened with ‘Move Your Body’ and that is exactly what everyone was doing. Dropping bangers like Felguk’s ‘Bassive’, ‘Close to Me’, Daddy’s Groove’s ‘Power 2 the People’, and his track ‘Cinema’ along with Skrillex’s remix of Cinema as well was awesome, but unleashing Devil’s Den by Skrillex and Wolfgang Gartner was a surprise highlight for sure.
One of the best moments all night was toward the end of Benassi’s set. After he was dropped Pink is Punk’s massive ‘Koala’ and his track ‘House Music’ he came down to interact with the crowd up front at the base of the stage and he spotted someone with a deadmau5 head. He went to the person, put it on, walked around the base of the stage for another minute then headed back up on the stage. Suddenly there Benassi is, djing with someone’s mau5head on. I could see this entire thing from where we were on the dance floor. Pretty cool right? Benassi then decides to drop Deadmau5′ ‘Where My Keys’ while he was rocking the mau5head. Had to be the coolest thing I have seen any dj do on stage, easily. Honestly, who does that? Unreal. Totally made my night even more perfect.
As you can hear at the end of the Benassi video, the crowd loved POP 2012. How could you not? Every set knocked it out of the park. The vibe at the Oracle Arena was amazing, people were very happy to be there and everyone I ran into was really friendly. It was incredibly easy to get around, to find your friends, and to grab a seat/water/food if you wanted it. Security was well organized, the dance floor was easy to get on and off, and text messages went through all night. This was one of the best run events I have ever attended and I really enjoyed it. Skills was able to address all of the issues from POP 2010, they even had a text message line you could send issues to. The stage and lighting were superb, the sound quality was outstanding and it was a great night with a bunch of my friends. Just under 13k of them to be exact. I can’t ask for anything more, so to you Skills DJ Workshop and Oracle Arena, I tip my mau5head that Benny Benassi closed out with. POP is back and it is a force to be reckoned with. See you at POP NYE.