Live: Identity Festival Houston 2012

CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL PAVILION — 8/11/2012: You’ve gone to one electronic music festival, you’ve gone to them all, right? Naaah. Yes, superficially it might seem as though they seem to imitate one another — an echoing hard electronic beat here, a neon tutu and furry leg warmers there, perhaps a unique sculpture or two littered strategically around the festival grounds — but as similar as they might seem on the surface, each festival has its own vibe and feel, its own energy and resulting experience.

It’s been hard for us to adequately describe this year’s Identity Festival at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in any way other than, “we started at the main stage to catch Kerli and check out the crowd, then bounced back over to the Rockstar Energy side stage to see what was going on over there,” when we realized the aforementioned fact.

Most of the time not spent planted in front of a stage at a music festival is spent bouncing back and forth between stages, gazing at denizens, fighting the crowds, absorbing the energy. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it yourself, but much like two different concerts from the same band can be two totally different experiences, so can two of the same festivals. We’ll progress as expected and dissect our day as a recap, but bear in mind, our advice is as follows: if you have gone to a music festival before, keep going. If not, get off yer arse and check one out. If you are passionate about music of any genre, you won’t be disappointed.

Much of last year’s Identity Fest was spent trying to get access to the areas we were supposedly allowed access to and asking ourselves why in the world they chose to host the festival at the Pavilion. It didn’t make much sense. Having bested the festival last year helped us know what to expect this year and made us better prepared for our arrival at the front gates.

We arrived around 3PM when the doors opened, and of course, attendance at that point was sparse at best. Even thought the Pavilion does a fairly good job of offering shade to its patrons, there’s still really not enough to go around in the dead of the August Houston heat. Much to our surprise, the entrance for press this year was through the side door…to the backstage area. Winning! Once inside, the first thing to do as either press or as an attendee is to stroll the battlegrounds, as it were, and get a feel for how the day will likely play out. We generally tend to start out at the main stage then travel to each subsequently smaller stage, feeling out the venue and the crowd as we go.

Identity 2012 started out no different, with our first stop at the main stage to check out Kerli in all of her golden glamour, then to the Rockstar Energy side stage to enjoy the last few minutes of Stephan Jacobs‘ set. Luckily, the time we had to spend this year traversing between stages was drastically reduced by our increased ease of access to the “back stage” areas where usually only the booster club, security, performers, and those lucky souls being hauled off to the pokey are allowed to roam free, or in the former case, not so much.

Not only was our newfound shortcut amazingly kind on our legs, it granted us a little more face time with the booster club who were, on the whole this year, far more accommodating and all-around generally awesome than they were last year. So much more so that we were given pop ices after having just asked nicely. Thank you, Woodlands Band Booster Club; the pop ices were much appreciated and delicious!

After we gobbled up our scrumptious pop ices, we caught up with Dylan Eiland, aka Le Castle Vania, for our mid-afternoon interview (which you can read here) and bounced back and forth between stages for a bit, ensuring we caught his energetic set on the Rockstar stage and Russian-born trance DJ and producer Arty‘s performance at the iHome Main Stage.

We dawdled around the main stage to catch Hardwell‘s set next, hoping he would play his hit “Spaceman” — which we’re pretty sure he did. Is there some merit to completing a review the night of, perhaps? We then decided to take a break from the crowds and enjoy some pretzels and beer as we people watched. A smoky haze descended upon the Pavilion as the sun began to set, and we decided that this was our queue to head back into the breach once more to get in the pit for one of our favorite DJ/ Producer hybrids, Porter Robinson.

There is something entirely too exhilarating about being in the pit at an electronic music festival, right at the very front, with all the super fans for one of your favorite artists. You get to be right in the thick of it, squished up against hundreds of other really excited, sweaty people, all reveling in the joy of the experience you are sharing. It’s quite a fantastic feeling.

We would be remiss not to mention the final two acts we caught for the evening: Wolfgang Gartner at the main stage and Nero at the side stage. Luckily, as they are both equal in terms of awesome in our book, the two didn’t overlap at all, and we were able to catch both sets in full. Firmly planted in aforementioned pit, we got to jam out in ways we never knew possible to Gartner’s “Space Junk”, the best song in the universe.

After Gartner’s set, we headed to the side stage again for Nero and caught the end of Showtek‘s set, where a lucky lady and her beau got pulled on stage and where said beau proceeded to propose to her in front of the whole crowd. While public proposals aren’t really our thing, it was sweet, and she of course said yes (though do you really have an option to say “no” in that situation?).

Showtek finished their set, and Nero took to the stage. While in the photo pit at the side stage, we had the honor of sharing our personal bubbles with Mr. Stephan Jacobs (and helping him “make it rain” in the crowd with his stickers) while Nero (minus one, much like Crystal Method last year; why, we couldn’t tell you) played their/his amazing and equally best songs in the universe, “Innocence, Promises, Doomsday” and “Crush on You” among, of course, many others.

At this point, we are in full festival mode; everyone is having an amazing time, and you can feel the energy from the crowd like a tsunami. No one wants the night to end, evidently even the half of Nero, as he continued to play through the blatantly obvious signals that he needed to shut it down. We don’t blame him. Ending mid-song would have been a damn shame at best.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and Identity of course is no different. Luckily for us, we were able to hitch onto the end of our newfound friend Stephan Jacobs’ entourage directly into the House of Blues tent for the VIP after party, where our already-friends DJs Townsend Turner and Damon Allen were spinning for the remaining VIP ticketholders and some of the artists that decided to emerge from their tour buses for one last party of the evening.

Having endured for the full day this year and then some, well beyond any reasonable person’s means, we decided to call it a night after an hour or two of after-partying. Will we attend next year’s Identity? You bet…hopefully with a few more festivals to tide us over in between. END


(Article photos: Kerli; Arty; Crowd at Identity Fest; Porter Robinson; Nero. All photos by David Wood and Karen Hebert.)

Live review by . Live review posted Monday, September 3rd, 2012. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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