Saturday: Something Wicked Festival at Sam Houston Race Park

Something Wicked Festival Sam Houston Race Park October 27, 2012


Something Wicked Music Fest: Costumes and Crowd Shots

Ultra Music Festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, Nocturnal Festival- from coast to coast and many points in between these big name EDM festivals have become a big deal. Taking EDM out of the club and under the stars seems weird until you see the dancing masses having the time of their life.

Saturday was Houston's turn to get in on the action. Disco Donnie Presents and Nightculture partnered up to give the city the Something Wicked Festival, an eight-hour dance extravaganza in the field next to the Sam Houston Race Park.

Having been bitten by the EDM bug over the last year, Rocks Off found this development exciting but curious. Would the crowds come out? Would the lineup be worthwhile? Would this be something special or just Identity Fest: Fall Edition?

We grabbed our notebooks and hoodies to check out things first hand and see just how wicked things would be.

For the diehards who arrived early to dance all day, Shadow Field, the festival's more dance-centric mainstage, was the place to be. While a small crowd of dedicated fans gathered over at the dubstep-centric Bass Massacre stage most of the crowd was checking out early performances by Deorro and Michael Myers.

After getting a good look at the festival grounds we settled in to check out Spain's Danny Avila. At 17 and with few tracks to his name, it's hard to tell where he'll end up as a producer, but as a festival DJ he's better than a lot of pros twice his age. His set hit all the right spots for his early time slot, getting the crowd moving with a collection of recognizable EDM hits and a few out-of-genre classics, including House of Pain's "Jump Around."

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Le Castle Vania spins wickedly aggressive music that is a real joy to hear in a big festival setting. In spirit it's equal parts disco and punk rock, a sound that you worry might be exhausting in a club setting but makes for a great hour at a fest. His set was a lot like what he spun back at Identity Fest, including his take on the Smashing Pumpkins' "Zero," with a few new tracks in the mix. A new rager titled "Raise the Dead" was perfect for the pre-Halloween weekend.

By the time Tritonal had taken the stage the sun had set and so did the feel of the festival. Their music is high-energy and when you add in the big LED displays, the zombie nurses dancing onstage, and a crowd that was super-excited about everything, suddenly the show felt special. No one would confuse it for Tomorrowland, but for a first-time fest it was pretty impressive.

In a land of DJs, the one band on the bill was bound to stand out. After a late start, credited by the group to some technical difficulties, Modestep took the stage for a set that was both familiar and different.

Structured like a typical EDM festival set, the group hit upon their original tracks and remixes, including Avicii's "Levels," Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction" and Rage Against the Machine's "Killing In the Name of." The addition of live drums, guitar, and vocals takes things to a different place, one we wish more artists would visit.

It's unfortunate that Modestep's set was marred by sound issues, because based on what we could hear, the group has a lot going for them. Lead singer Josh Modestep wasn't afraid to voice his frustrations from the stage, although he never quite hit Rusko levels of displeasure. They promised to come back one day for a proper Modestep gig and we're looking forward to seeing them again.

With a new, iTunes Dance chart-topping album to his name and a Lady Gaga collaboration on the horizon, Zedd is well on his way to being a titan in the EDM community. It was no surprise then that the crowd had swelled for his main stage set. After hitting on a diverse group of tracks that included versions of M83's "Midnight City," Kanye West's "Mercy," and, most absurdly, the theme song to The Legend of Zelda (including animated graphics of protagonist Link).

Zedd brought down the house with his current single "Spectrum," to what appeared to be the delight of everyone present.

After six and a half hours of music and a ten-degree drop in temperature from the start of the show we were ready to call Something Wicked a success. When your headliners are a guy who sold out the Staples Center in Los Angeles (Kaskade) and one of the biggest names in dubstep (Nero), you don't have to worry about much.

By that point the crowds had picked their sides: Those who were there to dance, those who were looking for a bass fix, and those who were heading out to make it to the afterparties early. Around the city people would be dancing until 5 a.m., which means that if you showed up when the doors at the fest opened and stayed 'til they shut the club down you could have danced for 15 hours, minus travel times.

We're not here to judge anyone's life decisions, so we leave it up to you to decide if that amount of dancing is silly, crazy or just something wicked.

Personal Bias: Back in February, EDM wasn't really on my radar unless an artist had a song that crossed over to pop radio. That I walked into this show with people who I was genuinely excited to see is something February Cory might have found ridiculous.

The Crowd: Proof that if you encourage costumes, costumes you will get.

Overheard In the Crowd: Very little on account of the music, but I did have a guy dressed up like Magic Mike peer-pressure me in to dancing at one point.

Random Notebook Dump: Other than a pair of Obama costumes and one Romney, I didn't hear or see anyone talking about the elections all day. It was a welcome relief.

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