[Review] Porter Robinson’s Second Sky Festival was a Beautiful Success

Porter Robinson’s festival Second Sky has come and gone. Located in Oakland, California’s Middleshore Harbor Park, this two-day event, taking place on June 15th and 16th, celebrated Porter and some of his favorite artists. It was quite simply magical. Of course, there were a few snags, this was the inaugural festival, and even well-established events have their issues. But in general, this was a truly beautiful weekend.

The Venue

Middleshore Harbor Park is located in an industrial area. There is barely any cell phone reception and there are shipping containers in almost every direction. This made Second Sky a sort of oasis, a pop of life. The Porter-related art scattered throughout the park only added to this. There was a cascade of white and purple flowers as you walked in. Inflatable 8-bit clouds of to the left, and best of all the pixel flowers featured in the ‘Flicker’ music video. They were fun Easter eggs for fans of Porter’s visuals.

The Acts

Second Sky boasted a strong lineup of artists that felt very similar in flavor to Porter himself. They were all announced prior to the event, save for one. The secret guest who was slated to replace GJones on Sunday–but we’ll get to that.

Virtual Self

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Porter opened up his own festival with his alter-ego Virtual Self. His goal in doing so was to encourage people to show up early and support the other musicians. It worked well enough. People were definitely there, but whether or not they were actually paying attention to the other acts is a different story. The set itself was a short lower-key version of his Clubsystem sets. It was fun to watch, but nowhere near as good as a normal Virtual Self show. That show is not meant to be experienced in the daytime. He did play ‘God Rays’ though, which is always appreciated. This is also the first time that he’s played ‘Key’ live since performing this project.

Nina Las Vegas

Nina Las Vegas was up next. An Australian producer and DJ. Her set definitely fit the vibe of the festival. Her techno-laced set was the perfect transition and easily set the vibe for the entire day. With her welcoming voice and music, many attendees explored the venue or settled into a spot on the lawn to listen. Her set was comfortable. It felt like hanging out with a friend, especially when she cracked jokes like “I wore a dress for you guys!”

Wednesday Campanella

Wednesday Campanella is one of those acts that you really have to experience live. Describing them doesn’t do it justice. Though they’re a band of three, they only perform live with their singer KOM_I. On both days, she filled up the stage with her bright outfits and beautiful voice. Behind her was a rustling black sheet that swallowed her up at times. The music is ethereal, that’s the best way to describe it. There is a haunting quality to her singing, that draws you in.

On Saturday, she walked out into the crowd with a large pink and blue cloth ball. She encouraged the crowd to move the ball as she walked and sang. But, unfortunately, the wind had other ideas. It quickly picked it up and blew it…to who knows where. It honestly wasn’t seen again. She did a similar display the next day, but the ball she brought out was secured with ropes to keep it from getting loose.

Wednesday Campanella’s music might not be everyone’s taste, but the mix of EDM, J-Pop and hip-hop clearly caught Porter’s attention. He could even be seen in the VIP area dancing to her set on Saturday.

Anamanaguchi

New York band, Anamanaguchi were fourth for the day. These hilarious guys had a few special guests and a ton of energy. Their chiptune and 8-bit sound fit perfectly in with Second Sky Festival. During their most popular song, ‘Miku‘, they brought out Sarah Bonito of Kero Kero Bonito, to rap in Japanese. It brought a special live flair to the well-known song about our wifi-waifu.

They then had a skit where they spoke about a “guy we owe a favor too”. Someone who has wanted to DJ for a long time. They introduced us to DJ FRUG, who played the Anamanaguchi song ‘FRUG’. It was cute and showed just how much fun these guys like to have on stage.

Sunday festival-goers were treated to their remix of ‘Sad Machine’ which blew us all away. It’s a shame they didn’t play it on both days. (Sorry Saturday.)

Chrome Sparks

Michigan native, Jeremy Malvin better known as Chrome Sparks, took the late afternoon time slot next. It was easy to feel the melodic beat-centric tunes that gradually increased to more up-tempo move-your-body music. Synthesizers and electronic drums could easily be heard throughout the 40-minute set. His music kept us warm on Day One and cool on Day Two.

Kero Kero Bonito

The early evening set went to British band, Kero Kero Bonito. Like a lot of the artists in this lineup, this group really knows how to have fun and express that feeling to the crowd. This set included jokes, props, references to the movie School of Rock, and some of the band’s greatest hits.

During their song ‘Flamingo‘ Sarah brought out a stuffed flamingo that she carried around and danced with. And during ‘Take a Break’ the phone call that appears in the recorded song was actually played out in front of us live. The only difference was the inclusion of their live-only band members.

This set was halfway through the day, and was the perfect way to revitalize our spirits as we danced and laughed along with the band.

G Jones

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Playing only on Saturday, G Jones‘ set was one of the highly anticipated acts of the weekend. And one that Porter raved about to the crowd on Day Two. Over the last year, G Jones has created a sound that many have started to take notice of. He just wrapped up his sold-out tour, The Ineffable Truth Live, and it’s clear to see why he caught Porter’s attention. Fans at Second Sky went crazy for his bass and frequent drops. It makes sense why G Jones has collaborated with huge names such as Bassnectar and Eprom. His set was a joy to experience, and it’s unfortunate that it was only for the Saturday crowd.

Cashmere Cat

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On Saturday, Cashmere Cat, real name Magnus Hoiberg, had the slot right before Madeon. While fans were eager to hear the French producer, it was impossible to ignore this Norwegian DJ. Cashmere Cat brought the heavy bass lines with the danceable and smile-inducing remixes of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody‘ and Daft Punk’s ‘One More Time’. Looking around the crowd, every single person was standing up, laughing, dancing, and bopping around. Second Sky mascot, Potaro even made an appearance in the middle of the crowd to dance along. By the time Cashmere’s set had ended, the energy was through the roof. And it makes sense. Cashmere Cat has worked with huge names such as Selena Gomez, Kanye West, MO, and The Weeknd before this. With such talent, it was an easy decision for Porter to bring Magnus to be a part of Second Sky.

Skrillex

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One of the biggest mysteries of Second Sky was who would fill G Jones’ shoes on Sunday. It was never announced prior to the performance. After Cashmere Cat’s set, Porter took the stage. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” he said, clearly trying not to laugh, “but our secret guest was not actually able to make it today.” He then introduces us all to a “new DJ” DJ Potaro. The lovable blue mascot of the festival. He’s led up to the booth, where it is revealed that the secret guest is Skrillex!

Yes, Sonny Moore was hiding in a mascot suit. There had been rumors floating around that it would be him, but no one believed it until they saw it. But it makes sense, Porter and Sonny have been friends since the OWSLA label days back in 2011/2012. Porter’s first EP, “Spitfire”, was released on the label, that was created by Skrillex, and actually crashed servers upon its release due to demand.

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Skrillex really needs no vast introduction. Moore has been making a name for himself since the early years of electronic music. Many artists look up to him for inspiration with his heavy hitting, unique sounds. The energy from the crowd and onstage was outstanding. Skrillex brought his heavy beats and various remixes of his classics like ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ and including others like Ekali’s remix of ‘Language‘. The artist knew exactly how to get the crowd ready for the final two acts of the two-day festival. All in all, what a damn treat for the attendees to see a legend up on stage.

Madeon

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Madeon’s DJ set was one of the most eagerly anticipated moments of Second Sky. Though Hugo had said prior to the show that it would “be a mostly Adventure-themed DJ Set.” fans were certain that he would have something up his sleeve.

And he did.

Opening with his latest single, the first new song in years, ‘All My Friends’ we already knew that this was going to be good. The show had all new visuals. And it called itself a “Good Faith DJ Set” which shows that are well and truly into the new era of Madeon.

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He played much of what was expected of a typical Madeon DJ set. However, on Sunday, he did add in some Skrillex, which prompted the man himself to come out. Sonny jumped around the booth with Hugo, camera in hand, then ran into the crowd to take some selfies.

Madeon always has amazing energy, and you could just see it in his face and entire body language just how happy he was to be there. This was his first show of the year, and he made it count.

Porter Robinson

Finally, we reached the reason we were all there. Porter Robinson performing his only Worlds Live sets of the year. By the time they got Porter’s special glass table set up, we were all already crying.

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There’s some much to say about Worlds. It’s beautiful. It truly shows the depths of Porter’s heart. With all of the care and craft that goes into each song and accompanying visual, you can just tell how important it is to him.

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On both nights, he stopped before the end to address the crowd. He spoke candidly about how, in making this definitive version of Worlds Live, he had to go back through everything over the years. All of the different version. All of the songs, and visuals both finished and unfinished. He was hit by a wave of intense nostalgia. Thrown back into 2014, he remembered why he wanted to make this album in the first place. To have an escape, a method to transport people to another world. He told us that, seeing everyone out there at the festival, he could tell 2014 Porter that he definitely achieved those goals.

The set “ended” with ‘Goodbye to a World’ which, of course, is the fitting end. As the computer struggles to speak its words, we too struggle to let go of the show. We don’t want it to end. But luckily, he came back to play an encore of ‘Language’.

We thought it was really over then. But it wasn’t. Coming out one last time, he wasn’t alone. He had Madeon with him. And together, they broke the hearts of every single person there.

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They performed ‘Shelter’ together. Something they haven’t done since the conclusion of the Shelter Tour. It was a moment that we all hoped for, but never truly expected. And it was one that no one will soon forget.

The Drawbacks

Really the only negatives for the festival were in terms of managing the masses of people. On Saturday, people stood in line for hours upon hours trying to get merch. There were multiple complaints that people waited over four hours, only for the items they wanted to be sold out. This was better managed on Sunday with a more concrete line system. But for those that could only go one day, it was disappointing.

Another issue was getting out of the festival. There was no on-site parking, which they did warn people about ahead of time. That left the options as: rideshare, or their shuttles to the nearest BART station. The problem with rideshare was that there was little-to-no cell service, and the mass amounts of people utilizing the apps, caused extreme surcharges. One person claimed they were charged $150 for a trip that was normally around $40. As for the shuttles, again, it got better on Day 2, but for the Saturday crowd, it was another instance of chaotic crowd mismanagement.

In General…

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In general, Second Sky Festival was a massive success. All of the acts were superb. Everyone was kind to one another. The charity fundraiser goals were surpassed, and everything came together beautifully.

If you missed out on Second Sky, it is confirmed to be coming back next year.


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