Mr. Calderone, who was the deejay-du-jour for both Madonna and Sting, has taken his electronic stylings all over the world, but he gets particular pleasure performing in his home city. “I didn’t feel like I was on Randall’s Island or even in New York,” he said about last year’s Zoo.
“I have not heard better sounds at a festival,” the Brooklyn-born deejay and three-time Zoo vet, told The Observer. “It’s just an explosion of energy that you don’t have playing a small after-hours club room” the once resident-deejay at the Roxy continued.
Mr. Calderone told us that location is what makes Randall’s Island an excellent venue. “I can’t think of any other locations in New York that work the way Electric Zoo works on Randall’s Island,” the nightlife legend mused, paused, and then added: “There are so many components that make sense.”
One such component is that Randall’s Island lies in the East River and connects the boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx, and Queens. “Location and venue are a big part of any festival’s character, so the two are never mutually-exclusive,” Mr. Bindra and Ms. Palma told us, admitting that they’ve had their eye on the island as a prospective venue for their festival for the last decade. “All the improvements they’ve made to the park over the years just made it a no-brainer for us,” the duo wrote. “It was just a question of timing and all the pieces falling into place to finally realize it.”
Despite its auspicious location, the island has a grim history. Since the 19th Century, it has sustained—among other shady establishments—a burial ground for the poor, a psychiatric hospital, and a reform school for juvenile delinquents. Although founded in 1992, RISF finished developing the island earlier this summer. Unveiled with a ceremony on July 1st, the island now has over sixty “state-of-the-art” playing fields, a driving range, a tennis center, the Icahn Track and Field stadium, a redesigned waterfront, gardens, and pedestrian pathways. Ms. Boden also pointed out that the construction restored nine acres of wetlands.
“We want to get people who are not there just to play on the fields to come over and use the island in a new way,” Ms. Boden told The Observer.
And Mr. Bindra and Ms. Palma agree. “New York City’s parks are such a valuable resource without which Electric Zoo could not exist in its current form,” the sponsors concluded. “Our goal is to not only support the island as it grows, but to be a part of its growth and improvement.”
As we made for the footbridge back to Manhattan, The Observer glanced back over our shoulder. After surveying the rehabilitated island, the image of the space alive with thousands of flowing bodies suddenly didn’t seem too far-fetched.