Euphoria Music Festival has come a long way in the last five years. Although it has continued to highlight top Texas talent as well as both up-and-coming and established EDM-based artists, it has also embraced various genres within the umbrella of live music, along with a “Keep Austin Weird” mentality and a unified, tribal-like feel. Combined with the blessing of beautiful springtime weather, the result was an experience that felt familiar yet maintained its own signature identity.
One unique aspect of the festival grounds is the Dragonfly stage, tucked away along the river with stadium seating built into the rocks and hammocks suspended in the trees. Reminiscent of the small stages at Colorado’s Mishawaka or State Bridge venues, the small amphitheater played host to an eclectic blend of talent and genre each day. Accompanied by Emancipator Ensemble’s Colby Buckler on drums, DJ/producer Marvel Years ushered in Friday evening at the Dragonfly with a dance-worthy, funk-infused electronic set featuring tracks from his new “Bounce Back” EP. Space Jesus’ bass-driven beats and Future Rock followed, with house DJ SNBRN closing out the stage on Friday night. The Dragonfly was also home to noteworthy up-and-comers like eclectic fusion band Spafford, the funk-friendly Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and dance music DJ Big Wild, who is slated to perform at several festivals—including Chicago’s North Coast Music Festival and Coachella—this summer.
Still, Euphoria has remained loyal to its rave roots. This year’s extensive and evolved electronic lineup culminated with a fireworks show—and a marriage proposal—during Above & Beyond on Sunday. Euphoria’s second stage, formerly housed beneath a tent, grew into a fully grown main stage for its EDM/trap/hip-hop acts, from Branchez and Jai Wolf to Juicy J, Azizi Gibson and even YouTube rap sensation Lil’ Dicky.
In fact, the festival’s fifth anniversary lineup was the the most diverse it’s ever been, appealing to fans of funk, trance, rap, bass, deep house, jam/electronica and everything in between. Want to see the Motet perform with new lead vocalist Lyle Divinsky and sax player Drew Sayers (both are really good, by the way), then see an electro-ratchet Waka Flocka Flame set a few minutes later? Go for it. If you’d like to hear some daytime Dead jams from cover band Dead-Eye then shake it at Break Science on the main stage—or go from trap team LOUDPVCK to Nahko & Medicine for the People—you can do that too.
A high-energy performance by the Polish Ambassador officially kicked off the official Euphoria pre-party on Thursday night at the silent disco stage. Bursting with excitement and prepared to blast off to Polish’s intergalactic dance beats, it was apparent that Euphorians had their game faces on and were more than ready to rage. Located just outside the festival gates in the campgrounds, the silent disco stage was a work of art in itself, with rainbows reflecting from the disco ball to the trees to the dance floor, the scenic installation beckoned campers to the stage on their way back to their tents.
On Friday evening, the main stage featured live performances by Goldfish and Tycho before returning headliner STS9 threw down a stellar festival set that included surprises such as “Kamuy,” “Red Clay,” “Luma Daylight” and an epic “Circus” jam into an “EHM” finale (see full setlist below). Meanwhile, Dillon Francis brought the moombahton—and the pyrotechnics— to the Elements stage, where fans were treated to the debut of Francis’ new collaboration with trap DJ NGHTMRE.
Saturday’s main stage schedule—stacked, to say the least—made it difficult to wander. As usual, Lettuce brought their feel-good funk and impeccably soulful sound to the stage for an afternoon dance party that warmed up the crowd for GRiZ, whose set featured appearances from Muzzy and Texas’ own Jay Fresh on the mic for a special performance comprising sultry, sax-driven melodies, smooth riffs, clever rhymes and perfectly-timed bass drops. Having also also performed alongside Prismo, Marvel Years and Blunt Force throughout the weekend, Dallas-based Jay Fresh (who recently released “The Stay Gold Era” EP) said “getting to pinch with all the homies” was his favorite part of the festival, which became somewhat of a family affair for artists and campers alike.
But after GRiZ, a live Autograf set at the Dragonfly stage and an intense Eric Prydz techno set accompanied by astounding visual production, all eyes were on Bassnectar. The excitement and anticipation permeated the air throughout the day, and only grew more palpable as the sun went down. Ranging from classics like “Ping Pong” to newer (albeit deliciously grimy) tracks such as “Lost in the Crowd” and “Noise” from 2014’s Noise vs. Beauty, Bassnectar closed out Saturday with an explosive set—during which a sea of head-banging bass junkies nearly broke the front-row rail and barricade.
For festival fans feeling displaced after announcements of annual favorites like Wakarusa and Austin’s own Art Outside taking 2016 off, Euphoria’s positive, laid-back vibe seemed to fill the void for an experience that feels intimate and special—not only because of the names on the lineup, but because of a liberating atmosphere and welcoming community. Despite having to haul their gear along the lengthy trek from campsites to the cars, most attendees appeared to be leaving exhausted but with smiles and in high spirits; perhaps, this weekend, they’d found their euphoria.
Setlist: STS9 at Euphoria Music Festival, Austin, TX – 4/8/16
Set: Modular > Evasive Maneuvers > Modular, Kamuy, Click Lang Echo, Hidden Hand Hidden Fist, Luma Sunrise > Luma Daylight, New Dawn, New Day, March, Moonsocket, To The World, Red Clay, Circus, World Go Round, EHM
A gallery of Adam Straughn’s photos can be seen below: