In 2012, Lucky
was the very first USC Events
show I ever attended. Back then they featured just two stages and still managed to bring in artists like Porter Robinson and Hardwell when they were on the verge of blowing up, in addition to Calvin Harris when he was still performing for us normies. Lucky, as I've come to learn from a lot of people, has acted as a catalyst and an introduction into this world. For me, it was an experience that would define the next five years of my life and after. It's led to how I know most of my friends, how I spend almost all my free time (and money), and have been the source of most of my fondest of memories. I had the pleasure of attending this year's Lucky with several first timers, and couldn't help but feel a little nostalgic as they babbled with excitement and were all smiles as they recapped their night, barely able to wait for the next show. What a fun journey they're about to go on.
Lucky 2012 was probably the first show USC threw just as dance music began to explode in popularity. While no stranger to throwing parties, since then they have noticeably become more refined and organized. Anyone familiar with recent past events can remember the line related catastrophes that used to burden Freaknight and Paradiso. This time around the process to get in to the venue was some of the most manageable I've dealt with at any massive, and that's even after having to wait in line two separate times because of a security guard on a power trip. More on this later.
One of USC's strongest points continues to be their production. After last year's massive improvement to the sound bleed issues that plagued the first Freaknight at the Tacoma Dome in 2015, this year only seemed to get better. I did hear some (minor) complaints that it might be time to switch the bass stage and the trance stage, and while I think all the lasers would fit perfectly with the walls the annex, my fear is that the bass would just be too overpowering if any closer to the main stage. Take that as a compliment Seattle. You guys rage too hard. Even against Knife Party, I think it would have been hard to mask the intensity of Figure and Midnight Tyrannosaurus, who according to one of my bassiest friends is "almost even too heavy for me." Besides, each stage was well designed to fit with the vibe of the artists. The lasers filling the otherwise darkened Future Sound of Egypt stage, the massive video and LED panels towering over the crowd at the main, and the warehouse bass stage's new cathedral backdrop. Not to mention the insane complexity of the performers costumes and makeup.
In terms of real issues, they were minimal at worst. I heard that VIP closed down at 1am for some reason, which would be pretty annoying if you shelled out the money for it. The lines for the bar were pretty efficient and even though the "show ID, buy (up to two) drink tickets, exchange drink tickets for beverage 30 seconds later" method the Tacoma Dome employs is kind of a pain, I think it really only impacted you if you went in intending not to get a drink and then changed your mind, or if you wanted to camp at the back of one of the stages all night. If I wanted to be nitpicky, I guess the line for one of the main stage water refill stations bled out into a walkway and caused some cross traffic issues. Maybe there's something to be said about the unfortunate value of set conflicts judging from the overwhelming size of the crowd during Datsik
. And then of course there was the guy who decided to scale to the top of the water refill station and start screaming, who was also apparently the same guy TJR had to stop his set for because he was trying to pick a fight. Some people's kids, right?
But outside of that? Honestly, not much to report. At the end of the night, Lucky 2017 was good; just like it generally has been for the last five years. The crowd was friendly, the music was diverse, and the despite my initial reservations, the trip to Tacoma was worth the effort. This is largely because one of the best things in the Seattle dance community continues to be the people. It's been nothing short of a joy watching my circle of friends grow and being able to spot a familiar face at any show I attend. Where now my entire Facebook newsfeed is completely overrun by people losing their collective shit over the announcement of ABGT 250 at The Gorge. This is not something that's happened overnight. That's something for me that has been slowly developing for five years; building my confidence, and expanding my taste in music.
And while consistency is great, and consistency even after a venue change and some policy unrest with things such as the removal of bathroom doors is impressive, after five years the shows are kind of starting to blend together. Sometimes it seems like the only changes have been more lights, bigger stages, bigger artists, and different color schemes. I know that this isn't really an accurate assessment, as when USC does attempt something radically different like Bliss
or especially Magnifique
or what will surely be ABGT 250 later this year, the events are overwhelmingly positively received. But as for the staple shows, when you've seen most, if not all of the artists multiple times, I can't help but weigh the value of driving to a different city, getting a hotel, and not waking up in your own bed for an experience that while good, isn't that different. And though USC has began to curate specialized stages such as 2016's Anjunabeats stage or this year's Aly & Fila's Future Sound of Egypt stage
, I'm left hoping to see them take more risks in the future.
As a parallel - and this is the first time I think I've noticed this from an artist - NGHTMRE played pretty much the exact same set as he did when he was here for Safe in Sound, which is pretty much the same set he played at EDC last summer, which is really similar to sets I've heard from him at other recent events. I noticed mostly because of him dropping a lot of throwbacks like "All The Small Things" and Journey. Along the same lines - it's a great set and a lot of fun to dance to, but it loses it's impact after the third or fourth time. Ultimately, that's going to be the deciding factor in me wanting to check out something new.
Two more things - neither of which have to do with the show itself, but need to be addressed. StaffPro needs to be educated and properly trained on how to do their job.
I know that StaffPro is not USC, but this has basically always been an issue; whether it's unnecessary delays in lines, overly invasive searches, or a complete lack of understanding or interest in the rules. I get that sometimes people blow interactions out of proportion or it might not be practical to have intensive training with contract employees, but something needs to change. Yes, everyone in attendance needs to be aware of and follow the rules, but we also need to stop shrugging it off when security guards randomly ignore policy or go beyond the duties of a TSA agent. Several girls said they were denied feminine products on Facebook, someone told me they had to leave behind a portable cell phone charger, and there are always reports of staff getting inappropriately physical. When I tried to explain to a guard I bought a plastic backpack specifically for this event and show him the rules of allowed items on my phone, he just responded "I don't care what the rules say, you're not coming in here with that." So at the advice of another staff member I just went to a different entrance without problem.
Bottom line is these are people in a position of authority taking advantage of people in a hard situation. Most attendees simply want to get inside and out of the cold at this point and don't want to protest their pat down or argue the rules. If you start getting felt up, it's going to be really challenging to stand up for yourself. Not to be sound like an angsty teenager, but I can't help but ask how much of this comes from people outside the culture looking down on those they have preconceived notions of and not wanting to bother to understand. I've experienced this behavior at the Gorge, I've experienced this at EDC, I've experienced this from customs agents getting back from Holy Ship. So StaffPro (and security in general) - please start treating us like human beings even though you don't like the music we listen to.
I'd also really
like to suggest a fleet of cabs that have been prearranged to wait outside of the venue and take people where they need to go at the end of the night. It's late, the weather is unpredictable, the area is unfamiliar to most of the people there, and chances are most people are pretty disoriented. It's not practical to have people book an Uber that is at a 500% surcharge to go half a mile. I also heard some people say their rideshare apps simply stated "No cars available in your area." People should not be walking through mud, standing water, and alongside the highway back to La Quinta Inn because Tacoma can't put in a well-lit pathway leading from an events center to a major hotel. I think having cabs would be hugely beneficial at the other events held at WaMu Theater, while maybe not as critical. Let's just make sure that people can get home safely after the show is over.
That all being said I, like everyone else in Washington, am beyond excited for the rest of what USC Events is bringing this year. As the number of events continues to stack up, I wonder if I'm ever going to have a free weekend. With the recent bombshell of a Paradiso announcement
, the endless string of bookings at Foundation, Kaskade, and did anyone mention we get a Group Therapy show at the Gorge yet? Lucky was an example of what USC does well, I can't wait to see what they do exceptionally in 2017.