Let’s Do This Every Year: Paradiso 2016 Review

Paradiso 2016 was quite possibly the best to date, and that’s some well-earned praise. Here’s our thoughts on the best, on what needs work, and what’s going to be sticking in our minds until next year. 

mag sunset

Obviously the sunset is one of them. | Photo credit: Kevin Brost


Crown Jewel Set

Erik

Chainsmokers, hands down. As I mentioned in my “Top 5 Sets” post, I had been trying to see The Chainsmokers for about the past three years, but something had always gotten in the way. I managed to sneak on The Chainsmokers train just before “#selfie” came out, after stumbling upon their remix of Daughter’s “Medicine.”While I personally love the original tracks they’ve released since then, their older remixes are something pretty special to me. And they’re good. Like really, really good. I totally get it why people like to claim hipster status on bands and artists, having jumped on the bandwagon “before they were cool.” There’s an element of having the opportunity to grow with them and feeling like you get to share in their success. You’ve been a part of their journey too, and man, what a journey it’s been for these guys.


To me, The Chainsmokers were the true finale to the weekend. A perfect balance of fun and emotional, while still throwing down. Everything that Paradiso 2016 encompassed. The stage presence and charisma of Alex and Drew is pretty unbelievable. Three years of waiting and they absolutely did not disappoint.


Paradiso starts around the 1:30 mark.

Matt

Bassnectar. Yeah, I know he was one of the primary headliners, and generally people like hearing about why some lesser billed act was the top set, but Bassnectar delivered one of the best sets I have seen to date. Fresh off the release of his new album Unlimited, Bassnectar has a lot of brand new tracks to work with, and do work he did indeed. The way that Bassnectar can get behind the decks and take you on a musical journey is unparalleled with only a select few others being able to match his musicality. I went into this set expecting something amazing, but what we got was perfection. Bassnectar is, and always will be, one of those acts who will leave you wanting more, and his second time performing at Paradiso was no exception.

Hidden Gem
(someone you loved you didn’t already know would be good)

Erik

Jay Hardway. I think just because he’s signed to Spinin’ and he close association with Martin Garrix, I assumed his whole set would just be big room drops for an hour. Fine every once in a while, even though it’s not what I’m usually interested in seeing. Regardless,  I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of future bass he threw in there.

Matt

DVBBS. If you had asked me before Paradiso if I cared at all about DVBBS, I would have said no. I have not been super impressed with their music in the past. I feel like they are slightly formulaic with their productions, and seem to have a “Bro Party Boy” persona to them. Image and biases aside though, I was extremely surprised to see their performance at Paradiso. Following up an incredible set by RL Grime, DVBBS came on. I had mixed emotions about this, but with Dillon Francis and Bassnectar following up (coupled with a perfect spot on the hill overlooking the main stage), I gave them a shot. To my surprise, I found a pretty diverse, high energy, fun set. A few times I found myself thinking ‘Wow, they are really throwing down some great tracks.” While I still have my opinions about their productions, their set was fantastic and I did truly enjoy it. I now can put them on my list of “Artists Who I Thought I Hated, But Ended Up Secretly Enjoying” next to Diplo and Martin Garrix.

Standouts

Erik

I really have to commend USC for the way they handled the unpredictability of the weather throughout the weekend. For someone who wasn’t dealing with the wind well myself, I can’t even imagine what it must have been to deal with everything behind the scenes. They absolutely made the right call by delaying the entrance to the festival and opening the main stage on Friday. While also handling a hundred other issues regarding artist relations, medical emergencies, social media outreach; USC still managed to keep everything running smoothly. A lot of credit goes to the app, which has been a pretty big game changer the past two years, so kudos to whoever developed that. I can’t even say how happy I am that cell service has improved in that area (yes, even for t-Mobile). Reminders to stay hydrated, cracking jokes on making sure your tents were staked down, information on schedule changes, and just occasional words of love did a lot to limit the craziness of the weekend.

As always, the production of any USC event is the biggest highlight and I am so impressed by their commitment to outdo themselves. It’s really interesting to look back on the stage setups from the first few Paradisos and see how they’ve raised their own standards year after year. I wish I had spent more time at the Digital Oasis, but that’s what happens when their too many artists that you want to see. Other elements such as art to yoga to local DJs mixing deeper music made the whole event feel more like a festival instead of just a concert. Sometimes it’s nice to do something away from the music, and I really hope to see more of this in the future.

production diso

Photo credit: Kevin Brost

Zero deaths. I know it’s still a little bit of a bummer that we still have to bring this up as a standout, but someone day we won’t. Huge round of applause to every Conscious Crew member, medical personal, and volunteer who kept everyone safe throughout the weekend.

Matt

To me, the only standout performance of the weekend was Caspa b2b Rusko. This is not to say no one else had amazing performances, but of the ones I attended (typically in the genre of bass) Caspa & Rusko destroyed it. I get shivers even now thinking back to how special that set was. What they brought was a fine tuned selection of classic UK Dubstep, half of which I thought I would never get to hear live again. In stark contrast to the high energy fast paced sets most bass artists deliver, Caspa & Rusko took us on a journey back in time to when Dubstep was not a contest of who can have the craziest sounds in the quickest succession, but instead a heavy crawl through wobbles, samples, and all of the 2010 UKF vibes we all used to love. There wasn’t a sense of urgency to play as many tracks as they could, but instead let songs play out a little further than normal, while mixing in some of their classics and other tracks long forgotten by the current bass trends. This was a punch in the face of nostalgia, and a sobering reminder how much we need this style of music represented in today’s festival scene. 

Improvements

Okay, let’s talk about security.

On day two, a lot of people had really negative interactions with the Live Nation staff members doing bag and security checks, and believe me, I feel you on this one. The physical conduct and attitude from a lot of the staff was abrasive, uncomfortable, and inappropriate. Even if you didn’t experience it firsthand, it’s likely that you witnessed it in the line right next to yours, heard about it from a friend, or read about it on Facebook. Many people were inappropriately touched physically, whether that was rough contact, hands under cloth lines or grabbing body parts or just a general lack of professional courtesy.

Personally, I feel that there’s a vigilante mentality Live Nation picks up on, thinking they’re Batman stopping a shipment of drugs coming in or something by making someone throw out their sunscreen out. I get that the staff basically spends the entire weekend dealing with people who aren’t really paying attention or trying bend the rules, but in the end that’s their job. Professional conduct is equally important as keeping people safe, and we should not be dealing with security that is more invasive than the TSA. There is a limit to how far you can go and without question many of them crossed it.

However…I also think that it goes both ways, and we as attendees have to be realistic about it. If the rules say you can’t bring in opened packs of cigarettes or airplane shots and they make you throw them out, as much as that sucks that’s all on you. I know that sometimes it gets confusing because things may change depending on who checks your bag and how closely they check it and what they’ve heard You could get your cigarettes taken away while the person in the line next to you gets their’s through. There’s an element of inconsistency that makes things seem unfair. The staff needs to be accurately informed on what is permitted, but we have to follow protocol as best we can too.

Inside the venue, I passed a granola bar to someone who looked like they were feeling sick and immediately we had Live Nation staff members approach us asking what was in our hands. That’s annoying, and at the time I felt really irritated, but I also understand. I had a friend try to bring in a prescription without a doctor’s note (as the rules said she needed) and they made her throw it out. It happened to be fine, but what if it had been seizure medication or something for anxiety? My hope would be that Live Nation would be understanding, but I honestly don’t know. It’s frustrating for those who follow the rules to be treated like they’re just trying to being sneaky and exploit for loopholes.

In the end, my rule with security is honey versus vinegar. Mutual understanding and respect go a long way.

But you have to remember, LIVE NATION IS NOT USC EVENTS.

Many of you might remember similar issues that occurred during Paradiso 2014 and USC’s response to it. People spoke up, USC listened, and they handled the situation. USC wants the attendees of their events to follow the rules, but they also want them to feel safe. If you experienced something that made you feel uncomfortable or you had issues with your tickets, you should definitely make your voice heard. But believe me when I say that cursing out the USC Events Facebook page is probably not the best way to go about it. Be cordial, be understanding, and explain your case. Respect goes both ways.

Lasting Impression

Erik

After first attending an amazing Paradiso in 2013, I’ve actually liked each subsequent year a little less and a little less. It got to the point where I was starting to get a little worried. Maybe I was beginning to get burned out on the scene. Paradiso, like most big festivals, is a big investment. A lot of planning, a lot of money, and a lot of energy go into doing everything possible to have an amazing weekend, and when things don’t go well for one reason or another, it can be a pretty big let down. But despite anything that could have taken away from the weekend (the wind, the security, not getting to see everyone due to scheduling changes), I came home Sunday from an exhausting, intense experience tired and a little sunburned, but for maybe the first time ever, I felt refreshed.

The weather was perfect (except for the 12 hour tornado on day one), the music was great no matter what set I was at, my camping crew was a blast, and the vibes from everyone were the best I’ve encountered at the Gorge. Everyone was just happy to be there.

Hands down my favorite Paradiso. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the announcement for Magnifique.

Matt

There is a reason why Paradiso has been popping up on multiple news sites as a “must attend festival” and what USC did this year is truly show why that is the case. This year was probably the best year of Paradiso to date (I say probably because I have attended every year, and each is so special to me in its own right), but what this year did so well was bring everything together into one smooth complete package. Yes of course there will be hiccups, but there were significantly less this year. The stage; AMAZING! Like truly one of, if not the best, productions to ever have graced The Gorge and Paradiso (Year 1 and 3 are both honorable mentions). Musically, this year’s diverse lineup really added to the experience, and with the additional treat of Magnifique in September, USC has shown that they are devoted to bringing music of all varieties to the PNW to delight the ears of all those who attend their events (still waiting on the support of alternative electronic music, but now I’m just being nitpicky).

diso love

We heart Paradiso. | Photo Credit: Kevin Brost

Stray Observations

Erik

  • It should be obvious, but Illenium was amazing. I just feel the need to write it down.
  • Just excellent Rick and Morty representation all around, everyone. That was fantastic.
  • Notes for next year. Get in early. Grab a spot on the terrace. Hang out all day.
  • Bro Safari is one of the most laid back, nicest people I’ve met in the industry. Keep your eyes peeled for our interview with him.
  • What did people even do for totems before internet memes because a common thing?
  • Always set up your tent at home before you take it with you.
  • Pretty sure one of the mobile water vendors implied he was looking to buy drugs off of me. Sketch, dude.
  • For those of you scamming people with tickets, knock it the fuck off. You ruin the experience and karma is coming at you with vengeance.
  • Anyone get one of those cans of compressed air from the oxygen bar?

Matt

  • Conscious Crew still being the real MVP’s
  • The fact that Paradiso did not sell out had a super positive effect on crowd. It felt a lot less ‘im here to party” and a lot more “im here for the music/setting/friends”. I think this had to do with the more diverse lineup instead of the massive names and super star booking power lineup of last year.
  • To mirror Erik, Bro Safari is seriously one of the most down to Earth people I have met.
  • What a difference the weather makes on everyone’s enjoyment levels.
  • District 9 was seriously underwhelming this year. Much less going on overall.
  • Did I mention Conscious Crew, because Conscious Crew!

 

See you guys at Magnifique! 

Kevin Brost Photography

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Erik Skoog

Erik Skoog

I like catchy music and baby animals. One time I was on a Dutch documentary series about making it in Hollywood. I jump a lot when I dance.
Erik Skoog
- 3 days ago
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