by Brandon Lopez
with commentary from John Miller
The fifth-year of Phoenix Lights brought us two full days of galactic music, food, and fun. From the laser fast food service to the soul-train vibes of the Trolley Llama, there were smiles around every corner. With four stages packing some intense heat, everybody had something to get their alien vibes on to.
Walking into the venue on the first night our eardrums were probed by the hypnotic house vibes of The Colony stage. It drew us in closer and closer with every beat. This stage is unique in that the audience wraps entirely around the DJ booth giving it a warm and intimate feeling. The point of this stage isn’t for crazy visuals or confetti cannons or lasers. The point is for the audience to interact with one another, talk to some strange new friends, and have a place to mellow out and ground themselves. All of the DJs that took to the stage here were phenomenal at bringing about bubbly and upbeat music to get the party mingling.
We eventually broke the spell of the Colony and ventured further into the festival grounds. It wasn’t long before our attention was captivated by Walter Productions’ “Mona Lisa” which is essentially a burner art-car meets flying-saucer. It shoots flames and has rainbow LED lights which tantalized our eyes. Like the Colony stage, this was a great spot to mingle with members of the extended rave family who had become equally captivated by this beautiful artwork.
The blend of emotionally tender beats with grimy tense rhythms is an experience that will leave you wanting to lick the whisk.
As the night went on, we continued to check out the festival grounds bouncing about all the stages. It wasn’t long before we closed in on the invasion stage which was housed in a large white tent, not too far off in design from Denver International Airport. On the first night, we had the pleasure of catching a set by ARTY, which brought back memories of when ARTY played through the New Year at Decadence Arizona. His music has a feel-good trance vibe crafted for releasing emotions, worries, and stresses. ARTY’s melodies provide that perfect medicine for the soul and left our hearts feeling fuller and scrubbed free of negativity.
On night two at the invasion stage, we had the pleasure of catching Whipped Cream — a DJ we can honestly say neither of us had listened to before. But isn’t discovering great new music what festivals are all about? I left craving her deliciously sweet creamy vibes, whipped full of high energy trance blended with heavy hitters and metallic melodies. The blend of emotionally tender beats with grimy tense rhythms is an experience that will leave you wanting to lick the whisk.
Back at the Mothership, Excision blasted the earthlings to Pluto and back again with his unique, hard-wrenching, super destructo wubs, combined perfectly with a divergence of lasers that took to the sky.
On the first night, we split the end of the night between the main Mothership stage and the equally talented and local Fallout stage. The Fallout hosted Vayn, a local Arizona DJ that loves to throw down some heavy industrial wubs when she performs her masterpieces. She’s always out playing at local venues such as Shady Part and Aura in Tempe. With Vayn being one of Arizona’s premier DJs, it felt right for her performance to close out day one at the local stage. We wanted to make sure that we saw the main stage before taking out our space buns and heading home for the night. Back at the Mothership, Excision blasted the earthlings to Pluto and back again with his unique, hard-wrenching super destructo wubs, combined perfectly with a divergence of lasers that took to the sky.
The Mothership was beaming with super galactic talent all weekend including Vanic, GRiZ, Malaa, Big Gigantic, and Excision. Vanic brought to the stage their soft, supple beats mixed with warm lyrics, uplifting backtrack, and blissful beats sprinkled throughout to invade the brain with positivity. Malaa kept everyone going with fast-hitting riddim house vibes. His ski mask added a little bit of mystique to the desert night party. GRiZ and Big Gigantic both laid down the jams on separate nights, putting all those funky vibes in the air, and with GRiZ playing lots of tracks from his new album, Ride Waves. This set was especially turbulent for both of us, having once bonded over GRiZ, but since becoming more distant from one another.
I was flustered. I was emotional. I was heartbroken. Unfortunately at this point, reality had set in that I loved someone who didn’t love me back. Shit.
[Brandon] At this point, I’m going to break the script and stop pretending like we watched this set together because we didn’t. By the time GRiZ took to the stage, we were well-separated, two humans no longer infatuated with one another. Once the song “Can’t Get Enough” wrapped up, my heart was ripped to shreds, as the lyrics rang so fucking real. I was flustered, desperately trying to time warp into the past, to the days of seeing GRiZ at the Marquee, McDowell Mountain Music Festival, Red Rocks, and for GRiZMAS two years in a row. Memories poured forth of all the times when he [John] was by my side, blissfully dancing the night away. I missed most of the rest of the Ride Waves set after emerging from the pit. I was flustered. I was emotional. I was heartbroken. Unfortunately at this point, reality had set in that I loved someone who didn’t love me back. Shit.
I have listened to GRiZ’s Ride Waves album dozens, if not hundreds of times, since Phoenix Lights. And every time I learn a little more about myself and I feel like I’m a bit further on in the album. After all, for me, this album is about what I’m going through – a breakup and all of the aftermath. The entire album is a hard truth to swallow for many that listen. The things that were? Well, they aren’t anymore. Music evolves, GRIZ’s message changes, and the sound of his music evolves as his soul experiences this world.
While I feel I missed out on catching a grand wave at my first Ride Waves set, Phoenix Lights 2019 will still go down as a special experience, and I’m looking forward to paddling out with the GRiZ FAM once again. I’ll see him when he ventures to Red Rocks this year, and then again in Seattle, the city I now call home. Time to get back on my board and ride waves.
I’ve worn a piece of Ride Waves merchandise nearly every day since the beginning of April. It serves as a reminder that life comes in waves and that things change. Evolve. Get better. My Ride Waves hat has sparked so many conversations with new friends. My Ride Waves hat has also allowed me to have conversations with perfect strangers about the new direction of GRiZ’s music. I’ve had some people straight-up hate on his “new sound.” And to those people I have to say, try being the same person after you go through a breakup. Try having the same outlook on the world. And try to resist the urge to collaborate with your idols. Enjoy the new collaborative voice of GRiZ, where he is working with his favorite artists to create a unique sound in directions not yet explored.