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6 things we learned at Singapore’s totally insane ZoukOut festival

Photo credits: Zouk Singapore/Colossal Photos

It’s 30 degrees at 6.50am, the sun is rising and ZoukOut festival is still going strong. Zouk resident Ghetto is behind the decks on stage, winding down the festival for the 15,000 people that are still here after partying the night through. Over the past two days, acts like Martin Garrix, Zedd, Lost Frequencies and Dillon Francis have played to packed crowds in the sweltering Singaporean heat, at one of the largest festival crowds in Asia.

JULES LEFEVRE was still on the beach as the sun rose. Here’s what she learnt from two of the wildest days on Asia’s dance music calendar.


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#1 Location really is everything

Siloso Beach is a long and thin stretch of sand on the densely populated holiday island of Sentosa. It is also damn good venue for a festival. Apparently there is no such thing as noise restrictions in Singapore, because even though there are hotels within a stone’s throw of the site, the bass happily kept thumping on until the break of day.

The setting itself is postcard perfect: swaying palm trees and bright white sand and at the edge, the long view of water across the Singapore Strait. Best of all, the sand underfoot means that even when the heavens opened and a tropical storm swept through on Saturday night, ripping through Wiwek’s set, the rain just soaked away.

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#2 …well, that and the visuals

Let’s face it: EDM is just opera with bigger beats. Gone are the days of the static backdrop, and in its place is staging is so wonderfully over the top that it’s easy to spend the entire set just watching the screens.

Case in point was KSHMR’s set. The US DJ went above and beyond with his backdrop visuals, which depicted an epic Lord Of The Rings via Dragonball Z-style fight of himself fighting a red eyed monster. Other acts went more tongue in check, such as Dillon Francis who just had Guy Fieri’s face on a hotdog floating across the screen, or Martin Garrix who had himself running through a Super Mario game.

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#3 The smaller stages hold their own

The Moon Stage may have had the big hitters, but the smaller Star Stage definitely punched above its weight. Fritz Kalkbrenner mustered up a packed tent despite competing with Lost Frequencies, delivering a tight and bass-heavy set. A day later local producer Koflow kicked things off with a bruising set, before Snakehips dropped All My Friends to an ecstatic crowd and Tokimonsta proved just why she’s one of the most in demand and eclectic acts around.

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#4 Zedd is the ultimate festival crowd pleaser

Zedd seemed determined to cram as many songs as possible into his 90-minute set on Sunday morning. From the well worn riff of Seven Nation Army to Cold Water and Lean On, The Chainsmoker’s Closer, Clean Bandit’s Rather Be and DJ Snake’s Let Me Love You, it was an onslaught of just about every dance-pop track of the last two years.

While the crowd lapped it up, it left the set feeling way too crammed. (He even chucked in We Will Rock You, for heaven’s sake.) Things improved when Zedd let his own tracks breathe: I Want You To Know and Beautiful Now were played in full glory – and there’s no better festival moment than hearing Clarity at full volume.

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#5 But Dillon Francis is the most entertaining

Francis proved why he deserves the title as the quirkiest dude in dance during his Friday night set. Opening with Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas before quickly dropping in This Is What You Came For and Lean On before a choice remix of Pen Pineapple Apple Pen  it was a relentlessly playful performance. There was the usual explosion of confetti cannons and brief blasts of pyrotechnics, but the best moments were the simplest: Francis laying down an explosive Need You and a warped remix of the Stranger Things theme.

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#6 And Martin Garrix is the reigning king of EDM

At 4am in the morning with a piano riff of Animals carving through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, the #1 DJ in the world leapt up behind the decks. There’s no question that 2016 has been Martin Garrix’s year  – aside from taking out the DJ Mag title, he dropped seven new tracks in seven days as part of ADE and played nearly every major festival and venue on the planet, all at the tender of age of 20.

So this set was always going to be big, and it was. Garrix’s show is a well-oiled machine, and from the blistering opening synth blasts of Lions In The Wild melting into remixes of Can’t Feel My Face and Runaway, his control over the crowd was complete. For the next hour and a half it was an onslaught. He dropped his two new singles Make Up Your Mind and Together back-to-back, freeing him to turn his attention to big house staples like Tremor and Virus. 

Fireworks punctured Don’t Look Downthe rain started to fall for Now That I’ve Found You, and after teasing Animals the entire set, he finally let it run wild.

Jules LeFevre is a writer for inthemix. She tweets at @jules_lefevre