Photo by Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images – Porter Robinson
Worlds Remixed: Porter Robinson spins at SnowGlobe Music Festival in Lake Tahoe, Nev., Dec. 30, 2017. Robinson will be hosting his very own festival, Second Sky, June 15-16 in Oakland, Calif.
Posty Fest. Astroworld. Dreamville. Southern Ground. Eaux Claires. Homecoming. Cal Jam. The list of artist-branded/curated festivals has ballooned in the past several years and it might be easy for fans to get cynical about why artists are signing on for the experience.
Porter Robinson made it perfectly clear in his interview with Pollstar that his goal in setting up Second Sky Music Festival in Oakland, Calif., was to fulfill his fantasy of having “a place where all my favorite music can coexist.” So Robinson partnered with Goldenvoice and called some of his favorite artists, the purview of which extends well beyond electronic music, to book a festival. The lineup includes Madeon, Cashmere Cat, Chrome Sparks, Kero Kero Bonito, Anamanaguchi, G Jones, Nina Las Vegas, and Wednesday Campanella.
Now completely sold out, the inaugural Second Sky is set to run June 15-16 in Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park and will mark the only 2019 performances of Robinson’s landmark 2014 album Worlds. Robinson was gracious enough to chat with Pollstar about what he was getting out of curation and what attendees can expect.
Pollstar: Now that artist festivals are so common, why would you want to do one?
Porter Robinson: The main reason I wanted to do an artist-curated festival is I have this fantasy of there being a place where all of my favorite music can coexist. A lot of the music I listen to, that I think is really good, amusing, important and needs to be heard is A) not the music people associate me with and B) isn’t always at the festivals that will have me. I really wanted to see if I could showcase and create a live space for music that I’m actually listening to.
There’s a ton of people who were over the moon with the lineup. I’ve gotten comments: “I can’t believe that all these artists are in the same place.” And there’s an equal number of people who haven’t heard of anybody on the lineup except maybe me, Cashmere Cat and Madeon. For some people it’s this ideal festival lineup of people you hear online but you wouldn’t get the chance to see all in one place.
I tried to not pander when I was deciding the lineup, I tried to do the right thing for the festival and create the right experience.
One of the best things that happened was, when I started, I drafted a dream lineup and that’s essentially what we ended up with. One thing I’m over the moon about is the excitement of the artists to do a festival like this. That is such a great piece of this. I heard from one of them, “This is exactly what I wanted to do.”
So it sounds like one of the benefits is that you get complete control over the environment of the performance, not just your set.
I’m really controlling and obsessive with my music, videos, festival presentation, with every project I do I like to control the multimedia as much as I can.
So to be able to be involved in all aspects of the festival is really cool. It’s nice to be working with Goldenvoice because they have so much experience, and Coachella is my favorite festival to play. It’s just such a good experience for the artist.
I want Second Sky to be a really good experience, not only for the fan but for everybody on the lineup, I want them to feel comfortable.
I feel that there’s so many musicians, my peers who are just struggling, generally. And I wish they weren’t. I wish everyone who makes music that I really like can have their ideal career. Obviously that’s not always possible, but that’s a big part of why I wanted to do this. I’m trying to create a dreamland for these artists and give a lot of them a little extra boost with my audience.
So you are going to perform the material from Worlds.
In 2014 I launched Worlds Live, it’s something that I worked on and made a long time ago. It’s something my fans have a strong affection for. A lot of people really want to see that show exactly as it was several years ago. It’s something that they idolize, they could probably say it better than me, but they really have come to revere this specific show.
I try to avoid always giving my fans exactly what they want. My most recent project,
Virtual Self, was mostly for me.
But the cool thing about performing Worlds is I get to give people what they really want by doing the full live show, which I haven’t done very much in recent years. And the upside of that for me is getting to say, “Look at all this other cool music.”
The festival is only one stage, meaning attendees only get one performance option at a time. I’m sure there would be tons of other artists who would love to join, why not open a second stage?
The intention of this festival is to give people a compelling lineup that they are absolutely going to want to see. And there’s not a ton of choices, so they don’t have to sacrifice seeing one artist for another. You’re not allowing people to disrupt, there’s a little bit of forcefulness. “No. Watch this artist because they’re fucking awesome.” Maybe in the future [other festivals] might want to keep it to a single stage, so people are forced to reckon with music that they might not know. That’s a really big part of what I want to do.
For me, the idea of being able to do a festival that is uncompromising, that doesn’t offer people a lot of choice, but is saying ‘Here is the lineup, enjoy it,’ is the most incredible tool. It shows that the people who follow me have faith in what I do.
Kevin Winter / Getty Images / Coachella – Porter Robinson & Madeon
Madeon and Porter Robinson wave to their fans at Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival April 23, 2017
You seem very grateful to have fans that let you take chances.
Honestly, it feels reassuring. I really cherish that I have that relationship with my audience. Time and time again I have been able to do these projects that are not what they want or expect, but hopefully they give it a chance, figure it out, and come to love it.
I think so many people turned around on Virtual Self. When it first came out people expected that warm, fuzzy, nostalgic, emotional music I was doing with Worlds and were anticipating a sequel to that. When I came out with Virtual Self, it was really cold, serious, not as warm as my past projects. I really felt like I was doing that for such a niche audience, for like 100 people, myself being one of those people.
But people still came to the show. And I obsessed over the show, I obsessed over the music, I obsessed over the videos. I wasn’t playing songs like, “Every Time We Touch,” a beat from a 2000 trance record which people would know, I didn’t want to hold their hand. In fact, I tried to play a good deal of stuff that even people who were into these more obscure styles wouldn’t know. I wanted them to feel fearless. I don’t usually hold peoples’ hands to sell tickets and make sure people come. It’s always been ‘Let me put on this experience that I hope is uncompromising. I did my absolute best to make it cool according to my own standards and if you want to come, that’s great.’
I feel really lucky to be in this position, where I can do whatever I like and people will come check it out. I don’t know if that’s gonna last forever, but I can’t tell you how liberating it is, creatively, to know that I can do basically whatever I think is good and people will at least give it a chance. That really makes me feel loved.
I don’t expect my fans to like everything that I do, but I really care that they always listen to what I have to say. I want always be making something uncompromising and honestly the way I think it should be. That aspect of it, that people believe that, is incredible.
It sounds like you’ve really been enjoying the experience of curation. Would you consider a return in 2020?
There’s so many logistical elements of putting on a festival. I’ve had so many questions: “Are people gonna come?” “Is there gonna be some issue?” You never know, there’s so many things that people perceive is the artist’s responsibility.
I want to see how it goes before committing to another year, but the part I feel absolutely certain about is putting on a super cool lineup of stuff that I think is legitimately great, and trying to make it the best musical experience possible. And Goldenvoice handles all the other logistical aspects, so that’s the part of the festival that I’m excited to see how it goes.