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The Monster Returns at HiJinx 2019 [Event Review]

In its second year of production, HiJinx Fest opened its doors to more than twenty thousand attendees ready to send 2019 off with a bang. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, it was easy for East Coast headbangers to choose where they spent their last weekend of the year. Based on the reviews from its inaugural year, HiJinx made a slew of improvements and provided a stacked heavy bass lineup for fans to enjoy. Event staff stayed on top of pumping out info on set times, afterparties, and the best times to enter the festival to avoid security lines.

After entering the Convention Center, volunteers greeted attendees by handing out high fives and good vibes, keeping the flow of people moving at a good rate despite thorough security. It’s rare to find staff and volunteers that always project positivity; it was easy to see they were just as engaged and ready to enjoy the event as the actual festival goers. HiJinx encouraged everyone to enter one hour before their desired first artist, allowing ample time to get in, walk amongst the shops, and prepare for a night full of music and friendship. 

With one million square feet for production to play with, HiJinx turned the Convention Center into what felt like a top tier festival. One main screen in the center of the stage and many smaller screens pulsed on the side, allowing seemingly limitless possibilities for the visual arts. An array of projections made their way across the screens, and even the popular Baby Yoda made an appearance during GRiZ‘s set. Skrillex was able to set up his own unique platform at center stage, placing a camera behind himself that projected his point of view onto the main screen. One amenity that stood out was the “VIP Pit” that allowed uninhibited access to the rail for VIP pass holders.

There is only one word to describe the sound quality—loud. When it comes to audio rigs, nothing can be worse than experiencing a favorite headliner at a low volume, but the multiple layers of speakers and subwoofers scattered throughout the event made sure that everyone who brought earplugs was grateful to have done so. Along the ceiling, surrounded by lights, the HiJinx Monster was evenly scattered in parts giving the illusion that this festival is in fact a “monster.” The lights and lasers complemented the sound and visuals perfectly, expanding from single laser usage to an array of patterns and colors that would make the audience feel like they were in heaven.

Of course, the multiple layers of high-level production would be useless without an equally stacked artist lineup. One necessitates the other when it comes to a “full send” experience! The HiJinx lineup this year included some of the world’s top producers including Bassnectar, Zeds Dead, Skrillex, Excision b2b SLANDER, Porter Robinson, GRiZ, and many more. Each night was filled with neck-breaking bass for four hours of nonstop headbanging. Before the transition into the heavier sets of the night, artists like Big Wild and DROELOE took the stage. 

Big Wild is a jack of all trades, performing live on the keyboard, drums, and vocals. With a mix of house, DnB, dubstep, and even a box drum solo he left the audience with enough entertainment for a lifetime. The positive energy he poured into his set was obvious. DROELOE’s beautiful synths and catchy house vibes complimented the speakers perfectly and their music was a great palate cleanser, providing the perfect time to regroup or visit shops while listening to some positive and relaxing music. These two sets could best be described as the “calm before the storm.” 

It became immediately clear that fan favorite Subtronics was a highly anticipated set. After the breakout year he’s had, the days of trying to prove himself and impress crowds with his unique style are over. Not holding back on the final days of 2019, he dropped two brand new blistering IDs, one of which is a collaboration with Excision. In the final moments of his set, he brought out GRiZ to perform their popular “Griztronics” track and also throw down some VIP’s they’ve been working on. GRiZ—the Swiss Army Knife of EDM—eschewed his normal funky performance, instead following the lineup theme and executing a heavier set than usual. Unfortunately there were no marching bands included, but with his talented abilities to implement live instruments into his bass heavy set, it was ideal to place him before Bassnectar on the schedule. 

Although Bassnectar is a well-known and beloved performer, there were certainly attendees at the event who were seeing him for the first time. Drawn to the event by the likes of Excision and other DJs with huge fanbases, anyone who experienced their first Bassnectar set at HiJinx was in for a ride. Taking his listeners on an intense journey and a roller coaster of ups and downs (mostly ups,) his set included everything from melodic and downtempo bass to DnB. The artist and crowd usually feed off the energy from each other, but during a Bassnectar set there is a connection between the two that is a rare thing, even in the highly connective world of EDM. Lorin Ashton left the crowd wanting even more, and some fans in the crowd confessed that they were headed to Louisville for his famous “NYE360” show afterwards. Apparently, his HiJinx set was just an appetizer compared to what he was going to play for New Year’s Eve at his own curated event. 

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Bassnectar’s traditional family photo at the end of his set.

Many asserted that Bassnectar should have been the main headliner, but the placement of Zeds Dead in the top slot proved otherwise. The two legends seemed to be the crowd favorites of the night. After powering through some technical difficulties at the beginning, they were able to regain the rhythm of the crowd by playing some music from one of their record label Deadbeats’ newest members, Peekaboo. Yultron‘s flip of Zeds Dead’s Eyes on Fire remix was an especially memorable track that deserves to be heard more often.

Leading off for the headliners the second night was Porter Robinson, performing one of his now rare DJ sets in lieu of a Virtual Self set. The outcome was nothing less than a chill vibe and a thrill ride. Touching nearly every subgenre of EDM, his time on stage was a completely magical experience. After a rather lengthy transition, the one-of-a-kind Skrillex threw down a much heavier set than normal. Drifting away from some of his current indie-pop hits, he stuck to his roots, playing classics like “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” and “Bangarang.” He effortlessly engaged with the audience, expressing his uplifting energy and allowing everyone to see themselves on the big screen. He often reminded the crowd, “This is the last Saturday of the decade!” which gave reassurance (as if you needed it) to not hold anything back. 

To put an incredible cap on the night, the first ever Excision b2b SLANDER set closed out HiJinx Fest. If you made Santa’s nice list, this hour and a half welcomed you to be naughty. The term “Headbang and Cry” has certainly reached a new level. Hugging friends and body-slamming them in the mosh pit seemed like equally appropriate reactions at different times throughout the set. The ultimate moment that closed out this amazing performance was rinsing a brand new collaboration called “Your Fault,” which, according to SLANDER, should be released soon.

After an eventful weekend, HiJinx left a lasting impression of being a top tier festival in a small, indoor, centralized venue. Positive, energetic staff and volunteers, high-level audio and video production, and an incredibly stacked lineup will always attract any serious bass fan. Every measurable aspect of the festival exceeded expectations. If the lineup continues to be this attractive each year, it’s not unlikely that this will become one of the top two-day music events in the country. 

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