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Here’s a few of our favorite things about Porter Robinson’s third annual Second Sky Festival [Event Review]

Featured Photo: Yasi.

It’s finally that special time of year again. The one weekend a year where it seems Porter Robinson’s entire fanbase descends upon the Bay Area for Second Sky Festival. After months of anticipation, I find myself eager to see what merchandise, food, and experiences await. As a third-year attendee, that anticipation is met with growing expectation each year. From the expertly curated 2022 line-up, to the addition of Skrillex as this year’s special guest, I remained confident that Porter would not disappoint.

With so many things from previous years returning (like an opening set from DJ Potaro), and a slew of new activities and adventures to behold, here’s a list of our top 5 favorite things about Second Sky’s third year.

1) Subtle, but spooky Halloween-themed Easter eggs   

Each year since its inception, Second Sky has been at different times of the year. The inaugural edition was held in June 2019 with an additional Twitch streaming experience for anyone at home. In leui of the global pandemic, 2020 saw a virtual gap year with Secret Sky, which was co-produced by Brownies & Lemonade. In 2021, the festival made its physical return with a September appearance.

Photo Credit: Yasi

This year, Second Sky occurred on Halloween weekend—and the festival leaned heavily into the spooky season, autumnal theme. Every year, giant letters spelling out “SECOND SKY” are placed within the festival grounds and, every year, Porter’s cultish fan base rushes to take pictures in front of the now-iconic installation. In concert with this year’s theme, the usual purple and blue letters were transformed into orange and yellow, with wispy vines and bats woven throughout. The “O” was even transformed into a golden full moon – and was the favorite letter for pictures in 2022.

Even Potaro got into the festive spirit…

This year, Potato chose to wear a Halloween costume, dressing up as Porter himself.

Donning blonde hair, a beanie, and a streetwear-style jacket, this made for a particularly cute and sardonic move where Porter essentially poked fun at himself.

Wearing his Halloween best, Potaro opened the fest with a DJ set and later posed for pictures with fans.

Photo Credit: Yasi

New this year was a second stage – hosted by Crunchy Roll, the Anime Shelter. This year, the second stage brought MOGRA to Second Sky, which is an actual club based in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. The stage hosted a trio of resident DJs from the club and during the day hosted a Costume Cosplay contest. Fans in the contest brought their best cosplay A-games! The festival organizers even pre-selected fans to compete a few days prior to the event via Twitter. 

2) Festival decor from years past

One of my favorite things about the fest is the effort the organizers put into continuity. Fans who attended in 2021 will remember the introduction of the Oasis Tree – a large tree placed in the middle of the fest, with white blooms. The tree is meant to symbolize the “birthplace” of the festival and is the anchor holding the world Second Sky creates together. This anchor is meant to bring different worlds and universes together, causing Second Sky to appear for just a weekend, until it disappears again for another year, creating new universes and experiences to be enjoyed at the next fest during its absence. This year, the Oasis Tree was autumnal-themed with orange and yellow blooms. The Oasis Tree is easily one of the most elaborate and detailed pieces of the festival – and each year it is more breathtaking than the last.

The Wisteria. Photo Credit: Andrea Salazar.

Perhaps one of my favorite examples that I notice every year is the wisteria. In year one, the entrance to the fest was an enchanting wisteria tunnel.

The following year, the wisteria was repurposed into an ethereal seating area, where you could sit with friends or peacefully enjoy your food.

This year, the same wisteria trees were placed outside of the exit to Easy / Speak and now featured mushrooms and butterflies, making them once again the perfect photo spot.

What makes this my favorite is not necessarily the beauty of the installation, but that small details like these help create a sense of connection to veteran Second Sky attendees over the years.

As the festival continues to grow and expand, the rebirth of certain decor pieces reminds attendees of memories made in previous years and contributes to that special bond between the fans and the festival experience. 

3) Potaro-themed festival confections

In 2021, Second Sky introduced the concept of Potaro-themed foods and food boxes for fans. 2021 featured an array of delicacies like a Potaro-themed alcoholic drink (Penguin Punch) and bao buns shaped like the adorable penguin. This year, Penguin Punch not only made a return but fans were also treated to new confections – such as a Potaro-shaped donut (named the “Ponut”) and Potaro cotton candy. While the “Ponut” sold out around 3 pm, most of the fest’s Potaro-themed cuisine was able to be enjoyed for most of the day. 

A personal favorite was the”Ponut” – the adorable penguin-shaped donut came in a blue souvenir box with art featuring Chef Potaro. The donut was subtly sweet with a hint of berry flavoring in the icing, and also had hints of chocolate. 

One booth over offered Potaro cotton candy and “Penguin Kuhsterd Freeze”. The cotton candy featured a berry-flavored Potaro stencil on the sugary treat and was stuck on a churro. The ice cream bar was a vanilla ice cream dipped in white chocolate and dusted with a blue velvet crumble, and it was topped off with a white chocolate disc with a printed image of Potaro. 

However, the longest line the entire day was for the bao buns. The Potaro-shaped buns were first featured in 2021 and were a heavy fan favorite. The buns were a soup-filled bao and beef bulgogi flavored. Like the “Ponut,” the buns sold out early in the day. 

4) Easy / Speak – the VIP speakeasy based on the music video for 2013’s “Easy”

Easily the highlight of the fest’s activities for me, Easy / Speak was an immersive bar slash exhibit based on the lore from the music video. The outside of the warehouse was brightly painted blue with Maki and Evander being the centerpiece of the graffiti artwork. Stepping into the pop-up bar, a hot pink and blue hall led you into a clublike, misty atmosphere that transported you to the technicolor, futuristic world of Maki and Evander’s.

Inside, where attendance was capped to allow guests to comfortably enjoy the experience, the neon hallway gave way to a hazy space playing techno music, with tables and cozy benches scattered throughout. Attendees were able to choose from a menu of three drinks (which came as cocktails or mocktails), and two of the three colorful drinks were available in take-home souvenir cups. Coasters in the shape of Evander were also scattered across virtually every surface to the delight of fans, who opted to take them home as souvenirs rather than use them. Intermixed between the neon lights and LED menu screens were TVs featuring a newscast covering various news topics – including a story about Maki going missing. If lucky, fans were able to spot Evander in the shadowy hologram screens in the speakeasy, weaving in between the go-go dancers on the screens.

Easy / Speak was only available in VIP this year, but next year the themed bar will be available for general admission attendees to enjoy. 

5) The debut of Porter Robinson’s Together Live

Photo Credit: Yasi

This year’s fest marked the debut of Robinson’s highly anticipated Together Live – a revamped version of the Nurture Live show with a live band. Robinson hand-picked three musicians—a keyboardist, a drummer, and a guitarist—to accompany him on a selection of songs from Nurture. Whereas Nurture Live stayed more true to Porter’s EDM roots – Together gave the music a more acoustic feel and allowed Robinson to play more of the Pop star role he’s so lovingly talked about in interviews (Robinson mentioned he even took voice and dance lessons before the debut of Nurture Live leading up to 2021’s Secret Sky). Porter opted not to use the live band the entire performance—songs like “Easy” and “Divinity” had Porter playing them solo on stage—but by doing this, Porter created a stage show that mixed his love for music in general and the EDM scene that brought him fame. 

While the set list did not stray too far from the original, and the visuals remained mostly the same— Robinson did not hold back on the special surprises he always has for his festival. Porter opened up “Musician” by riding into the crowd on a Potaro scooter, which was easily one of the most endearing moments from the show. “Shelter” was given an acoustic revamp, with Robinson and his bandmates sitting around a makeshift campfire singing the song that has become a fan favorite. The first encore (of two) had Porter come back out and sing a heartfelt rendition of what he dubbed as his edition of 2012’s “Clarity,” a song Robinson lent his writing talents to. Porter’s version of “Clarity” had him bring his live band back out, and an invitation to the audience to sing along – and not a single person in the audience was silent. 

Together Live was so warmly and lovingly received by the fans that for the first time ever (Porter’s words himself), it was absolutely silent during his performance of “Wind Tempos.” The debut of Together Live showed that, time and time again, the love Porter puts into his music creates a magical experience for his fans.

Each year, Second Sky continues to reinvent itself and create a more immersive experience than the last. Small details contribute to a bigger picture— they help create a Porter-themed universe and an unforgettable experience for fans. It’s moments like these that help contribute to the magical and dreamlike atmosphere that is found within Second Sky; and these otherworldly moments can only be experienced in this dreamlike universe. 

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