After their adventurous party in Pennsylvania's Poconos last May, Bang On!'s hoards of ravers returned happily to a rainy Bronx earlier this month for their Elements NYC Festival at the NY Expo Center. Full on downpours and a partial stage cancellation due to to lightning hardly deterred the hundreds of electronic music fans who never ran out of ways to enjoy themselves. Headliner Bassnectar's devoted legion was out on force and his logo was everywhere as fellow acts Kurtis Blow, Snakehips and the Dirtybird players rocked the four stages aptly named after the elements Earth, Fire, Water and Air that attendees felt through mud, pyrotechnics, rain and a view clear to the bottom of Manhattan.
Fans of Bassnectar waiting on the Earth stage's delay so they could look for hidden tickets to his exclusive show
Elements NYC's team of mulch movers at the repaired the Water stage
Attendees waiting to enter Elements NYC, 8/11/18 at 1:30pm
When the doors opened at 2pm in The Bronx's industrial Port Morris section, a hundred-plus crowd was already waiting in the predicted rain with ponchos and umbrellas. The entry staff was huddled under their tents while receiving them and the first music they heard was from Water stage opener Mickey Perez. Many of Bassnectar's fans ran right for the Earth stage to find the 50 hidden tickets to his secret show this past Tuesday. Though that stage was initially closed so that the standing water around it could be pumped out and filled in with mulch, it opened by 4pm to the beats of DJ Mr. Jennings. Halfway through the next act, Austin, TX's duo NAM, a lighting warning caused the set to be cut short and the crowd was told to seek shelter at the indoor Water stage. NAM's members Sam Simmons and Nora Luders, who were only in town for this show, were a little bummed but Simmons told me "we're still excited to have played Bassnectar's stage."
Bang On! founder Brett Herman (left) as he pumped standing water from the Earth stage
Elements NYC's Production Manager Kevin Pacheco (at right) with his staff
The Fire stage staff as they worked in the rain
Goldfish members Dominic Peters (left) David Poole (right) before they spun their Water stage set
The Golden Pony duo Tim Monkiewicz (left) Thomas Murphy (right) as they spun from the Water stage
As I watched the fans grudgingly leave I spoke to the Element NYC's manager, Kevin Pacheco of Vivid Event Productions, as he battened down the hatches and got his own crew out of danger. "We received warning that there was lighting within 6 miles and we're gonna shut things down here for the next few hours," he told me. "You have to have good judgement of the weather for the safety of everyone or else all of this isn't worth it."
Rain fell for the next hour and a huge party ensued indoors for the sets of Bang On! residents Dirty Looks and duo The Golden Pony featuring Thomas Murphy and festival co-founder Tom Monkiewicz. Monkiewcz threw his headphones on after coming straight from operating nearby water pumps along with fellow co-founder Brett Herman but you'd never have know it by how flawless he took his turntables. A break in the weather got us over to the waterproof Fire stage where Dirty Beatles and Sam Blacky were spinning in the rain. Their fans stayed with them when the skies opened up yet again and they danced like a troupe of Gene Kellys.
Seeking shelter from the storm we headed into the former silos and smokestack leftover the the venue's former use as a fertilizer processing facility The silos contained the immersive art exhibition titled "Art of Future" with electronic installations by artists including Orbism, Jarid Blue and digital collective Rhizome while the smokestack hosted Pipe Dreams' erotica of tomorrow with pole dancers performing in "Mad-Max" inspired costumes under subdued LED lights. The industrial maze of passageways ended back at the Fire stage where Dirtybird Records' Justin Jay, Sacha Robotti, Sage Armstrong and Bruno Furlan spun under three towers of flames by pyrotechnic crew Incendia.
With the rain letting up for good at sundown, I followed a drone operated by photographer Anthoni Cristillo to the re-opened Earth stage where Emancipator warmed up the Bassnectar's fans who had his logo hung and from flags along the second levels of the surrounding sculpture garden. Before the main event we rushed back to the Water stage to catch rap legend Kurtis Blow whose performance coincided the 45th anniversary of hip-hop right in the boro where Kool Herc added breaks to songs he spun on that day in 1973. At 59 years old Kurits Blow still had tremendous energy for his young crowd and invited them on stage to dance with his crew as he closed out with his classic "Basketball."
Kurtis Blow (center) with his crew at the conclusion of his Water stage set
Snakehips members James Carter, Oliver Lee (left, right) after headlining the Water stage
DJ Sam Blacky (center) with friends as she spun from the Fire stage
Using the broadway created by Earth stage's mud, we marched as close as we could to Bassnectar whose fans were tightly packed where the ground as dry. All eyes were on the shadowed master DJ who has been ranked fourth in his field only behind Skrillex, Diplo and Kaskade. He paused midway to ask how everyone was and said "whoever did that rain-dance that held the rain back I would like to personally thank you." One highlight was when Bassnectar flawlessly went from James Brown to modern hip-hop under the weight of his enormous bass system that shook everything within 50 yards. The corresponding lasers and stage length LED panels had you watching him as you would the captain of a ship taking the crowd far, far away from the shores of the South Bronx.
After Bassnectar's smooth conclusion, we made our way back to the Water stage to catch fellow headliner Snakehips and ran into Bang on! co-founder Herman who now was sobered up by his successful effort to keep the festival afloat. When asked how it felt to run an event that seemed to go against all the odds he said, "I don't play the odds. We shut down the Earth stage for six hours because there was a lighting warning and you don't f*** with that. Everything today was a calculated risk and because we've always made [our parties] work we had the confidence that we could do this."
Dirtybird Players headlining the Fire stage at Elements NYC in the Bronx, 8/12/18 at 12am
DJ Tech Pat (center) of THE 1989 with friends and fans after closing out the Water stage
Artist Melissa Rose (bottom, with hoop) with friends inside her wellness art installation
Attendees walking by the Air stage's sculpture as they exited the festival
DJ's Hiyawatha, Jergo (left, right) as they spun on the Water Stage
All photographs by Manny Tatkieto and Nick McManus