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Portola Founder On Expanding The Festival’s ‘Grown Up’ Vibe For Year 2 – Billboard

“It’s a difficult task to keep up with this lineup,” Danny Bell said. He was referring to the bill at last year’s inaugural Portola, which debuted in San Francisco and featured artists including The Chemical Brothers, Flume, Fatboy Slim, Kaytranada, Peggy Gou, Jamie xx, James Blake and many more heavy hitters. It soon became the strongest annual electronic music festival lineup in the United States.



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The more difficult trick is to do it all again. “This year has really tested my booking skills and creativity,” said Bell, senior vice president of talent acquisition at Goldenvoice in San Francisco. “There were a lot of changes from the original plans to this year’s lineup. But that’s the nature of booking a festival. Some years, everything just falls into place. That was the first year. This year, it’s like every time I pick up the phone, there’s another one. One message ruined the plan. But we got through it and I’m very proud of the roster we put together.”

This weekend (September 30-October 1) Bell and his team will host the second iteration of Portola Music Festival at San Francisco’s Pier 80 with a lineup that’s been stripped of its credibility since its first year. An agent with knowledge of the matter described the event as one of the most important electronic music festivals in the United States.

The first night will be headlined by Eric Prydz, performing his technical masterpiece “HOLO”. Prydz closed down the outdoor stage at Golden Sound Festival’s other Coachella venue on the second night of the festival in April, leaving the Portola team to use the same equipment and technical elements in the Bay this weekend. Making the Portola show even more possible.

“It definitely helps that we have a shared production team and ethos,” Bell said of Portola and Coachella. “That way (artists and their teams) know who they’re working with and what they’re doing. Entering into something.”

Skillex headlined night two in Portola, flying in from a festival gig in New Zealand and, through the magic of time zones, managing to play shows in Auckland and Portola on the same day. “They really wanted to make this happen,” Bell said of the producers and his team, recalling Bell’s first attempt to book Skrillex when he was a student at the University of Southern California.

“The first quote I got for Skrill was $2,000, but I couldn’t afford it. Obviously, he’s accomplished much more than that now.”

Other line-up standouts include Jai Paul, the enigmatic artist who will be embarking on his first major tour this year. “Jay Paul is an asshole, man,” Bell said. “There are some super artists that you don’t know if you’ll ever get a chance to see live or book, but this year it just magically worked out.”

Nelly Furtado will play its first U.S. show in 16 years on Saturday, and Bell says the pop element – last year headlined by Charli XCX – is crucial because it adds a different and decidedly interesting side to a lineup that’s mostly house. , electronic music, and what Bell calls “esoteric electronic music.” (He added that when he brought up the idea of ​​his fiancée booking Furtado, “she freaked out.”)

Portola 2022

Portola 2022

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This year, the festival site, housed in an industrial shipping terminal complete with massive cranes, warehouses and a veritable giant ship, will be slightly reconfigured to prevent the sound leakage that occurred between several spaces last year. (This reconfiguration should also help mitigate the sound that traveled across the water to Alameda last year, prompting strong complaints from residents. Bell said San Francisco city officials worked with them to resolve the issue and were great to work with.)

The warehouse space used as the venue (the site of a brief crowd incident during last year’s Fred Again show) will be flipped so that the stage is at the other end of the building to improve sound quality and crowd flow. (Last year the space featured live performances, this year it’s reserved exclusively for DJs.) GA attendees will also have more space to sit and hang out, including an expanded bar area and a larger food court. Like last year, Portola expects 30,000 attendees per day.

This year will also feature an art gallery of rave stickers and flyers over the years, curated by DJ and rave culture historian DB Burkeman. The gallery is sponsored by Spotify and is intended to serve as a pseudo-highbrow place for people to check out when they need a break from music.

“At the end of the day, I want people to be treated like adults,” Bell said. “I just don’t think there’s a music festival that caters to the desires of the 21+ audience who have always been fans of electronic music and dance but also enjoy other genres and are interested in events aimed at older fans. ”

Bell knows how to be an adult reveler. He booked shows while at USC and started working full-time as a talent buyer for HARD Events the Monday after college. The EDM era was at its peak and electronic music was becoming a major commercial and cultural force in the United States, and Bell was helping to promote this culture in Southern California by co-designing HARD lineups that catered to current trends, fused genre heroes, and presented Intelligent, a groundbreaking act delivered to an audience then just discovering the sound and scene.

As such, Portola is a festival for those who were fans of dance music when Skrillex was in his Spaceship and Big Drop phase, and ten years later are equally excited to hear him play the IDM his sound has evolved into this weekend.

“Without EDC or HARD, there wouldn’t be Portola,” Bell said, “because it’s the first time some fans are exposed to this music in a festival environment.

“I don’t think there would have been a market for a festival like Portola 10 years ago,” he continued. “The longer they stay and the older they get, their tastes change and now festivals like this can exist.”

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