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Where My Head’s At: Marco Carola makes minds bend with unforgettable, indescribable Electric Zoo 2012 set

It’s remarkable to see how your music tastes can evolve in the span of a year, or in my case, from one Electric Zoo to the next. Last year was an explosive one for music discovery; as so many new producers rose through the ranks, it was interesting to explore and test out my musical palate. From big-room house to trance and electro, the infinite pastures of dance music became an unhealthy disease that I never sought out a cure for. In the same way that a foodie constantly seeks new cuisines and flavors, as a self-proclaimed connoisseur of electronic music, I find myself on a quest to discover a DJ who can provide me with the ultimate dance experience. On my journey, Marco Carola’s mind-altering Electric Zoo 2012 set cast an unforgettable and lasting impression.

Although I am borderline ashamed to admit it, I only discovered the legend that is Marco Carola a mere eight months ago. A friend who opened my eyes to the underground claimed that Carola’s Essential Mix could single-handedly transform any music appreciator into a full blown tech-head. I was impressed after the first listen, but I wasn’t the changed man I expected to be. Still, having heard Pete Tong call him an “Italian techno God” and having built a country’s techno scene up from scratch, I decided to give it another try. I still wasn’t convinced after a second listen — but I was definitely intrigued. I’ve come to learn that if you love dance music — and truly want to learn more about it — anything Pete Tong says is worth paying attention to.

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With the assistance of people like Richie Hawtin, Loco Dice, and Dubfire, my techno infatuation began to grow — and I heard more and more Marco Carola stories along the way. After my ears became more trained in understanding the intricacies of everything from minimal to hard-hitting techno, Marco’s music began to stand out. His livesets were more of a journey than a dance party, I took pleasure in every set I listened to, and every YouTube video I watched, because with Marco, it felt as if I was being taught something — as opposed to listening to music for simple enjoyment.

The last two times Marco visited New York, previous engagements hindered my ability to witness this God in action. Electric Zoo 2012 would be the defining moment in whether Carola was really the superstar everyone (and every liveset) made him out to be.

If you weren’t there, it’s hard to grasp what actually happened in the Sunday School Grove for the final 90 minutes of Electric Zoo 2012. Describing it to someone, an even more exhausting task. His one-and-a-half-hour set somehow felt like an eight-hour marathon. Carola was able to spellbind the crowd with his driving and relentless rhythmic techno. He played one song over another in flawless progression, with a hint of a third lingering in the back. While most DJs simply play from song to song, Carola teased the crowd by layering basslines from different tracks together.

Simply put, he played mind games with us — sometimes building songs up for such an extended period of time, giving no hint as to when the drop would come. But that was the beauty of it. When the sudden drop did come, it felt like getting slapped across the face. It was a 90 minute period of controlled chaos and utter confusion. In that moment, it became crystal clear to me that there were good DJs, there were great DJs, and then there was Marco Carola.

As I stood in the tent trying to figure out what was going on, I looked up at Marco and tried to get an idea of what he was thinking. He stood there, motionless, gazing over the crowd, reading and analyzing what people were doing. He wore a straight face, emotionless and calm. When his set was over, I stood there in awe. It wasn’t the fact that my favorite music festival was over, or that I had to resume to normal life on Tuesday. I realized that even though I thought I had seen all the greats — Luciano, Carl Cox, and Richie Hawtin — Marco Carola made me reassess the ability and skillfulness that it takes to be one of the world’s bests.

You’ll come across a lot of different experiences in your career as an electronic music enthusiast, but anyone dying to break away from the main stage acts and try something different should definitely see a DJ set by Marco Carola. His most notable track of the moment, “Play It Loud,” didn’t even get play time — but it didn’t matter one bit.

It wasn’t about fitting in as many of the current hits into one set, whether they be remixed or bootlegged or reworked or whatever it is that DJs do these days. It was about offering an unparalleled dance experience, one that you had no control over and could get completely and unconditionally lost in.

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