DJ 3LAU (Justin Blau) is one of the many talented electronic music artists taking the stage of this year's Wakarusa Festival (taking place June 5th-8th at Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas). As EDM is rising in popularity, DJs such as 3LAU have become as much of a draw to festivals as big name rock and hip hop acts.
Playing a festival is different from playing a club- in most cases at least a couple ten's of thousand people different. But play a lackluster set and the crowd will quickly turn to see who's playing on the other stages (not to mention blast you on social media!). So you have to stay sharp. This season, expect 3LAU to do just that. He's graduated from clubs to festivals a couple of years back, and has been rocking them ever since.
In this interview, 3LAU touches on how he programs his sets, what he's looking forward to at Wakarusa, and some of the live music he would personal like to see. Take a read--
What was the first festival you ever played?
My first major festival play was Electric Zoo two years ago. I was one of the first on the main stage. It was a pretty surreal experience looking back on it... I'd never been more nervous for a show in my life. I prepped tons of edits, and at the time I was debuting the first version of "Escape", which didn't come out till 8 months later! The feedback was phenomenal, and the entire experience was super motivating to continue hauling ass getting music done!
How is playing a festival different from playing a club?
Playing a club you have to keep the crowd constantly engaged, whereas at a festival you can get away with more breaks and sweeps and bigger builds. I personally prefer festivals because they enable me to pull off really different things, you can get away with a lot more when there's a giant crowd.
When playing festivals that aren’t all EDM, do you switch up the genres at all in your set?
Not really. Since my love style is already genre mashing as it is I always try to change it up and mix different genres no matter the festival. I just like creating a journey with my sets more so than constant bangers or consistent drops in the key of F minor.
What are some of the biggest genre jumps you've made in your festival sets?
I've taken a few actually haha. I guess playing the acoustic version of How You Love Me at the end of my ultra set was a "risk" but honestly I think fans expect those kinds of things these days. A lot of dance music sounds so similar now, it's about taking the best of all kinds of music and making it work in a dance music setting. That's why I'l drop kanye in my set, or throw in some old school Incubus :)
As a DJ, do you think there’s any integrity lost when you’re playing a more programed/synced festival set as a opposed to a club set where your reading the crowd and going of the vibe of the room?
Not really... I'd get killed by a lot of old school DJ's for saying this but, reading the vibe of a crowd only takes you so far when it comes to main stage style festival sets. It's all about the pre-prepared surprises, the new edits, the intricate manipulation of a popular song that introduces it in a new way that nobody's heard before. I've said this to many before... I'm a performer more than a DJ, I put on a show. Yeah I mix between tracks, but there's not much talent in that. The talent is in surprising the crowd with musical variations, fresh ideas, unreleased music etc. That's what a fan pays for when they're seeing me play. Of course I come up with random ideas on the fly and work them in, but any new edits I play is crafted perfectly beforehand so my set can tell a story.
What’s one festival you haven’t played that is on your ‘Bucket List’?
I'm playing it this year so I don't think I should say ;)
If you were to go a festival to just to enjoy the music, where would you head?
To be brutally honest I'm not sure if I'd be a festival-goer if I wasn't a DJ. For me, I enjoy more personal intimate experiences with artists I truly respect. I'd rather see M83 in a 1,000 person room where I can watch and feel what's going on up close. That's just me though.
Any festival ‘secret’ weapons that are a must for a 3lau Set? What tracks are you most excited about dropping this year? Do you have any festival anthems cooking?
The first track I'm ever singing on, "Don't Wait" had such an amazing response from my Ultra set that I've been pumped on playing that out since then. I'm beyond pumped about it. I think it's one of if not my favorite musical projects I've ever worked on!
Have you played Wakarusa before?
I haven't, but I've found that a lot of the mixed genres festivals are the most fun to play... mainly because I feel like my style of DJing introduces something different both for experienced rave-goers and for new recruits :)
Anyone on the lineup at Waka that you’re really excited about seeing?
I'm a fan of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros! I'd love to check out that performance!
After Wakarusa, where are you headed?
Home! I get to work on a bunch of new music for the rest of June which I'm SUPER pumped about :)
Want to check out 3LAU, Bassnectar, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Rusko, Adventure Club and more? You can purchase tickets to Wakarusa here. Camping and VIP packages are available.