5 of the Best Sets We Saw at Portola Music Festival

The landscape of Bay Area music culture was forever changed in the wake of Treasure Island Music Festival's unfortunate cessation in 2018. Though Outside Lands may forever be San Fransisco's shining gem of music festival excellence, where else would music fans gather for a smaller and more intimate gathering of carefully-curated acts and artists? Who dared to fill the festival-shaped void that plagues our hearts and schedules? Enter: Portola Music Festival — the crown jewel of post-pandemic music events. From house, EDM, and drum 'n' bass to hip-hop, indie rock, and experimental ambient music, each act that decorated Portola's lineup was painstakingly hand-selected to fit the festival's unparalleled Gen Z energy.

If you were so daunted by the abundance of great choices that you were unable to make it, don’t worry, you weren’t alone. Below is a quick recap of some of our favorite acts from the inaugural Portola Music Festival.

DJ_Dave


For the uninitiated, DJ_Dave is a pioneer in electronic music's Algorave space, quickly propelling her live-coded music and performances into pop and dance music's cultural canon over the past year. A master of composition and arrangement, DJ_Dave weaves together loops and tones to provide listeners with a truly unique live experience that is amplified by music that feels inspired by techno’s fabled past and iconoclastic future. Tracks like the Araya-assisted "Kiss on the Train" or the electrifying "Castles" not only push electronic music further, but they serve to change the way we think about dance music, the people who make it, and what that means for the future of live music. DJ_Dave’s set did everything but disappoint, synthesizing her forward-thinking ingenuity with a deep reverence for cornerstones of dance music (including Cascada’s “Everytime We Touch”). Ask anybody who pulled up bright and early on Sunday and they’ll tell you the same.

Shygirl


Anybody who has ever listened to a Shygirl track in the past knew that Portola attendees would be in for a treat during her Sunday set. From fan favorite "BDE" to classics like "SLIME" and “LENG,” Shygirl provided those present with a hefty dose of bass-laden bangers and hypnotic electronic energy. Her 2020 project ALIAS undeniably made the short list of required listening for this weekend's festivities, and with recent cosigns from Mura Masa, FKA Twigs, and Lil Uzi Vert, her newest project Nymph isn’t one to miss either.

PinkPantheress


Though I cannot promise that I did not shed a tear when PinkPantheress took the stage on Saturday, I can confidently say any tears that were wiped away, were wiped away for her. During PinkPantheress’ 40-minute set the energy was nothing if not rarified and attendees turned up and transformed Portola’s warehouse into an infectious and energy-filled drum 'n' bass party. Perhaps best known for her mega-viral hits like "Pain" and "Passion", true PinkPantheress heads knew that she was capable of delivering a truly killer performance, thus making her an essential artist to see over the weekend.

Oneohtrix Point Never


While Oneohtrix Point Never may have not immediately been the top priority for the average Portola-goer, those in the know understood that OPN's last-minute presence at Portola was a rare instance of planets aligning. Vaporwave pioneer and master of all things experimental and electronic, Oneohtrix Point Never is an artist that deserved our undivided attention on Sunday night during his impromptu performance. If you have recently accepted the religion of Dawn FM into your heart, then you have OPN to thank, and luckily, his set brought attendees the same hazy and hypnotic electronic experimentalism.

Charli XCX


What can I type here that hasn't already been said in media covering Charli XCX! Hyperpop royalty, futuristic iconoclast, and perhaps most importantly, a generational talent. If you missed her on the 'CRASH tour' AND you missed her at Portola, you may need to get your head checked. Like seeing God in the flesh, Charli XCX’s appearance at Portola was an event that had people lined up outside waiting to get a glimpse of greatness. Those lucky enough to get inside got geeky to Vroom Vroom with a crowd of Charli XCX devotees (myself included) for a weekend that they won’t forget anytime soon.

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