All photos by Loren Wohl
Every celebrity is guilty, to various degrees, of self-mythologizing. But few DJs have a narrative as powerful as Porter Robinson's—a young, precocious producer on the path to being the next Avicii who decided to strike out on his own. The gambit worked: Porter's "concept album" Worlds might have alienated fans waiting for big drops, but it earned him legions of thoughtful admirers. Now the 22-year-old gets the best of both, um, worlds: a Vegas residency and dance music street cred.
To find out how it feels to be the star headliner at a 50,000-person festival, we decided to glom on to Porter at Mysteryland, shadowing him from arrival to main stage. On the flip side, we also tagged along with some of his diehard fans. Here is a play-by-play of their experiences.
4:30PM: Sara Mackey arrives with her friend Kristen. The 22-year-old works at a local skate shop and Disney store—the last time she got to meet Porter, she even gave him Disney World tickets. Even though she's seen his show eight times, she couldn't miss another one so close to her hometown.
4:46PM: Sara runs into Sammi Boettcher, another member of the "PR club" of superfans that connected online and now go to Porter shows together.
6:13PM: Sara heads to the festival trap and bass-heavy Boat Stage to dance. A tattoo inspired by Porter's Worlds logo rests on her shoulder.
Meanwhile, Sammi checks out Q-Dance's all-hardstyle tent.
7:42PM: The girls meet early at the Main Stage to secure a primo spot for when Porter gets on. Selfies are obviously taken.
11:05PM: Porter arrives right on time at Mysteryland, accompanied by his girlfriend and his tour manager Dan.
11:51PM: A nifty exhibition about rave culture in America is right next to Porter's backstage greenroom. It's closed to the public, but Porter gets a private viewing. "That's awesome!" he exclaims, while thoughtfully checking out the rave paraphernalia.
12:01AM: On his way to the main stage, Porter runs into Ben from The M Machine. They chat for a few minutes, and Porter confesses that he's feeling pretty zonked from flying in straight from his Vegas residency.
12:28AM: After a chilly ride on a golf buggy, Porter arrives backstage and starts prepping his gear for the live show.
12:45AM: It's time. Porter waves to his girlfriend before stepping on the stage…
… and is greeted by this.
Porter's new set is built entirely out of his own tracks, but it's not a "push a button and play every song straight through" kind of show. Instead, he picks out key musical tropes and returns to them recursively—creating a live version of Worlds's conceptual universe.
Obviously, Sara and her friends are PSYCHED.
Porter also grabs the mic and sings live—a move that he also tried out at Coachella. "I was really nervous about it at first," Porter tells me. "But I think it went well, I didn't get shit for it."
Going against the grain of most closing acts, Porter's set isn't geared towards melting faces with hard-hitting builds and drops. Instead, it's about atmosphere—big swirling melodies and lonely robot voices are synched perfectly to animated visuals straight out of the Worlds universe.
1:55AM: The grand finale. Porter ends triumphantly as fireworks crackle in the cold night sky.
As confetti sprinkles through the crowd, Sara can't stop beaming. When I later ask her what she thought, she replies with Porter's favorite adjective: "AMAZING!"
Loren Wohl is a music photographer in New York. Follow him on Twitter
Michelle Lhooq is THUMP's Features Editor. She is also on Twitter.