Breakaway Music Festival returned to San Francisco for year two with an eclectic lineup and the promise of a bright future ahead.
Breakaway Music Festival has slowly been making its way across the country for a few years now. Launching in 2016 in Columbus, Ohio, the festival’s growth has since brought it to the West Coast, where it made its Bay Area debut just last year.
This year, Breakaway Bay Area returned to San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for a weekend of fun, dance, and debauchery. When we heard it was set to feature artists like Madeon, DJ Diesel, Big Gigantic, Walker & Royce, and Alan Walker — along with a Brownies & Lemonade stage takeover and a silent disco — we knew we had to check it out.
I started off day one with few plans and an open mind. I made my way over to the Brownies & Lemonade stage, where I expected to spend most of the weekend. To my giddy excitement, the legendary Henry Fong was just kicking off his set. He took us back in time, with house party vibes and all the classic bangers, including a techno remix of Benny Benassi‘s “Satisfaction” and his very own “Rave Tool.”
After that blast from the past, I headed over to the main stage to get a dose of house music from Walker & Royce. Unsurprisingly, they had the whole room dancing. You can always count on them to bring the grooves.
It was at that moment, however, that I really noticed how much space there was around us. While it’s always a positive to have plenty of room to dance, I realized I’d never seen an event at Bill Graham not oversold and overcrowded. Of course, that weekend was also a time of fierce competition in the Bay. It also marked San Francisco’s annual How Weird Street Fair and a number of other electronic music shows around the city.
Breakaway brought together ravers of all kinds.
From kandi kids to veterans to baby ravers, the crowd was filled with all kinds of revelers. Breakaway did a great job of appealing to a range of attendees. There was no one majority, which was refreshing.
Attendees were also pretty friendly and easygoing, keeping rave culture alive. This became most evident when it was time for DJ Diesel‘s set. The room quickly filled with anticipation as the crowd poured in, and I got excited to see him play for the first time. It’s safe to say that I was blown away, as Diesel had one of the funnest sets of the weekend. I was skeptical after reading criticisms of his previous performances, but it’s clear now that Shaq is just having a blast and wants to share his love for bass music with the community. He played dubstep, demanded mosh pits, and brought contagious energy to deliver a good time.
Day two kicked off at the Brownies & Lemonade stage once again, this time with another veteran legend, Wuki. He brought the party to Breakaway with his signature silly cat visuals and some moombahton, which we don’t hear so much of anymore. Big Gigantic took the main stage with a hybrid set as Dominic Lalli brought out the saxophone, and my heart clenched as I was reminded that we wouldn’t be seeing another GRiZ live set anytime soon. I hope that he will return one day, though.
For my favorite performance of the weekend, Peekaboo took to the Brownies & Lemonade stage and absolutely obliterated attendees. The set consisted of nonstop bangers, kicking off with drum and bass, later including the infamous “BADDERS” and tons of unreleased originals. The crowd danced through the whole set, and I personally wished it didn’t have to end.
Breakaway has the potential to grow and become the staple festival the Bay Area needs.
Day two was also filled with surprises, as the very hospitable Breakaway team invited me up to check out the Ultra VIP section on stage for NGHTMRE‘s set. Despite never having been a huge fan myself, I was surprised at his dynamism as he flawlessy combined melodic and heavy dubstep rather than solely relying on the melodic sound common to his releases.
Alan Walker also took me by surprise; I found myself captivated by his big room and trance-inspired set that felt like the EDM golden era I never got to experience live. Witnessing the way he brought everyone together and commandeered the crowd was truly a sight to see.
Overall, Breakaway showed a lot of potential for only its second year in the Bay. The experience was flawless, the lineup was eclectic, and the community was burgeoning. The Brownies & Lemonade stage takeover was definitely a big selling point, and a silent disco is always a must. While I personally wish we’d had the chance to see some of the headliners who played the other incarnations of the festival this year, I also love that every Breakaway is completely unique.
Breakaway arguably has an opportunity to take the lead as the biggest electronic dance music festival in the Bay. Since the loss of Audiotistic Bay Area, Boo! San Francisco, and Crush SF, there are no mainstream electronic festivals left in the area. This leaves a gaping hole for the local community that Breakaway can possibly fill. We can’t wait to see how they attempt to do that next year, while simultaneously taking Breakaway Bay Area to another level.