Throwing a show? In a pandemic?? While many have tried (and most have failed with COVID restrictions in place), Arizona’s Relentless Beats has tested and perfected an outdoor, socially-distanced event model that threw its first party of 2021 this past Valentine’s Day weekend.
The Heartbreakers Pod Concert Experience was three packed evenings of EDM at Rawhide Event Center, featuring headliners Sullivan King, Ghastly and Shiba San. Despite the wind and chilly temps, eager ravers donned their festival finery and crammed their groups into carefully distanced fenced “pods” to dance each night away.
For nearly a year, artists and fans have been unable to experience the thrill of live music, so the energy was off the charts as groups clutched their pod’s railings and threw their bodies into the full experience of the show. Night one featured Trivecta, Kai Wachi and Sullivan King, each bringing their own wild visuals and excitement to the show.
Both Trivecta and Kai Wachi pumped up the crowd to match their own happiness at being back onstage before Sullivan King brought his massively popular hybrid of EDM and metal to the headlining slot. Remixing Bring Me The Horizon and Ice Nine Kills in the first 15 minutes of his set was a treat for the audience and he kept those vibes going long into the night.
Excited fans rushed the rails—a huge benefit of the pods is every attendee can be on the rail, technically—for night two with Lick, Ookay, and Ghastly. Each producer expressed amazement and gratitude to Relentless Beats and wasted no time making the Rawhide grounds shake. Meanwhile, sporadic sprinkles of rain scattered the vibrant lights coming from the stage and gave the illusion the air itself was sparkling.
Lick used the early slot to welcome the crowd and get the grooves going, and it felt so natural that everyone seemed to forget there had been a live music hiatus at all. That is, until Ookay took over and ramped up both the visuals and the volume. He pulled from his own catalog and some old faithfuls (“Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar, etc.) but the most electric moment was when he yelled, “Guess who’s free, motherfuckers!” into the mic and dropped a mashup of Britney’s “Toxic” and Flux Pavilion’s “I Can’t Stop.” Talk about a vibe check.
After a classic DJ set, the fans were ready to get possessed by Ghastly’s bass. Shrouded in shadows, the Arizona producer steered the evening a little darker and a whole lot dirtier. Demonic imagery flashed on the screen behind him, and the wide eyes and headbanging in the crowd were dead giveaways that everyone was eating it up.
The pod experience was called Heartbreakers, but it was impossible to leave the first show of 2021 with anything but a full heart. Maybe they’ll consider a name change for next year.
Story and photos by Taylor Knauf and Olivia Khiel