GRAMMY-nominated electronic artist Porter Robinson and the production company, Goldenvoice, will revive the annual Second Sky music festival at the Oakland Arena grounds Sept. 18 and 19. In addition to the in-person debut of Robinson’s new Nurture (Live) show, the two-day event will feature performances from a diverse collection of eight other electronic and indie-adjacent artists.
The sold-out inaugural installment took place in 2019 in Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park before it went virtual in 2020 due to COVID-19 as a livestream and VR experience called Secret Sky. Since that pivot, Robinson says he’s been dreaming about the day when it would be safe to bring his creation back to its birthplace.
“To be honest the Bay Area has always been home to such a loyal audience for me, and that’s something that [our team] found to our surprise,” he tells SF Weekly. “We were able to do bigger and bigger venues, and so when we started talking about this idea of doing a curated event where the whole lineup would reflect these artists that I think my fans would really love to see, Oakland was just kind of a natural choice.” Porter adds that having family and friends in the area made San Francisco a frequent stopover on his busy tour schedules. “There’s so much culture, and great food. It’s just truly a one-of-a-kind part of the world,” he says.
This year’s roster is left-of-center, and is made up primarily of Porter’s close colleagues as well as artists he listens to personally. “I never want the lineup to be something that’s so obvious. I always want to introduce people to something new,” he explains. “What I’ll always do is look through everything I’ve been listening to on Spotify, I’ll look at everyone I’m following on Twitter, and on Instagram, and then I just get a gut feeling.”
Among this year’s bookings are singer-songwriter Toro Y Moi (an Oakland resident) and French producer Madeon, with whom Robinson shares the hit 2016 single, “Shelter.” The latter will unveil his new Good Faith Forever (live) show to audiences at Second Sky for the first time. “Indian Summer” producer Jai Wolf will bring his euphoric beats, along with English composer and keyboardist Jon Hopkins who will introduce new tunes from his forthcoming project, Music for Psychedelic Therapy. West coast melodic bass trio Wavedash, electro-pop duo Knower, and British musician Jacob Collier who is known for conducting the audience to sing over mesmerizing melodies and intricate percussions, are the other acts Robinson is thrilled to bring to his stage later this month. “I’m trying to find my fans’ next favorite artists,” he says.
Still, for those who have been following Robinson since his electro-blasting Spitfire EP days nearly a decade ago, their main motivation to attend is to be among the first to experience “Nurture,” a new live experience which accompanies his acclaimed 2021 LP of the same name.
The album’s release followed a long period of struggle and self-doubt for Porter. After the smash success of his 2014 Worlds LP, Robinson hit a creative block that left him drained and worried he may never make worthwhile art again.
Robinson has sinced turned those doubtful inner narratives into something empowering and critically renowned. Nurture is an effervescent, pop-laced sonic celebration of finding peace and choosing love, with tracks like “Look At The Sky,” “Musician,” and “Something Comforting” referencing some of the singer’s more personal experiences with anxiety, and overcoming such obstacles.
The live production, which fans got a sneak peak of in April during the sophomore virtual edition of Secret Sky, promises to bring those same high vibrations, as Robinson sings, plays piano and mixes his own edits against never-before-seen visuals. Nurture (Live) will fill the headlining slot both nights.
In 2019, Robinson made the unusual move to open the event as his alter-alias Virtual Self to encourage ticket holders to commit to a full-day of musical discovery. This year, Robinson plans to get the party started the moment doors open at 11 a.m. with a set from his new live-only DJ project Air to Earth, which finds its focus in the progressive house and disco genres. “Everyone has a statement with their performance and they all are incredible artists,” he says excitedly of his hand-picked lineup. “I just want to make sure that no matter where they are on the schedule for the day, that every artist feels like it’s a huge chance for them.”
Once inside, visitors will have access to an array of craft vendors and immersive art installations. Robinson recently announced via Instagram that his team has partnered with Nassal, the company behind the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, as well as Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyworld. Together they plan to bring Second Sky to life in ways that will be new. “One of my favorite things in life to do is to take a song and turn it into a physical place,” Robinson says.
Guests will have the option to make a charitable donation to the Robinson Malawi Fund, which Robinson founded in honor of his brother who is a survivor of Burkitt Lymphoma. The 2019 festival raised more than $150,000 for a health initiative in Malawi, Africa, where this form of cancer is more prevalent due to the high malaria caseload in that region.
Those who have been scrambling to score entry to Second Sky since it sold out instantly in May are in luck. A fresh batch of general admission and VIP tickets were released last week and can be purchased via the festival’s website.
Porter Robinson, Madeon, Toro y Moi
Sept. 18-19, $149.50+
Megan Venzin is a contributing writer. Twitter @Meggerzv