Kaytranda at Portola fest

Portola Fest

Portola Festival Debuts With Big Rave Vibes

Sep 26, 2022

Ana Monroy Yglesias

4 min read

This past weekend, Portola Festival brought big rave energy to San Francisco's Pier 80. I was chuffed to be there, and seemingly all 30,000 festival-goers there were too. It featured a stacked lineup across dance music, incomparable to any event in the city in my rave lifetime.

Held in an active shipyard, the space served industrial vibes, plenty of room to dance, and a beautiful backdrop of the bay and rolling hills, with Karl the fog unfurling a stunning scene of fluffiness at sunset. Upon entering Portola on Saturday, I thought, "Why haven't we raved here before?"

The looks were on point, with Folsom Street Fair's kinky leather uniform providing sexy fashion influence. There were some creative signs and festi-poles, with the winning one reading: "Last year was better."

Kaytranada at Portola Music Festival

Alive Coverage

I began my Portola at the Crane Tent with DJ Holographic, thrilled to see the space swiftly fill out in just the second hour of the event. She played a bouncy set to get the positive energy flowing as the tent's large disco balls sparkled above us.

After getting distracted by the free margaritas and good company in the artist compound, I emerged to find tons more smiling faces. I caught the end of Jungle's joyful jubilee on the main stage, followed by Kaytranda's infectious beats and swag.

After, it was time to experience the Warehouse for Jamie XX, who filled the space with a high-energy mix ranging from his In Colour hits and more recent singles to Ludacris and UK garage.

Flume at Portola Music Festival

Alive Coverage

As Flume closed out the main stage with his breaky beats rattling across the space, Bicep flooded the Warehouse with their euphoric rave dreamscape. I've seen their stunning live show three times this year, and it continues to entrance me with its simple-yet-impactful visuals perfectly adapted for the space.

On Sunday, I was on a mission to see more music than Saturday and find friends before losing cell service. I began with the adorable French disco funk band, L'Impératrice, who played a joyful set sending us to galaxies beyond with a closing song that sounded like space disco.

Yaeji was next on the main stage, clad in all-white, effortlessly swinging from Korean to English over playful beats. Her dancers added drama to her set, including her breakthrough hit "Raingurl," and a very cute, unreleased song.

While Kelly Lee Owens captivated the Warehouse with a set of slow-burning left-field electronica that slowly rose into trippy techno SG Lewis brought Sunday Funday disco vibes to the main stage. Clearly as stoked as we were to be there, he announced, "This lineup is fucking sick, I have no idea how I'm a part of it."

Alive Coverage

Channel Tres was next up in the packed Warehouse. The crowd shook their booties to his swaggy blend of house and G-funk. Another live dance act I can't get enough of, he sounded and looked great as he and his dancers moved confidently on stage.

The final main stage acts were two of my favorites, James Blake and the Chemical Brothers. During Blake's vibey, pulsing set, we found out it was his birthday (yay, Libras!) and sang to him (poorly) as he blushed. His emotional set was gorgeously set off by moody, smoky red and blue lights. He brought Atlanta rapper SwaVay for their 2021 collab "Frozen," also featuring JID, and closed with his piercing cover of Frank Ocean's haunting "Godspeed" (which he co-produced and co-wrote).

The Chemical Brothers at Portola Music Festival

Scott Hutchinson

The Chemical Brothers were the perfect way to close a world-class, fun AF weekend in the city I became a raver in. The visuals enhanced the journey the lads took us on through their three-decade rein over electronica. It was one of the loudest sets of the weekend, activating whatever energy we had left in our bodies. After bringing out their giant rave robots for a dance, they paused briefly with a message on the screen reading, "Hold tight San Francisco." Proving why they are one of dance music's most sought-after live acts, they closed with the feels. "Swoon" swept over the speakers offering a mantra-like message fitting for the current chaos of the world: "Just remember to fall in love, there's nothing else."

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