Second Sky 2021: The Main Event (Porter Robinson)

Photo of Porter Robinson at the Second Sky Music Festival
Vanessa Lim/Senior Staff

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The large salvo of fireworks wouldn’t be the only thing lighting the night above the sea of voices at Second Sky. Of course, the entire festival would be amiss without showcasing its brightest star: Porter Robinson.

Robinson’s latest album Nurture is just about the most remarkably hopeful album released this year, and his live set translated the new music into one of the most cathartic, uplifting EDM experiences of recent memory. It began in darkness with the artist sitting at an upright piano, swiftly transitioning from “Wind Tempos” into the opening notes of “Something Comforting.” As flowery, natural visuals illuminated the stage, Robinson stood and waved to the Second Sky crowd, full of ardent fans highly anticipating his return. At the song’s climax, deep bass notes and colorful fireworks soared into the night, and the audience’s energy shot into overdrive.

Present from the first song onward, the pyrotechnics captivated throughout the night, like an infinite supply of optimism perpetually skyward bound. Robinson dipped back into his discography, bringing out favorites off his 2014 debut Worlds such as “Sad Machine,” “Divinity” and “Flicker,” recontextualizing them among songs about overcoming personal hardships and finding peace. Here, the songs stood as pillars of purpose, validating milestones on the artist’s path to self-fulfillment — as Robinson’s journey came full circle, fans received the songs like embraces from long-lost relatives. Before, his songs were portals into new realms; here, they were reminders of home. 

In a set made almost entirely of highlights, some moments still rose to the top. “Musician,” Robinson’s ode to the courageous pursuit of passion and the definitive high point of Nurture, was the song to see at Second Sky. As clouds were projected onto the stage floor, a visual effect offered the illusion that Robinson was falling through the sky in a moment of pure musical catharsis. Other emotional moments included everyone present raising lighters during “Sweet Time,” as well as Robinson bursting into tears at the sight of VCR footage from his childhood while performing “Mother.”

Indeed, crying was a popular activity at Second Sky. It was easy to spot attendees and their friends in teary-eyed embraces and feel an outpouring of emotion just about everywhere. An hour and forty minutes of open-heartedness, the final set’s main attraction was sincerity, bookending the festival as a starry-eyed celebration of vulnerability, of togetherness, of life.

“This was the best night of my life,” Robinson declared, as if the events of Second Sky 2021 hadn’t made it obvious enough already. You could tell he meant it.

Vincent Tran is the arts & entertainment editor. Contact him at [email protected].