There aren’t many things in this world that beat a great music festival. I love festivals; I’ve attended my fair share of them throughout the last nine years of my life and have thoroughly enjoyed every experience, no matter the location or type of music the event happens to encompass.

One of my favorite memories from the last few years had to be experiencing Paradiso at the Gorge Amphitheater for the first time last year. Despite the repulsive forehead tan I acquired over the weekend, it was still a pretty incredible experience. The venue was absolutely gorgeous, the crowds were great, the acts were simply unforgettable… It was going to be hard for Paradiso 2017 to be topped.

However, USC Events tried their best to make that happen and they undoubtedly succeeded. Beyond having a completely stacked lineup, Paradiso 2018 was an improvement on basically all fronts.

In my book, the best changes made this year were the aesthetic alterations to each stage. At the Wreckage stage, the giant pillars – which provided well-needed shade, but were major view-blockers – were moved to the sides of the stage, which was also reworked into a Mesoamerican-style pyramid. The changes made to Digital Oasis and the Paradise Main Stage weren’t as drastic, but still managed to make them a bit more pleasing to look at.

Another positive change that USC made this year was the addition of multiple water stations around the festival. The stations being less crowded and having shorter lines definitely made getting hydrated feel like less of a nuisance.

Stressing it once again, I’ll note that this year’s lineup was absolutely insane. While Paradiso 2017 had four or five really great standout acts, this year almost had too many to count. If it weren’t for Porter Robinson’s Washington debut as Virtual Self, I would have had a hard time picking between Darren Styles, Drezo, DROELOE, graves, Matroda, Minnesota B2B Buku, REZZ and um.. as my favorite act of the weekend. Whether I was braving a downpour during um.. or letting out every last bit of energy I had during Darren Styles, each DJ set felt unique and memorable in its own way.

It is also certainly worth noting how well USC handled the weather issues that came about on the festival’s second day. Attendees were evacuated as soon as a lightning strike was seen nearby, and let back in as soon as the weather permitted. Beside a security guard attempting to confiscate my garden owl on the way out, the evacuation didn’t dampen my ability to enjoy the festival in the slightest.

Even the Gorge itself looked uniquely beautiful just for the event this year. While the music was pumping all weekend long, the sight of rainclouds rolling over the hills brought peace and serenity to my inner being.

Needless to say, my experience at Paradiso this year was one I won’t be forgetting any time soon. A piece of my heart will forever be at the Gorge, and I can’t wait to go back to Paradiso again.

Check out my video recap of Paradiso 2018 here.