Article By: Summer Li ; Photos By: Alex Cizas
Following the accidental death of a 15-year old girl in last year’s Electric Daisy Carnival, the largest electronic music event outside of Europe (besides Electric Zoo) was denied permission to continue festivities at the LA Coliseum. When it was announced that EDC would instead be held in Las Vegas, my thoughts turned to the dangers that lurked in the sweltering desert air. Quite a daring move right after another accidental death, this time a teenage boy who died a week before at EDC Dallas. I thought perhaps Insomniac Events wanted to end their 14-year long reign with a bang, turning the event into the most extravagant, indulgent, and ridiculous farewell possible as the imminent death of the rave neared. But Lady Luck kept watch over the city and the Vegas move was, remarkably, a huge—and incident free—success.
Namely, the festival survived all three days in the desert with zero deaths this year, one-up from the previous and a huge achievement considering the size, location, and hazardous circumstances of this year’s festival. Not only was it in the middle of the desert, but Insomniac extended the event to three days (having just extended it to two days in 2009), and arranged a completely nocturnal schedule (8 PM - 6 AM) every day. Sounds like a lot of fun, and it probably worked advantageously on the financial end, but not the same EDC experience that I once enjoyed.
It was just so goddamn hot. Thankfully, the dusk-to-dawn schedule mitigated the 100-degree dry scorching heat and sun, somewhat, but it didn’t get much cooler at night and more often than before, I found myself overheated even from short bursts of dancing. One of the novel experiences of this year’s EDC was watching the sun rise every day around 4:30 AM across the desert landscape, which was gorgeous, but also a stark reminder that my sleep cycle had been disrupted, entirely. Many people started heading out around this time, never making it to the very end and missing out on crucial closing sets.
We ran entirely on adrenaline and anticipation because of the brutal nature of the festival. Attendees arrive at the festival grounds at night and dance for no less than 6-8 hours until sunrise. Even with a pre-empted departure, it takes a while to regroup, walk to the parking lot, and drive back to the hotel; longer if you have to wait for the shuttle. It’s 6 AM when you arrive in your room. Maybe you spend some time cleaning up and recapping with your hotelmates and finally nod off around 7 AM, shutting the blinds and closing the curtains to simulate darkness; tricking your body into rabid melatonin production. Perception of time had been warped.
Each day, you wake up to only four to five hour “nights” because your body is incapable of sleeping in past noon. Vegas buffets were the perfect supplement after a hectic night out, but it was also the only meal of the day. After eating there was only enough time to maybe take a quick nap and then get ready and repeat the whole thing again, and then again.
The festivals grounds were located in the center of the 1200-acre Las Vegas Motor Speedway, holding five main stages and several smaller ones, including my favorite, the 21+ Heineken dome, an indoor tent shaped like an igloo with its own bar and dancefloor inside. It was essentially an exclusive club within the festival that was a haven from the heat. With the AC cranked, it became the coldest “hotspot” at EDC.
This year, it seemed like the music and the lineup were an afterthought for the ticket-purchasing poublic. Many fans jumped on three-day passes the day they came out in mid-April and single-day tickets for Friday and Saturday sol out long before any lineup was made public. Ticketholders eagerly waited out two months before the lineup was finally released, just two weeks before the start of the festival. Sucks for the few who had already sewn their mau5heads before learning deadmau5 wasn’t even on the bill. We should all stop stalking the rumor sites.
For those who enjoy a wide array of styles, EDC infected those unlucky souls with festival A.D.D., causing them to stop here and there at random stages, caught up by DJs distracting from the task at hand. This happened to me with Porter Robinson. As I snaked through the crowd of a stage that served only as an impediment between the restroom and me, the DJ (I had no idea who at the time) dropped two deadmau5 tracks, “Pjanoo,” and Fedde le Grand’s funky “Back & Forth” remix all in the span of a minute and a half. Those are some of my favorite productions so I was instantly hooked and stayed on the massive stage of screen grids, in spite of my bladder.
There was also the time on day three when I just needed to sit down, having been overstimulated for two days. I made my way to the grassy Cosmic Meadow and hoped for a more mellow setting, but instead landed in the middle of Rabbit in the Moon. Bunny spun quite intense dubstep and electro, but I was more intrigued by the visuals and hardly minded the noise after all. Two masked rabbit figures in the back and over-the-top go-go dancers lining the front end of the stage. At some point in my trance, I thought I witnessed Jake Gyllenhaal, but it was just another man trapped inside a pink bubble. As far as gimmicks go, this was by far the gaudiest show and bizarrely entertaining.
Bass Pod in previous years took only a small section of the festival grounds, but never failed to host huge drum & bass names. Bass Pod this year was a much more recognizable stage and increased its size dramatically, filling each day’s lineup up to the brim, to the point that it had to transport producers such as Sub Focus and Bassnectar to the main stage. My favorite of the bass at EDC was Skream and Benga, two-thirds of the DJ supergroup, Magnetic Man. Both from boroughs of London, Skream and Benga are high-profile figures in the bass community as two of the pioneers of dubstep. Their sound is very distinct and much more minimal than the synth overload of the genre as it has been popularized in the past couple of years, but the two threw down dubstep just as hard and grimy as any others that weekend.
Bassnectar’s set on the second night was the most memorable and spectacular. A Bay Area native, he recently gained wider fame through dubstep productions such as the anthemic “Bass Head,” but had been an established breakbeat artist for more than a decade before. A simple live set from Lorin Ashton would have been satisfying enough, but the man dropped everything across the board from drum & bass to hip hop to Nirvana. We never knew which direction he’d head, and it seemed like every single track embodied a special moment and feeling while maintaining the overall high energy and excitement. Bassnectar was a riot. I don’t remember much else than feeling great (catch his tour in the fall).
On a softer note, The Glitch Mob was another notable set, consisting of three producers from LA, each playing with their own identical MIDI controllers and synth pads. It wasn’t the most dance-driven set, but rather an impressive performance of musicians playing, well, instruments (unheard of!) and creating that unique glitch sound rising in the SoCal scene. And then there was A-Trak, who deserves the utmost attention because he is one of the few DJs in the upper echelons of today’s electronic music that is a legitimate turntablist. The hour and a half that A-Trak mixed, he dominated. Cueing and beatmatching are just the basics. Every moment, the snazzy man in his fedora was immensely engaged in his mixing, scratching, and cutting between his vinyl to brilliantly add his own touch and reminding the fans of his roots.
One of the advantages of the Speedway was space. Most of what I remember from my first EDC in LA was the sea of humanity. EDC Vegas was much more efficient in terms of movement both inside and outside of the vast Speedway, hardly ever any need for pushing and shoving. Cell phone reception was intermittent throughout the night, but never totally lost. The sound of the stages didn’t bleed onto other stages and echoes were unnoticeable if there was any at all.
What EDC Vegas lost, however, was the spectacle and the tremendous feeling you get when you walk into the Coliseum for the first time at EDC, overlooking the large chasm of the main stage that cradled the splendor of nearly 100,000 people moving in unison. There wasn’t a place even comparable to that at the Speedway. The concentration of the Coliseum was a magnificent scene that I hope Insomniac can recreate at whichever venue the festival moves to next.
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