Twenty-six hours (plus four spent in parking lots).
Thirty-seven performances seen, whole or in part.
This was my Electric Daisy Carnival weekend.
Here’s a few sleep-deprived thoughts, post-festival:
Well, it definitely felt bigger this year.
Because no grown man dressed as a duck should be turned away, capacity was bumped up 20,000 per night, but if anything, it seemed like even more than that. On Sunday, Calvin Harris drew the biggest crowd I have ever seen at the circuitGrounds, a massive, undulating sea of humanity. Diplo did the same at the cosmicMeadow on Friday, while Tiesto predictably attracted a gargantuan audience at the kineticField on Saturday. The festival grounds are sizable enough to accommodate the larger crowd, and then some, but EDC’s dreaded traffic issues were predictably exacerbated. It took me three hours to get out of the parking lot on Saturday morning. By the time you read this, I should have re-entered city limits. Maybe.
EDC may draw a younger crowd, but the old dudes still got it
Some of the best sets came from guys who were DJing before a good portion of the crowd — as well as many of their fellow performers — were even alive. Dubfire (Ali Shirazinia) and Carl Cox, who played back-to-back at the neonGarden stage on Friday and John Digweed, 47, who performed on stage on Sunday, all stood out with what felt like fully-realized sets as opposed to a loose arrangement of songs. As EDM has crossed over into the mainstream and an increasing number of DJ-producers have collaborated with pop artists and notched pop hits, their performances can feel like a run down of said hits which is what plenty of people want, to be fair. But after hearing so much of that elsewhere, it was refreshing to experience the opposite, to be taken on a journey to somewhere other than the upper reaches of the EDM charts.
Three songs I don’t need to hear any time soon after hearing them enough this weekend:
3. Blasterjaxx, “Fifteen”
2. Lana Del Rey, “Summertime Sadness (Cedric Gervais remix)”
1. Fatboy Slim, Riva Starr & Beardyman, “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat”
Once again, live bands were a highlight.
Saturday night was one of the biggest ever for EDC, with Kaskade, Avicii and Tiesto performing within a two-hour span of one another and Benny Benassi, Knife Party, Dada Life and Paul Oakenfold playing after that. And yet, it was Chromeo’s set of ’80s-leaning electro funk, played live, that stood out the most. “It’s peace, love, unity and funk!” David Macklovitch bellowed at one point, tweaking the rave credo (PLUR: peace, love, unity, respect). No one was mounting a counter-argument when the duo was done.
Hey Mr. DJ….zip it
I’m not saying that the more a DJ goads on the crowd the crappier his or her set will be in every instance…but it’s pretty close. Stage banter is tricky in any genre of music, but in EDM, it’s not like there’re breaks between tunes to explain the story behind a given song or anything like that. Instead, there are just the same generic, eye-rolling exhortations every time and they’re about as heartfelt and meaningful as a stripper telling you you’re cute. Hey, if you want the crowd to “make some noise!” just do your job better.
The bassPod was better than Red Bull
On Sunday, as drum n’ bass true believers Colyyx & Teebee stormed the bassPod, images of perpetually red-assed celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey in full-on tantrum mode (someone must have under-cooked the damn salmon!) flashed across the phalanx of video screens tiered around the stage. It was a fitting visual for the kind of in-your-face, physically domineering sounds that reigned here. Every night, whenever fatigue was starting to set in, I made a point of getting back to the bassPod sooner rather than later. Be it Datsik on Friday, Bro Safari on Saturday or the aforementioned duo on closing night, it was always a welcome jolt of energy whenever mine was lagging.
It wasn’t like EDC needed yet another stage, but Stage 7 was a cool addition.
There were already seven stages prior to introduction of the 7-UP-sponsored Stage 7, but none quite like this smaller, semi-enclosed area where you were engulfed by sound and visuals. It was the most intimate and immersive of the various stages, highlighted for me by Tommie Sunshine’s hair flinging set on Friday.
Plenty of great costumes, per usual but my favorite was…
Lots to choose from here, but I’m going to go with the two “Dumb and Dumber” saluting dudes on Friday who rocked Harry and Lloyd’s garish powder blue and orange dinner tuxedos complete with top hats. Perhaps they were on their way to get a couple of bowls of loudmouth soup?
Also, there big influx of Native American get-ups this year. Not sure what that’s attributable to, but perhaps this led to the sad, sad decline of the banana costume, of which I only saw a few (wipes away tear). You will be missed, dancing Chiquita guy, you will be missed.
Thoughts on the death of Montgomery Tsang:
The sad news of the death of the 24-year-old after attending EDC on Friday has elicited two primary reactions: outrage that something like this could happen and blame for the environment in which it took place and the contrasting view that while Tsang’s passing was certainly tragic, there were 134,000 other people who attended the festival the same night he did, and one death should not call into question the safety of the event as a whole.
All I can add to the discussion is to elaborate upon my experiences covering EDC for four years now as neither EDM partisan nor detractor.
In that time, I’ve never seen the kind of near-mythic debauchery that often gets associated with “rave” culture.
I had a stranger offer me some pills once and inhaled plenty of second-hand pot smoke, but that’s about over course of the 10 shows I’ve attended.
I’ve seen girls puking in garbage cans and people passed out in the stands at the end of the night, but nothing you don’t see at any music festival.
The EDC crowd is pretty tame, actually — friendly and fun, and mostly respectful of one another.
I’ve never seen a fight.
And yet, the fact is, a lot of people have a problem with this crowd and this culture, mostly because it’s still largely unfamiliar to most on a firsthand basis.
Whenever a culture blossoms in the underground and then begins emerging into the mainstream, there’re always stereotypes that come attached with it.
We’ve seen it all before, time and time again.
Remember when heavy metal first started becoming popular?
Plenty of its shaggy-haired practitioners were dismissed as devil worshippers by worrisome parental units.
Back in the early ’90s, when gangsta rap began to really hit big, rappers were branded as thugs and criminals — often to the delight of their image consultants — regardless of their backgrounds.
How did that turn out?
Ozzy Osbourne is now known less as the prince of darkness than as a lovable, slightly befuddled former reality TV star and Ice Cube acts in crappy family movies.
As EDM culture becomes more of a known quantity, I reckon it will become more accepted and understood in the same way metal and rap have.
However the debate unfolds, though, the Electric Daisy Carnival will be on the frontlines either way.
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow on Twitter @JasonBracelin.