He’s standing not from far where he put a kandi ring on her finger two years ago, the man who looks like kandi come to life.
Aaron Ellis and his wife, Brittany Pitcock, both 27, somehow manage to stand out and fit in at once as they mingle in the Neon Garage area of Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, the latter insulated from the chilly night air in layers of pony beads that swell his forearms to the size of Popeye’s.
They drove 20 hours from Huntsville, Texas, to be here at Electric Daisy Carnival, their home away from home — or true home, to hear them tell it.
This year’s EDC may be over, save for the glitter-coated memories, but upon immersing oneself in the festival’s friendly fanaticism for three days, the question arises: Just what makes EDC elicit such a passionate response from many of its 450,000-plus annual “headliners” — the festival’s term for its patrons? People don’t just attend EDC; they identify with it, some driving nearly a full day to be part of the festival.
Let’s start with Ellis and Pitcock.
In 2017, Ellis proposed to Pitcock in front of Quantum Valley stage during their first trip to one of the world’s biggest electronic dance music festivals — even though EDC, with its larger-than-life art installations and Alice in Electronic Wonderland vibe, often doesn’t seem of-this-world at all.
Neither does this pair.
A communal Carnival
She’s as colorful as a box of crayons with goat horns and a smile. He looks the part of a glam space cadet celebrating Mardi Gras on the moon, his face, beard and hair slathered in purple body paint, eyes hidden behind tongue-pink shades, neck and wrists covered in kandi, the de rigueur fashion accessory here. (Kandi is custom-made from beads and predominately takes the form of bracelets, though there are kandi face masks, necklaces, pendants, etc. Exchanging kandi is a sign of friendship in the rave scene.)
For these two, EDC is as much of a lifestyle as a music festival to look forward to each spring.
“It’s a community,” Ellis explains, his voice occasionally rising as his enthusiasm serves as a bullhorn amplifying his Texas accent. “It brings people together who never would have met. Everyone works together and supports each other. I have friends across the country (from EDC). I can stay at anybody’s house, in multiple countries.”
For another couple, Jesse Andrade and Rachel Martinez, who from came Denver dressed as party-hard astronauts in matching shiny silver get-ups, the lure of EDC is rooted in a kind of laissez faire approach to life — and to lives of those around you here.
“It’s just a place where you can be yourself,” says Martinez, who was attending her fourth EDC. “I think a lot of people come here for healing and acceptance.”
Ray H., a shirtless 28-year-old from San Francisco outfitted in glowing bunny ears and goggles, expresses a similar sentiment.
“As someone who is gay, it’s rare that I feel so accepted somewhere,” he says, flanked by a pair of friends.
For Tony Rodarte, this is something worth driving more than 400 miles for from his hometown of Salt Lake City.
Rodarte came here with a trio of friends, all of whom were attending their first EDC. But he says the vibe among his travel companions and the other 140,000 revelers here on a given night isn’t all that dissimilar.
“It’s pretty much like the love and the relationship that you would have with your siblings, your best friends. It’s that similarity with everyone, no matter what kind of culture it is,” he says, his yellow headband color-coded with matching face paint, both complementing a bright-green goatee. “There’s positive energy, all around. You can’t find that level of positivity anywhere else.”
An Electric identity
This can be an infectious thing, this feeling of being bound by communal ties, and for Ellis and Pitcock, it doesn’t end when EDC does.
Asked when they start planning their elaborate outfits for EDC, Ellis responds nearly before the question is finished.
“On the drive home,” he says.
His wife poses a question of her own. Her surroundings provide the answer.
“Do you wanna have a place where you feel welcome?” Pitcock wonders. “This is it. You can be anything that you want to be here.”