Arms went up as the sun went down on the space-age pirate ship complete with swashbuckler flag, a hydraulic lift boosting the thing almost as high as the spirits of those swishing their hips upon it.
As revelers in fishnets pounded cans of Modelo and cavorted with inflatable killer whales aboard this “Star Wars”-meets-“Mad Max”-looking party craft, some of them blew bubbles about half as effervescent as the crowd beneath them, an ever-growing throng dressed colorfully, like human Crayolas, luminescence incarnate.
It was a bit past 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
The Ferris wheels and giddy fans were spinning in unison.
The bass was already bludgeoning.
The Electric Daisy Carnival was underway.
And with that, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway became transformed into an adult wonderland of over-stimulated senses soundtracked by seismic electronic dance music that sent 140,000 bodies into near-perpetual motion — hey, you had to stop and wait in line to ride the roller coaster every now and then, you know?
Sure, there were maps scattered throughout the massive EDC grounds, but they seemed more than a little beside the point: The whole idea here is to get lost in a pulsating, booming alternate reality as a means of escaping one’s everyday reality, to let all the light and sound wash over you, as if you were laying on the lip of a beach as waves of light and sound crashed ashore.
Now, considering the topic at hand, you’re no doubt wondering what’s it like to inhabit the equivalent of a giant walk-in subwoofer as a DJ does his best to loosen fillings with rhythmically unrelenting reggaeton delivered with the subtlety of a surprise blanket party.
Well, the answer to that question was provided at Baja Collado, one of the numerous attractions to debut at the new Downtown EDC area on the grassy speedway infield.
Upon entering the small room, fans were handed glowing headphones to don, silent-disco style.
And then it was on, the metallic floor vibrating so hard to the beat, it was enough to make calf muscles sore a couple hours after the fact.
Elsewhere Downtown, there was the punk-themed Mini Bar, where little people poured drinks as The Misfits blared in the background, the raucous Tokyo Karaoke Bar and dark discotheque Headlight, where entrants were given mini flashlights to wave beneath gleaming disco balls, providing the only source of illumination.
These tightly-packed spaces served dual purposes on Friday, providing both entertainment and some much needed warmth.
In years past, when EDC was held in June prior to moving to May for the first time in 2018, the experience could be akin to inhabiting a giant hair dryer that was simultaneously being zapped inside an even bigger microwave, such was the intensity of the desert heat at times.
But it was downright chilly on this night, sweater weather when most came clad in beach wear.
Probably shouldn’t have worn pasties.
But, of course, there was another way to combat the cold: to warm oneself by the body heat generated at EDC’s eight stages.
Each one tends to hone in on a specific style of electronic dance music, save for some of the biggest — like the massive Kinetic Field and the Cosmic Meadow — which showcase a variety of sounds.
For dance floor pugilism, there’s the Basspod and Wasteland stages, the latter designed to look like a post-apocalyptic, yes, wasteland with an art installation piece featuring a stack of mangled junkyard cars impaled like a beef skewer of scrap metal.
It was fitting totem for the stage in question, as this was how your face felt after taking in, say, the hockey-masked Angerfist: smooshed.
At the pentagon-shaped, house-centric Neon Garden, which surrounds you on all sides, actor and aspiring DJ Idris Elba rolled his shoulders, clapped his hands over his head and excavated ditch-deep grooves during his set with Solardo.
On the opposite end of the electronic music spectrum, superstar DJ-producer David Guetta brought the big tent EDM at the Kinetic Field, his performance a rapid-fire fusillade of party anthems, Eminem, Missy Elliott and Queen remixes interspersed with club staples as ubiquitous as the bottle service in said clubs.
Prior to Guetta, Australia’s Allison Wonderland also played the Kinetic Field, but then she decamped to the Parliament Art Cart, a small, mobile stage topped with a giant swiveling owl head, on which fans clambered to dance within arm’s length of Wonderland as she played a strictly house set, barely visible amid all gyrating limbs.
“I never do this,” she said, savoring the moment.
Equally rare as seeing a big name like Wonderland do her thing in such an intimate setting is non-digital music devices on an EDC stage.
And yet British production duo Gorgon City performed with a live drummer and a series of guest vocalists during their set at the Cosmic Meadow, adding a bit more of a human dimension to their soulful house.
But while Gorgon City was well received, the Cosmic Meadow truly blossomed to over-stuffed life when Deadmaus made his domestic EDC debut to a massive crowd that stretched all the way back to the speedway grandstand in a levee-bursting flood of bodies.
This was EDM as steamroller: motoric, locomotive, something seemingly designed to demand submission as much as dancing.
And then, a few hours later, dawn would break.
Eventually, the sun rose, joining those aforementioned spirits at long last.