Updated October 25, 2021 - 7:27 am
It was 11:45 p.m and the elephants were flying.
The line was long for the Crazy Dumbo ride, where airborne Disney creations were elevating thrill-seekers and spirits in unison.
Seconds later, we found Waldo — or at least a long-haired dude costumed as the elusive children’s book character — passing by the post-apocalyptic Wasteland stage, where hardstyle DJ-producer The Prophet conjured bass levels that worked the body like a deep tissue massage sans a masseuse’s pesky fingertips.
Simultaneously nearby, a female aerialist in a tight black leather get-up suspended in chains from a flame-belching structure dubbed the Brass Ring twisted her body into shapes that only Gumby should know.
Soon, it would be midnight.
Five hours down, five-and-a-half hours to go: The Electric Daisy Carnival was back.
In this typically atypical five-minute span on Friday night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, EDC did what EDC does: deliver an overload of sensory overload.
It’s the biggest dance music festival in the world — plus a place to get hitched, bust moves with furries on a rainbow-shaped stage and don hot dog-shaped headgear while wandering through a pants-optional landscape of light and sound.
It’s way, way too much for but one pair of eyes and ears to take in — which is the whole point of it all.
So, where to begin?
Where understatement ends.
“Let’s go down a rabbit hole,” enjoined Drew Taggart, one half of EDM duo The Chainsmokers during their set at the kineticFIELD where they alternated Papa Roach and MGMT remixes with their own hits like “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Closer.”
This crowd of around 150,000 was eager to take said plunge, dressed as Oscar the Grouch, cigarette puffing Teletubbies and party-hard cows.
Some of them exchanged nuptials for real at one of EDC’s two wedding chapels; others not so much.
“If you find a stranger and want to get married, let me know,” advised a lady named Mary Queen of Hearts, costumed as the “Alice in Wonderland” character, as she recruited interested parties for non-legally binding wedding vows at the Commitment Deck, where couples promised to be there for each another “even if one of you parties too hard” and the customary “I do” was replaced with a hearty “hell yeah!”
There was much to explore, from the heat-radiating fire dancers at the Escape Open-Air Theater to the reggae-informed Bajo Collado silent disco to a Tokyo-styled karaoke bar to Nomadsland, a maze of repurposed objects — hubcaps, file cabinets, dresser drawers, etc. — fashioned into a landscape akin to “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” meets an episode of “Hoarders.”
It was all part of the 10th anniversary of EDC relocating to Las Vegas and its 25th year overall since debuting in Los Angeles in 1997.
The occasion was commemorated with a drone show at the kineticFIELD, where dozens of the small flying machines formed images of owls and hearts prior to counting down EDC’s massive nightly fireworks display.
It was a long time coming: EDC Las Vegas was postponed three times by the pandemic, resulting in a two-and-a-half-year hiatus since the last EDC in May 2019 (attendees were required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test upon entry).
If it felt like a journey to get to EDC 2021, it also felt like a journey to get into EDC 2021.
Whenever 150,000 people gather in one place, a measure of gridlock is to be expected. But traffic was particularly gnarly this year with Las Vegas Boulevard a parking lot for miles near the speedway. (This reporter, who lives 21 miles south of the speedway, left for EDC at 5:30 p.m. After driving, parking, making the 15-minute hike to the venue, encountering the bottleneck of humans at the designated entryway, and then passing through security, finally got onto the festival grounds just before 10 p.m.).
Some of those who stayed on site didn’t fare much better: numerous fans who lodged at the EDC campgrounds took to various social outlets to complain of a lack of air conditioning and water shortages prior to the fest’s opening night.
Once inside, though, the collective mood was as bright as all perpetually flashing lighting rigs.
There were times when there were almost too many big-name headliners to choose from performing simultaneously.
For instance, at one point after midnight, future bass prime mover Illenium played a surprise set at the tree-festooned Forest House Art Car — this from a guy who drew 30,000 fans to a sold-out Allegiant Stadium in July — The Chainsmokers did their thing at the kineticFIELD and Australian EDM star Alison Wonderland rocked the circuitGROUNDS flanked by a pair of floor-tom drummers pounding away all at the same time.
“Let me catch my breath,” L.A. house DJ-producer Noizu enjoined on his track “Slow Down” during his set on the Stereo Bloom stage.
Pretty sure that’s what Monday is for.
Contact Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow @jbracelin76 on Instagram