Whew... What. A. Journey. With dance music as popular as ever, fans are now able to experience the music in a myriad of ways; ways almost unimaginable even 10 years ago. If one were so inclined (and willing to travel), from March to October you could likely attend a fairly sizable music festival every weekend and get your fill of top-notch, high quality dance music. Old guard festivals like Coachella and Ultra continue to exist of course, and continue to impress with varied, top tier lineups. But it seems like new, awesome festivals, like Made in America or Tomorrow World (Tomorrowland's stateside sibling), are popping all the time, demanding our time, money and attention in equal measure. While I don't have the market research to justify saying that dance music is "over-saturated" with festivals, it can certainly feel that way to your average fan.
Which is why it was nice to witness the all-new Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas this year. For some time now, EDC has been one of the biggest and baddest electronic dance music festival in the country. Particularly after the move from Los Angeles, the expanded festival truly became a spectacle unmatched by any other in the scene. Founded by Insomniac Events, the promoters could have certainly rested on the laurels this time around. I mean, beyond the already exploding festival scene, EDC-specific events are now held in multiple cities, in multiple countries, throughout the year. Why even bother with creating new experiences for the Las Vegas event?
Photo Credit: aLIVE Coverage for Insomniac
Thankfully, the people in charge disagreed with me. This was without a doubt the most impressive EDC to date. If the picture above isn't clear enough, that's 400,000 people down there attending the sold-out event, all jamming out to world-class DJs spinning in front of the most ridiculous stages and production. I still have trouble comprehending the sheer magnitude of an event like this. Calling it a "must-see" event really doesn't do it justice.
You would think with an event this size, overcrowding would be a major problem. On the contrary; the event's various stages were well spaced, and the crowds were (for the most part) easily navigable. Phone service was spotty in certain areas (particularly the mainstage) but that's to be expected at events like this. We were promised continuous wifi access to SnapChat, but I couldn't seem to get it to work and neither could any of the other festival-goers I asked. Which was fine; just make sure you don't lose sight of your friends.
Even if you did, you were surrounded by 400,000 of your best friends, anyway. I've attended many festivals over the years, but there's something special about the EDC crowd. People just seem to be friendly and more down-to-earth than other EDM crowds (I'm looking at you, Ultra). Maybe it's the awesome light installations. Maybe it's the really cool carnival rides. Whatever it is, the atmosphere at EDC is unlike any other festival, and certain makes the overall experience that much better.
I'd be remiss if I didn't at least address health and safety concerns. In what is seemingly becoming a very unfortunate trend in dance music culture, Insomniac reported that at least two deaths occurred over the course of the festival weekend. I personally witnessed a young man collapse in the parking lot after the event, and require CPR. Due to it's location in what is essentially the desert, EDC is prime location for overheating. Even at night, the temperature hovered around the mid 80s. Not to say that EDC is more dangerous than other festivals, but that attendees should always be aware of and constantly monitor their condition.
For it's part, the promoters did what they could to keep attendees cool. Two large "cooling stations" were positioned in the grounds, and four free water stations were dispersed around the festival grounds. These solutions were not only proper, but much appreciated. I would only suggest that next time the promoters not camouflage the water stations so well amongst the decor; the stations were somewhat difficult to spot at night, with all the installations and crowds. I would also suggest making sure the stations are better positioned where the largest concentration of people would be; while some stations (particularly near mainstage) would require up to a 15 minute wait for a water refill, other stations were practically empty. And while I'm sure the Art Car appreciated having a practically empty water station, larger demand should require a larger supply, no?
Of course, while all the decor and ambiance is great, the point of the festival is the music. And EDC delivered in spades. The top talent of pretty much every major electronic music genre came out, and threw down one impressive set after another. As one of the premiere festivals, DJs often save their best stuff to play in front of the largest crowds in North American, with some of the most expensive production equipment around. While I wish I could recount all the awesome mixes, mashups, and new releases I heard, that would be an impossible tasks. Instead, I've narrowed it down to my top sets for each of the major stages, all for your listening pleasure. So please, enjoy this all-too-brief recap of what is, in my opinion, the single best event for dance music lovers in America.
- Kinetic Field Top 3 -
Photo Credit: Doug Van Sant for Insomniac
Aaaaah... Mainstage. To some, the only place worth being. To others, the bane of their existence. Where all the big boys in EDM come to play. Kinetic Field this year was absolute insanity, hosting a wide variety of different genres. And yes, that's a 50 foot constructed, flashing neon pipe organ in the middle of the stage, between two giant owls. Trippy? Sure. Awesome as f*ck? You betcha.
Must-listen Set: Axwell ^ Ingrosso
- Cosmic Meadow Top 3 -
Photo Credit: aLIVE Coverage for Insomniac
Or, as I referred to it all weekend, "Mini-Mainstage". I can't confirm this, but if my memory serves me right, this stage was used two years ago as EDC's Kinetic Field. Regardless, Cosmic Meadow offered just as diverse a lineup as the mainstage, with top level acts in multiple genres. While smaller, the stage offered more space and room to breathe than Kinetic Field, treating EDC as more of a backdrop than placing you in the center of it. Very impressive.
Must-listen Set: Madeon
- Circuit Grounds Top 3 -
Easily the most immersive of the stages, the tunnel-shaped Circuit Grounds provided top level DJs but in a more intimate surrounding. So intimate, in fact, the only ingress and egress was the back of the stage. So, if you suddenly found yourself near the front, you were basically stuck there until the end of a set (or, in the worst cases, the end of the festival). But my God, I think they spent at least a bajillion dollars on laser equipment alone. Honestly, pictures don't do it justice; just watch the video above for a taste of the experience (skip to around 2:20 for EPIC-INSANE-RIDICULOUSNESS).
Must-listen set: Eric Prydz
- Neon Garden Top 3 -
Photo Credit: Ry Smith
With Neon Garden the stages began to branch off into specific genres. This stage acted as home to the deeper sounds, such as Deep House, Tech House, Techno, and the deeper end of Progressive House. Similar in structure to Circuit Grounds but smaller, this was the stage where you could get your groove on without fear of being trampled by the masses. Definitely one of my favorite stages of the festival.
Must-listen set: Carl Cox
- BassPod Top 3 -
Photo Credit: Alex Perez for Insomniac
As the name implies, this stage targeted the basshead in all of us. If Dubstep, Trap, Moombahton or Drum n' Bass is your thing, BassPod was the place to be. Located toward the back of the festival (literally completely opposite from the mainstage), it's almost as if the promoters wanted to keep the bassheads as far away from the festival as possible. If that was the plan, it cetainly didn't work, as the stage would pack out for the big names, and almost completely empty for the lesser known ones.
Must-listen set: Bro Safari
- BassCon top 3 -
Photo Credit: bassconmassive
Slightly misleading stage name. You'd think this stage focusd on dubstep or dnb, but BassCon actually focused of various Hardstyle and Trance genres. This stage, by far, had the most jarring transitions between DJs; one moment you would be listening to psytrance, and the very next, jumpstyle. Not to mention the crazy monster cyclops-thing staring at you the entire time. Pretty trippy stuff. Oh, and this stage had by far the nicest people of the entire festival.
Must-listen set: Simon Patterson
- Stage 7 top 3 -
Sponsored by 7up, the aptly titled Stage 7 featured a number of artists who are poised for big things, but haven't quite hit the mainstream sound yet. Because of this, the genre's tended to fluxuate pretty wildly, but most tended to favor Trap, Electro, or Big-Room House. Essentially a rectangular stage in the middle of the festival, you couldn't help but wonder near/around/into it at least once during the event. The stage was not particularly impressive production wise, and sound fidelity was a bit of an issue unless you were exactly in the center. Still, it was a nice rest-stop as you traveled between the larger stages.
Must-listen set: Tommie Sunshine
- Discovery Project -
As the name implies, the Discovery Project stage is for truly up-and-coming DJs to ply their wares. Admittedly, I didn't spend very much time at the the stage. Still, the stage was hospitable enough, and the music I heard there was excellent. Paris Burns' set in particular impressed me, so check it out below.
Must-listen set: Paris Burns
Exhilarating and exhausting, Electric Daisy Carnival certainly proved itself to be the premiere electronic music festival in America. There truly isn't anything else like it. Honestly, I'm running out of superlatives. If you're not convinced you need to go by now, I'm not sure anything will convince. But for those that already know what's up, I'll see you next year under the Electric Sky.
- Insomniac Events official EDC page
- Electric Daisy Carnival on Facebook
- Electric Daisy Carnival on Twitter