If there is any lingering question about the mass popularity of electronic music, one need look no further than Electric Daisy Carnival. We'd be remiss to call EDC the “Woodstock of EDM,” because even one of rock's most iconic festivals doesn't hold a candle to the production, logistics, and near incomprehensible grandeur that is Insomniac's flagship rave. To call it a party would be diminutive and downright disrespectful. For three days at the end of June, EDC is an ephemeral nation unto itself with a population of more than 300,000 whose primary export is bass.
We were among the masses at Electric Daisy Carnival over the weekend. Here is the best and worst of what we saw, heard, smelled, touched and felt:
Best: The Kids
EDC is a testament to the sheer fortitude of today's youth. This isn't one of those festivals that cuts the power at 2 a.m. when the headliner presses stop on his Pioneers. The party goes well into the morning the entire weekend, as thousands welcome the sunrise with the same enthusiasm they had for sets six hours prior.
Worst: The Cost
Paying for transportation to Las Vegas, a hotel in Vegas, a ticket to the festival, a ride to the festival, meals, drinks and assorted extracurricular fun all adds up, making this a fairly expensive three days, especially for the younger kids in attendance.
“We're meeting people from the other side of the world!” said one attendee from Norwalk. “That is super fucking awesome!”
Best: The Staff
We've been to a lot of music festivals in our day, and we've faced our fair share of power-tripping polo shirts shining lights on our wristbands and re-routing us in the exact wrong direction. But the staff at EDC proved time and again that the logistics of this production were on lock; not only were we greeted with smiles and helpful answers, but at times we were surprised by just how accommodating they were. (Read: letting us in to the VIP area at 4:30 a.m., and subsequently letting us on the Ferris wheel with our vodka sodas.)
Best: Helicopter Shuttles
Ground transportation proved tricky, with heavy festival traffic on the 15 North increasing commute times to EDC grounds to as much as two hours.
Those who could afford the splurge skipped the traffic by literally flying over it in helicopter shuttles that delivered festivalgoers straight from the Strip. Operated by Maverick Aviation, roundtrip service was $500, but there was an open bar (and a DJ!) at the airport. Once in the aircraft, high flyers were treated to aerial views of Vegas and the festival during the 12-minute flight. The pilot even played Swedish House Mafia in our flight headsets.
Best: The Art
High-level art installations were scattered throughout the festival grounds, some of them coming straight from Burning Man. The visual aesthetic created a wild and highly creative vibe that gelled well with the equally elaborate costumes worn by hired professional entertainers and fans alike.
Worst: Bangin' Out the Hits
Yes, we all love “Harlem Shake,” “Le7els,” “Bugatti” and the like, but hearing them over and over during various sets all weekend started to feel incestuous and not all that creative.
Best: Empire of the Sun
Looking like the house band for capital residents in The Hunger Games, the Australian band put on a dazzling show Saturday night. The group's performance was as much theater as concert, with dancers and band members dressed in elaborate costumes and a smart visual production that was nothing short of cosmic. They sounded excellent too, and everyone danced.
Best: EDM Eclecticism
Sure, there's a lot of contention about mainstream EDM's place in the electronic universe, but it sure did seem to fit in nicely alongside the sounds of hardstyle, house, techno, dubstep, trance and other sundry subgenres, proving that in this musical world, it really is all in the family.
Staying out until dawn for three days in a row while also pool partying by day, dancing for hours at night and running around the festival grounds for hours is enough to make anyone feel like a faded glowstick. Festival attendees who didn't take Monday off work are out of their minds.
Best: Major Lazer
Diplo, Jillionaire and their incomparable dancers once again proved their status as a dance world tour de force with an epic Saturday night set that incorporated reggae, dub and all of Major Lazer's, well, major hits. Crowd participation is always paramount to a Major Lazer set, and the audience was so invested in this show that at one point everyone took off their shirts and threw them towards the stage on command. (Smash cut to hundreds of people scouring the ground for their shirt immediately after the set.)
Best: Kinetic Field Stage
Boasting enough space for 80,000, the mainstage was a massive Alice in Wonderland-style production complete with mushrooms, elaborately dressed dancers and a 100-foot owl with moving wings wrapped around a DJ booth shaped like a nest.
Best: Carnival rides
Not only were these rides included with the price of admission, but the lines to get on the Zipper, Tilt-a-Whirl, Circle of Fire, flying swings and seven Ferris wheels were always relatively short and quickly moving.
Best: Bro Safari
The Texas producer dropped an ultra-grimy set at the BassPod stage on Friday night, reminding us why trap is some sort of primal soul tonic.
Best: Zedd's Dead dropping a “Nights in White Satin” sample just before dawn Sunday morning. Never reaching the end, indeed.
Worst: Molly t-shirts
T-shirts printed with text like “Have you seen my friend Molly?” “I love Molly, she makes me dance” and “Molly is my homegirl” were ultra-popular at this fest, especially among the guys. Sure, drugs are an inherent element of rave culture, but these tees speak to the gross commodification of a formerly underground scene. Plus, does anyone really find drugs this way?
Best: The Vibe
The mainstream nature of EDM today has at least one big benefit: An event like EDC is going to attract a diverse crowd. When we talked to people of various backgrounds and ethnicities, one thing became clear: We were all here for the same reason — the vibe.