There is nothing quite like that initial feeling of stepping through the entry way tunnels leading into the Las Vegas Motor Speedway as Friday evening begins to dawn and the first day of the famous Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas kicks off. We were finally on our way into our extended family reunion, a place where the good vibes flow like the water gushing from the free water stations’ hoses. Where PLUR for sure isn’t dead. Strolling in with a group of 15 friends, many of whom it was their inaugural EDC experience… was awesome to see the shock and awe on the faces of EDC virgins when they set their eyes on the sprawling landscape that was previously a simple speedway for cars to race around. “It’s dat EDC face,” I mused to them. As I helped to lift their jaws off the floor and urged them to focus on the fairly long flight of stairs on the way down to the race track, I also found myself in disbelief as to how much the festival grew and evolved since my last visit in 2012, and this served as a concrete physical example as to electronic music’s purely exponential explosion in American culture in only the last couple of years.
The Arrival & kineticFIELD (First Impressions):
The first place we headed to was the centrally-located free water refill station to gas up for the beginning of our trip, and off to the main stage of kineticFIELD to kick off our descent into the rabbit hole. Upon arrival into the absolutely massive space allocated for the festival’s main stage, now I was exhibiting dat EDC face. It was beautiful. An epic cathedral comprised of elaborate stained glass, wire torches that spewed columns of wickedly-hot flames, pipe organs forming the backdrop of the DJ booth and, naturally, Insomniac owls hovering over the stage’s wings…overseeing the forthcoming processions led by our electronic music priests. A fellow writer and I looked at each other and exclaimed…”ARMIN’S GOING TO TAKE US TO CHURCH!”
That is exactly what the majority of the main stage DJ’s did, by formulating mind-blowing and emotional sets, they took their respective fans to church time and time again; punctuated by constant fireworks spectacles that were on par with many major cities’ Fourth Of July fireworks finales..over and over again. Next, the sound. I don’t think I have ever aurally witnessed an outside festival environment louder than EDC Vegas 2014. At kinetic, the bass was so prevalent that it literally vibrated the skin on my face and made my nose tickle with its slightly overbearing bass levels. Just trying to point out that at times the bass was so strong that it overwhelmed the melodic portions of tracks that were played. Maybe the sound engineers should have just turned back the bass level a click or two. However the production was unlike anything I have ever experienced in person in my life. Insomniac and Pasquale clearly have SFX and Tomorrowland/World’s number in what is primed to continually be a battle of the titans.
The sea of fans present in the expansive space during the likes of Armin van Buuren’s, Hardwell’s, Kaskade’s and a plethora of other main stage sets was simply breathtaking at times. In the moment, we were not aware that each night housed a festival population of almost 135,000 people…but once seeing the statistical breakdowns that came out in the days following the festival, this made complete sense. As with all main stage sets however, the sheer amount of people led to a continual influx of 20+ people chain-linked trains making their way through the crowd in attempts to land a prime real estate location closer to the stage, which at times was aggravating I will admit…but obviously there is nothing that could be done about that on behalf of the production gurus. All in all, though, this was a substantially successful execution of a hell of a spectacle for kineticFIELD this year.
The Peripheral Side Stages (The Sound Of The Underground):
Admittedly, much of my time was spent away from kineticFIELD’s madness and among the specialized and slightly more underground stages, which is the environment I prefer to frequent. The majority of the times, this led to much more space to dance around like a madman and shuffle like a mental patient…and I was loving every second of it. Each side stage had its own individualistic boons. Firstly, in what seemed to be an overwhelming fan favorite stage…is the Cosmic Meadow.
The stage was situated directly at the bottom of the bleachers that were used to enter LVMS, and giving credence to the name, had the dance floor area situated on a pitched large grassy knoll. This dance floor type was a godsend for many an exhausted raver which offered the respite of allowing you to take a seat while simultaneously being able to view the LED screens and “chair rave” (if you wanted) to some absolutely killer sets like Destructo, Chromeo, Diplo and more. A personal favorite moment was when friends insisted that our entire group take off our shoes and socks in the midst of Chromeo’s set. Wow, what an incredible respite for the arches on your feet at roughly the halfway point of the festival. Simultaneously allowing you to connect with nature and stretch out the dancing muscles on your feet and twirl around bare-footed on the grass during Chromeo’s funky groove was one of those moments that you can only get at EDC.
The quintessential CircuitGrounds is exactly what you would expect: a massive semi-circular structure with retractable LED panels that is reminiscent of a spaceship. Holding some extremely large acts such as Calvin Harris, Eric Prydz, and Avicii’s dedicated stage…at times it was even too small for the insanely large crowds present during some of the larger acts. The dance floor was comprised of an uneven dirt surface covered with a smattering of rocks, so this made dancing a slightly more difficult concept than at the other stages’ well-maintained dance floors. However, the sound and the lazers were absolutely on point and purely legendary (see: Eric Prydz’s drop of “Laser Beams”).
The Neon Garden housed the deeper and more tech house sides of the musical spectrum over the weekend, and was populated by grooving Headliners underneath a mass of strobe lights and in front of a massive HD LED wall. Given this wasn’t my musical specialty and I was only there a few times, those few times allowed a significant amount of space to groove and shuffle around until your heart was content topped off by spectacular sound yet again. Off to my personal most frequented stage: the sinister Cyclops-overlord themed BassCon stage. Comprised of a one-eyed monster with a risen DJ booth flanked by massive claws and a fairly large dance area, BassCon harbored much of the Hardstyle and Trance DJ’s sets throughout the weekend. Situated just off of one of the main throughways through the festival grounds, this allowed the music from more underground artists like Simon Patterson, Bryan Kearney, Jordan Suckey, Darren Styles and Headhunterz to permeate into the crowds passing by the stages….thus opening up many people’s ears to new and different sounds that they may not have been accustomed to or heard before. The sound levels were perfect, complete with a healthy bass boom without overwhelming the mids and his. There was a moment when I looked back during Bryan Kearney’s intensely heavy psy-trance leaning set, and I noticed throngs of people who initially were passing by the stage who eventually stopped and stayed for the remainder of the set…reeled in like a big mouth bass to the booming sound of BassCon. Well done, yet again.
Only witnessing a couple sets at the BassPOD, which was Seven Lions’ deft genre-defying masterpiece and Sub Focus’ drum n bass extravaganza left me with a couple thoughts. The stage was backed by a pyramid of LED screens which was wicked pleasing to the eyes, and the sunken in bowl dance area left much space for the extended crowds to sprawl out beyond the measured area. The bowl was outlined with fire breathing torches as well, much like what kineticFIELD’s stage was topped with, however these were arising directly from the ground…and the fire was used quite often. The fire was…HOT! Like, really hot. A suggestion for future planning purposes, if flames are to be used to a larger degree, many Headliners suggested slightly removing them from the crowd…as experiencing the radiating heat while among throngs of fellow dancers while having an empty bottle of water can become quite an uncomfortable experience. Either that, or control the usage of the torches throughout the crowd a little more and rely on pyrotechnics that are harbored a bit closer to the stage area.
7-Up also sponsored Stage 7, which I only frequented once to catch Baggi Begovich. He put together a pretty smashing progressive/big room infusion set, however technical difficulties frustrated both him and fans alike. At multiple points throughout his bass heavy set, the sound cut out over the speakers…supposedly due to poor cable connections into equipment. It was a recurring problem throughout the entire set, and near the end it got so bad to the point that over half of the crowd launched a mass exodus from the set only 5 minutes from the end. This was sad to see, because the tracks and mash-ups Baggi was dropping at the time were pretty phenomenal, however the annoyance of raging crazy hard only for the music to cut out fairly often was too much for many to put up with. Not the best P.R. for 7-Up in this case I have to say (but, hey…7-Up DID provide everyone who rode the shuttles back to the Vegas strip with free bottles of 7-Up upon disembarkation from the shuttles…which was a total win every morning at 7am!)
Unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to check out the Discovery Stage this year, which was placed in the middle of another throughway near the middle of LVMS which drew in passers-by with the sounds of up-and-comers in the industry. Some great acts were featured that seriously pained me to sacrifice such as Singularity, SirensCeol and Novaspace. I give Insomniac mad props for booking those acts and many more at the stage, and can only urge them to keep up the killer work in booking amazing underground talent…and hopefully next time around I can squeeze a visit into my schedule.
The Vibes (Feels Factory):
Music isn’t the only singular reason for many peoples’ attendance at the festival spectacle extraordinaire year after year…and one of the major additional reasons is the overall vibe of everyone underneath The Electric Sky together. EDC is absolutely king of the electronic music vibes, and there can be no denying this simple yet powerful statement. Those who posit that PLUR is dead and who are quick to dismiss this singular aspect of our beloved culture just simply must not be present at this event yearly. Understandably, those who posit this probably focus on individual aspects of general ratchetness, occasional pushing, and occurrences of sporadic disrespect. This is going to happen during any explosion of a scene into mainstream awareness. The exponential expansion from 2012 to 2014 made me speechless many times throughout the course of the event…and with these new people is sure to come some hiccups, but you have to focus on the over-reaching feeling of the event, not on a couple bad or newly planted seeds.
I found the best comparison to be this: with a daily population of 134,000 attendees per night squeezed into a singular venue like LVMS, smiles were everywhere, movement through crowds by everyone was extremely fluid…and the aura was the gentlest feeling I have probably every felt throughout my entire life. Plus the desire to interact and share and trade experiences with each other is unmatched (including noticing kandi on the wrists of at least 50% of festival workers, police and EMT’s). Contrast this with the Vegas casino population, which is clearly less densely populated; I witnessed a few drunken fights among casino and pool party goers alike, there existed no type of flow of crowds and subsequent movement through them, as well as being subject to an aura of greed and an ego-driven vibe – must like the remainder of capitalist society as a whole. There are always going to be naysayers saying that PLUR is dead and blah blah blah, however if you open yourself fully to the experience of EDC and tune into the over-reaching energy of Headliners littered throughout the speedway…there is no denying that the ethos of Peace, Love, Unity and Respect is alive and well among those revelers underneath The Electric Sky.
A Breakdown Of The Logistics (Mostly Smooth Sailing):
Obviously no event is going to be perfect in regards to logistics, especially one the size of EDC Vegas at this point, however the ability to realize, acknowledge, react and fix said hiccups shows true event production mastery….and Pasquale and his team shined in regards to that. Firstly, the shuttle situation: there was a freaking ton of shuttles, that’s for sure. However exiting the first night was a complete cluster, it was legit like bumper cars and chicken combined seeing 10 lines of shuttles attempt to merge into a singular lane to exit the parking lot. The trip from the speedway to the strip took about 2 ½ hours, to many peoples chagrin. After receiving a multitude of tweets about the frustrating experience, Pasquale and team adjusted how the busses exited the parking lot and changed the route and merge point to facilitate a smoother traffic flow, and by the 3rd night even after leaving after the end of the last set at 5:30am, shuttle lines were comparably nonexistent when compared to other nights…which was a massive surprise and relief to all those depressed Headliners leaving the LVMS for the final time, showing a fluidity in operations that in my personal opinion is unmatched in event production.
Next up is mention of the sound levels. I understand that we love our music LOUD, but the days spent at the main stage legit made my skin vibrate and tickled the inside of my nose. The melodic portions were almost inaudible at times because of the BOOMING bass. Many found the bass trailing the rest of the musical layers and distracted them to the point where they moved themselves to other stages. However the sound at the majority of the other stages (minus the 7-Up stage cd-skippingesque fiasco) were completely on point with fullness, richness and crispness…and just the perfect levels of bass.
My only suggestion after the fact is in regards to a couple of the free water refill stations locations. A couple of them were situated at points where the Cool Lounge’s hexagonal building structure caused the walkway to bottleneck. Add regular traffic to that, plus occasional spillover from surrounding sets leads to a mass rush for placement in that water line. A couple times a group of us smashed together just looked at each other and exclaimed “this is madness!” Simple placement in a less densely populated area and slightly separated from a main thruway/stage overflow location would be optimal for future years. Just a thought.
Final Musings (The Struggle Is Now Real):
In conclusion, real life sucks after an experience of the scale of an event like EDC Vegas. Why everyday life can’t be fully populated by the likes of Headliners and their gentle interactions with fellow people remains a question to be answered. Once we hit that next level of societal evolution, hopefully everyday life will begin to feel like a perpetual version of Pasquale’s vision. In thinking about it, maybe the increase in population and the occasional bad seed is actually for the better. Think about it; those instances are most likely people brand new to the ethos, who in waking life are some of those people in the real world making it less like a rave and more like a concentration work camp. But, hopefully…maybe, their experiences at the motor speedway will tweak their everyday persona and help to change the world, even oh so minimally, and morph it more into what could be classified as our rave new world. I challenge all of us in attendance to try carrying as much of Pasquale’s perpetuations of his artistic vision and the resulting levels of mutual societal respect to every single person, regardless of classification. This coupled with the apparent continual expansion of our supposed “bubble” could lead to an evolution in society unparalleled in modern times.
Thank you Pasquale, Insomniac team members, vendors, staff, crew, police officers (oh whom I caught many smiling throughout their shifts), EMT workers…and all of you for crafting such a surreal and all-encompassing escape from current reality into a oneness-based sense of unity that is extremely rarely experienced in our ego-driven world.
Until our family reunion underneath The Electric Sky next year, we at EDMTunes give our love you all!
Photo Credits: Brockelbank Photography