Warning to readers: Long post, ’cause well, it was a pretty damn large festival and there’s a lot of stuff to cover
It’s the week after EDC, and I’m still tired. My senses are dulled, my hearing a little blurred, my vision less loud. Wait. What was I getting at again? Ah, yes, EDC recovery, something to be despised, feared, respected, and looked fondly upon because like yin & yang, there’s a light to cast the darkness, the resulting aftermath of having made some solid memories in an epic party space with your friends, loved ones, or completely random strangers.
Obligatory photo taken every year with my group before we deck ourselves out the first nightfall
So how the hell was EDC? By now you’ve probably heard all the news and the rumors. The 345,000-attendee, sold-out madness over the course of three days, the huge traffic delays and traffic accidents, the disappointing Saturday night shut down due to Mother Nature on her rag, and perhaps some bitter sentiments about the declining state of electronic dance music (article 1) as the result of mass adoption by North American audiences (article 2).
<– both articles linked are extremely well written and definitely give an interesting view into the overall STATE OF THE UNION
And the answer to whether all of that is true is YES. It’s all true. Every GOOD thing you’ve heard, every BAD thing you’ve heard. The painful traffic delays, the confusing Saturday night cancellation, logistics frustrations, the ever-growing presence of neon RAGE and BRO caps, lots of song repeats, etc. etc. But regardless of anything, it was an amazing time, an exceptionally epic event, and at $80 per day base cost for the ticket, there’s seriously no other commercial festival that remotely matches the sheer volume of visual, audio, and experiential spanking its attendees endure in the form of high-profile DJ talent, mind-blowing stage production & art installs, and a people’s republic-sized army of dancers, artists, freaks, and geeks. All this combined forms a mental gauntlet hardy enough to make even the most level-headed tripper wonder if they had gone ego-death and made their way to a neon-glowing heaven.
But from what I could tell as a more passive observer this year (less “raging,” more general enjoyment), shit was just crazy, off the chain, and it really seemed like Insomniac had done their best to up the ante from last year. Some initial changes I noticed (both good and bad):
- The presence of more water refill stations in better centralized locations. (+)
- The introduction of the Q-Dance hardstyle stage, which served as a central point for the event and a figurative spiritual zone as every person dancing there looked straight up demon possessed. TEMPLE. OF. HARDSTYLE. (+)
- The re-positioning of the Cosmic Meadows stage that took into account newly opened bleacher seating. (+)
- Fully lit cool off zones, probably to keep people more level-headed while they were in there cooling off. (- for ambience, + for safety)
- A slightly re-done Circuit Grounds trance stage (- liked the design more last year, +/- for re-lined tarmac which minimized dust from last year’s ocean of gravel, but broke apart and hurt your feet when dancing hard)
- An upgraded Kinetic Field mainstage with 360-degree panels synced to all music and stage production (++++++ UNREAL)
- More mind-blowing flame art pieces like Pulpo Mechanico, the steampunk octopus, and the Flame Serpent (+++)
- What seemed like an expanded footprint of total usable area which made the most crowded day this year (Sunday) seem not so bad (+)
- A drastic increase of attendee numbers (from 230,000 last year to 345,000 this year) that made all modes of transportation into the Speedway require at least 1.5 – 2 hours minimum delay (unless you left promptly at 6-6:30 PM each day) (——)
- The discovery stage, a small central stage dedicated to unknown DJs who had entered Insomniac’s DJ Discovery contest (+ and kudos)
You can see it ever so slightly in the background but did anyone else notice the ENTIRE Speedway was lined with gigantic Christmas bulbs? Not sure if they were there last year, but that’s some serious attention to detail, especially as you’re driving into the Speedway. Someone had to climb up that motherfucker and line that shit up all the way down the 2-3 miles of Speedway length…probably in the hot burning Vegas heat. Insane.
And of course, the ultimate + and -, a big resounding – for Insomniac pulling the plug early on Saturday due to 30-40 MPH winds, but a HUGE + for them showing themselves to be a proactive company that ensures guest safety is of the utmost importance. And for all the thousands of people I heard whining and moaning on Saturday night (even you, the heavier set Latino dude in the bleachers, who was in such a foul mood you felt the need to claim the railing at your feet your own and threw a hissy fit anytime someone needed to walk by you, FORCING you to move your precious royal feet off its stainless steel ottoman of luxury), I felt your pain. I complained, I cried foul to mother nature, called her a bitch (and apologized profusely in my own time), but ultimately, had to understand that circumstances were as they were, and it was better to have 100,000 disappointed fans than 1 death or injury at the hands of a blown away speaker system.
Instead of a fiery death, fans instead got FIERY BEAT DROPS
And as little time as we got to spend on Saturday, it was strangely my favorite day. Friday was just too hectic with all the traffic, late entry, getting my bearings together (was traveling the two weeks prior to EDC and living a much more… simple lifestyle), worrying about sneaking my camera in (thank you so much to the good people at Drop Beats Not Bombs), and Sunday just felt like a “need to rest up” day with an impending work week.
Though anyone who was out there this year can probably attest that Sunday was THE craziest day of the festival with people going ALL OUT, probably to make up for a lost Saturday.
But wait, did I just say Saturday was my favorite day HUH?! What the fuzz?
Just hear me out. Saturday’s short day consisted of sets from Visionquest and Seth Troxler at the Cosmic Meadows to kick the night off (they had some DEEPLY moody minimal tech that had me feeling like I was in a vampire warehouse). We then moved on to Andy C: Alive (who played a LOT of Sub Focus tracks, switching things up every 30 seconds and making me smile over and over again. And btw, his dirty-ass bpm cranked remix of Knife Party’s “Internet Friends” had me flitting about happily like a 10 year old child on crack at Disneyland).
The night continued on strongly with us hanging out by the “Spire of Fire” art installation to wait for friends while listening to trance artists Kyau & Albert and a little of Jochen Miller. Then onward for some main stage action with Martin Solveig into a brain shattering set by Bassnectar.
Bassnectar played a LOT of tracks off of his Amorphous mix tape including the “Don’t Call Me Baby” with Blur (Bassnectar remix) mashup, a snippet of Little Jinder + 12th Planet mashed up, and even threw on Minnesota’s remix of “Shotgun Radio” for the cool down to the next set. Loved. Every. Minute. Truly my favorite set of the weekend, especially with all the confused people who had no idea what was happening.
For anyone who has never been in a porta potty while Bassnectar rocks it on the nearby stage (armed with a powerful main stage-worthy system), it’s pretty damn intense. How the bass reverberates in those nasty plastic coffins was something I hadn’t experienced since discovering “brown step” at Burning Man. After literally having the piss shaken out of me by Mr. Nectar, we returned to the main stage for Calvin Harris. For his set, I appreciated that he played a bit of “Flashback” and “I’m Not Alone” in their original iterations (if my memory serves me right). Glad to see him spinning to a crowd of his fans after getting kicked off the tables the night before at Tryst.
After that, we migrated to the Cosmic Meadows to settle down for Dubfire into Richie Hawtin, then BAM. The lights went on, and security began making their safety announcements to get everyone into the grand stands to avoid the wind and potential falling hazards. “HOLY SHIT WHAT IS GOING ON” was written all over everyone’s faces.
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lin photography
And as much of a bummer as everything was on Saturday night with the shut down, it was pretty surreal to experience 100,000 disappointed rave fans all in one spot, with intermittent spurts of cheering and hilarious acapaella sing alongs of Zombie Nation, as well as random run-ins with friends I probably never would have seen otherwise (Sparks, Beardsies + bro, Sos, Nutt, and Don Juan).
And THAT is why I touted Saturday to be the most interesting day for me. Yes, the early shut down was disappointing, but in the end, it really is what you make of the situation. After cursing the wrath of nature for a few minutes, I found that I was legitimately enjoying playing catch up with the people I had gathered up with, sharing in our annoyance and pain, and just sitting back and shooting the shit. A bummer at the time, but what can you do really? Sulk and moan like a baby for the next 6 hours? Bring your group down with constant complaining and negativity? I’d imagine it to be pretty uncomfortable to have sandy vag syndrome for such a long time.
Hopefully Insomanic will make good on refunding people who had purchase three-day passes for the untimely cancellation, but I personally think it was already cool that they had allowed one-day Saturday ticket holders to walk in on Sunday for no extra cost (making it easy for Saturday only go-ers to sell their tickets).
And for those who had the patience to stay, I can’t even imagine how awesome it must have been to watch Markus Schulz do a bare bones recovery set from the top of Insomniac’s art car at around 4-5:00 am after all that mess. For my group, we were getting cold and left around 3 am to find our friend Boogeyman light-dancing against the locked car to stay warm – no music lol.
Favorite moment of Saturday night was when the Q Dance stage started playing some random reggae beats, and I found myself in a little freestyling cypher session with the mysterious dude dressed up as Ang, the Airbender (Avatar). He had a pretty smooth flow and also happened to be seeking advice on how to make himself more attractive to cute Asian girls. Lol. Rock on man. Best of luck in your yellow fever endeavors.
Biggest disappointment of Saturday night was oddly enough…missing Steve Aoki and Blue Man Group. I was really excited to see what they were going to bring on. Legitimately.
Friday and Sunday were much more straight forward, beginning with long traffic delays (at least 2 hours to get to the Speedway), but with pretty smooth-running security lines. For Friday, I was EXTREMELY bummed to miss a lot of beginning sets: Paper Diamond, Mt Eden, and Crizzly, but I suppose we should have had the foresight to leave earlier. =/
We arrived on Friday to a fun uplifting set by Thomas Gold, who had Insomniac’s clowned-up drumline playing with him on stage. A great way to begin the festival. We moved on to the main stage to meet up with friends and to wait for Kaskade’s set to start, and ended up unknowingly with Afrojack (I find it extremely odd that no matter how much I plan to not see Afrojack, I always end up at his sets some how. I’ll come to expect it as a natural course of my festival life going forward though). What we caught from Afrojack’s set was fun with plenty of tracks that I had never heard before (+), and he had a few live singers on stage belting out R&B vocal riffs to a couple songs.
Kaskade took the stage next and threw it down really well. A lot of energy for the crowd with a strong mix of his older classic tracks and buttery smooth vocals of his newer songs mashed up with hard house beats. Always a good time with him, whether you like his new sound or not.
The night went on with the EDM Madness meet up at Alesso’s set and the sight of tons of friendly, familiar faces. Though I’m usually seeking different music outside of big room electrohouse these days, the meetups are always fun with plenty of hellos, hugs, story swapping, and catching up.
The rest of the night went on with a bit of time at Dim Mak’s Neon Gardens stage to see Sidney Samson, and finally, the end of the night with Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano at the Cosmic Meadows for a sunrise set. I seriously have no idea what had possessed these guys, but their monkey-sampled jungle beats (the best way I could describe their sound) were the perfect fit for what I needed in the maddening hours of the early morning, something to get me dancing like a ridiculous animal, not just putting my hands up in the air during ethereal vocals. Thanks SJ & RM, one of my favorite sets of the weekend for making me dance like an utter fool.
The final day started a bit late, with us missing my MUST SEE for the weekend, The M Machine. (For those unfamiliar with these guys, check them out if you like your electro beats hard, your melody lines dramatic, and are looking for a new and unique sound).
The night started with a little bit of Green Velvet (sexy tech house) at the Cosmic Meadow, into ATB at the Circuit Grounds. With how packed ATB was, it was a bit much for me, so Apple and I decided to take our time to walk around and snap photos of all the art installs we had missed throughout the weekend. We visited Pulpo Mechanico, the steampunk octopus, hung around the Fire Serpent, and stared in awe at the amazing LED daisy, which pulsated with millions of colors to the point where I thought I was riding on the fuckin’ Rainbow Road in Super Mario Kart 64.
We were also lucky enough to catch the Insomniac Parade, which brought nearly EVERY single dance troupe and stage performer out. From bees to flowers, toxic bunny go-go’s to snake trains, it was a mind-blowing experience to see all of the performers out in one fell swoop. Perfect timing, and great job, Insomniac, on hiring the art talent. Seriously.
After the parade, we hit up the tail end of Chase and Status, and ran into Willowtree (who apparently later that night went up in a helicopter to fly around the damn Speedway. Your luck is seriously amazing, madam). We all caught a bit of Sandro Silva, who was my surprise set of the weekend. Bouncy, hard-hitting beats with a slight Dutch flare that reminded me of Sidney, it was extremely fun and I’d definitely see him again as a headliner.
We then moved on to Dash Berlin’s set, which was, in a word, ridiculous. From melodic dubstep remixes to the trance remix of Tupac’s “California Love” <– YES, THAT ACTUALLY DID HAPPEN, it really was hilarious and entertaining to watch Dash as he ran around the stage, stood up on the tables, reached out to his audience, and did his obligatory Dash Berlin shirt toss. He just always seems to have an amazing time on stage.
Trance dance of the night: One arm up when things get crazy. One arm up and eyes closed when things get crazier. And when things get REALLY crazy? Two arms up, eyes closed.
This set was also my introduction to a new dance I’d never seen before, East Coast Stomping, which looks like a mix between old school candy walking and jerking. Boogeyman had a friend from the East Coast who had an adorable style, lifting her knees higher than the others around her and looking very light on her feet. I won’t lie, I was pretty mesmerized by all the stompers around me, and luckily for the poor aching feet of surrounding crowd-mates, it doesn’t take up nearly as much lateral space as shuffling (a little quip for those who shuffle and are always frustrated in densely-packed crowds, and for those who have been stepped on by my fellow shufflers lol).
We finished the rest of the night with Carl Cox at the Cosmic Meadows, and finally made our way home to the hotel. One thing I noticed was just how different the crowd dances and looks when tech house spins: definitely a sexier vibe, different dance styles, even slightly different costumes and outfits. Absolutely can’t wait to see Carl Cox spin at the Opulent Temple massive in SF!
And finally, to close off this way-too-long blog post, there’s just a couple of things I want to recap for the weekend. Despite all the set backs and my EXTREME exhaustion, EDC was an amazing experience. I find that all too often when we pay our hard-earned money for these events, it really makes us feel like we are entitled to a certain standard of entertainment, and yes, I do believe that as paying customers, we are definitely owed a certain amount of satisfaction from the production company, the DJs, artists, etc.
But in the end, I find that I really do have the most fun when I have little to no expectations. It reminds me of my first few events where I had THE most fun, not worrying about a line item schedule, relatively naive of the artists playing or what my exact lineup would be, sort of just going with the flow and hoping for the best.
Maybe it’s the neo-hippy in me talking, maybe I’m just a poor delusional sap, maybe I don’t know shit about music, perhaps I should be angry that DJs are “selling out” en masse and catering to mainstream crowds. Whatever the case, I say fuck it. Enjoy yourself and the company of your friends, listen to the music that YOU want to instead of planting yourself at a stage you’re not enjoying (like Nervo says, “Don’t stay if you don’t want to, nobody’s making you.” Sad to have missed them). Leave, explore, and find some artists you’ve never heard of that thousands of others are loving enough to stick around and listen to.
With an event as large as EDC, why listen to the same 15 songs and complain about it later? All you have to do is give that little schedule away, run off, and fuckin’ adventure time it up. Explore a little bit, and I promise you, you’re sure to find something amazing (like the Q-Dance stage). See you all next year!
It seriously took me half an hour to catch a photo of these fucking glowing bouncy balls, which btw had the density of DYING STARS. One landed squarely on my camera and I damn near shit my pants thinking something had broken. After about 20 minutes of chasing these stupid balls around the tightly packed crowd with multiple “Can you take our picture?” requests (I’m always happy to do it, but admittedly, it’s tough to get a good photo of people without a flash), I gave up, and walked away, head down, tail tucked between my legs. And only when I returned to report of my failure did the stupid glowing balls come right towards where we were standing. I lifted my camera up triumphantly, and the fucking (might as well have been) concrete ball hit my camera and somehow produced this shot. Lol. Life, you’re a hilarious douche bag sometimes.
And here are the photos of the people who requested them, as promised. Hope you all had an epic weekend too!
Homey on the left had a fantastic shirt. Home girls to the left of him had no shirts.
And an amazing tidbit of positivity from an EDMM member who had a seriously amazing EDC redemption moment:
This is the last bit that I’m going to write I promise:
As far as logistics this year, I personally felt Insomniac did their best to run things smoothly for an event looking to entertain 300,000+ over the course of three days. Once in the event, and even with the shut down, I felt things were very seamless with attentive yet laid back security and law enforcement (this event, I wasn’t aware of anyone in my circle of friends being “rushed” unfairly and unnecessarily by security guards like in the past), but the one glaring thing that I could NOT get out of my head was how messy the transportation system was.
From ridiculously long taxi lines (no consistent stream of outbound taxis after the event and huge mobs of people waiting in line even as the sun was coming up) to shady shuttling companies (1ns shuttle service horror stories), the black mark of this particular weekend definitely seemed to be transportation and traffic woes.
This trickled down to the personal responsibility of irresponsible drivers who couldn’t stay in line and took non-lanes and dirt divides (by the way, there were numerous major traffic accidents, some of my friends involved, and one fatal car crash where a 31 year old male pedestrian got hit by a truck). Suffice to say, something needs to be done for next year if Insomniac is seriously considering EDC: Las Vegas’s capacity to be 345,000 attendees.
Whether it’s working with the city to get more police presence on the roads and preventing drivers from hopping dangerously into non-lanes, or even officially expanding the side lines with traffic cones, to funneling traffic on the freeway past the Speedway exit to come in from Apex, or even saying: “Okay, we need to compromise ticket sales and profits for the enjoyment of our fans by capping the event attendance lower,” something seriously needs to be done.