Ten miles of darkness and 2000 cars separated us from the festival we had only dreamt about. As we stared forward, excited and anxious, there was a faint flicker towards the sky and then the familiar explosion of fireworks in the distance. A roar ripped through the desert from the cars around us. Indian chiefs and their topless girlfriends yelled and cheered out their windows, as packs of neon spattered fur boots ran by on foot. This was the scene I had heard so much about. The one that would save dance music events
Insomniac’s Electric Daisy Carnival has consistently been remarked as the premier Electronic Music festival in the country. With steady competition from Ultra Music Festival , and the multitude of other events that have developed in the past few years, claiming that title is quite a feat. Insomniac’s founder, Pasquale Rotella, has rose through the ranks of California promoters to a point of utmost success. He has absolutely earned his stripes, with the immense scale of his events and consequences this sometimes brings. The risk involved with such massive gatherings as these has made it necessary for Pasquale to impose a new standard for safety at these events, both at the gates and in the festival. In both appearance and functionality, EDC proved to be nothing less than the world-class event that was beckoned for.
Upon entrance it was clear that this wasn’t going to be like other festivals. After a brief lap around to grounds to find out where all the stages were, I was totally entranced by the production value. The speedway is completely adapted and designed for optimal usage for stages, art installations, and carnival rides. Every inch of the accessible grounds is littered with neon infused art. The interactive and space defying installations attract participants and even roam the grounds on their own. Music aside, the production value of the event was equally impressive and deserved full exploration by anyone interested in the collision between form and function.
Friday kicked off with sets by Paper Diamond, Crizzly, and UK based Modestep. As the night reached total darkness, some of the heaviest artists of the weekend took stage. Datsik played out his insanely robotic album, Vitamin D, along with many remixes and collaborations. Shortly after, Borgore displayed his risque style and Excision held it down with his unparalleled originals. This segment was where I saw the true potential of this crowd and their reaction to dubstep. Over the course of the weekend I realized the most insane atmospheres were definitely based around these types of artists.
For the rest of the night things softened up a bit, with Kaskade, Bassjackers, and Fedde le Grand on the mainstage. Kaskade definitely raised the energy through the roof at the most needed time of the night and Bassjackers proved to be one of my favorite sets of the weekend. Just as they finished their surprisingly short 30 minute set the sun began to rise above the horizon. As all the faces around me became illuminated and the ridiculousness was no longer covered by a cloak of darkness, the absurdity became completely clear. Fedde le Grand took advantage of this insane atmosphere and played an awesome finale set to the jam-packed day.
The painfully bright Vegas sun peered through my tightly drawn curtains as I forced my eyes open to read the time. It was two in the afternoon and somehow I had to get down to the lobby for a coffee. I pried myself off the mattress and into whatever clothes I could muster in the darkness. I was thankful that I had at least a couple hours away from the festival to relax before I was right back in it. I walked down the hall to the elevator and when it came, I realized that was a far off dream. The door opened and no less than eight girls with fishnets and go-go boots were packed in. They saw my wristband and my glazed eyes. “EDC!” they yelled. This was going to be a long weekend.
Saturday started with a bang as Andy C took his Alive experience to the stage. This awesome visual integration is a perfect match for his high energy style and constantly swaying mood. From here, my taste took me to Emalkay, who showed how crazy the bass Pod stage was destined to be later in the weekend. Then Digitalism brought me back to the neon Garden stage for one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend. The duo always provides an amazing energy that feeds perfectly off the festival environment. They play everything from club-house edits to M83 remixes and are able to piece it all together perfectly.
Once again, my night slipped towards the more sub-heavy end of the spectrum. Downlink played one of the most insane portraits of festival-driven bass music I have ever seen. He remains my favorite Rottun artist for his sheer maximalism and style. Back at the mainstage, Bassnectar threw down another epic portrait of American bass music and how far it has come. His sets are an epically masterful illustration of the layers and abilities that go into creating and performing his music. As this was one of the biggest crowds he had ever played for, he responded with his out of control antics and sub heavy anthems.
Next, Rusko took the stage with his new album “Songs." Every time he releases something I am excited to see him again. Despite how many sets of his I have seen, I am always impressed. He pulled out all the stops for this set and his new tracks were as explosive as I could have imagined.
Zeds Dead was destined to be one of the most memorable sets of the weekend before things began to go terribly wrong. After they had played a few songs, the winds reached incredible highs and the structural fate of the festival became compromised. A safety call had to be made in the best interest of festival goers, and the remainder of the night would be cancelled. This must have been an incredibly hard call for Insomniac, but with safety and liability in mind, the event had to stop for the night. As the staff urged fans towards the grandstands it was clear that tomorrow would have to make up for the inclement weather.
After a series of informative messages from Insomniac and great management tactics, the show would go on and Sunday would prove to be the most impressive day. I started my night off at The M Machine, which would prove to be a favorite of the weekend. The set was near perfect for the sunset environment and was a great way to kick off the last night.
Major Lazer turned the dial up with an array of new and old. Diplo and Switch continue to control their audience with their classic anthems and new-age remixes alike. I don’t think there will ever be a time when “Pon de Floor” will not cause sheer mayhem in the crowd when they play it out.
My interest in electronic music has deep roots in Derek Vincent Smith’s project, Pretty Lights. As a jam band and DJ fan alike, his melodically based, beat driven sound has always remained one of my favorites in the industry. Every time I see him I expect the same feelings I had at my first show and he always delivers. Sunday night was no different, as he took his fans on a journey through the past few years of his production. Matched perfectly with the unreal main stage visual rig, he rocked the crowd with a totally different style than any of the other artists there. It was a perfect mid-schedule set for the night.
Dada Life were no doubt my favorite head-liner on Sunday. The Swedish duo is fully concerned with encompassing fan participation in their production and live sets. Almost every track they release is accompanied by a package of stems that can be used by anyone to remix their songs and see how they were made. In the same vein, their live show is packed completely with interactive qualities. In response to my question regarding their show earlier that day, they said “When we play it's bananas and champagne." These veterans aren’t just alluding to their onstage energy, they speak literally. From start to finish the crowd is bombarded with bananas in all forms and the champagne doesn’t stop flowing.
Flux Pavilion closed the festival out with his ultimate homage to popular dubstep. He stands at the pinnacle of the sound, made obvious by his packed American tour schedule and hit releases. He has played landmark sets throughout the beginning of this year, with appearances at Decadence New Years Eve, Ultra Music Festival, Starscape, Global Dub at Red Rocks, and Coachella. He has no doubt reached a whole new level of popular notoriety and in turn has transformed perceptions of the genre.
With all components in mind it is hard to not place Insomniac on a pedestal as the best event production company in the country and quite possibly the world. From audio to visual, art to security; this event has totally transcended any perception of the typical festival. Entertaining 90,000 people is an overwhelming task, especially when safety is a priority, but Insomniac made key decisions before and during the event which guaranteed the well-being of everyone involved. It was an epic portrait of the modern gathering and Insomniac will no doubt remain at the forefront of the industry in its wake.