Electric Daisy Carnival, Insomniac Events' three-day rave experience at the massive Las Vegas Motor Raceway, featured extended firework shows; art installations plucked directly from Burning Man; a team of 500 "performers" (read: stilt walkers dressed like honey bees); carnival rides, including its iconic ferris wheel -- and yes, a combined 30+ hours of electronic dance music from over 200 DJs on seven stages.
The balance of trippy experience and concert-like artist showcase came under scrutiny at a business conference (hosted by Insomniac) prior to the event, but out on the field, the people made it clear what they wanted: Headliners, dubstep, and the party of their lives -- even in the face of Mother Nature's wrath.
EDC 2012 HIGHLIGHTS
1. The Las Vegas Motor Raceway is around 18 miles from the Las Vegas Strip; about 24 minutes without traffic, sayeth Google Maps. But on EDC Friday, it took some revelers over two hours to make the trip. The slow-moving caravan on I-15 included hatchbacks that looked like clown cars (in terms of hue, and number of occupants); a school bus repainted aqua, like some oceanic Goth raver mobile; and packs of neon-wearing teens walking on the side of the road -- which was actually a faster option.
2. Want to know how much the kids like the bass? They rebrand the party for their favorite genre. "EDC = Epic Dubstep Carnival" read one young man's oversized custom T-shirt. The crowd at the Bass Pod stage -- dedicated to dubstep -- grew exponentially over the three nights, for artists like Borgore and Noisia.
3. The smallest of the three nights in terms of attendance (at 90,000), Friday was lit up by a particularly Technicolor set from Kaskade on Kinetic Field (the main stage). Custom visuals -- of everything from the DJ/producer's album art, to friendly elephants, to girls dancing in fire -- flanked the giant structure, while moving lights and LEDs flashed from every vantage point. Then, in the middle of his hour-and-a-half set, fireworks lit up the night sky, raining black ash on the revelers below. Then a troupe of dancers in harlequin costumes came onstage, slinking around strangely. Sensory overload? Indeed. When the DJ shouted "Let the music speak!" into his mic, it wasn't hard to pick up what he was laying down.
4. Hardcore might be one of the most maligned genres in EDM: An onslaught of 150+-BPM jackhammers frequently set to voice-of-God apocalyptic narratives, or strangely melodic emo shrieks. Its original U.S. home is the West Coast (the Netherlands and Belgium claim its original birth), and small stages at festivals often reflect local tastes. Hence, the all-hardcore Q Dance Stage, sponsored by Dutch promoter ID&T (which has been booking Q Dance events all over the world - save the U.S. - since 2009). The festival's most ornate structure had an evil warrior head jutting from its top, and mirror ball skulls running down the side, like a techno Temple of Doom. Acts like HeadHunterz blazed through bass bin-pounding sets of the stuff, for kids who had acquired more than a taste, but a hunger. But for all the festival's rave trappings, this was the only space at EDC where you could feel the presence of an actual subculture. One track, Ran-D & B-Front's "Rebirth," had the most resistant lyrics of the day: "It's my rebirth / I feel alive / This is who I am / You can't control me."
5. Afrojack already looked happy when he walked offstage after a blistering Kinetic Field set, with Shermanology - the DJ/producer/vocalist crew with whom he collaborated on his latest hit "Can't Stop Me Now" -- in tow. But he apparently hit the sauce between then and his set with buddy Steve Aoki at the Dim Mak-sponsored Neon Garden. Aoki did most of the DJ-ing while Afro hollered, hyped, and swerved. But the fans ate up the spectacle of bromance.
6. Adele, Adele, Adele - walk from one stage to another, and you could hear Adele. And Coldplay. And Gotye. It used to be acceptable for killer remixes only, but these days DJs rely on "mainstream" tracks to buoy their sets, or provide that essential festival singalong moment. Gareth Emery in the Circuit Grounds tent, Alesso on the main stage, and many more went for the drama, with the British songstress' "Fire to the Rain" in particular.
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