Electric Daisy Carnival 2012: 18 Things Seen & Heard

Electric Daisy Carnival 2012: 18 Things Seen & Heard

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

Kaskade

Aftrojack

Rusko

Arty

Porter Robinson


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.

NEXT PAGE 7-12: Carnies, Tools and Hugh Hefner's Ex


7. Does Kobalt Tools have an 18-24 marketing initiative? Probably not, but the manufacturer of sliding compound saws and cordless drills was all over EDC anyway, thanks to their sponsorship of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. These types of collisions are part of why EDC founder Pasquale Rotella is reportedly in the planning stages of creating his own mega-venue -- one purpose-built for raving only.


EDC 2012 HIGHLIGHTS

Kaskade

Aftrojack

Rusko

Arty

Porter Robinson


8. Tucked in the far side of the festival, away from the main stage, the more intimate Cosmic Meadow was the only area to give revelers a good vantage point of the stage from the stands. But when the music inextricably stopped during DJ Erick Morillo's set, the flight was almost immediate: A place without music, even if comfortable, was nowhere these kids wanted to be.

9. Make way for the carnies! Throughout each night, a wide gate by the entrance unleashed rotating crews of costumed freaks, dancers and performers onto the EDC massive: Mirror Man, exactly what he sounds like and a festival staple; a multi-person DayGlo Chinese dragon train; the Wide Awake art car, which rolled around the grounds like a weirdish Disney Frontierland hay wagon, with its own sound system. Attendees opted to ignore or snap camera phone pictures of the spectacle, most focusing on the action at the stages. But an air show from the Red Bull Flyers - who use wingsuits to speed across the sky in formation, sometimes spewing fire - captured everyone's attention.

10. It was a racetrack, after all, so pit stops were in order. And almost too perfectly, the venue's regular concessions area was called Neon Garage. Your standard hot dogs and fries were available from the usual vendors (who must have been aghast at all the tutus and fuzzy animal hats), but in the middle of the rotunda was EDC's seventh stage, called the Discovery Stage. Assorted unknowns, and winners of the Insomniac Discovery Project (a DJ talent contest of sorts) played while the ravers grazed, each more excited than the next. Of particular note: San Francisco's Fabian Campos, who delivered a dark and sexy set with nary a hint of the Dutch sound du jour.

11. Also chilling at the Discovery Stage on Friday night was an odd trio if there ever was one: Pasquale Rotella, EDC founder and a Twitter celebrity to his faithful; his girlfriend, former Playmate (and Hugh Hefner's ex) Holly Madison, in a black-and-white polka dot number with a matching parasol; and Bunny, the stage-diving, saw-wielding performance artist of first-wave rave troupe Rabbit in the Moon, who would play on Sunday. (Turns out that he's also assisting Insomniac on its production for various events.) The three chatted, Madison eventually joining a team of costumed dancers for a little good-natured bump and grind.

12. No one wanted to be hanging out in the medical tent. But EDC's facilities for the inevitable injuries and overindulgences were well equipped and clean, if not a bit hidden at the far end of the grounds. Dehydrated partiers got saline IV drips, while others were disinfected and bandaged, by a red-shirted crew of careful EMTs.

NEXT PAGE 13-18: Weather Shuts EDC Down, Avicii Shortened & Porter Robinson's Epic Set

13. Despite his collaborations with Cypress Hill, U.K. veteran Rusko didn't hit the hip-hop too hard on Saturday night, dropping the evil-clown dubstep for which he's best known (we've taken to calling it "Scooby Doo-step"). But little did he know, even as he rocked a growing crowd at the Bass Pod stage, a storm was a-comin'…


EDC 2012 HIGHLIGHTS

Kaskade

Aftrojack

Rusko

Arty

Porter Robinson


14. It was the kind of wind that kicks up everything, making the natural dust bowl of the Raceway even more blinding and choking. It was the kind of wind that fills up your mouth and your nose and makes it hard to breathe, let alone keep walking forward. You know that scene in "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" when Johnny Depp is at the motorcycle race in the desert with a bandana over his mouth and his hand clapped over his beer mug? It was like that. So it was not surprising when at around 12:45 a.m. Sunday morning, the music was shut off - a jarring experience across such a loud and large area - and announcements at every stage informed the crowd that EDC was temporarily closing due to the wind, at the direction of the fire marshal. Attendees were told to make their way to the stands, out of the way of the large freestanding stage structures and rides. The crowd obliged slowly, and at one point started chanting "Refund!" But with the specter of last year's fatal Indiana State Fair stage collapse looming large, it was undoubtedly the right decision. The winds never waned, and the festival ending up closing for the night around 2 a.m., sending nearly 100,000 attendees to the shuttle and cab lines. Those who were 21+ headed directly to the nightclubs of the Vegas Strip.

15. Russian star Arty opened up Kinetic Fields to a slew of decked-out ravers anxious to get their party on after Saturday night's unfortunate debacle with Mother Nature. The baby-faced 22-year-old packed as many hits as possible into his set, ending with the new Tiësto/Showtek collaboration "Hell Yeah," a track which he later told us was a test run. Judging by the reaction of the roaring crowd, it worked well.

16. David Guetta never ceases to appease his fans and silence the haters with his powerful electro-laced sets, and EDC embraced him with open arms as he opened with smash collaborations with Sia, "Titanium" and "Wild Ones." Just before his set, David spoke highly of EDC, calling it "one of the most important sets for me every year."

17. It wasn't clear if he ate time from Guetta or Armin van Buuren or some aggregate of all, but wind-spurned Saturday headliner Avicii got his EDC moment on Sunday night, playing a squeezed-in 30-minute set that ended with -- wait for it -- "Levels."

18. Electro-house wunderkind Porter Robinson played what was arguably the biggest set of his career thus far at Kinetic Fields at the stroke of 3 a.m. Robinson left no one doubting why he is at the top of the electro game, seamlessly interweaving tracks and samples in a way that pleased every kind of listener in the crowd. He closed with a moving version of current melodic hit "Language," followed by a maniacal two-minute remix of crowd favorite "Say My Name." There is no longer any doubt: This guy is the real deal.

Additional reporting by Josh Bennett, LessThan3.com .