6:50 p.m.: The crowd at gate A has started chanting “EDC! EDC!” in anticipation. A totem towers over the lines with a photo of drag queen Katya Zamolodchikova and the phrase “In Soviet Russia, pussy grabs you.” Cheers erupt when they open the gates, and the punctual party people pour into the speedway to dance from dusk until dawn.
7:56 p.m.: There’s black smoke emanating from the Basspod stage, and I head over to inspect. Is there such a thing as black fog for a special effect? That’s sure what it looks like, and nothing is on fire, and a similar thing happened the night before so it must be intentional. The drum ‘n’ bass is already flowing as Hazen and Nightstalker are going back-to-back. “You’re all my cool people because you came early!” the MC revels. Nearby two security staffers are dancing along and trading kandi with attendees.
8:17 p.m.: Vegas local Tatiana is tearing it up with some trap on the Wide Awake ship art car, her pink hair bobbing and a female MC flowing over the beats.
8:20 p.m.: Danny Howard is on at the Neon Garden presented by Insomniac’s underground event brand Factory 93. He’s playing a remix of Hardrive’s house classic “Deep Inside” as the giant disco ball installed in the tent shines over a dancefloor that’s quickly filling up.
8:23 p.m.: I know the theme of this year’s EDC is “All are welcome here,” but the guy wearing a shirt that says “Mr. Date Rape” isn’t a comforting sight or very PLUR. As if his man bun and lumberjack beard hipster combo wasn’t already keeping the ladies away.
8:51 p.m.: A clown marching band walks up Daisy Lane past the Quantum Valley tent. They’re followed by stilt walkers that resemble flowers. Then a giant eagle weaves through the crowd held high in the air with sticks. The puppeteers with butterflies have fun with the passersby, making the wings flap as well as dip and soar close to festivalgoers, much to their delight and Instagram feeds.
8:54 p.m.: I burst out laughing as a guy with a totem trolling the ill-fated Fyre Festival walks past. Wide Awake since 1993, Insomniac thinks of everything and probably had a good laugh when the Fyre Festival stories of what a disaster it was flooded the news.
8:15 p.m.: Many festivals have taken the step to ban Native American headdresses as to not offend tribes. However, Insomniac has not done this yet, and a white guy strolls by wearing one next to his equally pasty friend who also didn’t get the “cultural appropriation isn’t cool” memo and is wearing an Asian conical hat. Maybe they should follow @nowhitenonsense on Twitter for enlightenment.
9:20 p.m.: While sitting under a neon daisy, I am gifted kandi from a guy from Orange County. He asks if I'm going to Above & Beyond later (I am), so he gives me one that says “Group Therapy” after their radio show and is framed by pink, neon orange and sparkly yellow pony beads.
9:23 p.m.: Ravers stop outside the Quantum Valley stage to give kandi to a pair of cops who must be hot as hell in their vests and long-sleeved uniforms. You’d think they let them dress like Lt. Dangle from Reno 911! for this event.
9:28 p.m.: Ruben de Ronde drops a track with the lyrics “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” which seems a bit curious since the night is only just beginning. After a transitional voiceover, Giuseppe Ottaviani and Solarstone take control of the booth as PureNRG. Ottaviani is wearing a white shirt with black lettering that says “Pure,” while Solarstone, who’s sporting a new beard, wears a matching “NRG” tee. They have green LED drumsticks and are playing electronic drums live.
9:52 p.m.: The Upside Down House has shrunk significantly from what I remember from previous years and festivals. It used to be more of an outdoor room with chillout areas like little side rooms with furniture and decorations hung upside down. Now it’s just more of a stage constructed to look like a, well, upside down house. Though the aesthetic is less impressive than in the past, the music still delivers. I ask the guy next to me for the DJ’s name and he checks the EDC app on his phone and says it’s Born Dirty, though according to the printed schedule it’s Craig Williams at this time, so I have no clue which is right.
10:10 p.m.: The Kalliope art car sits across from a giant cone metal structure that looks like the capsule from the Apollo space program. It shoots fire up into the air, which seems only appropriate since the Ring of Fire ride is right next to it. The pyro shoots into the sky in time to the DJ’s beats.
10:16 p.m.: Fans are throwing double Ls in the air for Laidback Luke at the Kinetic Field. However, his set feels really dated as he’s playing a sped up remix of Benny Benassi’s “Cinema” as if we didn’t hear that enough a few years ago. Later, he’ll play dance music’s most overplayed song of all time, “Show Me Love” that goes into the hook for “Satisfaction.”
11:18 p.m.: The man, the myth, the legend. Mother effing Digweed is digging deep over at the Neon Garden as his name pulsates on the video walls framed by neon red “Paradise” signs touting the label hosting the stage for the evening.
11:41 p.m.: I head over to catch Duke Dumont at the Circuit Grounds, but end up spending more time talking to a first-time EDC-er from Ogden, Utah, who is part of a female DJ collective up there — who knew?
12:35 a.m.: A guy puts his earplugs in before venturing into the crowd for Green Velvet back at the Neon Garden. Green Velvet’s infectious smile can be seen from all the way in the back by the illuminated giant mushrooms with benches around them.
12:45 a.m.: I just had a 15-minute conversation with a woman from Portland whose pasties fell off, so she said “F--- it” and is going topless. “Free the nipple!” she declares and goes off to dance with her friends. I do see her again later in the night with fresh pasties applied, so security likely didn’t agree with her decision.
12:48 a.m.: “Hit me with those laser beams” emanates from Green Velvet’s decks, and the lighting person knows the track well and perfectly syncs up the lasers in time to the track. A bit later, he also does the live voice over for “Flash.”
1:51 a.m.: Above & Beyond has drawn a massive crowd that extends far beyond the confines of the Circuit Grounds. They’ve brought along their signature messages typed out live on the video walls with suggestions like “If you love someone, let them know today.” The crowd loses it when they drop Moby’s “Porcelain.”
2:52 a.m.: The command to “Keep on housing” compels the listener as Paradise label boss Jamie Jones brings the grooves to the Neon Garden, probably my most frequent haunt of the day. I contemplate trying to stick around for Infected Mushroom over at the Quantum Valley, but it’s been a long day and there’s still one more, so I leave early to try and beat the traffic out of the Speedway and make it home in record time.