As a throbbing, glowing pop-up city north of Las Vegas, the 20th Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) brought approximately 400,000 dance music fans and he world’s biggest DJs together for three nights this weekend (June 17-19) “under the electric sky,” as event producer Insomniac calls the annual mecca of the electronic music industry.
TheWrap’s Party Reporter, a festival veteran yet EDC rookie, scoured the grounds to wade through the event that has brought $1.3 billion to the Las Vegas economy since touching down there in 2011.
Here are some of the highlights, lowlights, and in honor of EDM remixes, some that are both.
Amidst a fire-breathing octopus, a Godzilla crab eating a post-apocalyptic Golden Gate Bridge, 18 carnival rides and 14 roving art cars, every electronic producer that dents any subgenre (from veterans like Tiesto and Dash Berlin, commercial cross overs like Martin Garrix, Chainsmokers and Martin Solveig, to “hardstyle” trendsetters like Gammer and Slander spread out over eight stages) this carnival concert is like no other.
Highlight: Tiesto and John Legend
In strategic releasing news, John Legend joined Tiesto on Sunday night to perform the single they had just dropped on Friday. It’s title is a bit on-the-nose: “Summer Nights”.
Highlight: Pleas for hydration in 101 degree heat
With 101 degree heat by day and the temperature still around 90 degrees at 3 a.m., the concern to avoid ending up severely dehydrated like Meat Loaf was well founded.
These “drink water” alerts (above) started pushing into cellphones via the EDC app at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, over four hours before the festival began. Inside, they had 160 free water access points and large-scale graphics projected on screens in between sets.
There were no carnival related fatalities reported through the first two nights, per the Las Vegas Sun. (Update: Nobody died at EDC at all. Zero festival-related deaths in all three nights amidst 400,000 people.). There were also no DUI arrests on Saturday night.
Lowlight: The stigma around dance music will be perpetuated
However, 39 attendees were arrested for drug-related crimes on Saturday night, per the Sun.
Highlight: Headliners mingling with “headliners”
EDC calls all attendees “Headliners.” However the headliners who get paid to be there mixed with general admission headliners more naturally than at the celebrity-heavy festivals and there was little stratification.
Before playing, Martin Garrix was “hooping” in the main stage crowd.
And hours later would be on stage.
Before closing out the Kinetic Temple mainstage on Friday night, we spotted duo W&W playing beer pong with two fans, winners of an EDC charity auction, outside their trailer.
Festival vet Kaskade kept cool as a fan grabbed him for a selfie minutes before he would ascend the stairs to play the “Hunger Games”-esque dystopian arena called the “Circuit Grounds.”
Highlight: Helicopter arrivals … and extraction
Tiesto bounded into the Maverick’s helicopter hangar by the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign around 10 p.m. on Friday night enroute to the festival. He’d be one of the several performers and elite festival-goers who skipped two hours of traffic by flying over the red bumper lights crawling north from the strip to the festival site.
In broad daylight at 5:30 a.m. and an Uber scarcity (see below), the one-way $500/seat fares for a 15-minute hop back to civilization had people running for them.
Coachella cannot solve the problem of Uber supply and neither can EDC.
Uber continues to make partnerships with festivals, touting discounted rides and pick up lots to get home. The problem arrives late when there are no cars available, non-functioning apps, and thousands of cranky fans hiking to fenced in Uber purgatory.
Both Coachella and EDC are guilty of pushing a narrative of easy get-home functionality that in this writer’s experiences are reliable only in that they will reliably ensure a sour punctuation mark on a festival night. Via driver incentives, paying drivers flat rates to be there like traditional car services, or return-trip rides tacked onto ticket prices, festival producers and Uber need to solve this supply-and-demand riddle. Until then, don’t rely on it for getting home quickly from festivals.
Highlight and Lowlight: EDM “oldies”
Yes, there are EDM “oldies.”
The 20th edition of the festival dripped with appreciation for the dominance of the once-fringe genre, even as a set piece aimed at celebrating the history fell on the deaf ears of the core audience of twentysomethings.
“It’s me,” Robin S. greeted, bounding up on the mainstage Saturday night to kick off a 20 year audio chronology of dance music distilled to 10 minutes (filed under:”Highlight”).
While belting out “Show Me Love,” a well-known mainstream track from 1993, the flat faces in the sea revealed they had no idea who “me” was, nor the song (filed under: “Lowlight,” but expected for a younger crowd).
Other “oldies” that followed, like Underworld’s “Trainspotting” theme “Born Slippy,” landed better, before later anthems like Daft Punk’s “One More Time” (2000), Justice’s “We Are Your Friends” (2006), and Fatboy Slim’s “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat” (2013) restored the bounce to the crowd.
Trend: Upscale experiences for higher end patrons
“Rave baby Molly monsters,” is how one non-EDC affiliated nightlife executive referred to the influx of young fans that descend on Vegas for the week. In reality, the festival drew much broader than the caricature.
An older, more sophisticated crowd of 900 filled Marquee nightclub’s “Skydeck,” an analog to a sporting arena suite, with 45 nightclub style VIP tables. This is the same ownership group that puts on the popular TAO events at Sundance.
“Every pop-up we do is a chance for people to experience our brands and VIP hospitality,” partner Jason Strauss told TheWrap. “We also team up with Insomniac throughout the year, with events in our venues such as “Halfway to EDC.”
On Strauss’ personal set must-see for the weekend: Bro Safari.
Which leads to..
Highlight: Bro Safari massaging a hit
With over 594,000 streams for “Follow” in the last month, Austin-based producer Bro Safari is riding a hit single through festival season when not winning over nightlife moguls (see above).
“I just got a remix done of “Follow” by Zomboy, so I’m going to play that instead of my original,” Bro Safari (real name Nick Weiller) told TheWrap backstage on Friday before his set.
“Nobody’s ever heard it before. It’s a great festival to break the tune at. I’m going to play his remix of it [as] my second to last song of the set,” Weiller said.
Highlight and Lowlight: Ending in the morning
EDC bills itself as going from “dusk to dawn” and by the announced finish time of 5:30 a.m., it’s already fully light on the eastern edge of the Pacific Time Zone.
To some, the daylight is a hard-won badge of honor and to others a welcome finish line.
For all, it’s time to go drink some water.
The 20th Electric Daisy Carnival took place June 17-19, 2016 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Nevada.