If you know what the Electric Daisy Carnival is, skip this paragraph. I’m going to use it to bring those unaware of all things EDC up to speed. I’ll meet you in a hundred words or so. For those who don’t know, the Electric Daisy Carnival is, as far as I know, the largest gathering of electronic dance music (EDM) fans and artists in the country, probably the world. For three consecutive nights in June, 115,000 people gather in the infield of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to dance, jump up and down, wander around and listen to more than 200 acts spread out over seven stages. There are also a bunch of carnival rides, art installations and hundreds of actors roaming the grounds wearing incredible costumes, many of them riding on amazing contraptions.
Last weekend, I was there for two of EDC’s three nights. At this point, it’s appropriate to mention that I am 58 years old, which undoubtedly begs the question: What am I doing out there in the infield of a race track in the middle of the night with 115,000 people – most of whom are one-third to one-half my age – listening to the likes of Nicky Romero, Fake Blood, Dirty South, Destructo, Avicii, John Digweed and Tiesto?
Valid question. There are a couple of reasons. First, I am actually a fan of EDM. Not every genre (and there are many genres. If you don’t believe me, just search “EDM genres”), but I like a lot of it. I listen to BPM and Electric Area on Sirius and my oldest son has actually been a DJ (mostly house music) for the last 12 years or so. I certainly don’t qualify as an expert, but I’m not a neophyte.
I also enjoy new and distinctive experiences. When something as big, overblown and bombastic as EDC is occurring literally 40 minutes from my front door, I’m going out of pure curiosity if for no other reason. In truth, curiosity is what brought me to my first EDC for one night in 2012. I had so much fun, I returned this year for two.
So, what’s it like? Big, overblown and bombastic. What struck me the most was the sheer size and scale of it. Most don’t realize how big the infield of a mile-and-a-half racetrack is – and EDC fills it. Look at it this way. The main stage, called Kinetic Field, was expanded this year to a capacity of 80,000. One stage. There are six others. Plus the carnival rides. Plus the art installations. Plus 115,000 people. It’s big. And in the course of a night, as you move from stage to stage, you do a lot of walking, mostly on concrete and dirt, and not a lot of sitting down. Throw in dancing and jumping up and down, and it can be physically taxing.
But the fun never stops. At EDC the music and the activity are constant. The stages are divided, for the most part, by genre: dubstep, drum & bass and other heavier stuff at the BassPod; clubby, danceable house and techno in the Circuit Grounds; harder, more aggressive techno (the kind that drills a hole in your chest) at BassCon; slower, more minimal and rhythmic stuff in the Neon Garden; a little bit of everything at the Cosmic Meadows; and the big guys – the Tiestos, Sander Van Doorns and Calvin Harrises – playing for crowds of 50,000 or more at Kinetic Field. If you don’t like what you’re hearing at any given stage, there are six others going at the same time, all night long. Off you go.
Yet still you might say, as many have, “You’re 58. Aren’t you just a bit… past that?”
I hope not. First, let me say that the promoters of the event have done an amazing job. Considering they are literally creating a throbbing, dancing city of 115,000 people crammed into one place for 10 hours a night, EDC runs like clockwork. The sound and the lights at every stage are impeccable. The DJs start and finish on schedule. There are friendly, non-aggressive staff people everywhere to help with everything. The police are cool. The medical personnel are professional and efficient. And there are more Porta-Johns than I’ve seen at any event in my life. Not an insignificant detail. They’ve even addressed some of the parking and traffic issues that plagued them in previous years. There is nothing about it that isn’t professional and well managed.
Which leaves the crowd. I’ve been in crowds this large many times. Led Zeppelin shows, rock festivals, NASCAR races, Superbowls, The Bay-to-Breakers. Never had any real problems. But I can say that the EDC crowd is the mellowest, friendliest, least aggressive group of 100,000 I’ve ever been a part of. They smile, they laugh, they dance, and they take care of – and look out for- one another. In two nights, I never saw a single person having harsh words with another, let alone a fight or any other nastiness. Can’t say the same for many of the football games or rock shows I’ve attended (I once witnessed a fist fight between a guy and a girl at a System of a Down show at the Hard Rock. The girl beat the crap out of him. Female System of a Down fans are tough.).
The memorable thing about attending EDC was that many of them seemed genuinely amused by my presence. I’m not saying I was the only person my age out there, but there weren’t many. Still, I must have been asked more than a hundred times if I was having fun. People smiled, offered me ice for the back of my neck (I declined), complimented my Daft Punk t-shirt and gave me a bunch of good old-fashioned high-fives. It was as if I was some kind of old-guy mascot who had joined their tribe for the weekend. I felt absolutely no negativity. They were glad I was there to experience their music and they really wanted me to have a good time. It was gratifying, in a neon bracelet, furry boots kind of way.
Of course, I did make some concessions to age. The event lasts until 5:30 each morning. I never got near that. Bailed at midnight on Friday and 2:30 am on Saturday. 22-year-olds can go three days without sleep. Not me. But I did have a great time and have every intention of returning next year for EDC 2014. I’ll be a few months from my 60th birthday then. Maybe I’ll celebrate by going all three nights. Assuming I can find a way to get enough sleep.