In an attempt to balance my music-critiquing duties with “experiencing” Electric Daisy Carnival, I tried a little bit of everything during the festival’s second night.
I toured the grounds by sampling every stage and art car; enjoyed 20 minutes of solace (despite the awful soundbleed) on the central Ferris wheel; saw producer/DJ A-Trak use actual turntables, a flashback to my first couple of EDCs; sat down to eat an actual meal on-site; helped attendees with their cell photos (one even gifting me a bracelet PLUR-style); danced along to revered house DJs Nicole Moudaber and The Martinez Brothers; and witnessed one festivalgoer leading a green-suited gimp around the Speedway with a leash.
An experience, by my standards. But I want to recount one particular hour—the last one, in fact, before I called it a night.
A few days ago, Marquee resident Kaskade announced on Twitter that he would be playing a special “Redux” set on the Mayan Warrior art car an hour after his Kinetic Field set. Though the California producer/DJ has become a mammoth EDM icon with his big-room sound, he embraced West Coast house early in his career. As such, longtime devotees have clamored for his more relaxed, groove-friendly, less commercial sets, and he’s been infrequently obliging them at more intimate settings.
Around 2:30 a.m., I decided to search for the Mayan-themed art car, and finally found it behind the main stage with Kaskade atop it, playing a soulful house jam to a crowd a few hundred strong. Few were jumping up and down and pumping their fists, as they typically do at Kaskade’s modern-day sets and all over EDC—they were simply grooving along. You can find honest-to-goodness dance parties at EDC, but they’re usually limited to the niche stages. This is not the scene that accompanies the set of a megaclub DJ, who typically riles up the crowd in rock-concert fashion. But here, Kaskade calmly looked on when he wasn’t fiddling with his mixer, eschewing the dramatic gestures.
I was no more than a casual fan of Kaskade in the mid-2000s, when I took in a set or two of his deeper music in LA, but I reveled in this. Not only did I appreciate the throwback to the sounds of my hometown, which are rarely heard at EDC despite promoter Insomniac’s own LA roots, but I loved the nearly spontaneous feeling of the occasion. Sure, Kaskade previously announced it, but this is neither general knowledge nor advertised by EDC. It felt as immediate and off-script and dare-I-say old-school as anything EDC or modern dance culture could permit. And devoid of the usual big-budget frills, it felt real.
Little did I know that a different sort of “real” was just around the corner.
I took a small break from the scene, curious as to who the “secret guest” was at the nearby 7-Up-branded stage. Turned out it was LA upstart Paris Blohm, pumping out run-of-the-mill EDM swill, lip-syncing and pantomining the tracks as if he were on American Idol and not responsible for the stage’s music duties. I was about ready to bail when I noticed a woman approach the booth and try to get Blohm’s attention. He gave her the usual bemused look, likely expecting an annoying song request. As such, he initially dismissed her, if politely, but then she started frantically pointing at the crowd. I looked over, and a panicked group had formed an open circle on the dance floor. Uh-oh.
I moved over to take a closer look, and sure enough, someone was down, his body thrashing violently—one of his sneakers flew off—and his face sweating profusely. Blohm took the mic and asked someone to get the medics. Police and event staff stood nearby, trying to help the man though looking as helpless as anyone as the thrashing continued—until his body lay still in a puddle of what was hopefully just water.
Despite that horrifying sight, this is when everyone present did pretty much as they should have. The crowd gave the man and security figures their space, even forming a large pathway for any incoming medics. Additional cops and event staff calmly kept the crowd at bay, never being pushy and politely asking a few revelers to take a few steps back. The DJ, who had transitioned the music into a constant tech-y drone to avoid drawing more attention to the space, asked the crowd to please be patient—the priority was saving the man’s life. And, as far as I could tell, no one was capturing the incident with their phones.
Minutes later, medics sped through on their bicycles, jumped off and immediately went to work on the man, still laying still. One or two more minutes passed and suddenly, the fallen man sprang up, breathing hard, his eyes wide open.
More medics came shortly after, stretcher in tow, and after speaking with the man helped him to his feet and onto the back of the medic cart. Strapped in and likely en route to an ambulance, he raised his hand to the cheering crowd, looking less victorious and more grateful and shellshocked. Everyone else’s looks expressed the same thing: The revived partier—and the party itself—had dodged a bullet, especially considering the parking-lot death of one young man the night before.
A lot was going on in my head as we walked away, my relief at the man’s resuscitation and everyone else’s rational cooperation offset by the concern that my fellow attendees hadn’t learned anything from last night or after any of the umpteen precedents where someone didn’t take care of themselves or use sound judgment at a music event—to say nothing of the predictable thoughts about life, mortality, celebratory excess and the media scrutiny of EDC. I tried to put it all out of my head as I returned to Kaskade’s ongoing house set, but to no avail—the night had become experience overload (especially for homeboy on the mend). So my companion and I, exhausted and wanting to avoid the two-hour-plus sunrise exodus that enraged many on my social networks earlier that day, headed for the exit.
But before we left the center of the Speedway, we passed another art car blasting a familiar song. A DJ by the name of Burn Unit had about 100 people dancing wildly to the Maceo Plex remix of GusGus’ “Crossfade,” one of my favorite jams of the year. Though I had no groove left, we nonetheless stuck around to share the moment—a much-needed palate cleanser that changed the mood and the internal soundtrack of the long but almost serene trip to the car.
Such is the power of the best dance music, and last night it had the distinction of being an escape from the escapade.