Another Electric Daisy Carnival has come and gone, much like the brain cells lost from the subsequent sleep deprivation. And while the 2013 edition was superbly executed and rewrote the rule book on music festival and Las Vegas event production, last weekend’s celebration ran less smoothly, the daily capacity increase to 140,000 surely contributing. Here are our bleary-eyed observations:
The production: This has become promoter Insomniac Events’ strong suit, and last weekend it arguably surpassed even the big 2013 upgrade. The Kinetic Field main stage grew from last year’s record-breaking immensity, with programmed water fountains and a fantastical cathedral theme. In between DJ sets, performers, visual effects and fireworks kept the crowd’s attention. Other stage upgrades were added, as were more sculptures, art installations, neon set pieces and Burning Man-style art cars featuring more underground-friendly talent.
The attendees: If you’re going to be surrounded by 140,000 people, trust me: They don’t get any friendlier or more well-mannered than this throng.
The logistics: It would be cliché to call the organizational aspects of EDC a buzzkill, but Insomniac somehow found a way to enrage the PLUR crowd. Two-hour-plus traffic jams remain an insurmountable workaround, especially during the sunrise exodus. (A personal tip: If you arrive before dusk and leave before 5 a.m., you’ll encounter minimal, if any gridlock.) Shuttles faltered to such an extent on Saturday morning that Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella actually apologized via social media, where attendees had voiced their anger.
Omnipresent garbage—enabled by a puzzling shortage of waste receptacles—turned the Speedway into an open trash can, and how does a major festival in 2014 not offer a legitimate recycling option? Sure, EDC hired nonprofit Global Inheritance to set up a recycling store, but it was placed in a remote corner of the venue—which, like other random locations, literally smelled like sh*t. Cellular service hit a new low; no one I spoke with could get the supposedly available Wi-Fi from Snapchat to work; and event staff consistently gave me bad information.
The music: In emphasizing the experiential appeal of EDC, Insomniac is quick to underplay the musical aspect, and it shows in the DJ schedule: too many EDM heavyweights despite the fest’s previous declaration to rely less on expensive talent, and too many repeat bookings from recent years. Song repeats once again plagued the weekend, as did increasingly attention-deficit sets, though those aren’t necessarily EDC’s fault. Thankfully, artistically distinct acts like Alex Metric, John Digweed, Dubfire and Maya Jane Coles still offered a transporting alternative. Ditto lesser-known but discover-worthy DJs on art-car duty.
The deaths: Early Saturday morning, one young man collapsed and died in the Speedway parking lot, and another attendee died after being found unconscious in his Vdara hotel room later that night. Toxicology reports won’t be available for weeks, but regardless of those results, EDC can be an unforgiving experience even when you’re sober and healthy.
The excess: With EDC Week now comprising a Tuesday-through-Monday schedule, are partiers taking on too much or pushing themselves too hard?
The best moment: Kaskade played a sorta-secret second set atop a Mayan-themed art car on Saturday, revisiting his West Coast house roots. If EDC wants to excite beyond the pyro and drops, it will accommodate more surprises and unconventional performances like this.
The verdict: EDC’s roughest and most musically mundane Vegas showing yet. Will lingering issues be addressed? I answer with another question: Is change possible when fans are buying merch with the words “In Pasquale we trust”? We hope EDC reassesses its infrastructure—and refreshes the experience.