Preparing for your first Electric Daisy Carnival is as impossible as preparing for your first kiss. Even if you obsessively rewind the make-out scene from Top Gun and practice on a Jell-O mold, rookie smooches are always wonderfully messy and strange. The butterflies may fade, but you can’t forget the crackling nerves and rushing blood and the feeling that you’ll never be the same. So, rather than give me pointers, my EDC-veteran friend Nick just said: “I have a thing of spray glitter, and I’m gonna use it.”
Knowing I would be totally outdone by the hardcore kandi kids, I kept my outfit simple, the star a pristine pair of knee-high, red-pleather slouch boots that have been sitting in my closet since my mom unleashed them on me four years ago. If ever there was an occasion for such an unholy spectacle, it was this dance orgy with tens of thousands of people and lights and enough speaker wattage to widen the San Andreas Fault. I bedazzled my face with stick-on crystals and put extra ones in the center of my chest, drawing a heart around them with old eyeliner. It was a message to the real one beating underneath, that even broken as hell we needed to be open to the carnival’s magic.
Nick was running on fumes (and Red Bull) after two full nights/mornings of the epic fest, yet she was giddy. Sitting in the Speedway parking lot as she spackled on turquoise eye shadow and glitter, we made a rough game plan: La Roux on the Circuit Grounds stage, then thrill rides, massive DJ sets and the glowing, pulsating unknown.
The trek from car to festival core was a parade of bare-assed pixies, pink gorillas and discount superheroes, a crowd I couldn’t imagine swaying to La Roux’s hypnotic synth-pop until I saw it. Elly Jackson purred through the calypso groove of “Tropical Chancer” then jolted us with her falsetto snarl in “I’m Not Your Toy” before rewarding fans with hit song “Bulletproof.” This time, baby, I’ll be bulletproof, a legion of voices sang back to her. I pretended they were singing to me.
Wandering the man-made wonderland was like dream hopping. Past the giant rattlesnake powered by bicycles and the herds of alien bunnies and stilt-walking bees, we put on 3D glasses in a tunnel of white light that melted into an exploding rainbow. Nick was smart enough to keep her glasses, which came in handy for a field of light-up lily pads and the graphic assault synced to Knife Party’s booming electro house. “Shake Datazz” flashed on a banner above the DJ duo, and I’m stuck with the image of a guy wearing nothing but underwear and suspenders vigorously obeying.
I’m also stuck with the sensation of a mysteriously gooey high-five (so gross) and the sight of withered folks in full costume waiting at the lost and found (so sad). Understandably, there were cracks in the party façade after so many relentless hours. The line for the swings stayed too long all night. While we were standing in it, I saw a girl dressed like stripper Superman in the same red boots I thought were the only ones on Earth. Then my phone died, meaning I would never find my car. Then a couple walked by hoisting halves of a cartoon heart ripped down the middle. Nice.
As cynicism was about to sink in its pointy little teeth, a magician appeared with a card trick about “the power of a kiss.” He asked a young woman to pick a card, which he instantly guessed. She pecked him on the cheek. He said a better kiss could turn the other 51 cards to her four of clubs. She hesitated, but the spectators seemed to lean forward as one, willing her to give in to the moment. The strangers kissed, sweetly, for an audience that belonged in an acid trip, and every card in the deck was transformed. It was more magical than the fireworks show or the animatronic owl towering above the main stage or any beat Tiësto has ever dropped.
Even without Nick’s 3D glasses, the rest of the night was all rainbows.