The corner store by my apartment gets a lot of tourists, and last week I overheard one checker say to another, “I don’t do drugs and I’m not really into the music, but I’d love to go to EDC, just for the experience.” A similar thing happened last evening, as I was grabbing dinner before heading out to cover the final night of the massive Electric Daisy Carnival music festival. At the bar, I met John, a lover of craft beer and punk rock. It’s safe to assume that John, like most of us, will never attend EDC. Yet he was genuinely curious about the festival. He wanted to know what it’s like firsthand. John, this article is for you.
On behalf of all armchair ravers, I’ll be your slack-jawed townie with the golden ticket. Donning earplugs and walking shoes, I descended into a strange other realm. Today, I’m fighting dizzying exhaustion and sipping on a car-warmed Red Bull to tell you what you missed:
A spectacular first sight. After a long voyage to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the full view of EDC knocks your glowsticks off. It’s hotter and windier than Vegas, and more remote. So the bonanza of noise and light seems to be the only thing left on Earth. You will discover an intense need to document everything. Photos become irresistible, if ineffectual. Your mind will search for glittery descriptions of the apocalyptic aesthetic. I came up with “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome meets Alice in Wonderland.” I have never seen the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. This did not matter.
Enema by soundwave? No point in deciphering performers or sets. The music came from everywhere, all the time. It was teeth-chattering loud, even with earplugs. Touch any surface, such as a railing, a concession stand or your own belly, and it vibrated to multiple competing basslines. Unless you were watching a specific DJ set, sounds from all directions overlapped, creating a sonic flavor that’s similar to when you mix all the sodas at a burger joint. The music didn’t care about your favorite band. It was simply relentless, propelling you forward and further.
The crowd. According to a post-event release, “over 400,000 fans from all walks of life came together to dance from dusk till dawn.” If “all walks of life” refers to barely clothed millennials, this statement is true. The people-watching was epic. My favorite sighting was a young woman carrying a totem that read “F*ck the Real World” in reflective bubble letters (the kind that kindergarten teachers tack onto bulletin boards). For these few hours, escape velocity is possible. The rainbow fantasia collapses all of time and space into this one hyper-intense moment—even if you’re sober.
The meaning of it all. In an effort to suss out the event’s deeper appeal, I went to the source and asked some “headliners” (that’s event producer Insomniac’s name for attendees; actual headliners are referred to as “artists”). Since the music was too loud for conversation, I gestured for partygoers to write their thoughts on my notepad. The best response came from a girl in face paint and French braids. She pondered for a moment and then said, “It’s really weird to try to use a pen right now.”
Sunrise. Around 4:30 a.m., I noticed an unwelcome hue to the east. At first, I played it off as one of the stated “2,000 moving lights, 40 flame units and/or 1,200 pyro units.” But ohh gawd, it was sunrise. How do you feel about watching Monday morning bleach the fun out of an LED playground? That is for you to imagine. Me, I’m still recovering from the shock.