“Want to hear something new?!” Afrojack asks the crowd before dropping yet another wicked bout of bass that makes me go, “Daaaaaaaaaamn!” Mingling with his new offerings, the obligatory hits arrive, Afrojack cutting the sound so that the crowd can sing along to tracks like “Take Over Control.” Inside the Mandalay Bay Events Center, more than 5,000 18-plusers are partying through the last day of the long weekend—normal club types donning their beachwear (for the second stage outside at Mandalay Beach) and full-on raver pixies in not much more than tutus and glow sticks. Afrojack grabs the mic again, “Do you guys like my new songs?!” Crazy applause ensues. “F*ck yes! I just woke up one hour ago, and this is the best breakfast I’ve ever had!” Identity Fest is a damn good time for a Monday afternoon, I must say.
Outside at Mandalay Beach the “festival” vibe is in place with several merch booths selling club clothing, raver accessories and the like, but the Rockstar/Dim Mak stage overlooking the shallow end is off to a slow start. Maybe 30 people chill on the sand while The Eye drops some sunset dubstep amid the most gorgeous weather we’ve seen in weeks, a small rainbow fading beyond the stage.
Back to the darkness of the indoor Skullcandy stage where the rainbows come from stage lights and LED screens. Steve Aoki is spraying champagne onto the crowd from both the bottle and his mouth, before running back to his elevated DJ setup to mix into another tune. He sings a little karaoke in front of a huge 3D LED “AOKI,” then climbs onto the table, jumping up and down, while a video of him screaming plays and the crowd mimic his excitement. The kids love a good showman, and as far as DJs go, he’s on top. Then he brings out a raft. No more surfing; now we’re crowd rafting.
At the pool, the crowd is building, and Vegas natives The Crystal Method play some dubstep before moving into their signature breaks and then losing us completely: Who wants to hear such seminal artists come out after so long just to play “We No Speak Americano?” Back indoors!
Hoards of partiers are heading the opposite direction, and I soon learn why: This staging is more like a true concert than any festival, club or EDM party I’ve attended. The lights are up during the transitions, and the room has completely cleared out as they remove the staging from Aoki’s set and bring in new LED towers for the next.
Pretty Lights eventually hits the decks, and the folks slowly trickle back in, but they aren’t sure what they should do with this sexy, deep, funky groove. (The couple that was getting it on in the stands earlier should have waited for this set.) Do we fist pump? Throw our hands in the air? White people, you better learn how to move the other parts of your bodies. Eventually the crowd gets the hang of it, and I take a Hula-Hoop break.
Another worse-than-concert-style transition takes place, so it’s time to for the Beach again, where the crowd has increased yet still isn’t close to what Afrojack and Aoki drew. It’s ironic that Pete Tong can’t command as many people here as those “commercial” acts, considering the role this legend has played over the decades. Which came first, the bored DJ or the bored crowd? Tong grabs the mic: “It’s your last chance to party! You go back to work tomorrow. Get wrecked!” Somebody, anybody, please clap along ...