I’m on a two-hour trek to travel a mere 12 miles. I need to pee very badly. And there’s a DJ snoring in my lap.
I’m traveling to EDC Las Vegas with Markus Schulz, who is tuckered out after gigs the past few days that have included Houston, Berlin, Poland, Ibiza and Romania, where he shot a video for his upcoming single, “Caught,” with Adina Butar.
Our SUV includes team members from Armada management, and we’re tuned into “Electric Area” on Sirius, which is broadcasting live from EDC. When Markus' name gets mentioned during the rundown of the lineup still to come tonight, everyone pokes a little fun, repeating his name like crazed fans, “Markus Schulz!”
By the time Schulz’s head eases up on my bladder, it’s 10 p.m., we’ve been driving at a snail’s pace for an hour and a half, and we have three more miles to go. Markus gets a kick from reading the totals on nearby taxi meters, and he waves to partygoers rocking out to music in their cars covered in neon writing. “Honk if ur horny 4 EDC!”
Finally, we reach VIP parking and wait in a short line at the tunnel. Even artists get yelled at to wait single file. We check into artist relations and are escorted to Schulz’s personal trailer, then move to the larger DLP trailer in a park big enough to retire in. I finally get to a toilet, and Schulz relaxes in a massage chair for a brief moment before taking the stage. “Turn this thing off; I’m going to fall back asleep!”
A golf cart takes us backstage at the Circuit Grounds, hosted by A State of Trance. We stop inside another trailer, where Armin Van Buuren is hosting live radio, watching his stage via two large projection screens on the wall.
I follow Schulz to the stage. Security stops me at the stairs, not because I’m restricted, but because he says, “You might want to really think about going up there.” I assure him I’m fine, but once I’m up there, I realize what he meant. A three-story tall LED screen is swaying in the wind, along with all of the other giant lighting and sound rigs overhead. I say a silent prayer, and have a rare moment where I’m thankful nobody is using vinyl and turntables.
Schulz takes over the tunes at 11:45 p.m., in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans. We can’t even make out the back of the crowd. The party is going off wildly. What excitement! But then … halfway into his set, Markus is asked to get on the microphone to make an announcement: The stages are being shut down temporarily because of the winds.
Even backstage, security is yelling, “I don't care who you are, get to the grandstand NOW!"
I follow Schulz back into the solace of the ASOT radio trailer. He takes a breath and shares his thoughts, “I agree with the organizers. You don’t want anything crazy to happen. At the end of the day, the party will go on. Unfortunately for me, it was in the middle of my set, but it’s the right move, and I think everybody will be all right.”
Van Buuren gets on his own microphone to make a similar announcement—to online and Sirius satellite listeners. He asks Schultz if he’ll continue his set on-air from the studio. Schulz’s stipulation: that Van Buuren tag-team with him. Every time they switch off, they ask each other what key and what BPM they’re currently working in. Yes, like actual music professionals.
At 1:45 a.m., Van Buuren and Schulz chat on the mic, giving folks status update for the festival, “There are five people in the studio,” (and I’m one of them!). The scene outside is a ghost town. The screens still show us the stage and dancefloor, which is empty except for garbage flying through the air.
We watch Twitter hash tags related to ASOT, all lined up on a laptop screen, tweets flying by faster than we can read. “This is going down in history.” Van Buuren says, his eyes twinkling. The sense of community and the support of fans is beautiful.
Cosmic Gate joins us in the trailer. Van Buuren asks, “You want to play a track? The whole world is listening.”
An Insomniac rep enters and asks Schulz if he’ll grace a tiny stage they have left open for the remaining fans. We’re golf-carted through the crazy wind and set atop a pirate boat (the "art car"). True fans have not left this place. Relatively speaking, it feels empty, with only a few fans thousand remaining, but the vibe is still fantastic. This is the most real moment in dance music that I have felt in Las Vegas since the 1990s. No light show, no go-go dancers, no effects, nothing making this party a party except what’s important: the people and the music.
Schulz rocks the boat and the crowd. The monitors, chandelier, sail and anything else that can possibly move are swaying—both from the wind and his dancing around to his own selections. It’s after 4 a.m. at this point, and we should have been long gone and home on the Strip by now.
Markus Schulz—one of the hardest working men in dance music—is still going, the crowd cheering his name for what is virtually his third set of the night. And let's not forget that he's playing Sunday at Tao.
Steve Aoki takes over. Schulz and I shove through the crowd gathered at the back of the boat. Some fans remark that he saved EDC. “Markus! Please take my candy! You're my hero!"
One more stop in the ASOT trailer to give an update. One more golf cart ride to our car. And at 5 a.m., we're headed back with the sun rising. Schulz’s final thought: “Considering all the circumstances, this is one night I am never going to forget.”