20 Jun 2015

At EDC Las Vegas, The Owl, Octopus and Dance Kids Steal the Show

I went back and watched a video from Cyberfest 2000 yesterday before setting out to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, remembering how taken back I was of that Fresno festival’s eye candy in comparison to the raves I’d attended in San Francisco, from Toon Town and Community in the early 90s until that ‘welcome to the millennium’ party. What was considered a spectacle then seems like strung popcorn on a Christmas tree now in comparison to the sheer awe you experience as the visual landscape of Electric Daisy Carnival’s (EDC) Las Vegas unfolds before your eyes.

The DJ line up was massive, as expected, but it was “The Experience,” the mini EDC city and and all it’s citizens that were indeed the show.

The Night Owl was in command of the kineticFIELD, looking off into the distance where a Luxor-esque pyramid released laser beams. The El Pulpo Mecanico, the metal, mechanical sea creature reaching 25 feet into the sky was making his rounds, shooting fire and sometimes frightening the onlookers,  causing them to jump back from the sheer heat in the already baking night. Another steampunk influenced attraction was the Prince-esque purple pirate ship, fashioned to enable dancing and prancing, and a few yards away, a Lite Brite creature was home to another DJ, and the citizens rejoiced in dance.

On occasion the fireworks would light up the sky even more, causing a momentary unison of “ooohhh….aaahhh…” and cheers. Screams of glee could be heard as kids rode the Freak Out, Cliffhanger, and other rides. The costumes the girls and some of the boys were parading around the ground were a sight to see. Some were predictable and repetitive, including the array of taffeta ballerina skirts and furry boots, while others were far more unique and creative. I have to say that the guys need to up their game; 99% board shorts, tank tops and runners. This is EDC, not trip to Wal-Mart.

Back to the massive DJ line up, which was going off on all seven stages simultaneously; due to my own poor planning and prep for the sheer amount of traffic we would all encounter in getting there, I missed Bennie Benassi and Sasha, but was able to catch Fatboy Slim’s set in the circuitGROUNDS, the massive hanger outfitted with all the 21st century, LV-styled bells and whistles. He was throughly enjoying himself, as one would from that massive deck on high, permeating the air with a mix of his own productions and some 90s classics.

Carl Cox was over in the aptly-named neonGARDEN (where he’ll be again on Saturday, 2:30am - 4:00am), throwing down some seducing tracks that had a much deeper funk and groove than what I’ve heard him spin (term used loosely) before.  

Moby was over at cosmicMEADOW, which faces grass and the stands typically filled with Nascar folks. His set was far more over the top than expected. Not that I anticipated him playing music from his releases, which would be too subdued and cerebral for this crowd, but it all seemed out of character. Like he was trying to get in with the kids, using a Oakenfold, stretched-armed Jesus stance and mixing more generic, spleen-splitting tracks suited for the bassPOD stage. Maybe this has been his new thing for a while and I just haven’t seen him DJ an event of this level, and it’s certainly a far cry from when I saw him play at the Vortex in Palo Alto many, many years ago. And it should be. It again just felt forced, but the kids did indeed love it. Hopefully he’s made some new fans that will then delve further into Moby’s catalogue, which is near and dear to my heart.

The funkHouse has to be my favorite area to hang, a somewhat more intimate club experience that’s actually able to happen in the sensory overload land that is EDC, and Brandon Elliot, aka Brainchild (Cats & Boots), was makin’ it happen. The boys and girls were getting their groove on from the upper platforms down to the dirt and dust. For fans of Marques Wyatt, this dude is right up our alley. He’s based in Los Angeles, so I’ll definitely be seeking Brainchild out to see again where I’m not touting around a Chrome bag filled with media gear.

Tonight the line up at funkHouse includes Troy Kurtz (Los Angeles, Bedrock, Cats & Boots) at 8pm…

Posso (Los Angeles, AM Only) at 9:30pm…

Graff (Houston) at 11:00pm…

The ever-popular Z-Trip (although I do blame him for ruining Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’’ that he revived in his mashup sets, which led to every copycat DJ including in theirs, i.e. overkill) at 12:00am…

Other highlights for Saturday are Disclosure (DJ Set) at neonGARDEN at 10:30pm, Key N Krates at cosmicMEADOW at 10:55pm, a conflict between Above and Beyond at kineticFIELD, Pretty Lights at cosmicMEADOW, and Eats Everything at neonGARDEN, all at 12:00am. Hardwell comes on the main kineticFIELD stage at 1:15am, followed by ARmin van Buuren at 2:30am, Carl Cox returns to neonGARDEN, this time with B2B Victor Claderone at 1:30am, staying on through 4:00am…and a ‘surprise guest’ is on stage7 at 1:45am. Hmm….wonder who that could be…

 

When it comes to a line up for a music event of this magnitude, the selection process is important. Betty Tran of Insomniac has said her team definitely looks to their festival’s fans for inspiration on curation to deliver what the dance kids want to see and hear. But as festivals’ production progresses and evolves, the consensus grows that the line up is less of a leading factor to ticket sales (a separate discussion when it comes to clubs and residencies), and it’s more the experience of friends coming together, where dancers and costumed players, along with the Owl and Octopus, take center stage. Plus, with the configuration of having the DJs  so far up on their platforms, many feet away from the dancers below, that physical separation is felt and makes it more difficult for that fan-to-artist connection. And let's be honest, there's not a lot to see anyway, unlike a live band. That's why 'back in the day' DJs were in the corner and the dance floor was center stage, with the crucial connection being the dancers feeding the DJ his or her next move and direction.

The question then becomes, are we at a tipping point where DJs and producers (and their agents) are putting too much weight on their booking value? How patient will promoters and festival producers be in competing for headlining acts? And would festival fans really not attend EDC because a given DJ(s) isn’t performing?

As festivals like EDC grow their strength, I can see Kevin Lyman’s (Warped Tour) model coming into play, where there are few DJs getting paid while the others show up just to be a part of the experience. Time will tell.

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