Electric Daisy Carnival is more than just a mere “rave”

By Rudy Klapper

HollywoodNews.com: Over 80 artists and DJs. Five stages running the gamut from house to dubstep to trance and more. 185,000+ people attending and dancing until 2 a.m. over two days. More Ecstasy pills than the population of Los Angeles. Calling the annual L.A. Electric Daisy Carnival a mere “rave” is an insult to something that has to be considered one of the largest music events in the world, not to mention an intense kaleidoscope of sounds and visuals that require far more work and setup than your average festival show. Oh, and don’t forget the varied array of carnival rides, from your standard ferris wheel and fun house to spinning tops and massive swings (best ridden sober). With such a breadth of artists and experiences to be sampled it’s practically impossible to catalogue every highlight of the weekend, and the fact that the Coliseum grounds where the event was held was nearly impossible to traverse effectively past sundown made it difficult to see everyone I wanted, but those I did rarely disappointed.

Opening at 2 in the afternoon every day, the festival was already jam packed by the time I arrived (usually around 4-ish), and like Coachella before it, EDC’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of years. The main stage (the Coliseum stadium including the floor) was half empty during the Friday headliner in 2009; this year they closed off floor access before sunset, relegating latecomers to the stands hundreds of feet above the floor or the smaller stages outside the stadium. I started off Friday at the Circuit Grounds, a converted parking lot that was the second-largest of the stages, to see Dutch DJ Afrojack, who kicked things off with a tribal electro house mix that made me realize just what kind of damage I was going to be doing to my ears over the next 48 hours. The sound systems at EDC don’t fuck around – when the bass drops, you can actually feel it rattling around in your bones. The seizure-inducing light shows at each stage were meticulously prepared as well, something YouTube doesn’t even begin to fully describe.

My group then headed to the main stage, which is when full is one of the most amazing concert experiences I have ever been to – thousands and thousands of people all crammed into the bowl of the Coliseum stadium, filling the field and rising up all around the stands while two carnival rides ride on in the back. And then there’s the headlining stage, a titanic construction that shot off fireworks at regular intervals as well as having what has to be one of the world’s largest light shows. Dirty South from Australia was rocking the stage when I arrived, but soon gave way to the first of the highly anticipated headliners, Swedish House Mafia. That’s when the party really started, with the Swedish trio dropping remixes of the Beastie Boys‘ “Intergalactic” and A-Trak’s “Heads Will Roll” mix, as well as old school (relatively) hits like their own remix of Daft Punk’s “One More Time” and “Show Me Love.” Check out the 2-minute mark of the video for full epic-ness.

I then trekked back to Circuit Grounds to catch a bit of Moby’s retro set, which was quite an experience for someone mostly used to just his studio albums. They don’t even compare to his live show, where he threw most everything mellow out the window in favor of a full-on electro party vibe that everyone loved. Following that I saw new house pioneers Jack Beats at the Cosmic Meadow, who played the set of the night. Their brand of uber-wobbly house with a tinge of dubstep and an emphasis on filthy breakdowns is still playing on repeat in my head, particularly their fantastic mix of “Get Down” and their absolutely fiery remix of Passion Pit’s “Little Secrets.” It also remained the only stage I was able to get right up to the front on. I closed out the night by catching the end of Friday headliner deadmau5 at the main stage, although I was only able to watch from a far upper portion of the stands due to over-capacity. It was a decent ending, but given deadmau5’s fast-growing reputation as North America’s preeminent DJ, it’s fairly standard pace was a little disappointing, not to mention essentially equal to his set at Coachella a couple months ago.

Video Day 1

(check the 2-minute mark to see just how packed this gets)

Day 2

If I thought Day 1 was packed, Day 2 took things to a whole new level, making it extremely hard to walk anywhere efficiently (and definitely not without a group constantly linking hands), and making the floor of the main stage a lost cause before I even arrived. I dared to see some trance at the Neon Garden when I first arrived, catching Aly & Fila and a whole bunch of fluorescent-painted individuals who must’ve been the happiest concertgoers I’d seen yet just fist-pumping like it was Jersey Shore West Coast-edition. Next up was will.i.am at the main stage, who stuck out like a sore thumb on the lineup sheet and played a predictably oddball set heavy in funk classics to liven the crowd up as the sun began to set.

Filipino/Dutch DJ Laidback Luke followed will.i.am, and was playing when what was easily the most surreal experience of the festival occurred. The floor had long been closed to any more spectators, but as Luke continued to play unruly concertgoers began to wash over the high fences barricading the stands from the floor, spilling onto the floor and causing absolute havoc among security. The sound was soon cut off, and from my vantage point way up in the stands, the combination of what looked to be a surefire riot, helicopters suddenly swooping low overhead, and the stadium in a frenzy, was terrifying but really, really fucking cool all at once. Then who comes on the mic but Lil Jon, scolding the crowd as only he could for a full five minutes: “If you see a motherfucker climbing that motherfucking fence…pull that motherfucker down!” Check out the video below for the very bizarre rant.

Groove Armada at the Circuit Grounds was up next, and what I expected to be a fairly mediocre performance turned out to be one of the most surprising of the evening. Most fans have long considered the English duo to be a bit washed up; their latest, Black Light, just seemed like they were running out of gas. But for a couple hours they went back to their roots, mixing in disco with remixes that included some Major Lazer and Prince. The fact that someone in the crowd had a vuvuzela made things even better. I then went to catch the end of LA Riots set at the Cosmic Meadow, where I would stay up until the last set of the night, largely due to the fact that it was nigh impossible to move anywhere else (a trip to the bathrooms was a 30-minute endeavor).

Californian DJ Wolfgang Gartner came on a little after 10 p.m., and for a DJ who used to be considered a deadmau5 ripoff, Gartner made EDC his own for a little over an hour. His light show was one of the best of the night, and his synth-heavy, twitchy rhythms were in fine form on fan favorites like “Fire Power” and his trademark “5th Symphony.” Many people said EDC would be his coming out party, and considering how many more people were talking about Gartner rather than his good friend deadmau5 days after, I’d have to agree.

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