Music Festivals

The Best (and Worst) of EDC Vegas 2015

Electric Daisy Carnival is such a massive assault on the senses that, after the dust has settled (mostly in one's lungs), it can be hard to pick out the highlights and lowlights. We're still processing everything we heard and saw out there on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but here a few things that really stood out in our adventures under what EDC likes to call its "Electric Sky."

Best: Fireworks + Loco Dice
Just after 1 a.m. on Friday night, the sky above EDC exploded into glittery bursts of color. Inside Neon Garden, German DJ Loco Dice kept our feet moving, but our heads collectively turned towards the sky, as the rain of fireworks sparkled through the sheer tent that, at this point, was covered with images of electric blue flowers. The carnival lights twinkled in background and the oversized mushrooms outside the tent glowed neon. We were no longer inside a speedway in the dead of a desert night. We were now characters existing in someone's beautiful dream. When the fireworks show came to its rousing finale, the music dropped and the crowd roared and I understood why people are religious about this festival. Fireworks captivated the audience on Saturday and Sunday as well, but, nothing is as wild as that first, unexpected viewing. — Liz Ohanesian
Best: The Bass Pod Stage
The best dubstep and heavy bass music always sounds both futuristic and primitive — music made by computers, but carefully calibrated to bypass the intellect and go right for the brain stem. So kudos to the design team who made EDC's Bass Pod stage look like a cross between a Mos Eisley loading dock and a KISS concert. With every squiggly, squelchy bass drop, the sci-fi structures surrounding the dance floor shot fingers of flame into the sky, whipping the already-amped crowd into an even greater frenzy of neck-whipping and dirt-stomping. Dubstep is basically the heavy metal of EDM, and this stage captured that vibe perfectly. — Andy Hermann

Best: The guy riding his bike into EDC
Bravo, guy! You outsmarted us all! Why drive a car to EDC — and spend two hours in traffic getting there — when you can ride your bike? Brilliant! Granted, biking down Las Vegas Boulevard is not the smartest idea in terms of safety, especially when you know the cars are manned by people on their way to a rave, but so what? Add some red glow sticks to your tires like this guy did and you’ll be fine. And not only do you get to bypass traffic and the chore of finding a parking spot, but, hey, you’re also helping out the environment. Of course, you’ll be sweaty and exhausted by the time you get to EDC, but don’t forget you can always recuperate on a nice patch of grass next to a nice patch of intoxicated ravers and you’ll be good as new in no time. — Jessie Schiewe
Best: Flying in Via Helicopter
At $800 per person round trip, getting to EDC by air is definitely for high rollers only. But if you can afford it, it's worth every penny to avoid the two-hour-plus ordeal of reaching the festival by shuttle, cab or car. The helicopter service, provided by a company called Maverick that usually does Grand Canyon tours, made multiple trips each night and had attendees reaching the Las Vegas Motor Speedway a mere 15 minutes after takeoff. Plus, seeing the entire festival in all its neon, blinking glory from the air is pretty awe-inspiring. — Andy Hermann

Best: Nerds of EDC
"You go to anime conventions?" the guy in Pokémon gear asked as we chatted briefly on Friday night. He talked about the costumes he and his friends wore to events in Texas and showed me some photos as he encouraged me to try cosplaying too. Ravers and nerds are often seen as two different subcultures, but they overlap often. That's not a new thing; Just think back to the old-school party tunes that sampled Speed Racer and Dune. These days, the nerds of the rave dress as superheroes and anime characters. They hold signs referencing Tina Belcher, the awkward teen queen from Bob's Burgers, and various characters from hit cartoon series Adventure Time. There were moments when EDC felt like a San Diego Comic-Con — the crowd was equally larger and the sensory overload just as intense — but with better music. — Liz Ohanesian

Worst: No visual clues or landmarks in the parking lot
There are few things worse than leaving a festival at 4 a.m. and not being able to find your car. But, hey, at least you still have your car keys, though, right? — Jessie Schiewe 

Best: The Weather at 4 a.m.
We bet you didn’t know that there’s a time of day when the temperature drops below 100 degrees in Las Vegas. Or that the air is not always thick and dry out here and that it doesn’t always feel like you’re sticking your head in an oven. Well, that special, fleeting time of day starts around 4 a.m. and lasts for oh, a few hours. It’s around this time that you might feel a cool (i.e. not hot) breeze and maybe, just maybe, experience a shiver or two. This is also a fabulous time of day to cruise down the Vegas Strip. With the sun slowly creeping up in the east, turning the sky a delightful denim blue, you’ll have a chance to ogle the tourism mecca of Las Vegas without the risk of running over straggling pedestrians in the crosswalk or rear-ending poorly driven shuttle buses. — Jessie Schiewe

Worst: The Weather Before Midnight

I thought I could handle the Las Vegas heat for EDC. Much like the hottest days in Los Angeles, I would spend the sunlit hours inside. After dark, when the party started, it would cool off, right? Not exactly. I never used that jacket that I brought. For reasons best left to the science folks, Las Vegas temperatures remained oppressive well into the night. There was no evening breeze. Instead, we were repeatedly slapped with warm, dusty gusts of wind. As one might expect, the heat only rose as we ventured deeper into the crowd of dancers. Water was in high demand, even on Sunday night, when the weather was slightly less disgusting. Electric Daisy Carnival is fun. Las Vegas weather isn't. — Liz Ohanesian
Best: The Tesla Coil Guy
I know, I know: You've seen a million Tesla coils at Coachella and Burning Man. They probably sell the goddamn things at Sharper Image by now. But the performer working a small but vigorous coil at EDC was truly something special. Clad in head-to-toe chain mail and twirling two metal staffs like some demented Cirque du Soleil reject, Tesla coil guy made the lightning dance from his fingertips to his staffs and back again with such precision, the frequency of the coil's electrical whine actually seemed to match the buzzy trance soundtrack that accompanied his choreographed routine. He also had some weird positive-affirmation voiceovers that didn't really make any sense, but all that arcing electricity was so spectacular that it hardly mattered. — Andy Hermann

Worst: The Porta-Potties at 2 a.m.
But you probably already knew that.

Best: Bryan Cranston Tells the Ravers to "Say My Name"
Just when you thought the Breaking Bad star couldn't get any cooler, he does this.
Best: Disclosure
Putting the hottest deep house act on the entire EDC lineup in the relatively intimate Neon Garden tent seemed, at first glance, like an odd decision on the part of festival organizers. But it turned out to be one of the smartest placements of the entire weekend. Everyone who managed to squeeze inside the tent's sweaty confines was clearly elated to be there, and the brothers Lawrence responded to all those positive vibes with a DJ set that was soulful, uplifting and, at times, downright funky. It hardly seems possible that anticipation for their second album, Caracal (due out this September), could run any higher, but the buzz surrounding Disclosure following their EDC triumph is about to reach deafening levels. — Andy Hermann

Worst: The Lack of Trash Cans
More than once throughout the night, especially in the vicinity of the otherwise lovely Neon Garden, I found myself forced to sheepishly add an empty water bottle to the piles of trash around the base of every support beam, simply because there was nowhere else to put it. Maybe at an event like EDC, trash receptacles are an exercise in futility; half the crowd is just going to toss shit on the ground, anyway. But at least giving people the option of responsibly disposing of their empties probably would've made for a slightly less trash-strewn dance floor, and saved the poor cleanup crew an hour or two at the end of each night. — Andy Hermann

Best: The Night Bass Stage 7 Takeover
If any genre emerges from EDC Vegas as the next big thing, it should be bass house: an irresistibly danceable offshoot of U.K. garage and bassline that careens back and forth between jackin' and swinging beats over hip-hop and grime samples, syncopated synth hooks and filthy amounts of bass. On Sunday night, L.A. club night and label Night Bass delivered a lineup that showcased their own, Americanized take on the style (think Dirtybird, but less techno influenced) alongside U.K. legends DJ EZ and Low Steppa. By the time Night Bass boss AC Slater took to the decks at 1 a.m., just in time for the evening's big fireworks display, his lineup's funky sounds had drawn an overflow crowd that appeared to be equal parts Night Bass faithful and new converts, all shaking their asses harder than any other dance floor I saw all weekend. — Andy Hermann

Worst: Graham Funke’s Set of White People Hip-Hop
At first, as a hip-hop head, I was excited to hear the opening chords of The Fugees’ “Killing Me Softly,” one of the first songs in Graham Funke’s Saturday night set on the Funk House stage. Then I realized that he’d compiled a set list entirely for white people. As Biggie’s “Hypnotize” came on, followed by Naughty By Nature, Too Short, 2 Chainz, and this year’s club favorite, “I Don’t Fuck With You,” it became startlingly clear that we weren’t at EDC any longer — we were at our next door neighbor’s bar mitzvah party. These weren’t classics, or even greats, that we were listening to — just party music with easily memorable lyrics, the likes of which everyone’s heard on the radio thousands of times before. As one partygoer commented: “I can’t remember what he played, but I knew all the songs. And I’m not even into hip-hop.” — Jessie Schiewe
Best: Z-Trip's Dance-Music History Lesson
Inside the festival's smallest dance area, the Funk House, turntablist extraordinaire Z-Trip led the crowd on a wild journey through the genres, from hip-hop to reggae to drum 'n' bass, even mixing in a little Nirvana because, as he told the crowd, "We can't forget the rock." But the best moment was when he delved into some classic house, starting with Robin S.'s 1993 hit "Show Me Love" and then transitioning into Tim Deluxe's highly underrated "It Just Won't Do" from 2002. Even the dude in the giant Deadmau5 head got down for that one. — Andy Hermann

Best: The Kandi Shop Booth
Imagine this: rows upon rows of clear plastic candy bins filled with beads of all shapes, sizes and colors. And this: upwards of 50 people standing at tables, everyone in a trance, making heaps of kandi bracelets. Free things are always a welcome surprise at festivals (especially ones that charge $6 for a water bottle), but free bracelet-and necklace-making stations? OMG YASSS. I'd never realized how beautiful neon pony beads were until I hit up this booth. By mass-producing these hallowed bracelets — the currency of EDC — at the festival, morale was kept up. Stinginess and selfishness were abolished and a steady flow of selflessness and PLUR was preserved. But to truly understand the glory of this booth, think about what EDC would have been like without it. Kandi bracelets would have become scarce commodities. There would be few new bracelets in circulation and few people willing to trade them. Greed would take over. PLUR would be lost. Thank the EDM Gods that this is just a hypothetical. — Jessie Schiewe

Best: The Whole Damn Festival
As much as we love to nitpick, the truth of the matter is this: No other festival in North America can currently hold a candle to the sheer sensory overload that is the Las Vegas incarnation of Electric Daisy Carnival. Yes, the traffic sucks; yes, the temperature in the festival's early hours is still a hundred and fuck-you degrees; and no, not every DJ is our cup of tea. But EDC delivers more wows per square foot than Coachella, Ultra, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza combined. The stages are works of art; the sound systems are balanced and powerful; the talent curation offers a little something for electronic music fans of every tribe.

It's also worth noting that the crowd, contrary to every media stereotype of the tweaked-out raver kid, is friendly, coherent and as creative with their signs and outfits as the official performers and art installations. Sure, there were a few drug and alcohol casualties lumbering around (shout-out to the guy who puked without breaking stride on his way past the Funk House!), but on a per capita basis, you'll find as many of those at a Keith Urban concert. The vast majority of EDC attendees represent their culture and its ethos of — dare we say it — PLUR as well as EDM event any of us had ever previously attended.

So kudos to Insomniac for throwing one epic mother of a party. Here's hoping you'll be back in Vegas next year (the festival's five-year contract with Las Vegas Motor Speedway ends this year). If you are, we'll be right there with you. — Andy Hermann
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