The ice that ran down my back almost melted as it reached my waist and made contact with my scalding body. As my body temperature soared to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the amount of ice and cold water cascading over me was not enough to contain myself from feeling the reverberations of the bass coming from the speakers yards away. In fact, the pain seemed to almost go away as I cried out the lyrics to one of my favorite songs and simultaneously tapped my feet to every synthesized beat.
Finally, after every last bottle of water and hydro-pack that was available had been emptied out, my body began to cool down and I was able to revel in the unmistakable melodies played out in front of me by my favorite artist, Tiesto. As the famed DJ kept producing hit after hit, I closed my eyes and could not help but stay worried for my overall health. After four years of attending Insomniac's flagship festival, EDC Las Vegas, I succumbed to the extreme heat the desert valley is known for.
Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) has been going strong now for 21 years and has grown to become the largest dance music festival in North America. The electronic music event had its humble beginnings in mild-weather Los Angeles before moving to the sweltering heat of Las Vegas in 2011. Since its move to Sin City, the popularity of the three-day festival has skyrocketed and over 400,000 people make the pilgrimage to the city of lights each year.
Throughout its seven year run in the Nevada desert, EDC has had to endure the dire climate that plagues the area during the summer months, particularly hot weather. In 2012, night two of EDC concluded at 1 a.m. due to persistent high winds. This year's event, however, will probably go down as one of the hottest that guests have had to endure. Daytime temperatures in the Las Vegas Valley soared to 115 degrees Fahrenheit and hovered around 90 degrees at night. After the criticism of this years event (including the handling of specific issues during the heatwave), Insomniac CEO and Founder Pasquale Rotella announced that major changes were coming to next year's festivities, including a shift of dates to mid-May when temperatures in the area are more tolerable.
2017's edition of EDC Las Vegas came with a significant adjustment to its footprint: the addition of a new stage (tent) specifically dedicated to trance music, Quantum Valley. The tent was positioned right outside of the main stage, Kinetic Field, sandwiched between it and Carnival Square. This made the grounds of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway feel a bit more compact and crowded for two reasons— it took away square footage from other stages and it was directly next to the main stage. Nonetheless, trance fans cheered on as acts like Gareth Emery, Paul van Dyk and Cosmic Gate filled the tent with the melodic beats trance music is known for (albeit a bit sweaty due to the heat that was trapped inside the tent).
Speaking of the main stage, Kinetic Field this year was transformed into a space celebrating Mother Earth herself, the Kinetic Gaia. Spanning 446-feet wide and nearly 100-feet tall, Mother Earth stretched her arms out, welcoming guests of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and beliefs. Anchoring her were two 48-foot tall owls, a symbol of Insomniac and EDC. EDM heavy-hitters like Tiesto, Martin Garrix, Armin van Buuren, Hardwell and Dillon Francis graced the stage and kept their fans dancing all night. A special performance by Diplo, Jauz and Alison Wonderland was also held at this stage with many fans calling their set a highlight of the weekend.
The Basspod saw the return of the infamous robot pods that shot flames 180 feet into the night sky (One of which caught fire last year and was quickly extinguished) and surrounded the basshead and dubstep friendly dance floor. Rotella disclosed that this would be the last year the Basspod would have its well-known pods and guests to next year's event can expect a brand new stage there. Hip Hop artist, Drake, made an appearance during Metro Boomin's set this year. Among other artists that performed at the Basspod include Bro Safari, Borgore, Snails, Valentino Kahn and Flux Pavilion.
The Circuit Grounds kept spirits high as the 360 stage brought in electronic music's biggest acts including Above and Beyond, Oliver Heldens, Zedd, Alesso, Duke Dumont, Tommy Trash, Rezz among many more. Highlights include Above & Beyond's mesmerizing set, Oliver Heldens dance-friendly future house performance and the unmistakable sounds of Seven Lions.
Cosmic Meadow was again the first stage many attendees saw as they walked down the grandstands of the Speedway. A lush green field set the tone for some of the most talked about performances of the weekend (including DJ Khaled's now-viral set). Porter Robinson, Rufus du Sol, Yellowclaw, Ookay, Nghtmre, Ghastly, Slushii, Jauz, Illenium and Black Tiger Sex Machine all called the Meadow home throughout the three-day event.
The techno and house heavy Neon Garden brought out the best of the best from the genre that started it all. Under the massive purple pyramid, headliners enjoyed longer, extended sets from pioneering DJs and producers like Green Velvet, Nicole Moudaber, John Digweed, Chris Liebing, Adam Fitzpatrick and a Drumcode performance by Adam Beyer. Surrounded by underground sounds and a sea of laser beams, the Neon Garden is a must for any electronic music lover.
WasteLAND featured a post-apocalyptic stage design and catered to the hardstyle crowds by showcasing the talents of Angerfist, Atmozfears, Lady Faith, Mad Dog b2b DJ Anime, Noisecontrollers, among others. The decaying cityscape was set right next to the Basspod and complimented each of the music styles perfectly.
A favorite of mine, the Upsidedown House, never ceases to amaze me with the talented House artists featured on this whimsical stage. Highlights include sets from Dombresky, Discovery Project, Bonnie x Clyde, Cut Snake, Lo Steppa, NVOY and JSTJR.
The biggest surprise of the weekend did not come from one of the main stages, instead, it sprung up out of one of the many art cars that roll through the grounds: Kaskade. Playing a secret set on the Kalliope Art Car, Kaskade granted every fan's wishes this year and performed a Redux show over the weekend.
The 21st installation of EDC was one that was met with high praise, whether it be its state-of-the-art technology that Insomniac is known for, the massive stages, immersive environment (including their talented costumed performers, art installations, and carnival rides) or the abundance of attention given to the well-being of their attendees (over 40 free water refill stages, free medical services, safe spaces and a dedicated ground control crew). The entire crew at Insomniac, from the technical crew, construction workers, traffic controllers, ground control, medical, police and beyond deserve the highest praise. After over two decades of experience, EDC is top-notch when it comes to the level of service and should be the standard of how a music festival should be curated.
However, even the biggest success stories will always have some room for improvement. As mentioned earlier, this year's intense heat proved to be very difficult to bear when it came to other aspects of the festival. Multiple reports of shuttle bus mishaps were reported on social media (many guests spending hours under the unbearable sun waiting for buses to take them to and from the Speedway), traffic problems continue to plague the venue, with only two roads leading into the Speedway— Interstate 15 or Las Vegas Boulevard. It takes attendees hours to get back to their hotel rooms when the event concludes at 6 a.m. each morning, mainly due to the ineffective way that cars are funneled from the parking lot into one or two tiny exits out into the street. Once vehicles are on the main roads, they have to endure the regular morning traffic in the Las Vegas Metro Area, especially on Monday morning when residents are starting their work week. A park-and-ride lot with a free shuttle a few miles down the road was introduced for the first time this year, but few guests took advantage of the extra lot.
All of these obstacles have plagued EDC Las Vegas over the years and finally, after weeks of teasing, Rotella revealed plans to adjust the deteriorating atmosphere surrounding the festival. Among those was a change of date to mid-May when weather conditions are more bearable. In a post on social media, Rotella stated that average high temperatures in May are in the 90s with a much cooler 60s in the evening. The plan is to extend hours and create a new grand opening experience with the change of date. After my bout with heat exhaustion this year, I am beyond excited with this change as it will not only keep guests out of the dangerous heat, but it will also allow for an extended experience at EDC.
A major change to EDC (and one that is inline and becoming popular with other music festivals) is the addition to on-site camping for easy access to the festival, thus eliminating some of the notorious aforementioned traffic issues. Air-conditioned tents with dust-control canvas walls (both GA and Premiere options) will be available. If you choose, you can bring your own RV and hook it up to pre-arranged power on-site or you can rent an RV as well. There will be vendors, a general store, and activities at the center of the campground as well as themed environments called Sound Camps.
Part of the EDC Las Vegas experience is being able to immerse yourself in all of that Las Vegas has to offer. While I am sure that Insomniac will have a great set-up for its campers, the lack of access to the city may be something that may keep veteran EDC attendees away from the camping option. Only time will tell if this is a step in the right direction to creating a truly immersive environment or if it will be short lived. I do see this eliminating some traffic congestion, but definitely not all.
The ill-famed shuttle service that has haunted Insomniac over the past few years seems like it may finally be fully addressed. The operations of all EDC shuttles will be run by an independent company that specializes in the largest music and sporting events in the country. Again, only time will tell if this will help alleviate congestion in the area, but with expert background, these independent shuttles may prove to be the saving grace to the EDC experience.
After four years under the electric sky, those issues finally took a toll on me this June. While I will always be grateful for the marvelous environment Rotella and the Insomniac team recreate year after year, I cannot help but stress how important it is to tackle the concerns Headliners have not just inside the venue but outside as well. With that being said, I believe this week's news will aid with the problems that are to be had when you hold America's largest electronic music festival under the oppressive Mojave Desert sky.
The 22nd annual Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas will take place from dusk 'til dawn on May 18, 19 and 20 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Tickets and camping passes will go on sale Thursday, September 28th at noon Pacific Time.