An electric desert experience: the 2014 EDC Las Vegas phenomenon
Countless voices have attempted to explain Electric Daisy Carnival in merely a phrase; some summed up the event as a “rave experience,” a “dance extravaganza,” and even a “dazzling, multi-sensory ode to electronic dance music.” Ultimately, Pasquale Rotella’s proud creation – with its spectacular roster of talents, amusement park installments and wildly colorful attendees – has not only lived up to rising expectations of the ever-opinionated dance music realm and its numerous critics, but instead, pushed far and beyond its peer affairs as a modern day musical phenomenon.
This year alone, the festival brand released a full-length documentary helmed by the directors of Justin Bieber and Katy Perry’s respective tell-all feature films, established and continued six annual international and coastal editions, and unveiled a new, bigger and better Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas in both physical size and demeanor. In 2014, Electric Daisy Carnival pushed the physical boundaries of its home at the Speedway, utilizing more of the venue grounds than in previous years to accommodate a full stage addition, resident stage expansions, and 20 larger-than-life art installations. Reflecting the festival’s widened physical stature, EDC welcomed more “headliner” attendees than ever before: over 140,000 per day from 40 countries and all 50 states.
Ask any EDC fanatic – whether it be a seasoned veteran, first-timer, or even those stuck lusting behind a screen while watching EDC Curated – beyond the infinite list of impressive statistics and admirably unceasing fireworks displays, this year’s Electric Daisy Carnival boasted a fresh, changed atmosphere that shined throughout every particular detail from every corner of the festival.
As one of electronic music’s shining sanctuaries, Electric Daisy Carnival has established a reputation for inviting the world’s most sought after talents to debut some of the summer’s most anticipated sets. While the considerably more mainstream ‘EDM’ talents highlighted the Kinetic Field with headliners like Tiësto, Hardwell, Martin Garrix, Armin van Buuren, and Krewella, the festival’s over 200 acts spread over seven different stages emphasized what Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotella previously took to his Facebook to explain. While addressing the delay behind EDC’s line up in early May, he reassured his expectant ‘headliners,’ “All the amazing DJs and producers who have graced our stages—whether they’re world famous or a lesser-known local talent—have never failed to put on an unforgettable show. House, techno, trance, drum ‘n’ bass, trap, breaks, dubstep, hardstyle or anything in between, we always have a little something for everyone.”
Not one to break his word, the spread across electronic genres was wide and well received: Those hungry for a dose of grungier, tech styles found solace in Neon Garden with the Carl Cox & Friends stage while hardstyle or bass zealots stayed close to the aggressive strikes of Bass Con. The Discovery Stage punched harder than its smaller stature with a stream of debuting talent, eager to establish their names at EDC’s rising talent platform.
Most notably, Insomniac’s exceptional efforts in production and specifically stage design drew multitudes of positive accolades before talent ever graced the decks. Staying true to their motto and following in suit of the cinematic designs of their Tomorrowland peers, EDC’s traditional Kinetic Field main stage transformed into Insomniac’s largest stage built to-date, and has already been dubbed as the ‘Cathedral,’ a monumental collection of swelling chapel-style pillars accentuated by dancing water falls and a pair of intricately embellished owls with colossal wingspans. Across the way, the Bass Con stage thundered, disguised as a sinister “cyclops alien,” reminiscent of a deep dwelling sea creature in the wake of a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas scene.
This year, Circuit Grounds broke records as it doubled in size, featured over 10,000 square feet of shifting video panels, and became the “largest clear-span structure in the world.” Cosmic Meadow, the first stage festival goers encounter when entering the venue, received an upgrade and expanded to almost twice its 2013 self as it welcomed HARD’s hosted stage. Just beyond a sprawl of packed amusement park rides, Bass Pod too received an improvement, drawing in bass enthusiasts to its fire-billowing pyramid to the far edge of the grounds. EDC’s newcomer stage was Stage 7, a 7Up sponsored stage which hosted electronic music’s most promising up-and-comers, the lesser known, but worthy talents like Trippy Turtle, Bixel Boys, Sluggers and more.
In addition to the festival’s handful of wandering art cart stages including the Mayan Art Cart’s Las Vegas debut and the return of the ‘BoomBox,’ a distinct new influence was felt while meandering through the venue. Insomniac has consistently and successfully fabricated its own world within the confines of the Las Vegas Speedway in late June, but this year’s EDC individualized each stage experience, creating a clearly defined ambiance, flavor, and style within the boundaries of each. After Pasquale Rotella both attended and cited the week-long Nevada festival Burning Man as an inspiration to Las Vegas Weekly, the unique and unmistakable influences of the similar, albeit different art-focused, musical desert experience exhibits were clearly palpable throughout EDC. Those searching for a club-focused vibe dove into the sectioned off area of Stage 7, while house hunters flooded the floor of Circuit Grounds’ pumping Megastructure. Attendees were free to bounce from Kaskade’s special Redux set held at the Mayan Art Cart to the underground energy preserved within Neon Garden while an entirely different atmosphere roared beyond the daisy arch of Kinetic Field.
Surprisingly, despite Electric Daisy Carnival’s seven massive stages and increased population, a level of detail not gone unnoticed was the event’s impeccable sound design. In tandem with each stage’s individual personality, Insomniac’s production team engineered each stage to retain sound within the unmarked confines of the stage. Though Stage 7 sat merely a few hundred feet away from the premier Kinetic Field, the pervasive knocks of Armin van Buuren’s “Ping Pong” were unobtrusive and relatively unheard while challenging the trip step melodies of Stage 7 performers throughout all three days.
While on your feet, dancing, walking, and jumping for three days straight, a poorly designed layout could tarnish an experience of a lifetime. The square footage of the festival may have spread this year, but any free space that may have been was unseen behind the festival’s plentiful resting, playing, and viewing installments including 30 additional carnival rides, 20 art installations, and five separate Ferris Wheels, scattered amongst the festival’s unforgettable array of stages. When the clock struck 2:30 AM each night, regardless of where in the Speedway you stood, an explosive six-minute firework show showered the sky, including a special display that encircled the entire ring of the venue – giving a real meaning to being Under the Electric Sky.
Dance music can only prepare for what was once considered unthinkable by Pasquale Rotella during his warehouse rave promoter era. Just two years ago at 2012’s EDMBiz, Rotella explained that his next venture would seek to “build venues.” As Billboard recalls, he explained his unexpected choice: “Fairgrounds are built for fairs, racing tracks for racing, arenas for sports, so for me, that is something: An adult Disneyland for what I do. I’d rent it out to other producers; I would focus on dance music. Just to create the ultimate experience in a venue.”
2014 breathed a new, invigorating life into North America’s largest dance music-centric festival. Marking its 18th year running and only fourth year return to Las Vegas, snowballing in repute while the demands for electronic music swell with urgency, the question that lingers is this: Where and how will EDC grow in the coming years?
Together, as a community, we fondly look back on the early years of Electric Daisy Carnival in the late 90’s, and its already nostalgic peaking moments in Los Angeles’ Coliseum. We recall the first “EDM” song we heard that sparked a curiosity in the culture, feel close with our favorite producers, and look forward to summertime chaos as festivals fill the weekend spaces of our planners. Kandi bracelets made, costumes adorned, and a carefree weekend ahead, we remember our first blinding steps into the Las Vegas Speedway, looking down at the spread of glittering stages and whirling rides as the sun begins to set.
What the future may hold for Electric Daisy Carnival is unforeseeable, but bright. As Pasquale Rotella’s vision continues to disregard financial and physical boundaries and push forward and up – each year backed by ever increasing fans from all across the world, more powerful commercial sponsors willing to throw doors of opportunity to a genre and culture that once had to overcome resistance just to be heard – Insomniac and its festivals, shows, and events will only progress with larger leaps and bounds than ever before.
Whether it be the 2015 edition or the 2025 congregation of EDC Las Vegas, Rotella hints that the spirit of dance music will always remain at the root of his future endeavors large and small, but not without a signature flair of mystery in his concluding sentiment. “Just because dance music has broken through to the mainstream doesn’t mean we need to play by those rules or subscribe to that way of thinking … This is a celebration.”
phenomenon – noun (pl. phenomenona |-nə| ): A remarkable thing, person or event.
Electric Daisy Carnival, the phenomenon.