Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas: The Best Damn Rave in the World
The Las Vegas desert is scorching for three straight days. It’s an unseasonably warm forecast for June in Vegas. During the day, temperatures eclipse 115F; at night the lows dip into the high 80s. The only respite from the Nevada heat is inside the luxury hotels that line the strip, but 20 miles away at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Electric Daisy Carnival rages on into the early morning.
Pasquale Rotella’s brainchild has been almost 20 years in its evolution: a hulking mass of classic rave culture that has grown to accommodate the ever-increasing fan base of the EDM boom. The early rave experience is alive and well at Electric Daisy Carnival, albeit adapted in a number of ways for a millennial audience. As their competitors shun kandi, totems, and the self expressive dress that have become synonymous with the “EDM” acronym, it is Rotella and the Insomniac team that fully embrace the free-spirited culture and its fans.
The costumes may have changed from UFO pants and pacifiers to pasties and fuzzy boots, but the key tenets of the culture that Insomniac and Electric Daisy Carnival were born in have not. Young ravers cheer with old. Heart hands pepper the crowd. PLUR — for an instant — feels like it actually exists beyond four letters in someone’s Twitter profile.
Out on the blacktop the dust swirls, a cloud of smoldering air and dirt dries out our eyes. Bandanas mask the faces of half-naked rave girls as light bounces off their mirrored sunglasses at 3am. We’re all standing in an oven. Roasting. Dancing. At first the heat is a burden but it quickly becomes an afterthought for the energetic masses. 100,000 ravers partying from dusk til dawn in the wildest carnival on the planet in a city where impulse control is nothing more than a distant thought. Surreal doesn’t do it justice. The heat only adds to the experience, each stage a mass of sweating bodies, buzzing on any collection of highs that Las Vegas has at the ready for the sudden influx of neon clad twenty-somethings.
It’s out here that a new type of hedonism is born. One that is raw and unapologetic — a far cry away from the resident DJs, air-conditioned clubs and bottle service banality of the Strip. The experience is controlled chaos. Lawless. Visceral. Exhilarating. Art cars and a parade travel throughout the grounds, stopping for impromptu performances.
Fans run from one stage to the next, pupils dilated, desperate to catch their favorite artists before being distracted by any number of oddities strewn throughout the Speedway. Pasquale has often said that the experience is more important than the performers, and with each successive year he makes that mantra all the more obvious. After a few hours, the festival becomes less about who is performing and more about the people you’re meeting — an overdose of stimuli so distracting and enchanting that you truly begin to lose yourself in the absurdity of it all.
The Neon Garden stage rises up in the distance, a monolithic purple pyramid from which techno and tech house icons spread their sound like gospel. Next door the Cosmic Meadow serves as one of the festival’s nicest areas: a faux-grass field that greets festival-goers as they descend into the Speedway. The Circuit Grounds dwarf any other festival tent in existence, nearly double the size of Coachella’s Sahara tent with a festival’s worth of lighting and sound lining every steel girder. The Bass Pod feels like Tatooine: a 360 degree pit of the heaviest hitting music that the festival has to offer – a wretched hive of scum, villiany, and Nicolas Cage totems. Ravers of all shapes and sizes kick and stomp to the thunderous booms. Off to the left in the distance EDC’s main stage, Kinetic Field, peers down on the crowd of thousands as fireworks ignite the electric sky.
Sure, there’s a hideous 7UP-branded stage — a surefire sign of the dreaded “selling out” of the electronic music culture, but such eye sores are necessary evils when you consider the scope of Rotella’s vision. In the festival arms race, Insomniac reigns supreme with an arsenal of lasers and pyrotechnics at the ready. Tomorrowland may boast a more impressive main stage, but EDC’s attention to detail extends far beyond one attention-grabbing design. Each stage at Electric Daisy Carnival feels like its very own venue, intricately detailed and designed to overwhelm the senses and distract fans away from staring straight at the DJs. Thanks to a keen appreciation for theatrics, performers roam the grounds, engaging and exciting the “headliners” that have become so critical to the EDC brand and its dedicated community.
Make no mistake, Electric Daisy Carnival is not for the feint of heart and, as the sun peaks over the horizon on EDC’s final night with a persistent beat soundtracking its march up the skyline, it becomes abundantly clear that EDC Las Vegas isn’t just another “festival.”
It’s the best damn rave in the god damn world.
Photo Credit: Andrew Noh