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 lightshows 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 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.