If I thought Day 1 was packed, Day 2 took things to a whole new level, making it extremely hard to walk anywhere efficiently (and definitely not without a group constantly linking hands), and making the floor of the main stage a lost cause before I even arrived. I dared to see some trance at the Neon Garden when I first arrived, catching Aly & Fila and a whole bunch of fluorescent-painted individuals who must’ve been the happiest concertgoers I’d seen yet just fist-pumping like it was Jersey Shore West Coast-edition. Next up was will.i.am at the main stage, who stuck out like a sore thumb on the lineup sheet and played a predictably oddball set heavy in funk classics to liven the crowd up as the sun began to set.
Filipino/Dutch DJ Laidback Luke followed will.i.am, and was playing when what was easily the most surreal experience of the festival occurred. The floor had long been closed to any more spectators, but as Luke continued to play unruly concertgoers began to wash over the high fences barricading the stands from the floor, spilling onto the floor and causing absolute havoc among security. The sound was soon cut off, and from my vantage point way up in the stands, the combination of what looked to be a surefire riot, helicopters suddenly swooping low overhead, and the stadium in a frenzy, was terrifying but really, really fucking cool all at once. Then who comes on the mic but Lil Jon, scolding the crowd as only he could for a full five minutes: “If you see a motherfucker climbing that motherfucking fence…pull that motherfucker down!” Check out the video for the very bizarre rant.
Groove Armada at the Circuit Grounds was up next, and what I expected to be a fairly mediocre performance turned out to be one of the most surprising of the evening. Most fans have long considered the English duo to be a bit washed up; their latest, Black Light, just seemed like they were running out of gas. But for a couple hours they went back to their roots, mixing in disco with remixes that included some Major Lazer and Prince. The fact that someone in the crowd had a vuvuzela made things even better. I then went to catch the end of LA Riots set at the Cosmic Meadow, where I would stay up until the last set of the night, largely due to the fact that it was nigh impossible to move anywhere else (a trip to the bathrooms was a 30-minute endeavor).
Californian DJ Wolfgang Gartner came on a little after 10 p.m., and for a DJ who used to be considered a deadmau5 ripoff, Gartner made EDC his own for a little over an hour. His light show was one of the best of the night, and his synth-heavy, twitchy rhythms were in fine form on fan favorites like “Fire Power” and his trademark “5th Symphony.” Many people said EDC would be his coming out party, and considering how many more people were talking about Gartner rather than his good friend deadmau5 days after, I’d have to agree.
Duck Sauce, a collaboration between Armand Van Helden and A-Trak, came on next, playing a fairly straightforward brand of disco house that was aided by the fact that the crowd was totally into it after Gartner’s pump-up set. They also had what was surely the best light show of the night largely thanks to the massive inflatable duck that arose out of the back of their stage midway through the set, which towered over the two in a halo of bright orange light.
Maybe it was the fact that everyone was amped for the closing set of the night, or that everyone was peaking on their drug of choice, or that everyone was just becoming fully aware that EDC was about to end, but everything seemed to come together for the closing set of the night at Circuit Grounds, German DJ/producer Alexander Ridha aka Boys Noize. I had seen him before and was unimpressed, but by the time the opener, a grimy rendition of “Kontact Me,” was done, I knew this would be different. Helped by a vivid light show and a team of dancers, Ridha fed off the crowd, locking in plenty of bangers like “& Down,” “Jeffer” and “Lemonade,” along with classic remixes including his acapella version of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” and N.E.R.D.’s “Hot N Fun.” He always knew just when the beat needed to be dropped, when the crowd needed to relax a bit, and when to push things up a notch. It was a textbook lesson in tension and release, and it was no surprise that the crowd didn’t even move when it was clearly done – Ridha had to come back on stage to thank everyone and tell them to go home.
There’s no telling how big EDC will get after this mammoth weekend, or if the Los Angeles City Council will start doing something about limiting it after the near-riot, but there’s no doubt that it will continue to be the electronic music festival in the western hemisphere. It’s an entirely unique experience, one impossible to replicate in a normal music festival, and one that flies by almost as fast as the beats constantly jackhammering over every stage.