The Body Electric

A relocated Electric Daisy Carnival will unite 300,000 music fans in Las Vegas

The music. The lights. The experience. Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC, to those in the know) could be our generation’s Woodstock, with fans of all walks of life not only coming together to celebrate the music, but practice the electronic dance culture’s creed of Peace, Love, Unity and Respect (PLUR). Now in its 15th year, Insomniac Events’ EDC is coming to Vegas.

If you’ve never checked out an electronic dance music festival, June 24-26 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the time to abandon any preconceived notions. The event began with 5,000 people in 1997 and topped out at more than 200,000 people in two days last year at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Exposition Park.

For the record, despite perpetuated misconceptions by mainstream media, EDC is not a “rave,” which is a makeshift unlicensed party held at undisclosed locations to avoid attracting the attention of law enforcement. At a rave, there’s usually a lack of proper security and on-site medical services, and promoters generally turn a blind eye to the selling of illegal substances.

EDC was again lumped into the “rave” stereotype after the death of 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez after last year’s event. But the tragedy was actually the first such incident in the festival’s 14-year history, and, unfortunately, serious incidents involving drugs and alcohol are not uncommon at large-scale gatherings such as sporting events and music festivals. As an added precaution, however, Insomniac has raised the minimum age from 16 to 18.

“People who have the idea [that] people come to these events to get high or whatever, I don’t think they’ve been to the events, or they went with people that surrounded themselves with that kind of activity,” says Insomniac Events founder Pasquale Rotella. “The majority are there for the music and the overall experience.”

EDC 2011 in Vegas will bring six stages and more carnival rides, art installations and roaming theatrical performers than in previous years. “The whole event is going to be a lot more innovative and larger than we’ve ever had in the past,” Rotella says. The Speedway “can accommodate more people than we’re getting. We don’t like it being overly crowded; we like space and room for people to roam from one area to the next.”

Sure, you may have already heard major headliners such as Tiësto, David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia spin in Vegas, but the collective EDC is a whole new experience. “The production is on a whole other level. The crowd and excitement is different,” says Rotella, and though the full EDC lineup hadn’t been announced as of press time, he promises talent never before seen in Vegas. “The festival experience is way different, the [DJ] sets are different and the artists feel like they have a bit more freedom.”

That experience is just as incredible for the artists. Axwell, of the trio Swedish House Mafia (SHM), says his most memorable moment from EDC 2010 occurred when they were exiting the performers’ tunnel and entering the arena space “and realizing the sheer scale of the show, seeing all of those people and their faces when the fireworks went off!” SHM member Steve Angello’s favorite moment was when they played their hit “One.”

“This year, when we play ‘Save the World,’ it’s going to be Glastonbury meets Woodstock!” he says. “Festivals are the best place to play big tracks and just feel everyone getting involved. Vegas is great at hosting huge events. It’s a smart move for them.”

But before you raise your eyebrows about the notion of throwing a festival in the desert during the summer, Insomniac’s got that covered, too. “We’re prepared for the environment,” Rotella says. “We’re not starting until sundown, and we’re going all night until 7 in the morning.” There’ll also be free water stations and cool-off lounges. “We have stilt-walkers [dressed as] clouds, and when they walk by, they’ll mist you.”

Rotella says the time was right to move EDC from downtown L.A., thanks to electronic dance music (EDM) becoming more popular in Vegas clubs. And we concur as a noticeable shift from celebrity-driven club billings to EDM talent began first with Paul Oakenfold’s Perfecto at Rain in 2008, and other clubs followed suit with major EDM DJs now holding residencies at almost every major nightclub on the Strip.

“EDC took on a life of its own and when I felt that, I went with it and the organic growth of it,” Rotella says. “When it went to multiple dates, that really pushed it and it became more of a destination. I’ve been looking at Las Vegas for a few years now and wanted to produce an event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.”

This year’s EDC got off to a good start. The first day tickets were available, Insomniac saw the highest ticket sales in its 18 years of producing events, and it expects to hit the 100,000-ticket-per-day maximum by the time EDC kicks off.

“Every time I get an e-mail from someone that says, ‘I met my fiancée at EDC and we’d like to be married there,’ or ‘I’d like to propose onstage,’ I know people are leaving the festival with something that made their life better. That’s always a beautiful thing,” Rotella says.

Another beautiful thing? “When I look out and see all the different kinds of people coming together and dancing in unison.”