When Mother Nature shut down last summer’s Electric Daisy Carnival, thousands of colorfully dressed electronic dance music fans were understandably blue. Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, best known for his Rihanna collaboration “We Found Love,” was in the middle of one of the most high-profile sets of his career when high winds kicked up Saturday night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Attendees had dropped serious coin on tickets, and some had just arrived—or even worse, were still in line itching to get inside (one, apparently, with a blow-up alien). But pure magic transpired amid all the disarray. I should know—I was working the event.
A group of stilt walkers and I had been hired to strap on giant fiberglass bumblebees with illuminated wire wings, and we hovered above the crowd. A little insane, but definitely sexy—it’s what I call insexy.
On the ground floor of the Speedway’s media center that served as the dressing room and staging area for non-DJ talent, artists such as myself anxiously awaited a verdict. Seven people were killed when wind caused an Indiana State Fair stage to collapse in 2011. Insomniac, the promoter behind EDC, certainly didn’t need a similar tragedy on its hands.
The weather made our jobs more challenging than usual even before the buzz-kill decision to shut down the festival was ultimately handed down. Earlier that evening, a bolt had popped out of one of the borrowed drywall stilts I was wearing, making it difficult to maintain my balance. Equilibrium isn’t normally an issue—even with technical difficulties—but I’m also not always piloting a 15-pound insect in 30 MPH winds.
Needless to say, I was nervous. Fortunately, a performer’s assistant was within earshot. “I was just about to walk the Cyber Angels out when a huge gust blew a whole bunch of garbage cans and signs from behind Stage 2,” Insomniac’s entertainment director and co-creative director Jila told me later, remembering that night. “‘About face!’” she had ordered. And that was that—the flight of the bumblebees was grounded.
Subjecting girls in metal bikinis and mechanized wings to the wind would’ve probably been cruel, but when Insomniac CEO Pasquale Rotella and the fire marshal finally agreed to silence the large stages for the remainder of the night in the interest of public safety, plenty of roving teams of performers were thrilled to fill the entertainment void.
Sound was paramount. Music is what people had come to hear, and they were abruptly deprived of it. “We had sent all the patrons out to the field, away from the stages, so I decided to send out around 300 performers to go and play for them there,” Jila told me. A dozen of those belonged to L.A.-based percussion ensemble Street Drum Corps. The troupe takes a cue from KISS for EDC, accentuating its marching-band uniforms with platform boots and white-face makeup.
In hot pursuit was an even more clown-inspired group brandishing primarily prop instruments, mostly dancers and fellow stilters with significantly less melodic training, led by Denver-based go-go guru, Ms. Easy. I followed on roller skates with my black Martin acoustic guitar, initiating the apropos chant “Save the rave!” in time with Street Drum’s beats—even ambushing a few lucky spectators with my unplugged ode to EDC afterward.
It was a pop-up party to console those frustrated by the elements, and it succeeded. This time around, may the force(s of nature) be with us!