On the Ground at EDC

Adventures of a nightlife reporter at Las Vegas's biggest music festival

Friday, 9:12 p.m. I hear an EDC first timer ask how tight security will be. “Think they’ll search my shoes?” he wonders aloud.

A friend dressed as a sexy ballerina tells me she hasn’t been to a rave in 10 years. I like how EDC attracts curious newbies, loyal veterans and OG ravers who have been off the circuit for a decade.

9:15 p.m. On board the Red Bull double-decker party bus. This transportation is rad and I wouldn’t trade it for a helicopter ride. Everyone is pounding mixed drinks but I’m staying sober, except for this caffeine buzz.

9:37 p.m. Early reports suggest there may be cell range. This would be a game changer.

10:32 p.m. Arrival. Walking through clouds of pot smoke, I guess they weren’t searching shoes after all. Cell networks are jammed. Damnit. Hope this doesn’t present a challenge to my Nicky Romero interview.

I stop for earplugs. $5? I would have paid $10. Talk about knowing one’s customer—Insomniac-branded earplugs come in a convenient (and concealable) pill case.

11:20 p.m. Meeting up with Nicky Romero’s team proves a nightmare with the present state of cell networks.

I’m at the meeting point. Or am I? Nicky’s manager texts, “Are you here?” I say, “Ya man, here at the artists’ compound gate.” 10 minutes later he asks, “Are you still coming?” I say “Been here, ready when you are.” This continues for 11 texts—clearly there are ongoing communication challenges.

11:38 p.m. People fly by on skateboards and golf carts, providing a frustrating juxtaposition to my stagnation.

11:46 p.m. Nicky’s manager finds me and shows me all of my texts and miss calls that just arrived in unison. “No worries,” I assure him. What’s better than waiting around at the correct spot? I wonder to myself. I get to Nicky’s trailer and he’s there with his mom and little brother. Nicky is an awesome and humble dude. Interview goes great and both he and his manager commend my preparedness.

I’m happy but parched.

Saturday, 12:06 a.m. Before leaving the artists’ compound I stop at their bar. There are complimentary “Flower of the Desert” snow cones made with hibiscus-flavored vodka. Ahhh. Two, please.

12:22 a.m. I spot a happy couple of deadmi5e rocking matching Deadmau5 heads.

12:25 a.m. I walk by a huge group of photo-posing pasty-flashing partygoers.

1:00 a.m. Circuit Grounds for Madeon. Because of the Nicky Romero interview, it’s taken me ’til now to see my first DJ, not to mention my first neon Indian and Spirit Hood.

When Madeon plays the Empire of the Sun hit “Alive,” the crowd erupts at the first drop. In true Madeon form, he’s bouncing throughout the entire lateral space of the booth. He blends into his biggest hit to date “The City,” … “we can dance like there’s tomorrow, yeah!” He teases Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Heads Will Roll” for a moment before transitioning in some bass-heavy electro breaks. The LED-clad ceiling slowly descends and ascends, first all together and then in perfect asymmetric unison. It’s amazing, and yet no one seems to be watching.

The smoke machines are a bit aggressive and cloud the view at times, but the music, lights and bass all remain unfazed.

Madeon mixes into a “Block Rockin’ Beats” remix and then “Turn Me Out” which proves very crowd-pleasing. He’s transitioning quickly, playing only brief portions of vocal tracks with extended breaks in between. His typical frenetic pace somehow seems accelerated, like he’s in hyper-drive to accommodate the time constraints of a one hour festival set.

1:24 A.M. I’m looking at a schedule and a tank top-rockin’ dude comes up with his camera light to assist me. I can see fine, but the helpful gesture exemplifies the festival spirit.

Madeon drops Porter Robinson’s “Easy” and the crowd goes hard. Hands clap to a snare intro of Madeon’s 2012 single, “Icarus,” then everyone bounces when the beat drops. There’s a brief vocal break transition into Madeon’s remix of the Deadmau5 smash, “Raise Your Weapon.” Hands all raise revealing ubiquitous beads.

Madeon dives into a mini dubstep sequence that has the floors in tremors. He switches it into his remix of Martin Solveig’s “The Night Out.” It’s an unexpected genre transition that works.

Another Spirit Head dude brushes up against me dripping with sweat, soaking the back of my hand. Gross. Madeon saves the moment with an electro house version of Blur’s classic “Song 2” … “Woo hooooooo!”

1:48 a.m. I see my favorite look of the night so far–a hottie wearing a pink bikini and top under a black mesh dress. Sexy and covered, a tasteful touch.

New fashion trend this year: Beaded Bain masks and beaded handkerchiefs. Also seeing tons of the “Keep Calm and (fill in the blank),” “Get Wasted,” “Get Fucked Up” and “Carry On.”

Madeon drops his viral track “Pop Culture” (19,000,000 YouTube views) and layers on some indie dance vocals—”I choose youuuu like its already been done”—Heavy Cross by Gossip, then moves into a melodic flavor of dubstep.

He ends with a triple-layered live-mashup revisit of “The City” alongside his versions of “The Night Out,” and “Raise Your Weapon.” The three-in-one mix is impressive. Young Madeon has legit production, mean DJ skills and a multi-genre style that should keep him relevant for many EDCs to come.

2:08 a.m. This Insomniac app is great, except that it relies on unreliable reception and thus never loads.

2:24 a.m. Almost at Kinetic Field main stage when I stumble across a hilarious women-only porta-potty section that requires a megaphone to keep the men away.

OK, there’s a men’s-only section as well.

I arrive amid a mini firework display and Knife Party takes the stage at the Kinetic Field main stage. They’re perched beneath a giant head-bobbing eye-blinking mechanical owl. I count 13 massive LED towers. I make my way backstage and find a wonderful air conditioned VIP bathroom—ahhhhmazing.

2:54 a.m. I make my way across the Speedway and nearly trip over expansive groups of toasted men and women laying flat on the concrete.

I walk by the Skoal Tobacco Innovation Zone—didn’t notice how they were innovating. It’s adjacent to the Marlboro Black Lounge where $1 and contact info gets you a pack of cigs and a pack of swag.

I cruise through the Cosmic Meadow just as Bloody Beetroots are wrapping. It smells (and looks) like freshly trampled grass.

3:48 a.m. Departing on the Red Bull bus in heavy traffic. Wouldn’t mind that helicopter right about now.

My coworker Kyle comes to the front of the bus and asks the driver if he can hop off to find a couple straggling friends. Driver obliges and replies, “Go ahead, we could be stopped here for hours.” Kyle leaves, then six minutes later we’re moving at full speed with no sign of Kyle and company. Talk about poor time-estimating skills. Oh well—got a delirious call from Kyle this morning and he made it home eventually.

Check out our complete Electric Daisy Carnival Guide here.

Share your EDC adventures in the comments section.

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