Around 3:15 Saturday morning at Electric Daisy Carnival, Armin Van Buuren played a trance remix of "Let It Go," the triumphal hit from the Disney movie "Frozen." It was an evil genius move: the song's rafter-clearing melody and pleas to cut loose turned out to be perfect for an EDM treatment.
Totally hokey? For sure. But cynicism was in very short supply on the first night of EDC.
This year's fest, which is expected to draw more than 400,000 attendees to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway over the weekend, continues its past trends of packing the bill with almost every currently established dance music star, while throwing just enough bones to the underground to keep them interested.
Friday's early-shift lineup promised sets from L.A. beat-scene heroes Glitch Mob, teen prodgy Martin Garrix, party-hearty producer Diplo and the Dutch electro-house supertstar Hardwell, among scores of others.
But the real attractions, as fans and Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella know, are the crowds and the environment. Every year brings new speculation that EDM is a bubble that has to burst, and every new Electric Daisy proves that wrong. The pagan-church light show of the Kinetic Field was breathtaking, and the tent stages were well-spaced and coherently booked to allow for a real journey around the grounds.
Van Buuren recently played an all-night arena set at the Forum, and while his EDC headline slot was necessarily truncated, he made up for it with concise, harder-hitting edits. He's riding the current retro-wave of interest in '90s dance stars and looks to be rising to the challenge of appealing to pop-EDM tastes while staying true to his trance-circuit following.
Steve Aoki tossed at least two cakes into the crowd amid a posse of spring-shoed dancers turning flips beside him. Aoki spent most of his set scuttling around the stage and climbing on his laptop stand. He might do the least amount of actual mixing of anyone playing EDC, but he's certainly among the most fun to watch, and that counts for something in a computer-chained genre.
Over in the Neon Garden, two underground old-guards were just testy enough to be enticing to a young crowd out for new sonic fixes. Carl Cox is as O.G. as current house DJ's go, and his set was a veteran's mix of powerful drums and smeary, ambient synth chords that felt danceable and subversive at once.
His immediate follow-up, Drumcode Records founder Adam Beyer, sped up the tempos a bit while splicing in more jagged, noisy arrangements. The effect was more urgent and just enough to carry the deep-house heads into dawn.
The rising L.A. duo Bixel Boys welcomed the sun with a pop-savvy set (working echo-soaked bits of Rihanna into otherwise straightforward modern electro-house cuts), and probably have much bigger stages and more prime set times at EDCs in their future.
But the traffic to exit in the morning was absolutely apocalyptic. No amount of raved-out Disney pleas to let it go could quell the withering sight of a two-plus-hour taxi line at 6 a.m.
A reporter, perhaps making a rash decision that he would not necessarily recommend to EDC youngsters, hitchhiked with some extremely kind and generous strangers for the 15 miles back to the Las Vegas Strip. It's hard to imagine many other festivals where a passing car would scoop up a dirty, bearded reporter off the side of the road. But for all its overwhelming scale and frustrations, it was the kind of gesture one only gets at a show like EDC.
Wherever you are Saturday morning, Justin and Maddi of TheDjList.com, you are why people get into this scene and stay there. This reporter, however, is staying in bed for a little while.
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