As long as there has been electronic dance music, there has been at least one dumb complaint about it — that all the music sounds the same.
That's a tedious line, one usually said by rock snobs who proudly admit they don't listen to the stuff. But this year, they have a point — as least as far as dance music festivals go in Southern California and Las Vegas. The latter is the home of this weekend's
Looking at this year's sold-out EDC bill, it's clear there has never been a better time to be a dance music fan in America, and Southern California in particular. But that embarrassment of riches has had a curious effect on the year's marquee dance event.
EDC's comprehensive collection of 2013 dance music acts is oddly lacking in drop-everything-and-get-to-Vegas-now sets.
The problem isn't that the top-tier artists headlining and supporting at this weekend's Electric Daisy Carnival all sound similar to each other. They in fact represent a wide range: pop-friendly stadium titans such as
The issue is that we've seen most of these acts recently — or are about to see them again very soon.
As headliners go, Tiesto headlined Staples in March, Avicii played Vanguard (now Create, another Insomniac-booked club) in February after a three-night Santa Monica stand in September, and
The undercard? Arty, Madeon and Rebecca & Fiona played Insomniac's own Exchange LA earlier this year; Eric Prydz, Jamie Jones and
There are a few left-field surprises, like Chicago house vet
One reason Electric Daisy is in this tough spot is that over the last few years, concert promoters have been in an electronic dance music arms race. New venues seem to open every few months; major firms like
This is more of a sign of a healthy L.A. night life ecosystem than any malaise in the genre or at Electric Daisy. But it does leave the fest with a weird task. What if being the biggest and the best fest of its scale isn't synonymous with being exciting anymore? What if the saturation of EDM options in L.A. (and Vegas) has done the same thing to dance music that the Internet has done to pop culture in general: make everything too available all at once, all the time, to everyone?
At last year's EDMBiz, a dance-music conference a few days before Electric Daisy, Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella suggested that he's losing interest in mega-bills of superstars, and wants to plow more of that money into the dizzying lights and installation art at Electric Daisy. Coachella took a similar tactic this year, dialing back on arena-fillers but revamping the Sahara Tent and introducing a new, incredibly popular Yuma tent for underground acts.
EDC will need it, and maybe soon. Dance fests have a tougher time booking holy-cow sets than rock and generalist fests do (it's hard to break up a band and reunite years later at Coachella when the "band" is just you behind turntables). The preponderance of venues and fests in L.A. means you'll see potential new superstars come through town more often than your family, thus losing their novelty.
Electronic dance music won't be at the vanguard of U.S. pop culture forever. The decisions promoters make now about how to present new stars in must-see ways will determine if the genre will be a perpetually relevant part of American night life, or a shorthand for that crazy Obama-era time when kids wore rimless sunglasses and neon bikinis to a racetrack rave in Las Vegas.
Now that we're several years into an American EDM boom, it's high time to ask the same questions that Europe did 20 years ago when it was facing the same issues. Any