There are few things in life one greets more enthusiastically than their own bed and a hot shower after Electric Daisy Carnival weekend. Pop & Hiss pulled the late shift for all three nights of the festival in Las Vegas this year. We came, we raved, we almost walked 15 miles home at 8 in the morning.
This year in particular, it seemed apparent that the spectacle of EDC and its fans was the real draw over any music in particular.
"Insomniac has actively helped to foster a scenario where the artists are less important than the spectacle itself," said noted electronic music critic Philip Sherburne. " 'Headliners,' in the parlance of the festival, are attendees, not performers. Lineups are announced long after tickets go on sale. At EDC, Ultra, and even Coachella, individual stages are as much a draw as the artists who play them."
If the spectacle is the point, then here are a few bits of amateur advice for the spectacle-designers. This includes promoters Insomniac, the 400,000-plus fans over the weekend, and anyone invested in the future of America's biggest multiday music fest.
Insomniac and Goldenvoice need to have a Nixon-goes-to-China moment, so the former can ask the latter for traffic-management advice. Five years ago, Coachella used to be a terrifying gantlet of two- and three-hour drives just to get out of the festival area; now it's generally smooth sailing as long as you remember where you parked. EDC is, well, not quite there yet.
EDC faces an uphill climb. Unlike the grid of Indio's streets, there's really just one way in and one way out of the the festival's venue, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and most everyone is headed home to the same few miles on the Strip. Insomniac made a promising effort with its shuttle system, but it was too popular for its own good -- lines were thousands deep by the end of the night.
Given the enormity of the crowds, it was kind of a miracle that the traffic system worked at all. And if you gave yourself a big head start, it was pretty easy to get out in a hurry, especially if you were in a taxi routed through a nearby Air Force base. But If Insomniac is in the business of escape, it needs to offer a much quicker one from the Speedway when the dawn comes.
2. Make use of multiple sets
Fans scanning the set time list were pleased to see favorite acts performing multiple sets over the weekend. Carl Cox and Martin Garrix each did double-shifts, to name a few.
Let DJs have fun in this format. Let headliners play to 50,000 in the main field, but book them in a tiny area (maybe under an alias?) to do deeper and more challenging sets to the discerning or super-devoted. Put more underground heroes on the biggest stage possible and let them try to win over EDC's largest audiences. Or pull a Bonnaroo and encourage more acts go back-to-back during the same set, maybe even spontaneously.
More on-site musical surprises could be the shot in the arm that the festival (which is beginning to mistake comprehensiveness for quality) could need to keep music fans -- and not just rave dudes in beast mode -- engaged.
3. Move the amenities
The areas for music at EDC are well-spaced and perfectly organized. They give a romp around the park a real feeling of discovery and journey, with wholly different sounds and aesthetics defining different corners of the festival.
Everything else, though, is kind of randomly scattered around the track's interior. This not only led to big bottlenecks between stages but it also meant that getting a drink or dinner wasn't the respite from all the raving that it should have been. There is a closed food courtyard on the track, but it didn't sell much and was kind of an afterthought. Insomniac should create more devoted, out-of-the-way areas for folks to rehydrate and take a breather.
4. Better cell service
It sounds like such a bougie complaint, and anyone spending more time on Instagram than watching the scene deserves to have zero bars. But at such a busy festival, where so many people are at less than optimal sobriety with no options for getting home easily, this is a case where tech infrastructure needs to catch up with demand. It's surely a challenge to get cell service for 150,000 people a night in the middle of the Nevada desert, but if they can erect a giant pagan owl-church out there, Insomniac and Las Vegas can invest in a new cell tower.
5. Don't announce a lineup.
Here's a wild card. Instead of inviting the inevitable grumbles when Insomniac first announces the lineup and set times, how about this: Don't do it. At this point, fans have total trust in the quality of the production, and they have faith that almost every DJ they like will be performing. EDC sells out months in advance, anyway, so why not let the speculation boil over and let fans first see the lineup when they part the Speedway gates?
Sure, there wll be plenty of artists with mysterious Vegas-area gaps in their tour schedule that week. But I can't think of a better way to charge the trip out there for fans than to not know who you're going to be seeing. Very few concert-promotion brands could pull this off, but Insomniac and EDC have built that reputation, and ironically, this could be one way to make fans excited about the individual artists again.