Electric Daisy Carnival, night one: Las Vegas Motor Speedway plays host to America’s biggest rave

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In the above photo, bottom left, where it looks like a burning sunrise, is actually Calvin Harris. No, the stage isn’t engulfed in flames, any more so than the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, playing first-time host to the Electric Daisy Carnival, was even remotely the panic-inducing threat to American society it was built up to be.

There was no chaos from the ravers, except in the pit during Steve Aoki’s aggro-big beat set at 3 a.m., and, yes, inside the scrambled brains of some of the more chemically enhanced members of the 70,000 attendees of night one of the three-night massive electronic music festival. But that level of over-intoxication didn’t seem any more prevalent at EDC than at other festivals of its size.


Previous installments of the annual music festival took place at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum in downtown Los Angeles, but partially as a result of last summer’s death of a 15-year-old girl who had attended the party and the resulting scrutiny, the company that produces the festival, Insomniac Productions, moved the the carnival to Vegas -- specifically, the Motor Speedway. If there’s one city that can handle this crowd, it’s Vegas authorities, who have to deal with adrenaline addicts all day every day; and if there’s a venue to hold the masses, it’s a raceway, which sees car crashes way worse than a few drug addled college kids.

There was a lot of adrenaline during night one, beginning with the stressful, two-hour wait at Gate A in a scene that nearly turned sour when barriers and gates failed to properly organize the masses, and scrums of people -- hundreds of them, frustrated after having to wait nearly two hours to enter -- pushed toward the entrances. Search procedures designed to stop illicit substances from entering the premises served mostly to slow down entry; whiffs of weed smoke provided evidence that the system didn’t capture nearly everything it sought to -- but barring strip searches, how could they?

Once inside, though, the scale became clear: this was a massive undertaking, a larger version of what Insomniac produced in Los Angeles, or the other Carnivals that the company continues to hold in other cities throughout the country, including Dallas and Denver: a rave as county fair, with rides, a funhouse, fireworks, booze and multiple stages for music. You could find hot dogs and hamburgers, lemonade and Bud Light. You halfway expected to see REO Speedwagon on the showbill.

Except that the music was the furthest from classic rock one could be. Rather, it was the hearbeat pound of electronic dance music, and rather than ending near midnight, EDC was just getting started: be it Royksopp’s groovy, downtempo house music; Skream and Benga’s innard-rumbling dubstep; Tiesto’s surprisingly bouncy and unannoying trance-house set; Richie Hawtin’s deep excursions into minimal bass music; or, in the best set of the night, Calvin Harris’s insanely fun and danceable set (see above).

Pop & Hiss is headed back to the Speedway in a few hours to hit night number two, and we’ll provide an overview tomorrow, as well as thoughts on the music presented throughout the weekend.

The good news: according to the Las Vegas Police Department, there were no serious incidents last night.



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-- Randall Roberts