The country's biggest dance party

Just in time for the June gloom to lift and the weather to turn hot, the country's biggest dance party returns to steam up the night life scene. The 13th annual Electric Daisy Carnival is back at the L.A. Coliseum, this time with an expanded lineup sprawling over two days, June 26 and 27, filling the massive venue with dance music, art installations, carnival rides and live performances, all happening simultaneously on six themed stages.

Riding high from last year's turnout of close to 65,000 sweaty dancers, the people at Insomniac Productions have bet big that dance will triumph over recession, pulling in a huge list of DJs including dance titans Paul Van Dyk, David Guetta, Paul Oakenfold, Benny Benassi, Fedde Le Grand and the Crystal Method as well as a host of iconic Jungle/Drum and Bass DJs like Dieselboy, DJ Hype and LTJ Bukem. Saturday's main-stage headliner, Fatboy Slim, dropped out due to "family obligations," but Groove Armada agreed to step up in his place. Thievery Corporation, Pretty Lights and Lawgiverz were last-minute additions to Friday's lineup.

EDC is also bringing in several acts associated the recent wave of rock-, punk- and indie-infused dance music, such as Shiny Toy Guns, Boys Noize, Simian Mobile Disco and Le Castle Vania. There's even something for psytrance fans: Infected Mushroom is set to play the Circuit Grounds stage on Saturday night.

Pasquale Rotella, head of Insomniac, feels that this eclectic mix of acts will draw in a wide range of music lovers: "Electronic music has changed so much over the past three years, and so have our crowds. Now it's simply about good music, not so much about specific genres."

Over the past several years, Rotella has worked to change the EDC image, moving away from associations with "raves" (a longtime dirty word for most dance music promoters) to a bona fide music festival, loosely based on a Coachella model. Says Rotella, "While we definitely have our own identity, there are parts of Coachella that we strive to emulate. [For EDC], the music is the cornerstone, but we are trying to create a unique environment. The carnival rides, art, roaming performers … it's all to make a memorable experience."

With that concept in mind, Insomniac has, once again, spent a considerable portion of the EDC budget on eye candy, such as large-scale art installations and live performers. For example, San Francisco's False Profits Labs is bringing down their interactive fire sculpture, "Pyro Cardium," and 3wayslabs is installing the Cubatron, a three dimensional lighting display consisting of 4000 illuminating and color-changing ping pong balls. To add more carny to the carnival, there will be dozens of circus performers, acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, belly dancers and techno tribal go-go dancers on each of the stages, and trolling the crowds.

Although the past three years have been a bull market for EDC, there's no guarantee it'll get the numbers to support this year's expenditure. "We've had our ups and downs," Rotella says. EDC started off in 1997 at the Shrine Auditorium, with some 6,000 in attendance. That quickly grew to 30,000-plus as mainstream interest in electronic music boomed in the late 1990s. A bust came in 2001 and 2002, when EDC downscaled to some 12,000.

Popular demand for dance music grew again around 2005, and since moving to the L.A. Coliseum from San Bernardino in 2007, numbers have been big. Rotella has even seeded a festival in Colorado, where he just had a second successful year, and is premiering EDC in Puerto Rico this August, with Underworld as the headliner.

This weekend, some 100,000 people are expected to pass through the Coliseum's turnstiles. Rotella is confident. "Looking at ticket sales, we can safely estimate 30,000 people on Friday, and some 70,000 on Saturday," he says. If Rotella's bet is correct, that would make the Electric Daisy Carnival the largest dance music festival in North America for the second year.