Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]

I just got back from a ridiculous weekend of great music, good friends and light savage hedonism. Of course I am referring to the west coast’s premiere dance music festival, Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas. When I stop and reflect on an experience such as this before writing a lengthy review, I always want to find some sort of theme of the weekend. Something I can write about so my review isn’t just a line by line article about which artist I saw and what they played. This time that theme hit me more slowly than swiftly but in pensive review of the weekend I was able to see a few absolutely incredible things about EDC Las Vegas that go far beyond the excellent music.

I left Lubbock, Texas at 2am Thursday, to undergo a supposedly 13 hour drive to Sin City. There, I was to meet up with three friends from high school, two of which are now dating, one of their friends from college who I had met the previous year at Ultra and one of their brothers. It was a mishmash of a crew but one that I can honestly say I was excited to be a part of for my first EDC. The drive took closer to 26 hours because I decided to stop in Sedona, AZ for some hiking and nearly lost my mind at a Denny’s on the border of AZ and NV at 2am. That is a story for another time though. So when I finally did get to the Luxor around 3am on Friday, I forced myself to ignore the aggressive amount of Criss Angel paraphernalia in direct sight, checked in and passed out in my room immediately. I was woken up around noon the next day by Marissa, the friend from college and Ultra I mentioned above, who was calling me from the airport. So I woke up, came to terms with the amount of Criss Angel I was about to see on the other side of my hotel room door and headed over to the airport to pick both Marissa and Peter up.

We then headed over to Caesars Palace for will call and media check in and this is when things started to become real. EDCLV was an event I had dreamed about attending for almost a decade. It was finally happening, I was so out of my comfort zone in a city that I had never been in, that’s main attraction was getting insanely intoxicated and gambling, both of which I choose no longer to indulge in. I shook that brief moment of fear out of my head and after we all got our passes we headed over to the SLS to meet up with the rest of our friends; Rachel my friend from high school who is also Peter’s girlfriend, her brother Brandon and Leah my other friend from our PA based high school. It was surreal to all be together again. The beauty of hindsight has allowed me to see that in that moment, in the small hotel room with all of these people, I was starting to learn a really valuable lesson about what EDC had to offer. So much more than music, but human connection in so many beautiful forms. More on that later though, there is some badass music that needs to be talked about.

FRIDAY

Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]

The night started out with total excitement followed by two hours of traffic. Eventually we made our way out to the raceway and got into the festival just in time for The Magician. Half of us drove, while half of us took the shuttle and shockingly we were able to meet up with almost total ease. Seeing the first glance of the main stage was mind blowing. Themed like an Egyptian temple, complete with not especially Egyptian lasers, fountains, and fire. It was awe inspiring, even if Diplo wants to disagree, I generally disagree with his idea that the blackberry is a good phone, so he can fuck right off. Anyway back to the task at hand. The Magician played a wonderfully deep set complete with his mega hit ‘Sunlight’. He finished out with a melodic trap song which kind of threw me for a loop but overall it was an awesome way to get the night started.

We headed over to the Neon Garden and caught Dusky to give us a proper warm up to Eric Prydz who we all were insanely excited for. Dusky delivered in a huge way with progressively deeper cuts finishing off the set with some real intensity. It was the perfect lead into what was coming next. We made our way over to the Circuit Grounds. A mega structure of sorts that was a full 360 degree experience, with LED screens, fire, lasers and all encompassing speakers. Eric started off with a bang of progressive hits before taking it down into a solid 30 minutes of Cirez D. Things got down right aggressive as the bass kicked harder and harder. The legend finished off his set by transferring the vibe into trance before ending with a downright euphoric ID that is quickly becoming known in the community as Opus 2. The ending track matched the virtuoso’s legendary masterpiece Opus with energy and emotion, and as we were all taken to heaven in that moment, fireworks erupted into the sky for a 20 minute jaw dropping display. It was the first of those special moments during the weekend where we all looked on in awe, nearly brought to tears as the experience of being together under a fire filled sky to such beautiful music hit home. Kaskade was up next though and it was time to readjust our emotions for a dynamic set from dance music’s golden boy.

Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]
Eric Prydz at Circuit Grounds; Credit: AJR

Kaskade came out deep. In the musical sense just as much as the emotional one. My friends had decided to take a break for now so I experienced the first half of Ryan’s set alone. Soon his set evolved into an intensity driven big room extravaganza. Playing the vocals to his numerous hits, he would mix them into tracks with unforgiving electro drops. The energy was palpable and the entire display reminded me why after two decades at the forefront of the scene Kaskade is still synonymous with top quality dance music. As he played his signature ‘Atmosphere’ we all sang along. I watched my group of friends and started to think about how special what was happening among us was. Old friends mixing with new…all to a soundtrack of perfection. Kaskade finished up and our last set for the night was Duke Dumont, the man who made tropical house explode. Duke opened with ‘I NEED U 100%’ and quickly laid down a set of deep, rhythmic jams. I was exhausted from the physical and emotional toll the night had taken but I had no choice but to move. He closed out with ‘Ocean Drive’ into ‘I GOT U’ to which the crowd, including myself, responded with complete passion. As I screamed the lyrics incredibly off key, I was undeniably happy and free, as in that moment nothing else mattered but the music. We eventually made our way back to the car and down the strip to finally pass out at the hotel, ready for the long days and nights ahead.

SATURDAY

Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]

I would like to say that Saturday started off with a bang. It was more of a whimper as I awoke sore after a night filled with more physical activity than I had been a part of in months. I eventually shook off those feelings with the help of some Advil and started my day. As my friends went to Eric Prydz’s pool party, I headed over to Caesar’s Palace to sit down with Botnek during happy hour and have some civilized conversation. The details of that are in another article which you can check out in a few days. After that it was almost game time to get back to EDC. So I met up with everyone, got ready and we started off on the torturous drive out to the raceway. Leah and I talked about high school on the way out. We played old Black Eyed Peas songs and remembered different parties we threw sophomore year of high school when things were a little more simple. It was cool to remember being young, naive and stupid, but also just as interesting to see where our lives had gone since then. Whether that was another rehab to try to overcome a problem that has been plaguing me for years, or it was a move across the country and the transition to a real career that she was experiencing. Regardless of the direction our personal lives had taken we were back together in that moment heading out to experience the festival together.

The night started off with a powerful set by Lane 8 tearing down the Neon Garden. While I was more familiar with Lane 8’s more airy mixtapes and melody driven releases, this set was dark and aggressive. It was an awesome way to start off the night. We then headed over to Deorro. It was the first time I had seen the legend himself work a crowd and it was a site to behold. Deorro played an incredibly varied set ranging from bouncy, trance, electro, progressive and all with a latin flare. Transitioning between hard bounce tracks and some of his latin fueled releases made the set dynamic and original. It was high energy and an awesome experience to be apart of. Once Deorro ended we all met up at the Smirnoff Guest House for what in my opinion was the best set of the weekend. It was Lane 8 round two.

Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]
Leah, Myself, Marissa, Peter and Rachel

In the small 100 person capacity Guest House Lane 8 played out a set that was as deep as it was funky. A definite tone shift from the set he laid down only two hours earlier. In this intimate setting time seemed to slip away as Lane 8 took us on a sonic journey. It was a weird blend of music and atmosphere as the Guest House was set to look like a frat house of sorts. That being said instead of crappy tropical house remixes gracing most of America’s fraternities, deep bouncing jams flew out the speakers and got people moving. A few ‘damn daniel’ chants started as Lane 8 continued to transition into more of a tech house vibe before bringing home the 90 minute set with a euphoric house ending. It was the perfect way to prepare for Above & Beyond who was going on only a few minutes after Lane 8’s set finished up.

We moved over to the Circuit Grounds to get a good place for the start of A&B. If you have followed my writing at all to this point you know me and the trio of brits who make up dance music most emotionally in touch group have a special relationship. Even if that relationship is one sided and they in fact have no idea who I am, it is special none the less. Above & Beyond put on an absolutely brilliant performance playing out scores of originals and unreleased tracks including one ID by Ilan Bluestone and Maor Levi which shook my feels at the foundation. After their classic, ‘A Thing Called Love’, they gave a special tribute to the LGBT club in Orlando, Pulse, that was the scene of a mass shooting only a week prior. It was a beautiful moment in the night that reminded all of us that we are one big family under the electric sky. It was during Ilan Bluestone’s remix of ‘Satellite’ that I had a moment of contemplation. I saw a brother and sister together, a boyfriend and girlfriend in a long distance relationship together, old friends and new friends all in one big group. It was the realization that human connection can take so many different forms. Some are chosen, while some we have no choice in the matter but in the end of the day these connections occur. It was what was so special about the entire weekend. Getting to witness how we interact and form bonds that distance and time cannot break. All it takes is one beautiful celebration of the music that we love to bring us all together.

Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]
Above & Beyond giving tribute to Pulse, Orlando

We headed over to Neon Garden to catch a bit of Dirty Bird veteran Shiba San throwing down a tech house set that was the perfect way to come down to earth a little but after the emotionally driven set by A&B. Though just after a few minutes we decided to head over to Dash Berlin to spend the sunrise still deep in our emotions. Dash opened up the mainstage with a bomb that was interrupted by a brief technical difficulty. Once things were back up and running though, he continued to control the crowd as he remixed many classic songs. That being said the set was a bit remix heavy, it provided a lot of great sing along moments but it was a touch disappointing that he did not use his sunrise slot to really bring his signature brand of emotionally charged trance. We eventually made our way back to the car and headed back to the SLS and Luxor respectively to pass out and prepare for the final day.

Sunday + Monday

Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]

We woke up to the final day a little more rested than we did the previous days. We had really nothing going on during the day so we took full advantage and slept in. Leah had to miss out on the last night so we said our good byes and she headed out to the airport to get back to reality. It was a stark realization that our weekend was in its closing act. We decided to go get some sushi as a group before heading out to the last night. Again this was one of those moments during the weekend where I was able to reflect on exactly how interesting relationships can be. At this point in my life I was back in recovery once again after a rough slip this past year, and still finishing school as I do my duties in the dance music industry; Leah, Rachel and Peter were transitioning from school to the job market and the many changes that come with; Brandon was planning a wedding; Marissa was preparing to enter nursing school. It was funny, so many different things going on outside of that weekend but all because of EDC we all only had one thing going on and that was celebrating our friendships through music.

We all piled up in my car and made the journey, which took shockingly fast. I guess it took the police two days to master the traffic route but bravo to them because the last night’s trip out only took a fraction of time compared to the others. We decided to split up almost immediately as everyone wanted to ride the rides for a little bit and explore but I wanted to take the ride of Astrix B2B Ace Ventura. Which thank god I did. Astrix was one of the first dance music artists I had ever heard. I believe my brother played him as a joke one day in the car as it was so obnoxiously intense, still that memory stuck with me and I knew I had to see some of that psytrance goodness live. The set was absolutely stellar. So intense, so well formed and the vibes of the crowd were perfect. After the B2B finished up, I went and met up with another long distance friend, also named Rachel.

I had met Rachel two summers ago when we both survived The Hudson Project together. It was funny to think I had only met this girl once as I felt like we had become incredibly close. I guess it was another moment to see how it’s interesting what can come from a friendship that was built at a festival. She only had a few minutes before she had to go back to work at the water station so we caught the beginning of What So Not while we caught up about what had been going on recently in our lives. A few moments to spare, I headed over to Tiesto and some how managed to find my group of friends in the immense Kinetic Field. My expectations were low as I have seen Tiesto perform almost 20 times over the last 7 years and each time had gone slightly worse than the previous. This time was different though. Tijs pulled out all the stops, including playing a few classics, having John Legend come and perform live, as well as remixing several popular tracks. The only downside were the last ten minutes of his set, which for some unknown reason he played a steady stream of trap. I get it, he wants to bring in a diverse audience but it was terrible. So I left early and headed over to the small side stage sponsored by 7-UP for one of my all time favorites Hotel Garuda.

Even though the first 15 minutes of their set was obscured by the intense firework display above Hotel Garuda brought the truth. The innovative duo played out tracks ranging from Congo Rock’s ‘Babylon’ to A-Trak’s remix of ‘Heads Will Roll’. It was a fun, feel good, high energy groovy set. It was the first time I had seen to guys play live and it was everything I had imagined. Easily one of the best sets of the weekend. We then all joined up to go see GAIA for what we intended to be the last set of the weekend as we were fading fast and had a long day of travel just on the horizon. GAIA played out all of the high energy 138 trance that our hearts could desire. They masked yet known duo started with a few choice tracks from Eric Prydz and brought an insane amount of energy complete with enough lasers and gothic imagery to melt your brain. We cut out a bit early to catch a little bit of Adam Beyer to wind down before heading back to the car. It was a bittersweet ride home, as it felt amazing to finally get a chance to relax, but we knew that we would not be returning for at least an entire year.

We all slept for a few hours before meeting back up only to really say goodbye. It was quick and sweet because it didn’t need to be emotional after what we had experienced together. That is one of the most beautiful things about experiencing a festival such as EDC with friends. You do not need to see each other each weekend to keep the relationships alive, not when you have memories like we have. So whether it was family, romance, high school, college or just chance that brought us together, we left with a new deeper bond and a few thousand beautiful memories of what it means to be together under the electric sky. EDC was an incredible experience, but it would not have been even a fraction as special if it weren’t for the people I got to experience it with. So whether you go to a festival with friends or entirely solo, make sure you cherish the relationships that you have or that you will make because once the music stops and the stages get broken down, you will still have those beautiful human connections that were all forged with the common bond of awe inspiring experiences.

Best Sets of the Weekend:
1. Lane 8 (Guest House Set)
2. Eric Prydz
3. Hotel Garuda
4. Astrix B2B Ace Ventura
5. Kaskade

Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]
Peter and Rachel
Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]
Marissa enjoying the view of Dash from my shoulders
Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]
Rachel and Brandon
Human Connection Under the Electric Sky: EDC Las Vegas 2016 [Review]
Rachel, Leah and Marissa as the Sun comes up over Kinetic Field

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