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Electric Daisy Carnival 2011

Getting to know Pasquale Rotella—the man behind EDC

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Electric Daisy Carnival creator Pasquale Rotella at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Photo: Bill Hughes
Sarah Gianetto

There’s no telling what the future holds. Fifteen years ago, I’m sure I was saying that I would “rave until I died,” or some equally adolescent phrase sparked by my love of the dance music community and its positive vibes.

And yet, here I am, “old” and possibly jaded, GalXyGrl no more. Ever since it was announced that Electric Daisy Carnival would relocate to Las Vegas this year, friends have asked if I’d be going. “Ugh,” I’d reply, adding a snotty, “Only if I’m VIP or something. The last thing I want to do is hang out in a crowd of e-tard kids in the middle of the hot desert.”

Things looked slightly better when the minimum age was raised to 18, but we’re still talking people half my (and the promoter’s) age, and we’re still talking Vegas in late June.

Yet somehow, despite being at the core of the movement and producing its largest events in North America for all these years, Pasquale Rotella has maintained his love and positivity.

I got a chance to meet him at Las Vegas Motor Speedway weeks before his Electric Daisy Carnival began setting up there, and he was gracious enough to give me a tour, paint a picture of the fest and renew my faith in a phenomenon that was once such a huge part of my life.

Driving into the Speedway was awe-inspiring in itself. I had no personal frame of reference for the sheer size of the grounds, nor of an event Rotella has been involved with since probably 1995’s Big Wig Thumper, a far cry from one of today’s festivals.

With each wave of his hand he offered exciting visions of giant carnival rides, Burning Man-style installations, performance artists, fireworks and, oh yeah, DJs and live electronic performances. My eyes grew wider and wider.

And with 175,000 tickets sold by then to people flocking in from all over the world, Rotella explained how the demographic would be different from other EDCs. Point blank: Vegas is not a cheap trip.

Soon I felt like we were in the midst of a therapy session, Rotella coaxing me to attend, confident I’d be able to get back that feeling I had lost. I wondered why he cared. It’s not like I was someone he’d be selling a ticket to ... Then, I got to know a little more about the man behind Insomniac …

Tell me about the first party you threw.

My first event was in a warehouse in South Central LA. It was Halloween weekend, and I was so excited I even carved the word Insomniac into a pumpkin and put a candle in it. It was only 300 people, but it was a damn good party!

Did you know then that you wanted this to be a serious business venture, that you’d be making a living doing this for years to come?

I actually didn’t. I was honestly living in the moment and following what I felt passionate about. It was a really exciting time for me. The event ideas kept coming to me, actually keeping me up at night, and that’s how I came to name my company Insomniac.

When was there a change (if ever) from producing a rave/concert to becoming “experience creators”?

I’ve always had that vision, and was always about being an experience creator, but it took me some time and experience producing events to really identify myself as such. It feels natural.

That said, what has Insomniac become—to you, personally, and to the rest of the world?

Insomniac for me has become an organization that has successfully remained independent in an industry that is increasingly run by merging corporations. Insomniac is a company that strives to produce and create the most unique festival experiences in the world, with untethered creative vision.

Through the ebb and flow of the music industry and the general economy, how do you stay focused and successful?

Passion. I have remained inspired by my vision to continuously outdo myself, and I am committed to that vision.

How has scrutiny brought about by last year’s problematic LA EDC affected you and the way you treat your business?

I am constantly searching for innovative ideas to ensure the safety and enjoyment of the attendees, making sure I am being proactive to the utmost of my ability.

Why haven’t you jumped behind the decks, like most promoters seem to?

I do get behind the decks, in the comfort of my own home. I love to play vinyl, and my record collection consists mostly of the era 1990-1993. And no, I don’t plan on booking myself at any shows.

What are you looking forward to the most with EDC’s move to Las Vegas?

I have been looking at Las Vegas for a long time to host an event. The Speedway presented itself as a great fit for EDC, and the city is a perfect match for a large-scale electronic music festival. Law enforcement is accustomed to successfully handling several mass gatherings throughout the year, such as New Year’s and NASCAR. I hope to have a long relationship with Las Vegas and bring other types of events to the city.

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