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Electric Daisy Carnival 2014

EDC Night 1: The good, the weird and the ugly

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Attendees dance during the first night of the Electric Daisy Carnival Saturday, June 21, 2014 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Photo: Sam Morris

THE GOOD

The EDC main stage—aka the Kinetic Field—was, according to Insomniac Events, bigger (440 feet across and 80 feet tall) than last year’s record-breaking edifice, and it was blessfully more imaginative. Two huge owls sat on either side of a giant altar/pipe organ where the DJs performed, surrounded by pillars and screens made to resemble church windows and adorned with religious and mythological images. Not for nothing did one Insomniac character actor redub the area “the Kinetic Cathedral.” It still fell short of the music festival stage design standard bearers—Tomorrowland in Belgium and its American offshoot, TomorrowWorld—but it showed both evolution and competitive drive by a festival that has no room to rest on its laurels.

2014 EDC: Night One

If last night was any indication, EDC 2014 will be the nakedest of them all. Friday’s bare-assed showing might have eclipsed all three nights of the 2013 edition—which is saying something—furthered by the men also donning thongs. The growing comfort level and loosening of physical inhibition may make the prudes gag, but it’s refreshing to see adults free to be adults, and it puts the Vegas stamp on the festival.

Taking a cue from Coachella, Insomniac brought on Global Inheritance to compel revelers to trade in used bottles and cans for various merchandise, including cold water, refillable bottles, EDC shirts, video games and—for 350 pieces of recyclable goods—VIP upgrades. It's a shame the booth was in a far corner of the festival layout, but it’s a step in the right direction—especially given the sad state of EDC cleanliness this year (see “The Ugly” below).

THE WEIRD

On the flipside of the EDC skin parade: Are people just getting lazy in the costume department? You may look cute in your daisy bikini or Chippendales-esque bowtie 'n' suspenders getups, but now you’ve got hundreds of doppelgangers also roaming the Speedway.

There’s always a hard-to-place vibe on the first night of EDC, its early entrants either still fatigued from the trip into the valley or just getting its party engines revved up. But aside from EDM Nation’s consistently energetic showing at the Kinetic Field for the big-gun DJs, and the enormous throng enraptured by Diplo’s Cosmic Meadow set, unified energy elsewhere often lagged. And with vomit puddles surfacing as early as 8 p.m., one had to wonder if Friday night represented the amateur hour of EDC.

Friday’s programming lacked few indications that electronic dance music—and Insomniac, for that matter—is moving beyond the fads and templates of EDM, and moving toward something more current and creative. And while we heard some pleasing “deep” music coming from the reliably well-curated Neon Garden stage, we’d be remiss not to admit that underground house could use an infusion of innovation and script-tossing as well. Anyone wanting to know where the genre as a whole was heading should have gone to Ultra Music Festival in Miami.

Um, did any one else have difficulty getting Snapchat’s supposed free wifi to work at the Speedway—or am I too old to even be operating the social networking app? After attempting numerous routes to connect myself to other Snapchat users, my boyfriend and the outside world, I only succeeded in running down my phone battery. What a letdown, especially since regular cell coverage is largely non-existent.

Canadians and Coloradans sure do love being Canadians and Coloradans. California license plates might have been ubiquitous during the drive in, but you couldn't turn a corner at the Speedway without seeing a crimson maple leaf or capital "C" (see more on flag capes below).

Overheard at the Kinetic Field medic tent: "He only took some 'shrooms, but there was a cap in it. He's been vomiting violently ever since."

THE UGLY

A 24-year-old man from California died after attending Night 1 of the festival. Early reports suggest that Montgomery Tsang collapsed in the parking lot while leaving the Speedway. Insomniac released a statement in regards to the death, saying, "We are deeply saddened by this news, and hope that everyone will join us in keeping his family and friends in their thoughts during this very difficult time. Dance music fans pride themselves in being part of a loving community and, as we get ready to start the second night of the show, we ask everyone to help us keep this event safe."

EDC 2014, you're already a pigsty. With trash nearly everywhere, garbage cans overflowing, water leaking from the free refill stations (and elsewhere) and thoroughly disgusting porta-potty conditions, was this festival being maintained at all?

There's no doubt about it: Traffic on the way to the Speedway this year is the worst it has ever been. Conditions were improved last year, but Las Vegas Boulevard has returned to being the parking lot it was during the first two Las Vegas installments of EDC. Be prepared for a two-hour, bumper-to-bumper crawl on the way in and at least an hour-long drag to the exit on the way out (likely two to three times longer if you leave after the sun comes up).

THE NEW

At the Kinetic Field, Insomniac used production numbers—typically with costumed dancers (both genders included), character actors, fireworks and all the usual megaclub tricks—to segue between DJs, and while attendees may suffer pyro fatigue by Sunday, each vignette maintained reveler engagement and seemed masterfully executed.

Insomniac also increased the amount of: art installations, from larger playgrounds and escapist respite areas to smaller neon and steel sculptures, to add a bit of vibrancy; Burning Man-inspired art cars, giving festivalgoers some additional musical choices (even if the genres may have been represented at bigger stages); and food trucks, which meant 100,000-plus people were no longer resigned to pizza, burgers and chicken fingers.

Favorite new attendee accessory: flag capes, no doubt inspired by the World Cup.

Worst new attendee accessory: the totem, now encouraged (if regulated) by Insomniac. If you didn’t have to move around the crowd to avoid your view being blocked by someone’s selfish hoisted posterboard cutout of Kim Kardashian or [enter viral meme image here], you might have either not been paying attention to the DJ or just frequenting sparsely populated stages.

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