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Electric Daisy Carnival Brings Over-the-Top Beats to Las Vegas

EDM mega-fest delivers three days of spectacle despite windstorms

David Guetta performs during the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas.
Steven Lawton/FilmMagic
June 11, 2012 6:05 PM ET

Electric Daisy Carnival, Insomniac Events' three-day dusk-til-dawn dance music festival, touched down at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the second year in a row this weekend. A staple of the Los Angeles rave scene for years, the event now adopts Sin City's spirit of excess to deliver an all-out sensory overload. The over 1,000-acre Speedway was transformed into an over-the-top adult carnival: seven stages, carnival rides, interactive art pieces, roving performance artists and 100,000-plus fans costumed in brightly-colored rave gear. At the center of it all was an arms race of sorts among the acts performing on EDC's main stage, dubbed kineticFIELD: who could deliver the most floor-rattling bass, the flashiest graphics and, of course, the most explosive drops? The DJs themselves were dwarfed by the magnitude of the stage – walls of elaborate animation and flashing lights, not to mention frequent bursts of fire and pyrotechnics, were the visual focus.

Insomniac CEO and founder Pasquale Rotella considers himself an "experience creator" rather than a concert promoter. As far as EDC is concerned, he's right: over the course of the weekend, the festival space became a sort of city unto itself and the nights began to feel endless as fans moved among stages and attractions, with only the first hint of daylight hitting the mountains able to bring people down from their highs (be they natural or chemical). The "P.L.U.R." (Peace Love Unity Respect) sentiment of Nineties raves may have died out years ago, but a sense of community and shared excitement was palpable throughout the festival. Fans seemed to know that they were part of something not just fun but important, a massive party in the middle of the desert that marked dance music's true arrival as a mainstream force in the U.S.

Rotella is a stickler who controls his shows down to the last detail – he had a hand in choosing the furniture for the bottle service area, for example – but this year, he was shown up by Mother Nature. On Saturday night, high-speed wind storms forced the main stage, and ultimately the whole festival, to shut down. Performances never resumed that night, but Insomniac did its best to make up for the unusual disruption the on Sunday. (Single-day tickets for Saturday were also honored that night. Below, our day-by-day breakdown of the festival.

Day 1

The first night of EDC got off to a bit of a slow start, as standstill traffic delayed many fans and even a few artists – trance DJ Mat Zo missed his 11:30 PM set entirely. Energy levels rose noticeably when Dutch DJ Afrojack took to the main stage, bringing with him a barrage of bass and space-age synths. He yelled to – or, perhaps more accurately, at – the crowd often. ("Are you motherfuckers ready?" was a common refrain.) Kaskade followed, seamlessly blending his own productions' soulful vocals with edgier beats from other producers. He offered a sharp contrast to Afrojack, as well as nearly every other DJ at EDC. "I will never ask you to 'make some fuckin' noise,'" he told fans. "Let the music speak!"

Other noteworthy sets from the first night included Above and Beyond's stunning trance sounds, Thomas Gold's eclectic mash-ups and an early-morning fix from closers Adventure Club.

Day 2

Fans were ready to go when the gates opened at 7 p.m., having learned their lesson with Friday's traffic. By the time electro producer Angger Dimas hit the decks at the neonGARDEN stage at 7:25, it was a full-fledged party. Over on the main stage, energetic sets from Sander van Doorn and Nicky Romero served as the perfect warm-up for Martin Solveig. The French DJ's excitement was absolutely contagious, and he fired up the crowd with his own hits and numerous curveballs. Solveig slowed things down with Kanye West and Jay-Z's "N***as in Paris" and "Who Gon' Stop Me," then segued perfectly into Flux Pavilion's "I Can't Stop," the song sampled on the latter rap track. It was an inspired trick that thrilled the crowd. He finished off his set with a powerful one-two punch: a 55,000-strong sing-a-long to fun.'s "We Are Young," and his own hit "Hello."

Dubstep producer Bassnectar followed Solveig, delivering his own brand of hip-hop inflected bounce. "Vava Voom," his current single with Lupe Fiasco, and his iconic remix of Ellie Goulding's "Lights" were particularly well-received. By the time Calvin Harris began spinning, fans were prepared for an incredible night at the main stage: Harris was to be followed by Avicii, Tiesto, and Steve Aoki with Blue Man Group.

The crowd seemed to be getting more energetic with each drop – Harris' set was peak-hour pop-house at its finest – until the lights went off and the whole production suddenly stopped, thanks to the aforementioned wind storms. It was certainly windier than the prior night, and the sound had been going in and out somewhat as a result, but fans seemed not to notice just how severe the weather was until they were out of the crowd and waiting anxiously in the stands or elsewhere in the festival grounds. Confused fans shuffled towards the bleachers when Calvin Harris' set stopped abruptly and a member of the production team took to the mic, asking guests to back away from the stage. The other stages closed down not long after. Many fans remained at the venue, waiting for updates and wearing sunglasses to sheld their eyes from the swirling dust, while others headed for the exits.

Insomniac issued a statement just after 2 a.m. saying that, "as winds are being assessed, a final decision on the status of the production is pending." Rotella added, "We cannot control Mother Nature and … are asking fans to be patient inside and outside the venue." Fans who stuck it out were rewarded by temporary entertainment from EDC's many performance artists and, later, an impromptu live act from Steve Aoki and Markus Schulz.

Day 3

After Saturday's wind-induced closure, EDC organizers felt they needed to make the fest's final night even more special.  Two 15-minute firework displays lit up the sky above the Speedway, and two of Saturday's missed sets were added to the lineup – Avicii was given a 30-minute main stage spot, while Steve Aoki's joint set with Blue Man Group was sadly not rescheduled. The same was true for Sunday's DJs, who took to the decks with extra vigor. Laidback Luke's Super You and Me stage featured wild sets from not only the Dutch DJ but Major Lazer and Bingo Players. On the Main Stage, Pretty Lights provided a refreshing change of tempo with his unique glitch-hop and electronic funk.

From there, it was back to the mainstream side of EDM with Avicii and David Guetta spinning back-to-back. The Swedish star was given a half-hour set after being unable to play on Saturday, and he warmed the crowd up for Guetta with his signature, euphoric piano house. Guetta did just what was expected of him: spin a fast-paced, hit-heavy set that invited fans to sing along. However, he also threw in a few heaver electro tracks, including a new collaboration with Nicky Romero. "This is the biggest party in the world right now!" he screamed, and no one in attendance could disagree.

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