The loudest roar at this Sunday’s 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 won’t come from the 350,000 fans in attendance, or the 33 supercharged cars barreling around the track at 200 mph.
It’ll come from Skrillex’s set.
While Memorial Day weekend has long been synonymous with 500 miles at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there’s another race-day tradition that’s been revived in recent years: The Indy 500 Snake Pit. In the Seventies and Eighties, it was one of the wildest infield parties in the world, an epic bash filled with beer and burning sofas and just about everything in between.
Inevitably, those wild days waned. And in 2012, the Snake Pit underwent a makeover, embracing electronic artists in an attempt to attract a younger audience and make Indianapolis a destination on the EDM circuit. And it worked.
“Our demo was getting older, and we wanted to get young kids out here to experience the race, just like their parents did. And we thought, ‘What better way than a concert?'” says Kyle Krisiloff, the director of music and entertainment at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “For a lot of people, this is their only chance to see artists of this caliber; it’s something a lot of people in Indianapolis try not to miss.”
This year’s Snake Pit promises to be the biggest – and loudest – yet. The lineup features Skrillex, Martin Garrix, Zeds Dead and DJ Mustard, and Krisiloff expects a crowd of 30,000 to pack the infield for a party that starts soon after gates open at 6 a.m.
Popular on Rolling Stone
And if he wasn’t racing on Sunday, you can bet 24-year-old Conor Daly would be partying with them. Growing up in nearby Noblesville, Indiana, he never got to see the stars of EDM play in the Hoosier state, so he’s well aware of what the reinvented Snake Pit means for underserved music fans in the Midwest.
“We never got the big EDM names in the past, so for a lot of my friends around here, this is our Electric Daisy Carnival,” he says. “There’s a lot of kids in Indianapolis who are dying to get to these shows, but we always had to travel to them. So to get these artists in here, it’s really big. And it’s only getting bigger.”
Daly knows that, when it comes to events like the Indianapolis 500, there’s always going to be a certain segment of fans that celebrate the traditions of race day above all else, and thumb their noses at the EDM wave that’s swept the Snake Pit party. But as both a racer and a fan, he sees the connection between dance music and his high-octane livelihood.
“Everything about it is pretty supercharged, like EDM. We’re out here doing 230 mph-plus, and the adrenaline is pumping, but I’ve been to shows and the adrenaline is the same,” he says. “Obviously, the Indy 500 is all about tradition and history, but we’ve got current artists, younger fans…to me, it makes perfect sense.”
So while the Snake Pit itself continues to evolve, Daly says that some things never change: Come Sunday, the infield crowd will be ready to cut loose, just like their parents did decades ago. And so will the DJs.
“Honestly, every DJ I’ve ever met who has played the Snake Pit, they can’t believe it,” Daly laughs. “I ran into Steve Aoki and Dillon Francis once, and they were like, ‘It’s one of the craziest things we’ve ever done. There’s like 30,000 kids ready to party at 8 a.m.'”
Gentlemen, start your engines. Early.