It’s been a couple of weeks now since EDC has passed and I still cannot get the experience out of my head. Not only is EDC Las Vegas the premiere electronic music festival in North America, it’s one of the premiere festivals anywhere, period. This was the third straight year I’ve done EDC, and man, Insomniac just outdoes themselves each and every time. I can safely say that my weekend at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was one of the most fun times I have had in my life. I assume the other 400,000-plus people who visited over the weekend feel the same way. There really is nothing like being at EDC, it’s an incredible and, at times, overwhelming experience. The scope and detail of the festival is like none other.
The main stage, Kinetic Field, gets a makeover every year. This year, the main stage had a mother earth theme and was adorned by a massive Gaia with her arms spread wide over the expanse of the stage. In the center behind the DJ booth was a massive LED heart that flashed graphics throughout performances. There were massive cascading waterfalls coming down stairs on each side of the booth, and of course, two huge owls adorned each end of the stage.
While Kinetic Field was an incredible piece of art to behold, my vote for best stage goes to Circuit Grounds. Last year Circuit Grounds got changed from a mega-structure to a full 360 degree stage. This year, the effect was intensified with massive trapezoid-shaped screens surrounding the Circuit Grounds, giving even more of a 360-feel, and making you feel like you were in the Thunderdome with just as much pyro and fireworks as Kinetic Field. Cosmic Meadow also got an upgrade as the familiar blooming background of the stage remained intact, but with a sleek woodgrain finish to it. This is nothing new, Insomniac is pretty darn good at this stuff. They are the best in the business.
I would talk about the music and artists I saw, but that wouldn’t do the festival justice. Over eight stages, multiple art-cars, Corona Electric Beach, random performers and pop-ups; there are so many artists and so many sets. Unless you are attached to someone’s hip no two people will have the exact same experience. At Insomniac festivals “You” are the most important headliner, this is more evident at EDC than any other festival, that you truly are the headliner. Your experience as a festival goer is unique to the individual, and hopefully very special, EDC is an incredible place to explore, get lost, and find yourself amongst the music.
That being said there were still huge musical highlights every single day. EDC did it best Coachella impression as a bevy of special guests made their way through the Speedway over the weekend. RL Grime set the bar on Friday night when Miguel joined him at the Circuit Grounds for their new track “Stay for It.” Highlights of Day one included heavyweights like Martin Garrix, Hardwell, Armin van Buuren and Afrojack at Kinetic Field. Martin took the Kinetic Field on a journey through his catalog of songs and Hardwell dropped a high-energy set packed with tons of new music. Afrojack brought out Rae Sremmurd further solidifying his recent hip-hop credentials. Ghastly, Illenium, Jauz and Major Lazer all packed the Cosmic Meadow while Don Diablo, Zedd and Galantis entertained the crowds at Circuit Grounds. Wow, that was just Day one.
The first day is usually a day for festivals to get the kinks out, and day one was not without its issues. GA lines were long and took a while to get in, traffic was snarled coming from the Vegas Strip to the Speedway, and shuttles were scattershot. That being said, the main remedy is to leave early. If you’re heading to the festival at midnight, you’re probably not going to get much out of the day. Days two and three showed improvement. Once you enter the speedway, things are a breeze. There is no shortage of stands to purchase food and water, Carnival Square is a great place to meet with friends and has every amenity imaginable. Headliners definitely took advantage of the air conditioned chill zones too. The place is huge, but the layout is very easily navigated.
Day two was packed, not just with insane performances, but also with tons of headliners. As you walk around on Day two, you start to notice all of the blissful headliners walking around. There are always messages of positivity placed around the Speedway, including this year’s theme, “All Are Welcome Here.” There really is nothing like being at EDC with your friends. There are so many headliners from so many different backgrounds expressing their love for the music they love. It’s more than just music though, it’s culture. For all those headliners dressed in a special outfit, with kandi up to their elbows, carrying a totem, this is their time to shine. This is what they live for and there is no greater moment or joy than walking around EDC being the person you want to be. I live for this stuff too but I’m very much about the music and the artists themselves. There are fans who take the experience to a whole new level, and that is admirable. The goal is to have the best time possible, and everyone achieves that in a different way, it’s a great thing.
Day two highlights included Kygo, Tiësto, Dillon Francis and W&W at Kinetic Field. Kygo had one of the most exceptional performances of the weekend. Better known for his live performances, nothing was lost in transition to his DJ set. In fact, Kygo dropped some booming progressive house amongst his massive array of hits. Kygo is many things, world-class producer, incredible pianist and live performer, throw in mainstage DJ along with those many titles. Cosmic Meadow also hosted a diverse group of performers from live acts like Autograf and Rüfüs du Sol to EDM favorites like Porter Robinson and Alison Wonderland, Cosmic Meadow had some great vibes on Saturday night. Circuit Grounds was going off from the get go as Alan Walker also surprised with a fantastic set early in the night. Tommy Trash, Duke Dumont, Alesso, Above & Beyond and Oliver Heldens rounded out a stunning lineup at Circuit Grounds Saturday night. Again, this might have been my favorite stage.
Day three sneaks up on you fast, you’re having the time of your life, and just like that, it’s the last day. For me, Day three is a day to pack in some of the other things you may have missed and really focus on the music. Day three is also a day the crowd is slow in getting to the Speedway. Highlights included Firebeatz, Showtek, Marshmello, Ephwurd and a special Alison Wonderland b2b Diplo b2b Jauz set at Kinetic Field. Axwell Λ Ingrosso, Rezz, Seven Lions, Excision and Joyryde all brought the heat to the Circuit Grounds. However, the biggest moment there might have been when none other than when Lil Jon took over Flosstradamus’ set. Whether it be in the club, or at the festival, Lil Jon is the master of hype, no one gets a crowd rowdy like him. Mosh pits ensued. Cosmic Meadow also had a stacked lineup with Black Tiger Sex Machine (one of my favorite performances of the weekend), Getter, Yellow Claw and Ookay.
I haven’t talked about Basspod and Wasteland because I didn’t make it to those stages over the course of the weekend. I did mention the culture and, man, Basspod was going off on social media. There were incredible names on the roster at Basspod from Bro Safari and Zomboy, to Snails and Flux Pavilion. One of the most popular sunrise sets was Virtual Riot b2b Barely Alive b2b Dubloadz (AKA Chode Gang), headbangers graced the railing as the sun rose. Basspod was also the site of the biggest guest appearance of the week. The one and only Drake made an appearance at EDC during Metro Boomin’s set on Sunday night. Um, yeah, it was lit. While Drake’s cameo was a resounding success, there was another hip-hop star that didn’t fare as well.
DJ Khaled was supposed to perform at Cosmic Meadow around 12:15 on Sunday. Despite a massive crowd that showed up to Cosmic Meadow during the same time slot as huge acts like Marshmello and Axwell /\ Ingrosso, Khaled would be sidelined by technical issues. Don’t get it twisted, he did not get booed off stage, a large crowd was waiting for the hip hop icon to perform. Although Khaled clearly wanted to perform, he had to yield the stage because, it’s a festival, other acts are scheduled. Were people shouting for Yellow Claw because Khaled was starting to go over, sure. Did he get booed off stage? No, absolutely not; things happen, and I’m inclined to believe it was technical issues, nothing more, nothing less.
No festival is perfect, but EDC is damn near close to it. Yes, there were traffic issues, that’s what happens when 100,000-plus people are going to a venue all at once. Long wait times in GA are definitely an issue, but again, this seemed to run more smoothly on Days two and three. Not only is EDC one of the most incredible experiences anyone can undertake, EDM completely takes over Vegas for the week. Even if you don’t go to the festival, there are so many options for great sets over the weekend. There’s countless big names making appearances at major clubs and pool parties like Omnia, Hakkasan and Wet Republic.
There aren’t enough words to describe the spectacle and wonder of EDC. For over 20 years now, Pasquale Rotella has brought the signature EDM music festival to the masses, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. There was criticism that the event didn’t sell out this year, yeah just barely. That’s like saying being upset that Clayton Kershaw got a complete game shutout, but it wasn’t a no-hitter; the Speedway was packed for the weekend.
Pasquale did announce that there will be a change to EDC next year. What that is, we’ll find out soon. There are fears that the US festival bubble is in danger of bursting, but anyone attending an Insomniac festival knows that isn’t true. However, that doesn’t mean that Insomniac won’t be trying new things. Along with the upcoming “change” to EDC, Insomniac did cancel EDC New York, and Nocturnal downsized from three days over Labor Day weekend to only two days in the middle of September. Pasquale mentioned that he wanted to harken back to Nocturnal’s roots and despite a few big names, the festival lineup does read more like something like a cross between Lighting in a Bottle and a HARD event.
However, EDC has also expanded into Japan and India, and any East Coaster who misses out on EDC New York can easily make it down to EDC Orlando. The brand is strong and it just keeps getting better and better. Everyone should have at least one experience under the electric sky, whether you like house, trance, progressive, bass, or techno, EDC has something for everyone. More than any other festival and experience this is your chance to truly be free and be the headliner. There is no greater assembly of talent and no greater montage of production than at EDC. Shout out to Red Bull TV for livestreaming all of it to those who weren’t able to make it. The FOMO had to be real. Along the concourses of the Speedway there was a sign that read “Insomniac Loves You.” Right back at you Insomniac, you’ve changed people’s lives every year at EDC. Again, there’s nothing better than being under the electric sky with your friends.