The 22nd edition of EDC went off in Las Vegas last month, and it left no doubt that it is one of the can’t-miss festivals, not just in North America, but in the world. For anyone who has attended multiple years, every passing year finds a way to outdo the previous one and improve and adapt in various areas. This year, Pasquale Rotella and Insomniac brought several notable changes to the festival including moving it up a month to May, and adding camping to the experience in an effort to alleviate traffic heading to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Instead of doing the usual narrative review of a festival, we’re going to take a look at some of the features and changes of this year’s edition of EDC Las Vegas and determine what worked, what didn’t go quite as planned, and hand out grades accordingly.
The Date Change
This was a brilliant move, an absolute no-brainer, and something that probably should have happened a couple of years ago. By moving the festival up a month from June to May, the weekend saw temperatures with daytime highs in the low 90s, and comfortable nights and early mornings in the 80s and into the low 70s. Like any festival, you have to stay hydrated and be mindful of what you put into your body; but it sure makes it a lot easier to survive when it’s not 110 degrees, like it’s been for EDCs in the past, where temperatures have barely dropped below triple digits at midnight. It was clear that headliners loved the cooler temperatures and were thriving in a much more bearable climate. Next year’s EDC will take place across the same weekend in May 2019, so it looks like this is something headliners can expect going forward. Mark your calendars!
For the first time ever in EDC history, headliners had the option to camp this year. In an effort to alleviate what has become at times crippling traffic heading into the speedway, Insomniac offered a camping option for EDC and invested in state-of-the-art Shiftpod tents for headliners who chose to pony up the large price tag for camping. One of the selling points was a private pre-party for campers on Thursday night featuring Excision, among others. However, for those who arrived at the Speedway on Thursday, it was anything but a PLUR experience. Social media was flooded with complaints of 4-6 hour waits to get into the campgrounds. I myself waited in line for an a hour-and-a-half before giving up and booking a hotel for the night. The situation improved on Friday and over the rest of the weekend for campers who arrived later, but for those who paid good money and traveled from all over the country, this was an absolutely unacceptable way to start EDC. Granted, this was the first time ever that EDC has had camping, but Insomniac has plenty of experience with camping festivals and they know the Vegas Speedway in and out.
Once inside Camp EDC, things got better. The Shiftpods had plenty of space and they were air conditioned. We had some electrical issues on Day 1, but from there on out there were no issues. There were rows of Shiftpods as far as they eye could see set upon plots of fake grass. It almost looked like a moon colony set against the Nevada mountains. Camp EDC had a nice central hub, known as The Mesa, flanked by three different-colored shaded areas, where campers napped underneath misters all day long, and yoga-themed activities also took place. In the heart of the Mesa was the pools where some solid parties happened over the weekend. Space Yacht handled the decks on Friday, while Insomniac Records took over on Saturday. Brownies N Lemonade threw down an absolute banger on Sunday with appearances from Ghastly and Vincent among others.
While the pool was fun, and the food was solid (shout out to Lao/Thai Street Food Truck), all the astroturf in the world can’t hide that you’re camping a parking lot. While 90 degrees was bearable, it was still really hot during the day, and the hours of EDC dictate that you sleep in late. It wasn’t until Saturday afternoon that I finally started meeting fellow campers and making some friends. Getting into the festival was also nice and easy from the festival; if ease of entry is one of your main concerns, then camping is for you. Can’t beat stumbling back to camp at 5:00 AM after a long night of dancing.
EDC is the largest North American music festival, and is also a flagship EDM festival along with brands like Ultra and TomorrowLand. As such, its lineup should always feature the biggest artists on the planet. However, one criticism of Ultra is how similar the lineup is year-to-year. Not the case with EDC, where the lineup always changes up from year to year. Sure, there are always some luminary acts that repeat every year: Tiësto, Armin van Buuren, Hardwell, Eric Prydz. But, those guys are legends, they’re supposed to be there, that’s like questioning whether LeBron James and Steph Curry should be in the All Star Game. Hip-hop also continued to make inroads into EDC as Post Malone played a packed, albeit brief, set at Cosmic Meadow and A-list producers like DJ Mustard (now just Mustard) and Mike Will Made-It made appearances as well. Diplo brought out Lil’ Pump and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike shared the stage with Wiz Khalifa, each delighting the crowd at Kinetic Field. Even outside of rap and hip-hop, EDC is giving Coachella a run for its money in terms of surprise guests. Whether they be tasteful and well received (Kenny G joining Ookay) or not so well-thought out (Yellow Claw and the Cash-me-Ousside girl).
EDC also changes up its stage design each year (for the most part), and again, it just gets bigger and better every time. This year’s theme for Kinetic Field was Kinetic Love and it featured a man and woman holding up a massive 3D LED heart. The stage design called to mind the Kinetic Cathedral of 2014. On top of that, the Circuit Grounds continued its astounding ascent. When I first went to EDC Las Vegas in 2015, the Circuit Grounds was a mega-structure; since then it has grown to be a completely immersive 360 degree stage where top flight artists bring their mind blowing production to the EDC Vegas crowd. Armin van Buuren and Martin Garrix were among the biggest in the business who have made their presence felt at the Circuit Grounds in years past and did so this year as well. Hardwell, KSHMR and k?d also debuted insane new production at the stage this year, too. Cosmic Meadow did its usual thing. Among the more impressive achievements were the new open-air Quantum Valley and open-air Neon Garden. Intense trance vibes filled the air at Quantum Valley all weekend and it was a in a prime spot to be viewed by anybody passing by Kinetic Field. Neon Garden was tucked away though, so unless that’s what you were seeking out, you weren’t likely to stumble upon it by accident. I’m sure the people there wouldn’t have it any other way.
For being one of the largest festivals on the circuit, I’ve always given EDC high marks for being easily navigated. Just to use Coachella as a comparison, it’s so much easier to get around EDC. At EDC, each stage is unique, has an individual style that’s easy to identify and the two main stages flank two of the side stages. At Coachella, Mojave and Gobi are indistinguishable. Other than their size, the two main stages are also, indistinguishable. Art installations provide more or a landmark than the actual stages. At EDC, Carnival Square also provides a key meeting ground for separated friends as well as ample food and drink. At Coachella, it can be tough to find people at various beer gardens and the central location is more of walking area than a meeting area. Despite the 138,000 headliners every day at EDC, I never felt crowded or overwhelmed at a stage. Especially on Sunday when I went deep into the Circuit Grounds for Eric Prydz and Martin Garrix’s respective sets, it was remarkably easy to get out of the crowd whenever I had to.
Despite a rough start to the weekend regarding camping, EDC Las Vegas 2018 was a resounding success. With almost 138,000 headliners per day in attendance this year, arrests were virtually non-existent, and as far as this headliner can tell, it was positive vibes all around. Every year, the dance music community is fortunate enough to have Pasquale’s vision executed to the fullest and be able to enjoy such an immersive and inclusive festival. EDC is a flagship festival, there’s never any doubt that it will return next year, bigger and better than ever. Next year though, I’m staying on the strip and getting my gambling fix. Until we meet again Under the Electric Sky!