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“Are you ready?” my boyfriend asked as we walked down the hall and started to hear the bass grow louder. “For what?” I replied as I followed him through the doorway to catch my first sight of EDC Las Vegas 2019. He just chuckled in response as my mouth dropped open and I exhaled a huge “WOOOOOOWWWWW” at the spectacle laid out before me. Though I had prepared my dancing feet with comfy shoes, he was just waiting for a glimpse of my shining face as I entered the menagerie that is EDC Las Vegas.
As a newbie, I had read the stats and understood the magnitude of the event, but it’s hard to imagine the rainbow of colors, the fireworks timed to the music, flames shooting 50 feet high, flashing carnival rides, costumed performers, and beautifully appareled Headliners that fill your sight. It was momentarily overwhelming and difficult to identify everything I was seeing though I’d studied the map many times. I had to stand at the rail and let people flow past me for a minute so I could take everything in before descending into the gorgeous madness that is Insomniac Events‘ penultimate festival. They know that we attend, not just for the insanely talented list of artists they impress us with every year, but to leave our reality behind and be transported into a different world.
Good thing my man had a hold of me as we descended the steps into the Las Vegas speedway, as I was gawking at everything around me and not looking where I was going. We made our way directly to Neon Garden to meet up with Fresh Music Freaks staff, some of whom I was meeting for the first time! We shared a picture and schedules and then we made our way to Basspod for Liquid Stranger and The Glitch Mob, and it was the first stage I got to see up close and personal. It was humongous, with lit up screens running images and colors at every moment, and flamethrowers that shoot fire at the sky during big drops. The artists are dwarfed by the size of the stages, but you can see them from anywhere since they’re so high up in the air. Unfortunately for me, Liquid Stranger didn’t play anything from his two newest albums, which was why I fell in love with him, so I was a bit disappointed. As often happens at festivals, I ran into someone who also grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii and got to talk story with him as we danced to The Glitch Mob’s old school classic tracks and some new material they’re releasing soon.
I had made the decision to see Above & Beyond at KAOS’ pool party during Thursday of EDC Week, so I skipped their set at Circuit Grounds to see Giuseppe Ottaviani Live 2.0 at Quantum Valley. It was definitely the right call as there was plenty of room to dance and GO’s set made me feel like I was at an early 2000’s rave. It was Trance heaven! Yet again, the size of the stages was mind-blowing. Giuseppe was WAAAYYYYY up there in the middle of a brightly lit circle surrounded by screens that shot out lightning bolt visuals, and it was best to view the DJ from the middle, rather than the front.
At this point in the night, we decided to roam around so I could get the lay of the land as we had a break in schedule before seeing Green Velvet. If you hadn’t already heard, temperatures at this year’s EDC Las Vegas were far lower than expected, and it was a struggle for this Hawaii girl to stay warm! Luckily, my boyfriend shared his keffiyeh, which I wore like a cape for the rest of the night as the merchandise booths sold out of everything long-sleeved in the first couple hours. Insomniac had outdone themselves with performers as we saw a roaming marching band, Egyptian-bedecked women, people on stilts with giant flower costumes, and even little golf carts disguised as bugs that were cruising the grounds. Though taco stands and trucks dominated the food choices, there were plenty of other items for vegans and vegetarians. Festie bestie weddings were being officiated in a chapel next to Cosmic Meadow and we got to see fire dancers on a stage set up for special performances nearby. These were in addition to the many performers just cruising the speedway interacting with Headliners.
After getting a bit more familiar with the extravaganza going on around us, we began to head back to the opposite side of the speedway for our final artists of the night. We made a quick stop at Basspod to check out Rusko b2b Skream! and they gave me the remixed reggae vibes I’d been hoping for with Liquid Stranger. Hooray! By the time we got to Neon Garden, Green Velvet was laying down some of his typical, old school House beats with some version of “Voicemail” I’d never heard before. His addition of a live House singer made for the perfect ending to my first night at EDC Las Vegas. We met up with Tommy and Thomas, the local friends we were staying with that I’d met during EDC Week 2018 and headed home.
Preparing for three days with over 200 artists on the lineup with four people, many of whom have very different tastes is difficult at best. Yet somehow we made it work! Though at first glance the festival appears gargantuan and mystifying, it’s laid out clearly with Electric Avenue marching right down the middle and many places to assign as meeting spots, which we did the first night. Day two we arrived before the sun went down so I could view EDC Las Vegas in many different lights.
We went right to Neon Garden for ARTBAT, which was one of my favorite sets of the weekend. I am terrible at defining genres, but it sounded like they were playing Tech Trance and it got me dancing immediately! Artur and Batish are a Ukranian duo and it was love at first listen when I heard “Prometheus“. They excel at mixing opposing sounds and ideas together, which I suppose is like mixing Techno and Trance. With beautiful melodies interspersed with hard-hitting, slowly swelling beats, their EDC set turned me into a huge fan. It saddens me to know they primarily tour Europe. Thank you Pasquale Rotella for bringing these phenoms stateside!
I had ignored the inner child jumping up and down inside repeatedly screeching “I WANNA GO ON A RIDE!” the entire first night, but it had only gotten louder. So to the rollercoaster we went, and luckily got on right away! Though short, it had its intended effect and I was grinning from ear to ear when we stumbled off.
Though my boyfriend despises Psytrance after a traumatic week of hearing it nonstop at Oregon Eclipse Festival 2017, he graciously agreed to see Captain Hook, the scallywag that got me into the genre. There was plenty of room to dance about at the Quantum Valley stage and we scored a great spot where I could see and feel Reshef’s pleasure at playing for all of us. My favorite artists tend to be those I see enjoying the hell outta their own music and then examining the crowd to make sure we’re also having a blast. Captain Hook doesn’t play the Psytrance cantering beat the whole time, instead mixing his sets extremely well with other Trance genres, but he does it with such finesse I barely notice.
Black Coffee was our next stop and I was stoked he was near the beginning of the night as yet again, I had plenty of energy for shuffling to his bolder than usual House set. Though he didn’t play his African-inspired productions that I’d hoped for, it was a much harder hitting set than those I’d been listening to leading up to EDC Las Vegas, so I was smiling as I was breaking a set. I stuck to the Neon Garden stage while my boyfriend went to see Skrillex and SLANDER, two artists I have no interest in.
While we shuffled to some Alan Fitzpatrick and a signature Claude VonStroke House set, my man got his headbanging in. Was it just me or did Claude seem to go EXTRA HARD?!? Charlotte DeWitte hit us with some relentless, dark Techno and got us prepared for heading over to see i_o b2b No Mana at the Parliament Art Car stage. A very large art car shaped like a pirate ship hosted these two Techno demons. As usual, i_o worked with aplomb, smoking cigarettes, laughing and interacting with the crowd, and a fist thrown into the air when he was really feeling it. Seeing him live again definitely sealed him as one of my new Techno favorites. If you couldn’t already tell, I thoroughly enjoy when artists get into their own music.
I had noticed the wind had picked up, but because I was moving so much I was far less cold on night two. A stop by Kinetic Field to check out Kaskade was next, but alas! Unbeknownst to us, they had closed the mainstage due to high winds. At first, I was a bit miffed, but then I saw the towering owl men that guarded the arch to the stage moving substantially when they weren’t built to move that much and knew Insomniac had made a wise decision for our own safety. “No worries,” I said, “Paul Van Dyk is playing at Quantum Valley,” so we headed straight there. No such luck. Apparently, the very tall and I’m assuming, very heavy ring that framed the DJ was also moving so they closed that stage also. After coordinating with our Vegas crew who had been through the 2012 EDC Las Vegas shut down, we decided to be safe and call it a night. Did this affect my second night? NOPE! Not a single bit!
The third night was definitely the longest of EDC Las Vegas. Our crew wasn’t going so we had to arrange other ways to get there and back which meant incredibly long Lyft rides. It may be hard to tell, but there’s a little Drum n’ Bass lover under all my shiny Trance trappings and Dieselboy was KILLING IT with MC Messinian when we got to the Basspod stage. And hardly anybody was there. WTF?!? Y’all missed out! I came up in the rave scene back when I got to hear this DnB master throw down several times a year. Often accompanied by MC Messinian, that man is why I despise people talking on the mic. If you ain’t got flow like Messinian, STFU! You’re detracting from, not adding to the music. Dieselboy made my fucking night before it barely even got started.
CamelPhat laid down some fantastic melodic House but I was at Neon Garden to check out my own Persephone, Goddess of Night, ANNA. She did not disappoint. Launching into her set with the technical prowess I’ve come to expect of her, she danced behind the decks along with the crowds, sharing smile after smile with us. Driving us forward, she hit us with her “Hidden Beauties” track to resounding cheers from the crowd. Whenever I thought she was about to hit us with something new she would layer in something else more complex for some of the deepest Techno builds I’ve ever experienced. Everything ANNA did was like a dark drama and I absolutely loved it!
It was a quick jaunt over to Quantum Valley for the Anjuna Angels meetup before my GOAT Andrew Bayer took the stage. I got to meet up with some Portland locals who had made the long drive in order to camp, as well as many new faces from the Anjuna Facebook groups I’m a part of. Andrew played many of his “In My Next Life” tracks and as usual, he sang with his head thrown back to the sky, danced, and jumped up and down with us to his own tracks. Have I mentioned before that I absolutely love him? As he ended his set with “End of All Things“, there were fireworks going off in the sky above at the same time. With shining face tipped up to the sky, my soul wasn’t just happy, it was ecstatic!
As often faces you and your group when at festivals, it now came time to make a decision. Do we go to Zeds Dead, Tchami x Malaa: No Redemption Tour, or ILLENIUM, and if so, in what order, how long at each, or do we split up? By this point, we were losing some steam, so we decided to just head to Tchami x Malaa and then halfway through catch some of Illenium’s set. It was definitely the right move as we got to hear Anti-Up‘s “Pizza” again as we walked onto the grass at Cosmic Meadow. Dieselboy had been the first to play a DnB remix of it as we began our night and it’s always one of my favorites since I sing it with my Portland crew every time we leave the club. In typical fashion, Malaa was swigging Jack Daniels and acting like a gangster while Tchami was as aloof as a priest of the confessional. Like day and night, these two complement each other perfectly.
I didn’t have high expectations of ILLENIUM as the sets I’ve heard from him tend to jump genres about every three minutes, which I loathe. When we arrived he was playing Psytrance which got me pumped for about a minute til he jumped to a Trap track, then a Bass track, and then I stopped caring. He played a bit of “Disarm You“, but by that point, I’d gotten annoyed by the size of the crowd spilling out of the Circuit Grounds stage. ILLENIUM is far too big of an artist to not be playing Kinetic Field.
Luckily, neither of us were thrilled so we wandered over to see Bunny of Rabbit in the Moon throw down at the Parliament Art Car. He was weird and fun as usual, with energy to spare! I was starting to feel like I was slowing and getting cranky, so I grabbed some chicken fingers on the way to see Amelie Lens. She was full of energy shaking her head back and forth and I felt revived.
As the sun began to rise, we finally made our way over to the mainstage for Jamie Jones. The very last track I danced to at EDC Las Vegas 2019 was Faithless singing “Insomnia” I can’t get no sleep. Which was only partly true cause I did want to sleep more than anything as we made our way across the speedway to wait for a Lyft for another two hours.
When I come back to EDC Las Vegas next year, and I will definitely be back, it will be for the fun little details the creative team at Insomniac Events pay particular attention to. Like the Mini Bar, where midgets serve you drinks. Or Pixel Forest, where you walk through a bumping shipping container with patterned lights zooming and flashing above and around you. And to see the performers of different skills and backgrounds. Of course the artists are amazing, but what truly stood out about my first EDC Las Vegas was the fun and ease of the festival; how friendly everyone was, how well laid out the grounds were, and how entertaining it was taking in the spectacle of people and activities that were available everywhere I looked. If you haven’t experienced EDC Las Vegas, do yourself a favor and DO NOT MISS 2020!
My recommendations for EDC Las Vegas 2020 are to stay at Camp EDC, bring warm festival clothes, and save your energy for the nights. By staying at Camp EDC, you’ll avoid the money spent on Lyft, Uber, and Taxis. You’ll also avoid spending a bunch of money on expensive club drinks and food. Plus, you can come back to camp to change or add to your outfits for those years (like this one) where it drops down into the 50’s. From everything I heard from friends who did Camp EDC this year, it’s absolutely the way to go!
*EDC Las Vegas 2019 Featured Image of Mainstage at Dawn Via Calder Wilson for Insomniac*