Words by: Chris Clark | Images by: Ceasar Sebastian & Rukes
Electric Daisy Carnival :: 06.26.09 & 06.27.09 :: L.A. Memorial Coliseum and Exposition Park :: Los Angeles, CA
It's tough to place a finger on where to begin to explain exactly what transpired at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. For two nights, the 13th Annual Electric Daisy Carnival proved to be not only a colossal collection of some of electronic music's biggest and brightest, but 2009's EDC also secured itself as one of the premier festivals around, period.
|Electric Daisy Carnival 2009 by Sebastian|
Boasting a boisterous and kinetically charged bill that included headliners Paul Van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold, Thievery Corporation and Groove Armada, along with an eclectic array of electro wizards and bass bumpers (STS9, Pretty Lights, Diplo, Boys Noize, Major Lazer, Mark Farina, LTJ Bukem and several dozen others), EDC provided an astonishingly polished product for 100,000-plus revelers to party well into the early morning. Unlike festivals such as Bonnaroo, Outside Lands and Lollapalooza, EDC focuses solely on one section of the mélange of music out there today: electronic. From drum 'n' bass at the Bass Pod stage to trance powerhouses at the Kinetic Field to thick, chest-thumping dubstep at the Neon Garden, if you're into pulsating speaker stacks, big bass and sample enriched sonic soundscapes you didn't leave without all your fancies tickled.
And this is just the music.
Both nights' festivities were spread out over the sprawling urban landscape that surrounds the University of Southern California. It's here, adjacent to the storied history of the USC campus that the mega-stadium Memorial Coliseum sits. Once home to the Los Angeles Summer Games of 1932 and 1984, the Coliseum currently houses the famed USC Trojans football team, and quite honestly, it was rather enjoyable to be seeing tens of thousands of scantily clad trance worshippers congregate on the very field O.J. Simpson and Reggie Bush, amongst many others, once dominated.
After getting out of the cab, the sheer enormity of the surroundings was immediately apparent. Scores of teenagers, some I'd guess as young as 13, were decked out in their ultra colorful garb and candy bracelets. Florescent colors dominated the area, as did an onslaught of teenage girls wearing nothing but skimpy lingerie and knee-highs. Without even the slightest hint of embellishment, I have never seen anything like it. I'm sure it was a teenage boy's dream. Other than these aforementioned jailbaits, scores of chemically altered, enthusiastic pacifier-suckers, dress-all-in-blacks, ravers and even some folks with beards and normal clothing filled the massive complex by the time we arrived around 8 p.m. Once at the colorful gateway, it was time to enter the Bass and not look back.
|Electric Daisy Carnival 2009 by Rukes|
After I actually made it through security (which was maybe 10 minutes compared to the hours reviewers spoke of last year), a true "Party Like It's 1999" atmosphere arose. I've been to several Phish festivals, I've been to a couple Bonnaroos and I've witnessed countless other music festivals from coast to coast, and not one came close to comparing to the production experienced at EDC 2009. Not even close. Music aside, four out of five stages at the festival were as large or larger than any main stage I'd been to, but it's not just the size of the stages, or even the festival itself, that made it so unequally impressive. Festival organizers Insomniac put extreme emphasis on appealing and stimulating all five senses of the concert going experience (their slogan is "Wide awake since 1993"). The sound at each stage, even the 90,000-seat Kinetic Field stadium, was amazing. Visually, the immense lighting rigs coupled with the giant laser fields proved to be a hallucination-inducing experience without the LSD. There were several points throughout the weekend where I had to close my eyes, reopen them and realize, shit, I didn't take any extracurriculars.
Other than the walk in through the main entrance, the festival was kept rather clean (for that many people), with bathrooms readily available and the vending and alcohol was everywhere. Additionally, Ferris wheels and carnival rides could be found everywhere, including on the lawn of the Coliseum! So, for the thousands and thousands of paying festival goers, EDC made everything top-notch, safe, accessible and clean, exactly what all festivals should take into account when planning and executing a vision.
Diving into the music, there certainly is plenty to talk about. Friday night, much like Saturday, focused each sub-genre of electronic music at a given stage. For the most part, the Bass Pod, which housed all the drum 'n' bass and a not-so healthy barrage of craziness, I stayed away from. Other than that, our crew split time between the other stages. After showing up just as Nick Catchdubs was firing on all cylinders and Daedelus was just ending his set, we made it over to the Neon Garden for Computer Club, an act I'd never heard of before. After running into him alongside a few Goth kids at our hotel in the early morning, his sound seemed properly fitting to his sheer size. Loud and intense, but super-funky, CC warmed up the early arrivals perfectly for Fake Blood, the man who says of himself, "I make music, and I take your music and do what I want with it. If swallowed seek medical assistance, will stain clothes, will sound spectacular." I mean come on, how do you go wrong with that? Opening with Rusko's Kid Sister's "Pro Nails," segueing into a perfectly placed "Big Pimpin'" into M.I.A.'s "Bamboo Banga" into Santigold's "Creator" immediately immersed Fake Blood, aka Touche' aka Theo Keating's, into a frenzy at the Neon Garden.
|Electric Daisy Carnival 2009 by Sebastian|
For all those people who thought EDC was simply a massive rave, all you would need to do to capably discredit that very notion was go see Fake Blood and then make it over to the Coliseum Kinetic Filed for Thievery Corporation. I'd seen Thievery a few times before and knew what to expect, but still, something about seeing them on that grand stage made this show stand out. Gradually building up from just Rob Garza and Eric Hilton on the decks, Thievery seamlessly transitioned into full band format, adding a new member or two as each song developed. Maybe they didn't notice or maybe they were just enjoying the smooth break, but the so-called "candy kids" were a meandering mass of sweaty souls; a continually enlarging group of glow stick-donning 14-22 year olds, twirling and swirling with each passing rhythm. Honestly, it was quite the sight. Unfortunately, the Thievery set was short lived, as it became time to trek back to the Circuit Grounds for the man of the hour, Pretty Lights.
Now, unless you're either not paying attention whatsoever or have been hiding from what's "in," you'll surely recognize that name. Having just seen him, along with Kap10 Harris, Morale and Shane King in San Francisco a few weeks prior, I had extremely high expectations for the former bass player of Fort Collins, CO's Listen. Needless to say, myself and a crowd of several thousand gathered for the commencement and the sweat-soaked dancing never stopped. For an hour and a half, PL escalated then exploded EDC with a barrage of mash-ups like Rage Against the Machine's "Bullet in the Head" with Rick Ross' "The Boss" and M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" with "Rump Shaker." Sans the drummer, Derek Smith was a one-man head-banger crew, providing some of the freshest mixes and most crowd pleasing beats EDC saw on Friday. From the front to back, the area was packed and moving; something I figured would translate into a fiery performance from STS9.
|Electric Daisy Carnival 2009 by Sebastian|
Sadly, that never culminated. STS9's Live PA set was the definitive letdown of the weekend. Being one of the last additions to EDC, a DJ intensive mega festival, the band had an impressive opportunity to be just that, impressive, and gain a whole new allegiance of fans in the electronic world. Without question, a full band set would've automatically deterred the masses from stepping foot near STS9 (unless they dropped a Velmer-fueled "Orbital" to open or something along those lines), but the PA set wasn't much better. Opening with the new "Lion" the midnight to 2 a.m. set began in rather average fashion, certainly not the way to hype a late night crowd at an event called the Electric Daisy Carnival. After a fairly slow start, the crowd eventually began to trickle out and head over to the 60,000 person strong attendance at the Coliseum for headliner Paul Oakenfold or over to the Neon Garden for Boys Noize. While there was a nice "Glogli" fit into the setlist, it still lacked the normal punch the band characteristically plays with. Much to be expected, a Michael Jackson appearance arose with a short "Billie Jean" beat, but the anticipation quickly subsided as the vast majority of STS9's crowd started heading for the exit.
After a little more than an hour and a half of their set, we too left and headed over to the end of Boys Noize. Earlier in the night we'd heard him open with "Thriller" and seemingly, he'd never looked back. His crowd was packed likes pigs in a blanket, as the an onslaught of big-eyed, gaping-grinned attendees bobbed and banged away at the closing minutes of the German electro mind-blower, who made the speakers sing, giving those not at Oakenfold plenty to look forward to on Day 2. While there were a few acts I would've liked to see, most notably Shiny Toy Guns, Day 1 was a complete success, even by the highest of standards.
|STS9 Live PA Set :: EDC 2009 by Rukes|
Undoubtedly, Day 1 of EDC was, at the most basic of levels, a phenomenal social experiment, the likes of which I'd never been a part of before. While so many of the other concert and festival experiences I've encountered felt like social experiments, this first day of EDC proved to be a much grander, more colorful, better planned and supremely executed endeavor, where I never saw a sliver of violence, people that were too far gone or even the slightest inkling of life going wrong. For myself, and the friends that accompanied me, EDC Day 1 was quite the musical, cultural and artistic journey.
Continue reading for Saturday's coverage...
After one of the premier hotel nights and ensuing pool days I can remember, not to mention 80 degrees and sunshine all day, we headed back to the Coliseum and Exposition Center for Round 2 of EDC. While I anticipated a more raucous crowd than the previous night, I truly had no idea what would be waiting in store for Day 2. What I did know was the Kinetic Field would be full of huge trance/techno/house DJs from start to finish, highlighted by Groove Armada, Kaskade and headliner Paul Van Dyk. For those of you reading this that are into electronic music, surely quite a few of you will have had some of your first electronic experiences with the likes of Paul Van Dyk, Crystal Method, Mark Farina and Roger Sanchez (all who also played Saturday night). For others who caught onto electronic sonic hues a little later, Day 2 also boasted Infected Mushroom live, DJ AM, Major Lazer (like whoa!), Diplo (with a special lady friend to be mentioned later) and Simian Mobile Disco, amongst many other performers. If you'd made it through Friday and the controlled chaos that it was, Saturday was taking the leap to the big leagues.
|Electric Daisy Carnival 2009 by Rukes|
You had better come prepared.
Luckily for us, there were only four in my crew, and we maintained a group philosophy throughout the duration of EDC's festivities; a logistical and rational means to a greater end of not getting lost and no one losing their shit. Well thankfully, upon arriving on the Coliseum grounds at about 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, we stayed true to sticking together. Put simply, the place was a mad house on Saturday - exponentially crazier, more intense, more people and more nuttiness that Friday seemed to hold in check. Whereas Friday was making it to first base, Saturday was hitting a Grand Slam. But still, EDC and its inhabitants remained in a controlled frenzy. There weren't cops running around (other than choking out one of about a dozen or so kids we saw sneak in), there weren't teenage kids falling out everywhere and there certainly weren't any problems that any of us saw. For all the negative press "raves" get, this event certainly wasn't on par with any of those expectations. Authority and control were there just enough to keep everyone in check and with ample places to rest your legs, hit the bathrooms and get some alcohol, food and water, and any major fall out was avoided.
Upon entering Day 2 of EDC, we first attempted to wander over to LTJ Bukem - not by my choice. Drum 'n' bass was never my thing and if you throw a MC into the mix, my opinion continues to deteriorate. But alas, we decided to head straight to the Neon Garden for Philly bred DJ AM. I love DJ AM. I loved him before he miraculously survived a small plane crash with Travis Barker of Blink 182 and I love him even more after the set he played at EDC. Whether it was his scorching electro remix of Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City," his remix of Caspa's "Where's My Money" or the endless energy throughout his hour set, DJ AM came with his game face on and left the stage with way more people around then when he started. As the crowd rushed towards the front of the stage, AM's production coupled with the startlingly crisp sound and out-of-this-world visuals were one of the defining moments of the festival. If you don't know DJ AM, well, you probably should.
|Electric Daisy Carnival 2009 by Rukes|
After DJ AM finished making all the young ladies shed whatever clothing they still had on, we headed over to the Kinetic Field for a rather back-in-the-day performance. I had first heard Groove Armada back with "4 Tune Cookie" when I first started seeing Phish in the mid-'90s and it was quite odd but enjoyable to see them perform in front of 50,000 people. Just to sit on the third level of the bleachers towards the back of the stadium and watch as the heaping mass of colors swayed to and fro to some drums-driven electronic was an absolutely amazing sight. It was then that all four of us got the timely opportunity to relax, sit on the bleachers and watch as tens of thousands of people lost their shit to "Get Down." There was something so eerily soothing about that moment, a serene picture with 50,000 people at a heavy electronic show in a massive stadium.
After a short stint at the main stage, we navigated our way through the ever-exploding crowd to what was possibly the most anticipated set of the festival - Major Lazer. Arriving a little early, we had the chance to catch what was the worst DJ name of the weekend, Bass Weazal. Thankfully, a name doesn't necessarily translate into a person or sound. Bass Weazel was actually mastering the increasingly swelling crowd, enticing the audience with a healthy dose of big bass with a slice of grime. Now, I'm not fully convinced I'd go see him in San Francisco, but hey, he was there, so was I, and we worked it out.
|Major Lazer :: EDC 2009 by Sebastian|
Major Lazer just may have stolen the show. The combination of Switch and Diplo together raging a 90-minute set of all sorts of electronic tones, from dubstep to electro to heart-pounding, was a complete mind-wobbling killing. This was one of those festival sets where you don't even care or think about all the other acts that are playing - you tune in and you get down. With a new album out to support, the duo made their way through choice original cuts like "Pon De Dancefloor" and "Hold the Line" while also sifting through their massive catalogues for a delectable taste of Rusko and even threw a little Michael Jackson in there just for fun. Looking around, it was apparent my face wasn't the only one that was blown by Major Lazer. Everywhere you looked there were sweaty faces, ruffled hair, dirty shins and even a little bit of drool. That's how you can tell it was a good festival set. Before leaving for Crystal Method at the Circuit Grounds, we stuck around for Le Castle Vania, another sleeper set of the festival. I didn't know who this guy was but their Daft Punk suite of "Around the World," "Robot Rock" and "Technologic" had everyone freaking out. Or maybe that was all the consumption.
Regardless, the festival was almost over, but not before a quick stop over at the massively loud, color-filled stage of Crystal Method, where everyone seemed to be dancing and partying even harder (I have no idea how that's possible). A quick glance over at Mark Farina was all that was needed before heading over to the man of the night, the Mad Decent man, Diplo. All I will say about his set is this: It was about as heavy, bass-driven and wild as anything I've seen in a while. Even seeing him on New Year's in San Francisco didn't quite compare. Oh yeah, this recently minted mother that goes by the name of M.I.A. made not one but two appearances alongside a guy who's already impressive production credits are just beginning. Dropping "Paper Planes" as M.I.A. made her night-capping appearance, the crowd roared about as loud as it got all weekend, then, as Justice's "Phantom" hit the speakers, Diplo left and other than a few weird minutes of Simian Mobile Disco, our time at the Electric Daisy Carnival was over.
EDC was not only successful at throwing the biggest party I've seen in this country, but also the most well thought-out, put together and executed gathering I've ever experienced. Even if you aren't that into electronic music you would've had quite the time.
Continue reading for more pics of Electric Daisy Carnival 2009...
Images by: Ceasar Sebastian
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