Off in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium, 2,500 miles away from the Mother festival in Las Vegas, Electric Daisy Carnival NYC materialized in a giant concrete parking lot. Four stages, amusement park rides, a moving metal sculpture of a phoenix that spit fire out of its mohawk, an actual 100-foot tall daisy sculpture that moved like a crane, and thousands of 20-something rave kids populated the area. It was literally a carnival.
On EDC’s website, they proudly claim that “You Are The Headliner” and that motto couldn’t be more true on the grounds. It was one of those polarizing scenes that either reinforced one’s love or hate of rave culture, and its fluorescent off-color t-shirts (“B—hes, Blunts & Bath Salts” was a tame one), its haze of drugs and its incessant 4/4 pulse for 10 hours a day (I listened to Lamb Lies Down on Broadway on the way home on Sunday night).
But for all its hedonism and excess, EDC New York was a really, really fun time. It based itself on having fun, in the safest way possible. Every two minutes or so, a message would flash on the the LED screen outside the stadium that said “If you need help call us at…” and listed an emergency hotline. There were water stations at every corner of the carnival, and as garish as everything looked on the surface, underneath was a beating heart, full of #PLUR, filthy bass and sick chunes, bruv.
Here are our favorite things we saw:
1. An Actual Flash Flood Warning
(Photo by Jeremy D. Larson)
At around 4:15 p.m. on Saturday, an alert came up on my phone letting me know that there was a “Flash flood warning in this area.” And while a little rain never hurt anyone, the same can’t be said about a flash flood. So the festival shut down for about 30 minutes and everyone filed into the poured concrete structure of MetLife stadium. It looked like a scene from a horror movie, the voms and mezzanine jam-packed with people. But between the occasional “Seven Nation Army” chant and the “We want music!” chant, what should have been a logistical nightmare was handled with a haunting amount of calm and respect. Chalk that up to it only being 4:15 p.m. and not later when people were a little more loose.
(Photo by Bennett Sell-Kline)
That’s the other thing: For all of EDC’s feeling that you are either “in” or “out,” the sweeping mood of the festival is predicated on being overwhelmingly positive. The rave mantra “PLUR” (peace, love, unity, respect) may seem like a pretty empty phrase out of context, but when adopted by thousands of ravers, it starts to permeate even the most cynical of skins. I got a PLUR handshake from someone who has her own rave-wear store on Etsy. I’ll treasure the bracelet until the next drop.
3. DJ Snake
Still riding from his meme-ified collaboration with human meme Lil John “Turn Down For What,” DJ Snake played a really refreshing set of trap-rave remixes of rap songs. His take of the Yeezus track “New Slaves” was one of the more inspiring remixes I heard.
If you wanted to get your fill of of dubstep, the de rigueur sound of EDM that reached its peak about two years ago, Bassnectar was the place to be inside of the actual MetLife stadium. I’m pretty sure he sampled Ol’ Dirty Bastard at one point, buried in the the wub, but it didn’t really matter. His set was fluid, cheesy, and a reminder that EDM is just sometimes about kicking subtlety to the curb.
5. Kandi Masks
(Photo by Jeremy D. Larson)
Do you want to look like Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat but you’re also a power Etsy user? Then make a Kandi Mask!
(Photo by aLIVE Coverage)
Along with Calvin Harris, Tiësto took the main headlining spot, the one that got about 15-minutes worth of actual fireworks to it. When you’re watching Tiësto from about 100 yards back, all I could think was that this one guy is making 30,000 people go absolutely insane. You don’t just luck into that spot on the stage, and while many people might bemoan the “button-pushing” live performance of DJs, there’s something awe-inspiring of watching this many people wig out because of one guy, even if he’s just pushing buttons.
Playing the smaller tent stage on Sunday, MK (Marc Kinchen) spun mostly house music. It was a reprieve from the other varieties of formulas happening around the fest, to just hear an open hi-hat ride along a beat without any interruption for a build or a drop was just so refreshing. He dropped in Disclosure’s “White Noise” which was, until Calvin Harris later that night, the most harmonious four minutes I had heard all weekend.
I was now listening to Araabmuzik, the Dipset DJ with quicksilver fingers who made a big mark in 2011 with “Streetz Tonight.” But ever since Drive came out on DVD, Araabmuzik has been flexing less about lonely night drives and more furious rap + dubstep driven by his fingers on his beat pad. If you ever get a chance to see him, make sure you get close so you can see what he’s doing — he’s the Rachmaninoff of the MPC.
9. Calvin Harris
Calvin Harris is the Coldplay of EDM — gilded music that sounds like it has a higher GNP than some first-world countries. “I Need Your Love” is just the simplest song and yet when it’s playing and the fireworks are going off and everybody is singing along it pummels you like a 2×4 of joy that can only be approximated in any other setting. Yeah by this point, there was a healthy mix of drugs and adrenaline to get everybody on the same page, but I’ve been going to music festivals for years and — save for Phish — I have never seen a festival headliner who gets a higher percentage of people into the show than Calvin Harris. Again, say what you will about the simplicity of the music and how easy it is to perform, the fact there is one man behind this bacchanalia of sex, drugs, and rave is pretty stunning. I guess you could say I found love in a hopeless place.