Review: EDC Las Vegas- The Dubstep Perspective by John Esposito

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Electric Daisy Carnival officially started Friday June 8th, but as usual, the wonderful people at Insomniac had something special in store for us a little early.  Thursday, June 7th, brought Bassrush Massive to Orleans Arena, displaying some of the finest bass-inspired music EDM has to offer.  Wait… the most horrifying, downright inhuman masters of dubstep/electro aligned in a way that honestly terrified me. Big shout out to all those brave enough to attend with me. 

I arrived fashionably late to the event, which is expected from our group. Some of our members suffer from chronic tardiness, but I won’t name names. I had an overview of the event site where I noticed plenty of room and bleachers on both sides of the stage where I could see the show while also getting some much needed rest from raging. There were several large LCD screens where each artist could show off their best visuals accompanied by the blistering sound system that would leave no decibel unheard.

In any event, we arrived at 10:20pm, just in time to see what resembled a Transformers battle to the death. The Orleans Arena exploded with lasers, flashing lights, and thunderous clashing metal. It turns out it was Excision playing “X-Rated”, a slightly safer yet equally entertaining journey.  A couple more filthy tracks led into Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls On Parade” (ID Remix), Figure’s “Dominate” and then ending another paralyzing set with Excision & DatsiK’s “8-Bit Hero” (Megaman). 

Next up was a man who needs no introduction. Bassnectar, a musician who transcends the limits of thought and prepares something unique for each of his shows. His set at 11:00 PM would be no different.  He went right in with “Wildstyle Method,” and blended it perfectly with Ol’ Dirty Bastard “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” Who doesn’t like it raw? He relentlessly damaged our sanity with an onslaught of glitch, hip-hop, dubstep, electro and just about everything else under the sun. The first five tracks played can’t be purchased anywhere; they were made special for this night, and for us. I shouldn’t have to explain myself much further because he’s an amazing DJ. If he has a show anywhere 100 miles from your location, GO, and thank me later. 

I came to realize that most of the artists on the card Thursday night needed little introduction. The musical geniuses known as Knife Party graced the stage close to 1:00 AM, bringing up the tempo a couple notches. Yes, that’s possible…  I’m not sure what to say; they have yet to release a track that’s even average. Each tune is groundbreaking in its own way, blending what always seems to be the exact amount of dubstep with electro and moombahton in each of their sets. 

For those who don’t know, Knife Party is the side project of Rob Swire and Gareth McGrillen, two of the six members of the group Pendulum, who recently announced they were calling it quits. Although I’m quite sad to hear that Pendulum, one of my favorite groups of all time, was breaking up, I found solace in the fact Knife Party would continue its dominance of all things bass.

DatSik arrived ready to go at precisely 2:00 AM, and investigated the packed house to see if they were also ready. With the signature DatSik emblem spinning on the LCD screen, he announced “Are you ready for a new remix?”  At the same time, his remix of “Kick Out the Epic Motherfucker “ by Dada Life blazed through the speakers and an uproar commenced from every living being in the crowd. DJ Fresh “Gold Dust” (Flux Pavilion Remix), and Krome & Time “The License” (Doctor P Remix) rounded out a well put together set, with an extraordinary flow that kept everyone headbanging longer than we thought humanly possible.

The final act of the night was the notorious womanizer, Borgore, who proclaimed he “ruined dubstep.”  Ruined??? HA! After engaging the crowd with a few jokes to lighten the mood, he destroyed it with ground shaking bass, supplemented with heavy drops that only this man is capable of. I was intrigued by his remix of  Cedric Gervais’s “Molly”. He then dropped my personal favorite, “Decisions”, stopping right before the drop, teasing the crowd a bit while demanding we give the anthem a proper introduction.  “Nympho” always seems to bring out the best (worst?) of us with the entire legion singing along in unison. He ended his set with Benny Benassi ft. Gary Go “Cinema” (Skrillex Remix), but this time with a twist—replacing “Cinema” with “Cinnabon”, and “Drop the Bass” with “Drop the Cake.” As always, he played until the venue cut off the sound, showing me he not only respects us, but loves what he does. 

I was exhausted after five straight hours of mind bending sounds and a roller coaster ride of bass. Shock and awe filled my body, and this wasn’t even the first day of EDC! It was at this moment I knew I was in store for a magical weekend, and I needed to be ready for just about anything. 

Finally, the day we’d all been waiting for had arrived. The months of planning, rescheduling and anticipation were finally over – Friday, June 8th, Electric Daisy Carnival day one! After a 2.5 hour drive to get to the site with almost no line, we were granted entry into the festival at 11:20 pm, a little over four hours late, but for our group not so bad (I still love you all). Walking past the bleachers I could already feel the energy and excitement flowing through my body. WE MADE IT! 

My first glance at the festival was mesmerizing. All the lights were shining, 100,000 fans looking like busy ants, and not ONE person standing still.  The rides and bright lights from the stages illuminated the sky.

This was no time to get caught up in the wonders that is EDC; it was time to haul ass to the set I was most excited for… Figure, the MONSTER of drumstep, and my favorite DJ/Producer. Only one obstacle stood in my path – actually getting there!  After locating BassPod on the map, I had to locate it in reality. Luckily, navigating through the raging rapids of 100,000 people was a lot easier than expected. The stages were properly spread out, leaving plenty of room to roam, sit and rage to all of our favorite artists. 

Arriving at what I called my “home bass” for the weekend, I was smiling ear to ear viewing the setup. Two gigantic cube-shaped LCD screens were positioned next to each other on an angle meeting perfectly at the DJ booth. The visuals were on point – a huge improvement from last year’s stage. 

As expected, Figure started strong, filling the first half of his set with a slew of heavy hitters including Borgore’s “Flex” (Figure Remix), his own “The Werewolf”, “Michael Myers is Dead”, and “Dominate.” Halfway through his set, Figure asked if we’d like to hear some new music. YES, PLEASE! He played his remix of Kanye West’s “Mercy” ft. Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz and his own “God Slay the Fiend”. These tracks gave us a look at some of the new music the talented producer created.  Ending his set, he proclaimed, “You guys are ridiculous.”  Yes, we are. Thank you!

I can’t say enough about his set – perfect flow, great songs, and just about everything you hoped for from only an hour of music. It’s no surprise he’s been getting the well-deserved recognition and support from Excision, Downlink and Flux Pavilion, and has an upcoming release scheduled on Circus Records.  Keep an eye out for this man.  Not only was this my favorite set of the weekend, I KNOW he will blow up.  Check out his website for free new releases and upcoming shows at www.imfigure.net. If you’re a fan of dub or drumstep, make it your business to see this monster perform live. 

After Figure I decided to broaden my horizons and check out some non-bass inspired music – which was only fair, considering I literally dragged all of my friends to BassPod. Venturing to the main stage for Afrojack and Kaskade was mind blowing. I loved the layout, plenty of alternate routes to Kinetic Field, and once again, giant LCD screens and large bursts of fire intensified the experience lighting the entire main stage on a hot desert night in Las Vegas.

After Kaskade’s 90-minutes of vocal electro, it was back to my home away from home, the BassPod. I was shocked to see almost all my friends camped out there. I don’t know who was more surprised after they all heard I had just come from Kaskade and Afrojack! 

High Contrast are considered living legends, and are highly regarded and respected by almost every artist in and out of the Dnb dub scene.  Watching the sun rise during the set was a sight I’ll never forget. It is always amazing being with your friends and listening to the music you love. I really like DnB, but was not familiar with a lot of the songs played during the set. The one thing I can say for sure is that I loved it. There was a good mix of hard and soulful drum and bass, which is exactly what you’d expect from a Hospital Records set. It’s a great change of pace from dubstep, giving me a chance to get back to my hip-hop roots. 

I ended the day with Fedde Le Grand, a personal favorite of mine, and a set I couldn’t miss. I also decided to pass the time while waiting for friends by going on a couple rides and enjoying some quality time with my beautiful girlfriend and the rest of our friends. 

After a really nice Day 1, I was even more excited for Day 2. Almost every artist I wanted to see was booked for this day. We arrived at noon to a line of police officers, looking rather annoyed, declaring they were halting admission because of  20+ mile per hour winds.  Devastated, head down, slouched against a metal railing, looking like a child who just had their candy stolen, I still hadn’t fully process what was happening. I was missing Rusko’s set. I wouldn’t see Zeds Dead, Doctor P and lastly, which I found most troubling, I would NEVER find out who the “Special Guest” was. I had pondered this “Special Guest” since the moment set times were released. I even spent a good amount of time cross-referencing the list of artists to see who was missing. 

We decided to head back to our hotel and take it from there.  Walking out of the elevator to our suite I started to appreciate some music blasting through the walls of the hallway. Upon arrival at room 10-709 it dawned on me as I was sliding the door open, this wonderful music was coming from MY ROOM. The man responsible?  None other than David Cook, aka NuffSaid, who was already entertaining quite a few guests. As our personal resident DJ for the week, he came fully prepared with equipment, speakers, and everything else to assure we’d never have a dull moment. It only took about one and a half Figure tracks before I had completely forgot what had just occurred and moved on to enjoying myself.

While most would consider what unfolded Saturday to be a disaster, I came away learning a valuable lesson.  It really never matters what artist you did or did not see, how long the set was, or what songs were played. All that does matter is being with your close friends, the people you love.  Regardless of what happens at the festival, the people you surround yourself with can turn the worst situation into the best. 

It turns out it was my favorite day of the weekend. The music wasn’t too loud, and I got to spend some time with all the wonderful people I rarely see. I wouldn’t trade that for any musical performance in the world.  EDME, Team Cali, MONROVIA and, of course, BPR kept a smile on my face every second I was in Vegas. You know what? I’m still smiling!

I went into Sunday with a nonchalant approach.  After getting a much needed good night’s sleep, I awoke to something rather unusual… everyone had started to get ready!  Would we actually arrive to the festival on time? This was no dream.  Everyone was ready to go at a startling 6:00 PM. After grabbing something quick to eat, we were en route getting through parking and security at 8:00 PM.  Then it hit me; this was the first time I viewed all EDC had to offer while the sun was out… one out of 3 ain’t bad!

While viewing the schedule, my brain only allowed me to see two words…  PRETTY LIGHTS.  After much procrastinating, searching for people and taking in the festival experience, we all made our way to the main stage for Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano. Forty minutes later, I was taken back quite a bit.  Am I starting to love house music? Devilishly grinning while thinking to myself that even if the answer is yes, I’m not telling!  They had a great set, and I added them to my mental list of artists I won’t miss. Great start to the day, if I do say so myself. 

Looking around, I observed that the main stage was extremely crowded.  This was nothing like the energy I felt Friday.  After missing a vital day of EDC, the patrons came ready to party today.  As I glanced to my right an awe-inspiring fireworks show had just began, putting me into a total stupor since I love fireworks.  During Chuckie’s set my lovely girlfriend and I were tired so we decided to find somewhere romantic to sit down, get some food and enjoy some time alone. Finding a nice spot on the grass during Green Velvet’s set, we soaked in the music together till about 11:20. 

Both feeling a little burned out from four days of utter madness, we found a nice spot towards the back of Kinetic Field, sat down and prepared for one of our favorite artists – Pretty Lights.  At exactly 11:30 on the dot “Hot Like Sauce” (Rustified Remix) complimented blinding blue visuals that painted the LCD screens, lighting up the crowd to reveal 50,000 plus beaming faces. His style—a fusion of electro, hip hop, jazz and even a little dubstep, comes together in a way like no other, breaking down the walls of the genres to bring us something truly amazing.  His tracks “If I Could Feel”, “Out of Time”, and “Still Night” blended together perfectly. 

I know y’all heard this before! Taking it back to the OG hip-hop shit! 06 EDC COME ON!”  This could only mean one thing.  It was time for Emma James’ classic vocals “Ohh Ohhh Sometimes” in the form of Pretty Lights “Finally Moving.”  Was this his way of clearing the air of whether it was Flo Rida or Avicii who first obtained the idea to use these vocals?  Flo Rida goes as far as to use his exact guitar rift. Nonetheless, he continued assaulting the crowd with “World of Illusion,” “High School Art Class” and “Total Fascination” mashed with “Sunday School.”  This let us know this was the finale.  I gasped, but “I Know the Truth” eased my pain.  His last song would be Dubstep.  My most cherished archetype, artist and cherished person in the world was by my side.  Life really doesn’t get much better.

After peeling our faces up off of the ground, we stood up to ensure the rest of the festival hadn’t crumbled around us.  We came to the conclusion that we had seen enough of EDC.  We were dead tired and wouldn’t enjoy the music if we stayed much longer.

While watching Noisia’s opening, a passerby approached me and inquired “Is this Avicii?”  This was confirmation that it was definitely time to go home! I took my final glance at EDC LV 2012, and exited at the exact moment a firework show brightened the black sky. This ended our EDC adventure in a breathtaking fashion.

EDC Las Vegas was over, and it was one hell of a ride.  This is an experience I suggest everyone within the EDM community should try for themselves at least once.  The timing alone gives it an entirely unique aspect.  Combine that with fireworks, rides and people dressed in the most obscure, yet somehow fitting, styles in the universe make it an unbelievable experience.  It might be the music that brings 100,000 people to the desert, but it’s surely the adventure and friends that keep them coming back.  The vibe and lay out were great, and everything was just how it needed to be.  Sure we missed a day, and it was 100 degrees every day, but we left with no complaints.  I learned long ago that if you “Promote what you love instead of what you hate” , you’ll discover the best way to appreciate life. 

John Esposito for EDMNYC

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