A week spent scouring music blogs and watching footage on YouTube could not prepare me for the two days of electronic music mania that awaited me at my first Electric Daisy Carnival experience. I didn’t think I’d ever be a festival person—regulars’ complaints about the increasing commercialization of the EDM scene and bittersweet talk about its early days had succeeded in lowering my expectations of most dance music events. EDC proved me wrong.

The festival celebrated up-and-coming talent (Insomniac, Dancing Astronaut, and Icon Collective Music Production School’s Discovery Project afforded 11 lucky contest winners an opportunity to perform sets on the Neon Garden stage), as well as big name artists such as Afrojack, Borgore, Tiesto, and Armin van Burren.

One of my favorite acts was emerging electronic trio, Krewella. Their first time performing at EDC, the team said it was blown away by the festival’s color and liveliness. “There’s something about EDC that makes me want to be a part of [the crowd] and just go have an amazing time,” said vocalist Yasmine Yousaf. “Its very nostalgic,” added co-member Jahan.

“It’s a real artists’ experience,” said Anthony Maniscalco—you may know him as Hook N Sling and the mastermind behind last year’s hit track “Big Jet Plane.” Unlike many other festivals, which focus on delivering a rapid-fire showcase of the moment’s biggest hits, EDC allows artists to give audiences a taste of something different. “They want to hear what an artist has to offer, they don’t want to hear the big Top 10,” said Anthony, who’s killer set featured some of his latest original material as well as some brand new remixes.

Dutch DJ and production duo Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano took advantage of this musical open-mindedness and followed Cosmic Gate’s set with a sensual blend of high-energy progressive, sexy tech, and earthy tribal beats. “It’s a real great thing that people have started searching for other styles. People are getting educated and they’re looking for more tech, progressive, electro…I think its going to be good for the whole dance seen that we have different styles, different followings…its more accessible and its good for us as DJs because the seen will last longer,” said Ryan.

When I felt I needed a break from the high-octane power of the festival’s Circus Grounds and Kinetic Field stages, EDC’s Neon Garden stage provided me a little taste of Club Space Miami with tech, techno, and deep house by masters like Richie Hawtin and Victor Calderone. When Carl Craig dropped Joris Voorn’s “Goodbye Fly,” the crowd erupted in an infectious wave of jacking, grooving, and funky beat-bouncing.

The highlight of the festival, though, was the final act on the Kinetic Field stage. There was a chill in the November air as Armin Van Buuren ascended to the decks at 10 pm, ready to begin a two-hour set that will forever go down in my memory as one of the best I’ve ever heard. A hush fell over the sea of neon spectators as the first notes pierced the night. One by one, the crowd raised its arms as though in worship. What followed was 120 minutes of the best in trance and progressive—high-energy hits like his recent original tracks, “Live Forever” and “We Are Here to Make Some Noise,” as well as classics such as “Mirage,” and “Falling In And Out of Love.” Halfway through his set, Armin dropped Dash Berlin’s remix of “The Funeral” by Band of Horses, and my eyes watered. It was good music, pure and sweet and unadulterated, and the tidal wave of emotion delivered from the crowd was powerful enough to demolish any kind of inhibition or cultural barriers to such a euphoric gathering.

“This is the best in life,” said electro-house DJ and producer Quintino. “You come up and the people go screaming wild.”

Anybody who maintains that the original tenants of dance music are dead has only to visit this festival to understand that the PLUR culture, with all its good vibes and neo-hippie optimism, is very much alive and thriving. Granted, new genres have emerged and the scene has become a marketable driving force in the music industry, but these kids came for the sheer celebration of sound, light, and the reckless abandon afforded them on this weekend of music.

Photos by: Adam Lalani

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