EDC, which stands for “Everybody Does Cocaine” or “Extremely Dehydrated Concertgoers” or “Electric Daisy Carnival” is a 3-day electronic music festival and violent assault the my mind, body, and soul. For 72 hours, the Las Vegas Motor Speedway is transformed into a massive neon carnival designed to amuse people on drugs.
I’m not a fan of EDM music, but I decided to go out of curiosity and also because I got to hang out with my favorite people. They were stoked because they got to see DJ EPILEPSY or whatever, I was stoked for a 3-day binge in Vegas. Everybody wins.
I don’t hate EDM, I just don’t understand it. From the outside, it’s a bunch of Norwegians hitting “play” on a mix that sounds like an orchestra of car alarms going off. Still, I wanted to approach the entire experience with an open mind, and I mean an open mind. I might have overdone it. My mind was so open I think a lot of important stuff fell out.
After having my brain rattled into mush by 20+ hours of EDM music and party supplies, I understand it less than I did going in. I threw myself at the feet of the EDM Gods and screamed “SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT” at the top of my lungs. I left my expectations at the door and really tried to immerse myself in the experience. I succeeded in that, but I came out of it with little to no insight on the culture.
Maybe there is no bigger meaning other than jumping around while the entire world looks like a psychedelic wormhole. Maybe I’m looking for a higher purpose in something that’s very simplistic. Maybe the point is to not look for a spiritual awakening or deeper meaning in the kaleidoscopic, bass thumping chaos. Or maybe I’m just old and out of touch.
EDC is a smorgasbord of hedonism under a swirl of special effects and earth-rattling bass. A place to embrace your most primal impulses and try to connect with human beings on a different plane of reality. Or at the very least it’s an excuse to do drugs in an ideal environment without the fear of being caught.
Despite my lack of understanding, I enjoyed the experience immensely but I would never, ever, under any circumstances, do it again.
Day 1: Excitement Leads to Disaster
Prior to arriving in Vegas, I was traveling through Arizona and Utah with my parents for a relaxing, sightseeing vacation. We had seen Sedona, Page, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park. If there was a polar opposite of my EDC experience, this was it.
(Faces have been pixelated to protect the innocent)
I have a tendency to get overly excited when partying is involved, especially at concerts with bands I don’t know. I get more fucked up than necessary so if the music sucks, I don’t care. I made a promise to myself that I would take it gradually and not overdo it. I’ve learned this lesson too many times, festivals are a marathon, not a sprint. And a festival that’s centered around drugs? The temptation would be high. I needed to be extra careful.
Once we got to the casino, that plan flew right out the fucking window. Casinos are masters of subtlety manipulating you to engage in your worst impulses. I hadn’t been to Vegas in a while so I grossly underestimated its power.
The Mann Clan kicked off Friday night drinking like we were at a fraternity rush party. My parents not as aggressively as me, but all 3 of us were throwing down margaritas, wine, whiskey at a healthy pace. We hadn’t really been drinking during our southwest expedition so the alcohol hit a lot harder than it normally would have.
GANG GANG GANG GANG
I had a moment of clarity and told myself to slow down but it was the equivalent of trying to stop myself on a waterslide. I had already taken the plunge.
They drop me off at the Stratosphere which used to be one of Vegas’ finest hotels but now is a complete shithole. I rendezvous with the gang and we start some Travis Scott-level RAGING. We made it! 3 days of partying together! I’m treating my body with reckless abandon.
The 4-8 PM time frame on Friday seemed like 5 minutes. Before I know it, I’m rationing my EDC fuel (molly) before the show and getting dressed in my finest bandana and tank top. It’s an hour drive, I take half my pill before I get on the bus thinking it’ll kick in right when I get there.
What I didn’t know was: the pills were triple stacks, meaning every 1 pill had the power of 3. I had just taken 1.5 but in my mind it was at 0.5. This will be important later.
We get to the speedway and start literally sprinting through the carnival like we’re 5-year-olds at Disneyland. Pulling up to the venue is probably how Grant felt when Hammond said “Welcome….to Jurassic Park”.
It was overwhelming. The unadulterated excitement made me anxious because my pill hadn’t kicked in yet so I took the second half. Huge mistake. About 5 minutes later the first half hits me and I thought “WOW this is PLENTY.” My second thought was “glad I didn’t take the whole thing” and my third thought was “Oh my god I did take the whole thing.”
This is literally what the world looked like
My night was similar to the Atlanta Falcons in Superbowl LI, great first half, disastrous second half. When the clock struck midnight and that second pill hit my bloodstream, everything went fucking bonkers.
I remember us walking to David Guetta when things went from “happy fucked up” to “I forget who I am” fucked up. The warm, loving feeling I had at first completely took over. Keith was gone. For the next 2 hours, my eyes rolled into the back of my head and I turned into a sweaty mess of a human being amused by anything and everything.
It looked like I was seeing the world through a vibrating stained glass window. As if there was a giant subwoofer on my temple vibrating my skull to the beat of the music. I was mildly hallucinating and in a complete trance. I remember maybe five minutes of this whole ordeal.
Looking at the stage was like staring into the sun from 10 ft. away. My pupils were completely black like a shark’s eyes. I was sweating like a morbidly obese person and touching everybody.
My friends just kind of left me in my own world which was probably the right move. If I’d been freaking out I could’ve easily fit in with the people in the medical tent but I was too fucked up to care. They did the right thing.
My only clear memory is when a guy came around with those fingertip lights. This angel of a human being showed me patterns and shapes that I didn’t think were possible. I started at his hands for what seemed like 5 hours but was probably 10 minutes until he started to get weirded out at how into it I was and moved on. Apparently, David Guetta was playing a concert in the background.
I don’t remember filming this
I literally “woke up” at the water station on the way to Alesso like my brain had just been rebooted. It felt like I was born again. I had chewed the gum in my mouth so much it had turned into mush and caked on my lips. But molly had loosened her tight grasp which gave me back my decision making abilities and my memory. I started to get nervous about what had transpired during my coma but this was no time for self-reflection. I just assumed I was acting normal (I wasn’t) and moved on.
Despite the ordeal, I almost wish the pills would’ve lasted longer. Being sober during Alesso’s 5-hour set made me want to kill myself. It was 50-degrees at 3 AM and he played about 15 encores to the point where I seriously thought about trying to sneak behind the stage and unplug something so I could go home without looking like the tired old man that I am.
We start walking to the shuttles and I look like a homeless person suffering from heroin withdrawals. All I could think was “I have to do all of this again in 12 hours.” If you want to see The Walking Dead in real life, look at the crowd leaving EDC at 5 AM.
My brain has never been so blank, empty, and depressed. I was a hallowed husk of a person. EDC had scored a first-round knockout. Lesson learned for the 1,000th time, don’t let excitement dictate drug use, it always ends badly.
2 more nights to go.
My Least Favorite Part: The “Music”
Repeat this Ad Infinitum
EDM music isn’t bad just like country music isn’t bad. Music is a subjective art form, what’s bad to me may be good to you and vice versa. During my near overdose on night 1, the music was transcendent. David Guetta’s set was not only the greatest concert in the history of recorded music but the absolute pinnacle of human achievement thus far.
When I came down and actually had to listen to the music for the rest of the festival, my opinion nosedived. Every set had the same pattern: 30 seconds of an enjoyable song (the “build” as most people call it) followed by a bass drop that sounded like a 56K dial-up modem. I’ve never heard more upsetting noises in my life.
I was desperate for variety. I would have listened to Polka music. Just please, please stop raping my ears.
There were some highlights. I enjoyed Snakehips, Dillon Francis, 1/5th of Alesso, Steve Aoki, and like 3 others whose names I don’t care to remember. When the angry robot noises stopped and there was some actual melody and groove, I loved it. It just didn’t happen that often.
The lack of variety made me really excited for A$AP Rocky’s set until I saw it. My one saving grace in the lineup turned out to be the biggest disappointment. The sound was kind of fucked up, he didn’t really have much energy, and we were too far away to feel the show.
Though the sound was bad, the lights and effects on the stage were incredible. In fact, the creativity and grandiosity of ALL the stages were breathtaking. They protruded from the ground like giant monoliths, lighting up the night sky and making it look like it was daytime.
I guess in order to make up for the underwhelming nature of DJs “performing” you need to distract the living shit out of the audience. Mission accomplished, most of the time I forgot there was a DJ on stage. And when I did remember, I couldn’t see where they were. I just assumed the stage was the artist.
TEDC is the incredibly hot, incredibly dumb chick that’s amazing to look at but a nightmare to listen to.
My Favorite Part: The Carnival
The entire carnival, from the rides to the decorations to the stages, is designed to overstimulate you. Everywhere you turned was another trippy sculpture or neon explosion of lights or some wrought iron tower spitting flames. It’s basically a brighter, happier, less psychotic version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
I’m not sure what’s happening but I like it
And throughout the course of the weekend the festival set off enough fireworks to blow up half of the Vegas strip. I mean Jesus Christ, I love fireworks but even I was thinking “enough already” after the 1 hour display on night 3. This was one of many “old man” thoughts I would have throughout the experience.
Walking around is usually the worst part about festivals. You’re in the middle of some dusty ass field during the dog days of summer, waiting impatiently for the next band to start. At EDC, all I wanted to do was walk around like a Japanese tourist, obliviously looking up at all the beauty while running into people right in front of me.
Rave Culture is Weird but Friendly
I was completely ignorant of what “rave culture” was before EDC. From what I had seen, it was a bunch of weird white people that take drugs, put on their neon lights, pacifiers, gas masks and shit then dance by themselves for a few hours while constantly searching for more drugs.
I was only half right. From the outside, that’s absolutely what it is. But like Olive Garden, when you’re there, you’re family. Once I was in the midst of the massive gyrating mass I shared an unspoken bond with my fellow concertgoers.
And the costumes, oh my god the costumes. The things I saw people wearing were more elaborate than cosplayers while somehow still being sluttier than sorority girls on Halloween. People were carrying around tiny generators to power their massive neon light ropes, girls were basically naked, and there were a lot of Illenium jerseys. I don’t know much about Illenium’s music but that fucker is a genius when it comes to merch.
The slutty outfits sound cool until you realize every girl at an EDM festival is either a 10 or a 0 and there ain’t that many 10s. Just because you can wear fewer clothes doesn’t mean you should. I’m not trying to fat shame here but if your body is a complete disaster you should try to cover it up like Chernobyl.
Most of the people were actually nice (on drugs) which was a nice change of pace from my usual experience at multi-day festivals. Everybody was too fucked up and happy to worry about other people. Like this guy. I’ve never seen anybody this happy.
I never really knew what was going on but I think that’s the point. Once you give up trying to understand or assign meaning to things, EDC is a lot of fun.
I Ain’t About That Life
I was not the target audience for this festival. In fact, when the marketing company advertises EDC on social media they probably exclude people in my demographic.
This is the first time I’ve felt that I was too old for a music festival. I found myself saying things like, “does it have to be THIS LOUD?”, “This isn’t MUSIC”, and “my knees are pretty stiff, it’d sure be nice if they had benches to sit on” Like most old people at concerts, I was scared and out of my element but refused to admit it. Damn youths.
EDC was an endurance exercise that tested my physical and mental limits. The festival circuit is for the kids now, my time has passed, and I’m OK with that. I used to be terrified at the prospect of being “old” and being 32 is not “old” but when it comes to music festivals I might as well be 60. I’ll still attend every once in a while but it will be from the air conditioned, much less crowded VIP section.
Even though I felt like a cantankerous old man at times, my friends got me through. We made it to the end together. This was a group effort, and we most likely would have died without each other’s support.
Thank you EDC for the bonding experience and the temporary crippling depression. I’ll never forget you.