Now this is how you throw a major electronic dance music festival party. Forget the trance/dubstep black-and-whiteness of Friday. And obviously Saturday night was a stormy wash. On Sunday night, Insomniac made up for its limiting transgressions during the former and having to pull the plug for safety concerns during the latter, and threw its best-ever Vegas party at EDC’s Sunday night finale. It was so good, we didn’t want to leave — but after waiting nearly three fucking hours to exit the Las Vegas Motor Speedway lot the night before, we reluctantly opted for a bottleneck-free, 4:30 a.m. departure. (Sorry, Danny Tenaglia.)
What made it so good? Let us count the ways. The vibe. The weather. The energy. The diverse musical options. The (truly) underground alternatives. The appearance of so many familiar local faces. The obvious efforts Insomniac made to make up for Saturday’s night’s schedule abort.
And for this house head, the place to be was the reconfigured Cosmic Meadow stage, curated by Carl Cox with some of the best house DJs in the world. This stage’s lineup did not disappoint. As Max Plenke wrote, Nicole Moudaber brought some authenticity to the proceedings, opting for a vocal-less, old-school house set. Green Velvet may play tech house, but he had us in a trance with his building set, which climaxed at the end with his classic 1993 track, “Preacherman,” famous for its sample of Rev. C. L. Franklin delivering a sermon about children “playing house.” Umek followed with a harder, more rambunctious — though just as dirty — set that appealed to the newbies not so accustomed to the subtleties of progressive/tech house. Which may have explained the muted responses for John Digweed’s dark, deep, throbbing mix of space funk and minimal grooves. That pent-up energy was released during nearly two hours of house — of seemingly all varities — by Cox himself, drawing the biggest crowd at Cosmic Meadow all night. It delighted revelers so much, a mass exodus ensued despite closer Tenaglia’s emergence behind the decks, the partiers undoubtedly exhausted and perhaps sated.
Best part of that stage? I didn’t recognize a single song all night, save “Preacherman.” Now that’s real nightlife: letting the DJ educate and expose you to new and different sounds.
When we weren’t grooving it up at Cosmic Meadow, we were marveling in the return of real drum ‘n’ bass over at the Basspod stage, which previously had been overrun by jocks playing the current, Americanized version of dubstep. Not Sunday night. DnB poured out of that stage’s PA every time we stopped by, to the delight of jungleheads and breakbeat dancers, or anyone queasy from the weekend’s domination of novelty bass drops.
With so many underground treasures to be unearthed at those two stages, we passed on most of the other stages, programmed mostly with DJs currently enjoying local residencies, or acts we’ve seen before — though, from the periphery, we could tell most of them were more than well-received by their audiences. We did, however, indulge in an early greatest-hits set by trance pioneer BT, who remains both a tireless, enthusiastic physical presence behind the decks, and a great judge of where to place songs in a set. However, the set favored his conventional-sounding bangers over his more sonically adventurous “hits.” That said, he did play all seven minutes of 1997’s “Flaming June,” still as gorgeous and exhilarating as it was upon its release.
What EDC — and electronic music in general — needs is what BT represented in the late 1990s: a trance game-changer, someone who reinterprets the genre, while still concentrating on craft and even songwriting, and dodging the (ch)easy payoff. And, of course, more of what we heard at Cosmic Meadow, please.