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EDC, Night 2: Thwarting EDM

They worship the Daisy (COURTESY PHOTO: ERIK KABIK/
They worship the Daisy (COURTESY PHOTO: ERIK KABIK/

On the second night of Electric Daisy Carnival:

On arriving early: This is the second EDC where I walked in more than halfway into a Green Velvet slot and regretted it. Why can't I get it together early enough to catch a full set from a guy whose productions I've always like, whose legacy is unimpeachable ("Shake and Pop," which he closed his Saturday set with, notwithstanding), whose performance — however much of it I catch — always draws me in and compels me to shuffle in place, if not straight out dance?

Luckily, I was there long enough for him to play some of his never-old classics: "Coffee Pot (It's Time For the Percolator)," "Flash" and "Preacher Man," almost all complemented with thematic images on the LED screens that surrounded him. I grimaced when during "Flash" he grabbed a mic — in my experience, rarely does a DJ say anything worthwhile during a set, and it almost always tends to be self-aggrandizing or needlessly cheerleaderish — but he used the opportunity to address the stilt-walkers in bee outfits swarming the area and make other humorous dancefloor observations that mirrored his spoken-word portion of the original song. Next time, GV, I'll be there before you are.

On the Basspod stage: I'm meh about bass music for myriad reasons. Took me years before I found resonance with drum-and-bass music, and now it's pretty much the only bass music subgenre I can absorb. Nonetheless, I checked out two acts at what might be the most improved stage set-up of EDC, now rounded out (literally); tricked out with lights, lasers and pyro torches; and elongated to both accomodate additional screens and more bodies. One complaint for the area: It was too close to an access road for art cars and staff vehicles, though some of us had a good laugh at the idiot who decided he wanted to become a human hubcap for one of the wheels of the 20-foot-high stagecoach art car. 

DJ #1: Carnage did everything to drive me out of the sprawling basshead crowd. I commend him for merging dance music subgenres together — he balances his aggressive dubstep and trap side with high-note melodies associated with trance — but the results felt otherwise uninspired. Too many obvious and familar cues, too much of a reliance on four-on-the-floor beats and "the drop" (or when momentum is built up, stopped suddenly, and another (usually bass-heavy) element begins), and too much use of the mic, for Christ's sake. It all seemed insecure for a guy with the balls to pretty up what's normally a dark — and anti-trance — area of dance music.

However, Dillon Francis drew me in more with his own disinct style-mash, which usually incorporated the usual bass-music touches with dancehall. hip-hop and techno, all the while switching up tempos and structures. It felt fresher and more confident — almost like Major Lazer (who played Saturday night on the Hard/Cosmic Meadow stage to an enormous audience), sans the gimmicks and emcees and ridiculousness. Add the multisensory effects of the production, and you had quite a show.

On Carl Cox & Friends Stage: For the second year in a row, legendary house/techno DJ/producer Carl Cox curated a stage — this time, Neon Garden — and it was hard to leave the area every time, as one must inevitably do when trying to take as much of EDC in. After Green Velvet, we didn't return again until prog king John Digweed's first 20 minutes, before having to bail for another artist. I also had to break up an otherwise addicitve set by rising talent Adam Beyer, whose Body English gig earlier this year was an unfortunate miss on my part, and whose programming was so good I shoehorned two hearty helpings. Finally, I resigned to watching Cox himself for only a few numbers, knowing he'd have a main-stage set the next night. In the end, I'd happily begin a petition to make Coxy's stage an EDC tradition. 

On subtlety: The Kinetic Field main stage was not the place to look for it, and prog-ish producer/DJ Eric Prydz lost some of his audience when he indulged in non-indulgence. His opening remix of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" may have even been a little too dated for the largely college-age crowd, and it certainly didn't fully engage with some of the following tracks, Prydz skewing a bit more toward a traditional, naunced, house-based DJ set rather than that of the relentless pop of lamestream EDM. A shame — Prydz is one of the few big-name headliners that actually deserves his status. 

On pop performance art: Melodic dance/pop act Empire of the Sun brought the weird-ish to another EDC with its (mostly) live set, the trio flanked by choreographed dancers, and all involved adorn in ancient-future outfits that shamed the attendees' own colorful costuming. Though it was disconcerting to see a large exile after the Australian act played its biggest hit, "Walkin on a Dream," the remaining throng exploded in enthusiasm and sing-alongs during the closer "Alive," EOTS' rousing new single. Anyone on the fence about going to October's Life is Beautiful fest downtown: This should be your tipping point.

Dog Blood: I was stunned by the performance by Skrillex and Boys Noize' newish collaboration at Coachella in April, and I was equally wowed at its EDC debut. The duo subverts the expectations created by the well-trod templates of modern dance music while building upon its foundations, presented in a thrilling package. With all the fiery, epilepsy-inducing eyecandy added for the EDC set, it made for an even more intense experience. One hopes the duo can eventually reduce the paycheck solo gigs long enough for a Dog Blood tour, so the rest of the country can witness this welcome palate cleanser. 

On the Discovery Stage: Every time I've checked out or walked past the stage solely programmed with amateur and unknown DJs this weekend, I've heard more of the same — except Rhythmic, who drove a small gathering crazy with some happy hardcore-like techno, often flecked with drum-and-bass breakbeats. Either I hadn't heard enough of those types of sounds thus far at EDC, or they were presented in a fresh way, or it was the sort of energetic dance-music jolt I needed at the time. At any rate, it was invigorating. Give Rhythmic a slot on the hardstyle-themed Basscon stage for 2014.  

On Fatboy Slim and Star Wars: His Funk Soul Brotherness' pre-dawn appearance was my first full set at the Circuit Grounds stage, its arches now covered with tarp and supporting a series of large, diamond-shaped LED screens that a) levitate via cables and b) look like a fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers from Star Wars (but fighting for good, obviously).

As for the DJ's first Vegas set since 2011's Marquee residency (which he apparently hated), the first half was plagued by Afrojack-like squall-house anthems that, frankly, are beneath a veteran and well-pedigreed DJ like Slim. The younger half of the crowd went bonkers for those, but several older attendees around me were decidely less jumpy, perhaps waiting to hear the big beat tracks, the flamboyant house, or even his own productions. Thanksfully, after a nearly a-capella remix of Daft Punk's current hit "Get Lucky" — surprisingly the first remix of the song I'd heard at EDC at that point — the set got more interesting. Slim also played Green Velvet's "La La Land" and his own "Star 69," closing with the opener: a remix of "Eat Sleep Rave Repeat," which he recently made with Riva Starr, and will likely earn him a few thousand more downloads given how well the song and its mantra went over with the definitely-raving, sometimes-eating, likely-only-disco-napping EDC faithful.