EDC 2012: The Underground Has Left The Building


EDC, whose organizers claim they sold out this year’s event in Las Vegas with a three-day audience of 300,000, has taken EDM to levels previously unseen in the United States.Twenty years after rave culture first entered the American mainstream, the success of a festival like Electric Daisy Carnival makes one wonder: Can electronic dance music retain its warehouse roots and peace, love, unity and respect (PLUR) on this level?

Massive stages, booming sound systems, and DJs who are now studio A-listers (David Guetta) and arena-rock stars (Kaskade) can’t help but inspire debate over whether this event has indeed become a mainstream showcase, as its promoters argued before raves were shut out from the L.A. Coliseum last year and EDC moved to Vegas.

Where DJs once wove a night’s narrative based on whim and their own sense of the crowd, EDC is a radio-station festival of electronic music, a place where you can see your favorite heroes perform the most played-out songs.If they were right, and maybe they were, EDC has taken rave culture beyond its edge and into the predictable realm of a stage show.

Kaskade’s performance Friday during the opening night of EDC at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, while electrifying in all its megawatt glory, was the usual rundown of his hits. If you ever wondered whether the electronic music veteran would play Vegas like a veteran torch singer, the answer is yes. He played all your faves. The main stage was even framed by wall-to-wall supergraphics and light screens that blasted the words to Kaskade’s songs, so people could sing along.

Also scheduled for EDC Saturday (but cancelled as a result of wind): Avicii, whose “Levels” is so played out that it inspired an internet meme (a photo of a gun-toting Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction with the words, “Play Levels Again…”), and who has become a caricature of the superstar DJ.

Calvin Harris played his own tunes on Saturday
. He’s a singer. He didn’t sing.On Friday, DJ Afrojack played his own style of synth-stabbed torture. With an MC pumping people up with classic lines like, “After this I’m going to go get fucked up,” Afrojack played a set of audacious tracks that sounded like a brigade of fire trucks was en route.

This is dance music today: A press-play parade of millionaires going through the motions.

It’s not EDC’s fault. The organizers booked some excellent talent, including Danny Tenaglia, Richie Hawtin and John Digweed.

But on Friday and Saturday (before the plug was pulled), the most popular dance artists in the world, sans only a few folks (Deadmau5, Skrillex), gave the crowd what it could have gotten by buying a CD or downloading a mix.

If EDC is truly electric, it’s because its crowds are amazing. Coachella, frankly, has nothing on 90,000 or so kids bouncing to Kaskade as he lords over the main stage.

But the lineup had us wondering what was going on inside the clubs on the Strip. Where’s the underground action at?

See also:
EDC 2012: After Canceled Night, EDC Closes Fest With Massive Turnout
House Music Beef With DJ Sneak Plays Out in Steve Angello’s DJ Set