To call this weekend's Electric Daisy Carnival a "rave" is akin to calling the World Cup just a few friendly soccer games between nations. Held annually in and around the downtown Los Angeles stadium that hosted the 1984 Olympics, the EDC is an all-out experiential assault packed with top-tier stars of electronic music, sun-soaked bodies in various states of undress, carnival rides, and a two-day total of 185,000 fans, partying day and night.
The "massive," as events like these are often called in the U.K., is alive and kicking in the U.S. -- and it's gone mainstream (Lindsay Lohan turned up Saturday night, and Weezer's Rivers Cuomo made a cameo).
While some of the two-day fest's attendees were just kids looking to hook up and hang out, the larger percentage are passionate fans of dance music from all over California, Arizona, Nevada, and even Mexico who swell the annual attendance figures as the event's reputation grows. (The promoters have already thrown satellite EDC events in Dallas and Denver this year, and a Puerto Rico date is planned for August.)
But L.A.'s EDC is still the crown jewel, and this weekend's installment offered some choice moments. Here are our faves.
BEST CRUNK CHEERLEADER: LIL JON
Atlanta crunkmaster Lil Jon was everywhere at EDC, drinking in the artist area; hanging out on the main stage, screaming his trademark "Yeah!" alongside top talent; performing with Steve Aoki on a smaller side stage; and chastising gate crashers at the festival's stadium stage, encouraging more responsible partiers to "pull that mother fucker down" if they "see anyone jumping the fence." The rapper-turned-techno booster did much to keep the vibe party-friendly and he thanked the eventually subdued crowds for finally "stopping the BS" around 9 P.M. Saturday.
"If you love this music make some mother fucking noise," he yelled Friday during Afrojack's set. We get it, Jon, you like electronic music.That said, we're not forgiving you for the 3OH!3 collaboration.
BEST CAMEO: RIVERS CUOMO WITH STEVE AOKI
Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo is about the last person you'd expect to see at a dance music festival rife with glowstick-toting teens, yet there he was in a green jacket and pink shirt Friday onstage with Steve Aoki. The Pinkerton purveyor sang a yet-to-be-released, untitled tune planned for the follow-up to Aoki's last full-length, Pillowface & His Airplane Chronicles. The jury is still out on this still-raw song, but the moment was a fun one for those who caught it. Otherwise, Aoki's set was mesmerizing, replete with the aforementioned Lil Jon cameo, stage diving, scaffold-climbing, and a set loaded with the producer's new, rock-leaning material.
BEST PEACEKEEPER: WILL.I.AM
The scene inside the Coliseum got scary Saturday afternoon when unruly concertgoers started breaking through chain-link fences to get onto the field, which filled to capacity early.Black Eyed Peas ringleader will.i.am managed to talk down an edgy crowd during his DJ set, admonishing brazen youths hell-bent on getting onto the field, who were jumping over security personnel and even cops to get there (and risking injury to themselves and vendors in tents nearby). "Stop acting stupid," he said. "We cannot continue until people act civilized. You should have come early like the party people." The "Where's the Love" rapper's plea seemed effective, with folks beginning to behave soon afterwards.
BEST PARTY SETS FOR THE OLDSTERS (TIE): GROOVE ARMADA + BASEMENT JAXX
Right after James Zabiela set the mood perfectly on the Circuit Grounds stage Saturday night with his version of Donna Summer's disco classic "I Feel Love," old-school favorites Groove Armada delivered a winning, genre-hopping DJ set. Prince's "Controversy?" Check.Major Lazer? Check.The duo rode EDC's energy waves like old pros and finished strong dropping an extended version of their own "Superstylin'" that was one of the highlights of the festival for those who came to dance.
Honorable mention goes to Basement Jaxx, who wowed fans with their own modern classic dance tracks plus fun forays into the bizarre via deft mixing of tracks, from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" to Christopher Cross' 1980s yacht rock hit "Ride Like the Wind."
BEST PROPS: KASKADE
In a nice bit of irony, Orange County's Kaskade, aka Ryan Raddon, who famously doesn't even drink, had one of Friday's best moments for those opening varied doors of perception: Around a hundred white balloons were unleashed over the field, their release timed to his collaboration with Dragonette, "Fire in Your New Shoes."By the time he got around to dropping his transcendent, trance-tinged house track "All You" and the title track from his latest album, Dynasty, the area near the front of the stage looked like the inside of a particle accelerator, balls gently bouncing off each other, much to the crowd's delight.
BEST MOUSE SINCE MICKEY: DEADMAU5
The slow-to-build headlining set Friday from the now-massive Deadmau5 was disappointing for some newbies, it's only because they probably lacked the patience to grasp his long-ranging, anticipation-building sonic journey. The Toronto native delivered in the long run, however, and by the time he dropped one of his best known cuts, "Ghosts N Stuff," he owned the night.Bonus points for his LED-encrusted costume mouse head and his restrained but effective light show.
CUTEST MASCOT: DUCK SAUCE
Yes, there really was a giant inflatable duck behind Duck Sauce -- the newly hatched collaboration between A-Trak and Armand Van Helden -- during their live debut. And the massive yellow-billed creature wasn't the only one smiling during the duo's vibe-y, disco-tinged set, which did not disappoint. Duck Sauce all but owned the Dim Mak records-curated Cosmic Meadow stage from the get go, when their relentless, Daft Punk-esque "You're Nasty" turned the audience to putty, bringing the New York sound to L.A. without even having to drop their increasingly familiar hit "Anyway" to get the crowd moving.
BEST CALIFORNIA MOMENT, VIA AN ITALIAN: BENNY BENASSI'S RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS REMIX
Sure, it's a trick Milan's Benny Benassi employed last year at EDC, but his re-working of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Otherside" went over even bigger this year, his extended looping of the bassline coaxing tens of thousands to sing along to the Los Angeles band's addictive anthem. Then, Benassi deftly tweaked the tune into a throbbing electro house monster just as fireworks exploded above his head -- always a nice touch, if you can swing it.
BEST OLD SCHOOL MOMENT: SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA
Stockholm residents Axwell Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso know how to get a festival crowd on their side: straight banging hits. Saturday night, they did just that, and with dizzying acumen, dropping everything from "One More Time" by French house icons Daft Punk to Italian electro-disco maven Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction." But when they dropped "Show Me Love," the timeless NYC house hit from Robin S., it was game, set, match, Bjorn Borg style.
BEST CLOSER: BOYS NOIZE
Boys Noize woke up anyone who was feeling beat on Saturday night after eight-plus hours of dancing. The Berlin-based artist, known to his friends as Alex Ridha, assisted the weary and wired alike as the fest wound down with searing renditions of tracks from his small-yet-stellar catalogue of bangers (see "Lava Lava" and "Kontact Me") accompanied by red, black and white visuals projected onto screens.