SPIN is in Park City, Utah, traversing snow and cutting queues to bring you reviews of the next big films (and flops) as they make their Sundance Film Festival 2014 debut.
If you’ve never attended Electric Daisy Carnival but know the name, there’s a fair chance your feelings about the world’s largest electronic music fest fit on a spectrum that ranges from media-fed molly-madness to, “Kids these days, amirite?” But even if you can’t imagine a scenario in which you’d craft an arm’s worth of bead bracelets, don some furry rainbow boots, and party on a repurposed racetrack for three days from sundown to sun-up (we did not mix up the order there), you owe it yourself to take a long look at what’s really going on there. Ninety minutes should do the trick, and if you aren’t going to Las Vegas, 3-D is a must. Enter Under the Electric Sky.
Critics might be tempted to write off this concert doc of the 2013 festivities as so much advertising for Insomniac Events’ flagship rave, and it is a damn good pitch. But directors Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz (Katy Perry: Part of Me) capture a slice of the zeitgeist and genuine spectacle. If you have been, then you know the skepticism-melting, divisions-dropping, come-together realness of EDC, an event that refers to its ticketholders as “Headliners.” But if you haven’t made that journey, this feature film presents a worthy surrogate, as documentary crews follow a handful of very different fans as they prepare for, travel to, and ultimately experience the main event.
There’s Sadie the Texan, who suffers from anxiety and plans to scatter her grandfather’s ashes on the grounds. There’s Wolfpack, a crew of totally #epic bros who brush their teeth with beer and are making the trip from Cape Cod in an RV. There’s a very professional young couple taking a break from the grind, and a very Peter Pan-ish older couple who want to finally tie the knot at the fest. There’s a free-loving co-ed crew, and a music-lover whose scoliosis keeps him in a wheelchair. They are part and parcel, but also foils, to the hulking mass of humans who turn EDC into a single pulsing organism of PLUR, pounding bass, neon fabric, and heart-hands.
And Under the Electric Sky doesn’t skim over the reputation alluded to above. At a certain point, Cedric Gervais’ “Molly” comes on and we get to know one of the party’s many safety professionals — we follow her on those tireless rounds checking on passed-out patrons, onto the field and back into triage. Drugs have long gone hand-in-hand with music, but at an event of EDC’s magnitude, and with a wildly psychedelic slate of money’s-no-object bells and whistles, they aren’t necessary. Now those who are watching from home have a chance to see that.