Main-stage EDM is often described as the sound of two Transformers locked in combat; now that image comes one step closer to reality as SFX and LiveNation wage a proxy war over the Northeast’s EDM fan base this spring. Call it Atlantic Rim: Memorial Day.
The battle pits the inaugural American edition of the Netherlands’ Mysteryland festival, produced by the SFX-owned ID&T, against the third New York edition of Electric Daisy Carnival, produced by the LiveNation-backed Insomniac. Both festivals will take place Saturday, May 24, and Sunday, May 25, just 100 miles apart, as EDC returns to New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium and Mysteryland sets up its candyland theme park in Bethel, NY — the site of 1969’s Woodstock festival.
For a scene that would like to assume the counter-cultural mantle of the hippie generation, the symbolism of the latter site can’t be overstated.
Ironically, the Woodstock legacy itself has become one of the spoils of EDM’s big-money wars. Last summer, just a week before ID&T announced that it would be bringing Mysteryland to the original Woodstock site, Insomniac was still trying to convince Saugerties Town Board members to grant it permission for to produce the New York EDC on the site of Woodstock ’94, some 90 miles up the Hudson River from Bethel, but safety concerns scuttled the project.
ID&T clearly won this round; the Bethel Woods site will allow them to set up the campgrounds and forest-themed installations that are a hallmark of Mysteryland’s European edition, while EDC is relegated to a stadium. But the competition for ticket-buyers may not end up being that fierce: In a possible sign of EDM’s market segmentation, the two festivals are courting significantly different publics. To begin with EDC is 18+, while Mysteryland has a strict 21+ policy. So a big chunk of attendees who have been shut out of Mysteryland will have EDC as their only option, while more seasoned ravers seeking to avoid the pacifier set will flock to the Woodstock grounds.
The two festivals’ lineups also reflect considerably different interpretations of contemporary dance music. EDC New York skews towards the bold, buzzy sounds of main-stage EDM — Martin Garrix, Headhunterz, Hardwell, Afrojack, Calvin Harris, Cash Cash, Cedric Gervais, Steve Angello, Tiësto — while Mysteryland skews more towards trap and dubstep (Dillon Francis, Flosstradamus, Kill the Noise, Chase & Status, Bro Safari) and, via the Sunday School “Mini Fest,” traditionalist house, techno, and tech-house (Dubfire, Joris Voorn, Seth Troxler, Carl Craig, DJ Sneak, Josh Wink, Chris Liebing).
EDC hasn’t entirely turned a blind eye to the so-called underground; its lineup has its fair share of curveballs, including Art Department, Claude VonStroke, Damian Lazarus, John Digweed, Loco Dice, Tale of Us, and Skream. Mysteryland, meanwhile, has taken advantage of its Dutch connections to present a Sound of Q-Dance stage, featuring many of the heavyweights of the rising hardstyle scene. Another Dutch DJ to appear at Mysteryland is Amsterdam house legend Dimitri, who is playing again after undergoing a leg amputation last year; he’ll spin back to back with Carl Craig at Sunday School’s Vinyl Only stage, in what amounts to Mysteryland’s clearest invocation of old-school values.