Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Friday, June 21, 2013 | 9:20 p.m.
Updated Saturday, June 22, 2013 | 8:21 a.m.
As the sun set Friday on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, sensory overload set in as an estimated 100,000 people helped usher in the first night of the Electric Daisy Carnival.
Long lines of cars and even longer lines at the gate were already well established when the first acts took the stage at 7 p.m.
As fans clad in arrays of technicolor swimsuits, tank tops, and assorted furs streamed into the festival grounds, they found themselves awash in bright neon lights and knee-shaking bass.
The evening started out with up-and-coming DJs spread across seven stages.
Headliners including electronic dance music legends Richie Hawtin and Armin Van Buuren and frequent Las Vegas club resident Afrojack kept fans dancing well into the early morning.
The festival’s Kinetic Field main stage, which was expanded this year to accommodate 80,000 gyrating fans, was done up in a Lewis Carroll-esque forest of enormous mushrooms and flowers flanking an animatronic owl, whose wings enveloped the DJ booth.
While stages rimming the perimeter of the speedway were the main draw of the evening, festival-goers had plenty of ways to entertain themselves in the middle of the infield.
More than two dozen rides, including several Ferris wheels, a mini-roller coaster and a tilt-a-whirl, furthered the carnival atmosphere.
Twenty art installations — which ranged from fantastical glowing floral displays to a fire-spewing “fish bug” — provided an additional touch of the surreal to the evening while elaborately costumed performers on stilts and roller skates wound through the massive crowds.
The event drew about 100,000 people on its first night, according to figures presented by the promoters, Insomniac Productions, to Metro Police. Attendees hailed from all 50 states and 46 countries.
They made their way to the festival in a variety of ways, including cars, shuttle buses and taxis, where a fare from the Strip to the speedway runs about $70 one way.
While in years past traffic snarls and parking issues made getting into the speedway an ordeal that could stretch upwards of three hours, attendees Friday reported having a much easier time.
“Last year was a nightmare, but this year wasn’t so bad,” said second time attendee Hayden Lewis, 19, who estimated it took about an hour to make it from his Strip hotel to the speedway. “We rented a U-Haul pickup truck for like $20. It was way cheaper than renting a car.”
Security lines were reportedly moving smoothly too, with waits averaging about half an hour.
Metro Police spokesman Officer Bill Cassell said traffic and parking appeared to be smoother than in past EDC events. All told, overnight at the festival there were 21 arrests for felony narcotics violations, one DUI arrest and six gross misdemeanor arrests. Medical tent personnel treated 204 people, mostly with minor ailments, he said. Two people were taken to a local hospital.
With temperatures in the 90s well after the sunset, most attendees opted for minimal attire, although some braved the heat in full-bodied costume suits.
Chris Ross and his girlfriend Sierra Snyder, both local Las Vegans, wore only underwear, covering the rest of their bodies in a base of black body paint adorned with intricate designs in green, yellow and orange evoking a psychedelic Garden of Eden.
The two had a title to defend after winning the costume contest at last year’s EDC.
“We spent eight hours today putting it on. We’ve been planning this for six months,” Ross said.
“We’re calling ourselves Adam and E,” Snyder added.
Although the event skewed toward younger demographics, people of all ages were in attendance, a sign of the continued mainstream growth of electronic dance music.
The event, which continues Saturday and Sunday evening, is in its third year in Las Vegas and last year pumped $200 million into the local economy.
Although most cited the stellar lineup of DJs as their main reason for attending, many tried to qualify EDC in more philosophical terms, describing it as an escape from reality, “like entering a different planet,” as one festival goer put it.
“It’s a cool weekend to get away and not worry about anything else,” said 19-year-old Evan Rothman, of Long Beach, Calif. “It’s a place you can embrace the inner you.”