Saturday, June 21, 2014 | 2 a.m.
As the sun set behind Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday evening, the glow of dusk gave way to a night lit by neon revelry as hordes of electronic dance music fans celebrated the first night of the Electric Daisy Carnival.
Long lines of cars gave way to even longer lines at the gates by the time the first of the weekend’s more than 200 DJs took the stage at 7 p.m.
Fans clad in a day-glo amalgam of tutus, tank tops and fur flooded into the festival grounds as a spread of eight stages and dozens of carnival rides, art installations and roving performers unfurled around them to the teeth-rattling pulse of bass lines.
The festival kicked off with a slate of chart-topping dance music DJs as well as on-the-rise acts making a name for themselves in the scene. Headliners including Las Vegas club residents Afrojack and Diplo, as well as electronic music veterans like Carl Cox, kept the masses moving until the early hours of the morning.
The 80,000-person capacity Kinetic Field main stage was updated this year to feature a fantastical cathedral-themed design outfitted with faux stained glass windows, cascading spires and two animatronic owls enshrining the stage’s altar of a DJ booth.
When not dancing, attendees explored the neon carnival nestled within the festival’s infield, including an assortment of Ferris wheels, tilt-a-whirls, slides and swings. Twenty art installations — ranging from a house-sized LED-lit boom box to a towering animatronic daisy — accented the night’s penchant for the surreal as elaborately costumed performers on stilts and roller skates snaked through the massive crowds.
As of 11:30 p.m., the event had drawn 88,000 people on its first night, according to figures presented by the promoters, Insomniac Events, to Metro Police. But revelers continued to pour in.
Festival-goers arrived by car, shuttle bus and even helicopter, with taxi fare from the Strip to the Speedway running about $70 one way.
While the 2013 edition of Electric Daisy Carnival seemed to smooth out the traffic snarls and parking issues of years past, congestion and confusion plagued entry to the Speedway once again this year in a trek that stretched upwards of two hours to make the crawl from Nellis Boulevard to the Speedway. Accidents and stalled vehicles along Nellis prolonged the ordeal further.
“It took longer to get in than it took us to get here from L.A.,” joked EDC veteran Selena Pimentel, 26, who last attended the festival in Las Vegas in 2011 and numerous times before then when it was in Los Angeles. Pimentel and her friends estimate that they’ll spend approximately $1,000 per person on festival passes, lodging, transportation and other amenities over the course of the weekend. While they say that they’re not happy about the increasing costs of attending the festival, they’ve accepted it as part of the experience. “We’ve been in this game for awhile; it’s what you expect when you come here.”
Security lines reportedly moved smoothly, with waits averaging about half an hour.
Metro spokesman Larry Hadfield said that as of 11:30 p.m., police had made 22 arrests, all narcotics related. But, he said, the event was off to a relatively peaceful start.
The festival’s growth in popularity since its relocation from L.A. to Las Vegas in 2011 after the death of an underage attendee has drawn mixed feelings among some of the EDM scene’s longtime fans.
“Being in Las Vegas has definitely made [EDC] a better, more accommodating party environment,” said 23-year-old Sarah of Orange County, Calif. “But at the same time, it’s become a lot of 18-year-olds who don’t care about the music and just want to come do drugs. For me, it was never about drugs — it was a unifying experience. The scene has changed a lot.”
Although the event skews toward younger demographics, people of all ages were in attendance, a sign that the momentum of EDM’s mainstream growth won’t be slowing anytime soon.
Electric Daisy Carnival, which continues tonight and Sunday evening, is in its fourth year in Las Vegas and last year pumped $278 million into the local economy.
Although most cited the A-list 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 within a communal experience.
“A lot of us who listen to this kind of music felt left out in high school, or at our jobs, for a long time,” Sarah said. “For better or for worse, you come to EDC, and you’re united.”