Saturday, June 9, 2012 | 3:19 p.m.
1. It starts from the moment you enter the Speedway. Looking down from the confetti-colored stands, the whole place is a writhing mass of limbs and light. People are packed impossibly tight before stages stacked with LED screens, the superstar DJs controlling the show dark specks in front of the chaos. From up here, it’s hard to reconcile that those 115,000 twitching bodies are human. They seem more on the scale of ants, like the whole Speedway is a glowing, disco ant farm with a hip insect soundtrack.
2. Approaching the Circuit Grounds stage, a parade of performers creates a carnival roadblock on bicycles and stilts. There’s a snake-like skeleton, its spinal cord enveloping a series of bikers. Next up, a train of bikes with neon-colored reindeer jutting from their handlebars like Santa’s sleigh with an EDC edge. For a moment we feel stuck behind their wanderings, Circuit Grounds and 22-year-old progressive house prodigy Mat Zo’s melodic set taunting like a beacon we just can’t reach. Then we’re into the fray, Zo’s melodies washing over us. The crowd smells like sweat and weed and energy.
3. The audience is part of the show at EDC. Women wear bathing suits and furry legwarmers with fairy wings and not a trace of irony. The men are nearly as colorful, though often more clothed, and everyone has embraced the beauty of body glitter. One woman wears hand-shaped pasties over her nipples; another has glow sticks lining the edges of her swimsuit. Two men sport fake mustaches and oversized gloves as Mario and Luigi. I can’t help wondering what these people look like in the real world. How many of them work in gray cubicles and wear khakis to the office?
4. Around 1:30 a.m. Kaskade takes over the Kinetic Field main stage, tiers of LEDs wrapping him with video footage that’s mirrored on screens surrounding the massive stage. Pink cloud bursts morph into electric daisies morph into cosmic fireballs, and the crowd ricochets off his sounds into a jumping, fist-pumping frenzy. Taking the mic toward the beginning of his 90-minute set, Kaskade introduces himself to the crowd as a small plane buzzes overhead with the words “Make some noise” scrolling on its undercarriage. A minute later, Kaskade tells the masses, “I can promise you this, I will never ask you to make some motherf*cking noise!” The crowd erupts in cheers. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one laughing.
5. An hour later, R3hab’s on the Neon Garden stage, the crowd eating up his house tracks and the dancers in astro-bunny outfits. A girl nearby works glow-gloved hands, leaning back like she’s dodging bullets in the Matrix. As soon as R3hab bids EDC goodbye, a voice comes through the silence: “Af-ro-ki. Af-ro-ki.” It’s Afrojack, with Steve Aoki by his side for a tandem set that quickly becomes a Night 1 highlight. The pair switches back and forth, in energetic succession, video boards trained on their every move. When Afrojack takes over the decks for a spin, he closes his eyes and leans his head back almost as if he were orgasming. It’s nearly 4 a.m. and my feet are starting to protest, but I can’t help dancing.
6. In the middle of the Speedway food court a squad of performers in full-body checkered spandex bounce through the final hours of a trampoline act. The start on the top of a wall, dropping onto a pair of tramps then springing through a series of flips and spins, two of them bounce-walking up the walls in unison. “That is so cool,” I murmur, and it is.
7. As darkness seeps from the sky, we climb out of the Speedway with a flood of exhausted festheads. The parking lot is a maze of vehicles and bikini-clad bodies, everyone searching for their car, wishing they were already in bed, that they had the cash for that VIP helicopter transport. It’s a different view of the EDC experience—the aftershock of exhaustion that hits as soon as you leave the neon halo. EDC Night 1 has been rightfully epic, but the eighth wonder is hitting the pillow at home.