written by Jennifer Fall
When I started attending electronic music events in the early 2000’s, the festival scene was just achieving notoriety in the midwest. The largest events I had attended were warehouse parties in Indiana, Ohio, and Chicago. Around that time, people were telling stories of amazing California massives run by a man named Pasquale Rotella. Friends of ours who had attended these events were impressed beyond belief not only by the music, but the high level of production quality.
As time went on, Pasquale developed Insomniac into an event company that went from staging single-day events to the three-day festivals of today. The following is an account of what is possible with over two decades of work under Insomniac’s belt. Make no mistake: EDC20 has made itself an inextricable part of dance music history.
EDC Las Vegas at a glance
Music genre: Anything and everything that falls under the EDM umbrella
Capacity: Large (140,000 people)
Crowd type: Ravers and kandi kids galore
Water stations: Yes
For the first timers
Getting to Vegas is relatively simple. Many west coasters drive, but we flew in from the midwest. I booked a hotel/flight package through the Southwest Vacations website, which cost $850 per person including flights, hotel room, and shuttles to and from airport (not bad at all for Las Vegas). The EDC community is quite strong, so many headliners (Insomniac refers to attendees as “headliners”) choose to room together, connecting and making plans through Facebook groups to help offset the cost of lodging/travel.
If you make your plans earlier than I did, you’ll be able to reserve a room on the Strip for a rate similar to what I paid for my last-minute reservation at The D in downtown Vegas. Prices go up everywhere during EDC week, so keep that in mind during your planning process. The benefit to staying on the strip is having EDC week club events/pool parties within walking distance, but it will also take you that much longer to get home after the festival ends each night—or rather, morning.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a huge venue, and a lot is packed in to it. With eight stages, plus mobile artcars and the club-like Smirnoff House, there’s literally always something to see and do. Besides the pyrotechnics, LED lights, and lasers adorning each stage, other production highlights include the EDC Parade—which took place each night at 12:15—as well as nightly fireworks shows that will put anyone’s best Fourth of July to shame.
Trance is my first dance music love, and EDC20 had one of the best trance lineups I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. I don’t think it’s possible for me to just list a couple up-and-comers, so instead, here’s an account of the sets that defined my weekend…
Day 1: John Kelly played a fantastic old school breaks set at Kalliope Art Car. Kaskade was flawless (as always), and I’m happy to report that my favorite house producer Duke Dumont is still my favorite after seeing his set. We ended our night with Chris Lake at Cosmic Meadow, and caught the famed EDC sunrise on our way out (the one night we were able to make it all the way to 6am).
Day 2: We watched Anna Lunoe kill it on the main stage while riding the ferris wheel, then spent some time bouncing around from stage to stage and getting a better lay of the land. I caught Armand Van Helden at the Upside Down House stage, and as someone who grew up listening to his tracks, seeing him live was a dream come true. We then headed over to see Above & Beyond and Armin Van Buuren, and that’s when we realized how massive the crowd truly was: we literally could not get into the Circuit Grounds area. We ended up leaving early that night which, due to our pool party plans for the following afternoon, was an especially wise choice.
Day 3: Takes the cake! Paul Oakenfold’s set had the trance head in me on cloud nine…I really could have listened to him all night. But alas, I made it to Paul Van Dyk, Markus Schulz and a little of Marshmello’s set (perhaps you all have seen the prank he and Tiesto played?). Afterwards, we attempted to get into the Smirnoff House for Ferry Corsten b2b Markus Schulz, but it was already at capacity. So we watched the fireworks, said our sad goodbyes to all the friends we had met at EDC, and headed out for the last time.
Things to do
EDC is true it’s name, fully encompassing the feel of a carnival. There’s no way to do everything on offer in just three days: between rides, art installations, watching performers roam the venue, and shopping around for festie gear, all of a sudden the sun comes up and it’s time for bed.
Outside the festival, EDC week books some of the world’s most renowned acts for its pool parties and nighttime club events. On Thursday we saw Above & Beyond at Wet Republic; Sunday we headed to Daylight Beach Club for Disclosure. Luckily, because doors to EDC don’t open until 7pm, it is possible to experience a true Las Vegas pool party and hit the festival all in one day (unless you end up sleeping through the daylight hours, which is definitely possible).
The city of Vegas has so much to offer travelers. I highly recommend riding the High Roller, a large ferris wheel that offers gorgeous views of the Vegas skyline, day or night. Visit old Vegas and see the lights of Freemont Street, a large LED light canopy built over all the old casinos, including the world famous Golden Nugget. Vegas is a 24 hour city, so your options are limitless!
VIP or nah
VIP packages were much more reasonably priced than other festivals that I have attended. For around $850.00 you can add elevated viewing areas, private food and beverage options, and air-conditioned bathrooms to your EDC experience. There was even a secret throwback 90’s warehouse party for VIP attendees. After going with a GA ticket this year, I would definitely purchase a VIP ticket for next year.
Insomniac is a company with history, and it shows. Their 20+ years of experience and professionalism is evident in every element of the festival, including the nostalgic bits. One of my favorite elements of the festival was Memory Lane, a walkway of screens showing footage from past EDCs.
The story-worthy moments I experienced during EDC are almost too many to count (though Memory Lane was certainly a site for several), but as it turns out, my favorite story from the weekend is not my own, but that of the man at the helm of this unbelievable endeavor.
Earlier in the week, Pasquale Rotella was a keynote speaker at the EDM Biz conference. During his talk, he reflected on how nervous he was to move EDC from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in 2011, after 13 years of calling the LA Coliseum home. He wasn’t sure if the following the festival had built would travel to the new location. But clearly, they did.
EDC20 is a milestone for the company, and in a lot of ways, a shining example of how dance music was brought out from the underground. Rumors have already begun to circulate about what EDC21 will be like, and I can’t wait to find out.