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Monday, July 18, 2011

Onnoleigh does “EDC” Electric Daisy Carnival...

Onnoleigh Sweetman
Once a Raver always a raver as they say... As a graduate of the 1990's Rave scene myself I have gone to every party imaginable; from glow-stick lighted warehouses, to clubs with the best Trance, House and Goa. To be a witness of one of the greatest music movements in history was by far the best gifts I could have ever given myself. I look back at those days in awe and say quite confidently that if it was not for the Rave Scene, its amazing music and even more amazing community of friends that I acquired I probably would not be doing many of the creative things that I do today. It was an fabulous time and it is good to know that today that fledgling scene has finally grown up into something beyond imagination.

Over the last few weeks my good friend Onnoleigh Sweetman has been composing an amazing account of the Electric Daisy Carnival music festival that took place in Las Vegas at the end of June. Here is first hand account of an evening that was a watershed moment in Las Vegas history that few are going to forget.

Onnoleigh does “EDC” Electric Daisy Carnival...

The Hype about EDC had been building for months. Numerous posts on facebook were circulating in regards to the countless DJ’s, the fun, the glitz and the glamour, and last but not least, the drugs. Excitement in the Las Vegas area was growing but not without scrutiny of course. EDC in its 15th year had left its home base in California and was headed to the bright lights of the adulterous city of Las Vegas. Hype about the drug use, the heat and potential deaths made its way to virtually every news bureau across the city. If everyone had judged EDC solely on the fear that was distilled from the beginning, the festival was headed for complete doom and devastation with countless causalities which could’ve been comparable to World War 2.

But as we know, no one can keep a good raver down. EDC was going to happen, with or without the support of the media. And it didn’t hurt to have the backing of good ole Mayor Oscar Goodman who makes no excuses for his beloved city of decadence and debauchery. A city, which over the years takes great pride in being the biggest party town in the country… EDC was full Steam Ahead!

The weekend of EDC was upon us and I had zero plans of attending. It’s just a rave I thought, and I’ve done my fair share of raving as a former club diva of the late 90’s and early millennium. What could I possibly do or see that I haven’t seen or done before? So I shrugged it off, firmly believing that there was no way that I would ever get bitten by the rave bug. That was, until, the friends arrived.

It was Friday afternoon and I was just waking from a long night out downtown with Tim and Jen who flew in specifically for the event. EDC was a wedding present gifted to them by their friend whom I only know as Asian Station. I was dropping them off at their hotel, donning an alien mask, with Tim in a silver jacket to greet their friends whom they were spending the weekend with. “Might as well get in the spirit” I thought, even if I wasn’t going. The first thing we see driving up in the hotel parking lot is a large hummer with “EDC” spray painted on the back and “House Gangstas” painted on the side. Damnit! I couldn’t help but feel the excitement building in the air. It was all around me, there was no escaping it. Once a raver always a raver and this raver wanted in on what looked like the beginning of an epic weekend. And so we enter the room. It was like a house heads dream. Numerous lollipops, Gatorade and water bottles lined the tables. Sparkle bra tops, furry fluffers, and two cute girls in the guest bedroom resting their bodies so they could dance the weekend away. As an almost ten year veteran of Burning Man, momma raver kicked in and I explained the dangers of the heat and dehydration in this weather. I could only laugh when Asian Station said “open the fridge” and I did as he instructed to see it fully stocked with enough water and Gatorade to last a week on the playa. “No one is dying in this room” he said. And there it was. The how the heck did I think I would escape the excitement of EDC? With prior obligations set forth for Friday and Saturday that left me with one night only. The finale, of Sunday. And so the universe heard my desires to dance, at the very least, one night away amongst a sea of people with glow sticks, angel wings, daisies, fur, and most importantly, electronic music.

With a three day pass to EDC and an exit time of 3pm on Sunday, Tim and Jen gifted me two tickets to a raver’s carnival of dreams. And with those tickets I headed straight to the costume bin to construct the ultimate pink kitty cat outfit also known to countless burners on the playa as “Super Pussy”.

As a poi spinner for nearly a decade, I knew there was one person that I wanted with me on this adventure and that was “Pounce”. A veteran of the dance scene, Pounce and I met in 2006 and spent countless nights spinning glow poi, manipulating fire and dancing in clubs. And so it began.

We headed out to the festival around 9:00 pm. The roads to the Las Vegas speedway were packed and countless cars could be heard bumping all sorts of electronic music. We pulled as instructed into our parking space and headed to the gates. Pink fluffers, daises and back packs in hand we were ready to dance the night away….Now this is where I started to feel a little old. Everyone looked about 18 years old. Young girls donned booty shorts, glitter stomachs, and glow sticks. Young men with boyish grins walked around shirtless..And that is when it hit me. I entered the rave scene when most these kids were babies. Most of us that found the rave scene didn’t find it through the internet or mass media. We found it because we were guided by spirit to an underground culture that had been beckoning us our entire lives. In the 90’s it was fresh, it was new, and it was the dawn of a new day. We created P.L.U.R –peace, love, unity and respect. What did these kids know about respect and true house beats? That question stayed with me the entire evening up until the yo-yo ride….

It was a quick and easy access through the gates. My excitement started to grow as I heard thumping beats on what could be named the most amazing sound systems I have heard in my entire electronic career. We walked over the bleachers through the cosmic meadow and began our venture. The lights, the carnival rides, the music, the countless kids high on ecstasy. This was already making for an interesting evening. First up of course was the fire art installation by The Flaming Lotus Girls. I recognized the piece from Burning Man 2008 and couldn’t help but smile that BM pieces are continuing to make its way off the playa and into our everyday lives. The art piece was interactive. You could press and move buttons that in turn would move parts of the installation and shoot fire. The crew was great and handed us stickers while encouraging onlookers to participate.

From there we decided to hit the Heineken Dome. Beer, plus, DJ’s, plus air conditioning, equals a big win in my book. We headed to the DJ booth where a DJ that didn’t look over 21 was spinning Dub Step. Dub Step and I do not see eye to eye and never will. That’s an entire article all on its own. But with the spirit of EDC and glow balls in hand I danced and spun my poi anyways, flashing my super saucy smile to the young, boyish eye candy in pink running the visuals. If I was to dance to dub step I could at least do it while flirting and enjoying the view. From the Heineken Dome we headed over to listen to an old time favorite Paul Oakenfold. The best part of this experience was the young girl that approached me with complete innocence and asked “Are you rolling”? “ No honey, this is sober. “We are old school” I replied. After shaking our asses for quite some time, we decided it was time to unleash the inner child and hit as many carnival rides as possible. We rode on everything that we could, tilta-whirl, the fun house, slides, the merry go round over and over, all the while screaming and giggling like children at Disneyland for the first time. In the midst of giggles, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to be dosed on a conspicuous amount of pure mdma while riding these rides. With the electronic music, the lights, and the adrenaline, I knew it would not only make for an interesting mix but a high unlike any other that you could experience. And I knew countless ravers were experiencing just that, all around me.

And so it was over to cosmic meadow to see the one and only Infected Mushroom. This is where I felt the full on throttle of bodies pulsating to the music- arms thrown in the air, screams from thousands covering the meadow in a sea of fur and glow toys. My first experience of what a “massive” truly was all about was discovered in that meadow of carnival overload, headed up by a boisterous and mind blowing performance by Infected Mushroom.. And for those that would like to argue that DJ’s aren’t real musicians- take a close look at Infected Mushroom. Dj's are live musicians, live drums, live guitars... The general public can also tend to think “it's just techno” but psychedelic trance goes way deeper than that and actually gets it roots in tribal times. Infected mushroom is a prime example of live musicians and DJ’s intertwined with psychedelic beats to create a spiritual journey to truly raise vibrations and awareness. And on that spiritual level, one could only consider these “musicians” as such to be musical shamans. Spreading their intent through music where its audience can find the truth in and between the healing beats…

With much more to see in the final night of EDC and so little time, a mission was conjured upon us, and with that mission, it was with great fortitude that we headed back to my favorite spot of the entire evening. The Heineken Dome. More my speed, the Heineken dome was an intimate setting for all that dwells versus the large mass crowds. My perfect spot. Pre Donald Glaude was a show of cheerleaders flying through the air kicking, tossing and jumping held up by only strong men with rippling muscles. A crowd pleaser at the very least and a thumbs up to the booking agents. EDC didn’t skip a beat when it came to casting its acts for the weekend.

And now for Donald Glaude. For anyone that hasn’t seen Donald Glaude over the past decade, one word and one word only could describe him. ENERGY. The one DJ in the history of house music that can truly hear you make some fucking noise! Dreads flying, arms rising, Glaude had a one on one intimate approach with his audience that couldn’t have been done on a main stage. It seemed as though the Heineken Dome was a hidden treasure for those that enjoy a connection with its DJ and I was enjoying it to its fullest. And of course let’s not forget everyone that I know from Las Vegas that I saw inside the dome. It was like burning man at its best. Running into familiar faces in unfamiliar places which only made it that much more special.

Amidst the booty shaking, a tall and handsome man walked by and stood by the DJ booth of Glaude. This must be the next DJ I thought. Little did I know that this one DJ would define my EDC experience and basically knock my socks off all the while giving me hope that true house music will never die. That there will always be a DJ that will rebel against the top 40 bullshit of Las Vegas and prove once again that “real” house music triumphs all. That DJ was Vegas transplant Chris Garcia.

Now we are going to get pretty literal here. Some people are connoisseurs of wine, I consider myself a connoisseur of electronic music and very picky to say the least. The very second Garcia layed down his first track, both Pounce and I looked at each other and said “holy shit“ followed by “what the heck is this”?

This was it. Ahh the reason I love house music. His beats were sharp and just down right “sick”. No foreplay just straight to the orgasm with no apologies. That’s when I scurried to the EDC program to find out who the heck this DJ was. And the name was familiar and I knew he DJ’d in Vegas. And that begs the question, where the hell have I been? Such a great DJ in my own backyard. Surely I had happened upon him in the late night after hours of the Vegas Clubs (post research of Garcia would confirm his residency at Drais). A quick hello to Donald Glaude with a see ya at Burning Man and it was back to drooling and booty shaking to Chris Garcia. By far, Garcia, in my book, was the most impressive set of the night at EDC and one can clearly see why he is expanding his career so diligently in a short six year time span in Las Vegas.

With the wee hours of morning upon us we headed out of the dome to experience what I had been eyeing all night. The yo-yo. We ventured out hearing the sounds of ATB with familiar tunes from the millennium beckoning blissfully in the air. These sounds evoked the emotions of what it felt like when I first became a club kid so many years ago. And that’s exactly the moment when all my hopes came crashing down upon me. On the other side of this bliss was its grandeur counter part of darkness. Whoever the DJ was next to that yo-yo ride dropped a Snoop Dog track. I’m not talking a great mash-up where you hear music in a whole new light which in turn gives you more respect for its artist. I’m talking straight rap. A full five plus minute’s worth. The kids around me went nuts. Throwing their hands in the air, screaming at the top of their lungs like the Kardashian sisters had just gave them a personal high five and booty shake. That’s when, in complete disarray, I yelled at the top of my lungs “I didn’t come to EDC to hear RAP”. That’s when it fully dawned on me. I’m from a completely different era. Most these kids were driven by consumerism, they were told what to like, what to do, and what to wear (that was apparent by the hundreds of kids donning the same pair of glasses at every turn). This was more about a trend to them then it was about the peace, the love, the unity, the respect. With trash around the track growing in leaps and bounds by the minute, I couldn't help but wonder “where is the respect”? I expressed my concerns with Pounce. “It’s a massive”! She exclaimed. “You can’t compare it to Burning Man, (a leave no trace event) they are two different elements”. With that being said, I almost wondered if I sounded like a hippy of the 60’s, unwilling to let go and embrace change. Then I realized, I am a hippy, a hippy of the millennium and proud to hold onto the ideals of the earlier years. Holding ever so fervently to the scene in the 2000 flick “Groove” where one of the characters asks the promoter why he does what he does and replies “The Nod”. Though there may be fewer of us these days, we still hold onto our “truth” where the music guides the soul and aids us in the ultimate connection with our inner being and “true” selves. As evident with a local Las Vegas break dancer, who told me he cried during the Dash Berlin set that night. The crowd singing together, his experience of unity, it was the old days and it was those old days that have defined this culture and brought the music to what it is. Accepted….

But beyond the lights, beyond the beats, there is one important factor that must be looked at with EDC.
The impact on Las Vegas as a whole. Brian Paco Alvarez, a powerhouse and imperative support of the local music and arts scene can be quoted as saying the following “EDC was the largest and most important music festival in Las Vegas ‘history”… And that is true. No other festival that I know has brought such a huge and over the top production to the desert and produced such a positive outcome with a largely negative connotation attached to its name. Job well done EDC, job well done.

And so with my first massive under my belt, my final review of EDC is now upon us.

Overall EDC was entertaining, a glow light wonderland of excitement, rides, adrenaline and most importantly electronic music. And with a zero tolerance policy or not, the leaders of Insomniac Productions know exactly what they are doing. Designing the ultimate experience of rave culture and banking on the trends of electronic music. A carnival like none other, EDC, with all its scrutiny has proven itself once again as unstoppable, and will be back with a vengeance, cause as every raver knows “this shit aint over till the last record spins”.

-Onnoleigh Sweetman
Artistic Director
Nytronix Entertainment &
The Sin City Fire Dolls

Brian Paco Alvarez enculturating Las Vegas into the millennium...

posted by Brian Paco Alvarez, Curator and Chronicler of Culture at


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