something that happened in my life – electric daisy carnival (EDC) Vegas – june 8-10, 2012

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what is EDC?  EDC is an outdoor electronic music festival/carnival/rave held 3x annually around the country, the largest of which takes place 25 miles outside of the vegas strip.  there are 6 stages featuring all the different varietals of electronic dance music (EDM) and featuring some pretty well-known dj’s.  additionally, there are many carnival rides, including some pretty aggressively-nausea-inducing spinny rides, and a lot of outdoor art installations. 

THE EDC EXPERIENCE

official EDC vegas 2012 retrospective video

retrospective video i made.  inspired by angeles…. not terribly interesting or funny.  1:17 sound editing, that was INCREDIBLY SATISFYING.  camera obviously doesn’t record sound well.  BUT!  is basically the only fun way to share video.  btw, the microsoft amateur video editing program is pretty awesome.  put the above together in 2 hours.  it was a really fun 2 hours.

the outsider perspective/general indescribable epicness.  okay, i want to first preface this overly positive entry with the “haters gonna hate” perspective.  yes, EDC is basically “just” a party on a massive, excessive, ridiculous, decadent scale.  those ravers and those drugs.  i can hear it already: let’s not pretend this is more than just a bender of a weekend. 

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dj worship. ritualistically raising their arms in praise of the creator of the music. 

i was reading that blog written by this gay mormon actor; he was describing the experience of taking his boyfriend to a mormon temple, but how observers wouldn’t understand the full significance of the event without experiencing it.  (which is, yes, fine, an easy copout)

You know, Jonah on occasion has asked me about what goes on in the temple. I have never revealed anything I feel uncomfortable revealing, but what I have told him is that if a non-member were to witness a temple ceremony, it wouldn’t have the same meaning to them as it does to a member. In fact, it probably wouldn’t mean much to them at all. They wouldn’t have the proper context to appreciate it. Heck, even as a member, I’m not sure I even understand the full meaning of temple ceremonies, so I certainly wouldn’t expect someone who is not a member of the LDS Church to understand. It really is a case of “throwing pearls before swine” (and please do not infer that I am calling non-members “swine”; that is not what I mean at all). What I mean is that it’s like putting a technical schematic in front of a two year old and expecting him to understand or benefit from it. Maybe many years down the road that two year old would grow up to be a computer expert who could appreciate and correctly analyze the schematic, but at two years old, he simply does not have the capability, experience, knowledge, or know-how to deal with it in a useful manner.  source

(and— also creepy.  what needs to be revealed?!  anyway)

it’s so tempting to throw up my arms and just exclaim “you wouldn’t understand!!” much like jackie did to me when i asked her about burning man, but there is definitely something powerful, religious, moving about EDC.  i agree, i get it, i don’t necessarily think that there is necessarily anything that profound or lifechanging about EDC (or burning man or the mormon church or dance marathon or camp kesem cabin chats) or anything else where i find myself experiencing an intensity of emotions.  i think it’s always a fun activity to reduce other people’s formative/significant experiences into “cmon, let’s be real, it was JUST a …..”.  given the right tone, you can troll quite effectively with the J-word.  (remind me of nicole when i was staffing… really effective.  to be fair, it is also good at keeping things from getting blown out of proportion and calling people out on their shit)

i do have to say that i did feel an intensity of emotions and community and intention that is just so rare and powerful that i cannot help but describe EDC using that air of pretentiousness.  this will probably be a roundabout entry.  luckily i have not subjected any innocent perfunctory inquirer about EDC (“how was EDC?!”) to this discussion.  that punishment is reserved for my wonderfully  lucky blog readers.  EXCLUSIVE CONTENT!!!  thank god i have a blog (and blog readers!!  <3) (okay, entry is quite heavy on the james/daniel content, heads up.)

emotions relating to daniel/young love at a rave.  without a doubt, my EDC experience was a once in a lifetime experience because of daniel.  i cannot explain what it is like to do something epic like EDC (in my book, basically as romantic of a trip you can take with an SO) so quickly in the relationship, when you’re still in the honeymoon phase.  like i’m fairly sure that nothing in my relationship with daniel, will ever be as emotionally intense as EDC. 

to give you a sense of timing, i purchased EDC tickets 19 days after first date with daniel.  EDC was going to happen 15 days after i purchased the tickets.  jump in with two feet!  after purchasing the tickets, sent him the one-liner a $1,500 bet i’m happy to make

and it’s honestly just really fucking romantic.  ferris wheels?  fireworks!?  fuck
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(okay, only related to vegas, not EDC, i know, but…)
me: ummm, since shit just got real, can i put a stake in the ground and say that the bellagio fountains are one of my favorite places in vegas and it would please me greatly if we could make it out there?  done.
daniel: You spelt “make out” wrong.

the single best moment that i will treasure forever is the above.  above and beyond closes all of their sets with an acoustic version of “on a good day.” still get goosebumps/chills whenever i hear the song.  EMOTIONALLY INTENSE.  obviously incredibly mellow, and the crowd just enters this dreamlike, serene state.  like doing shavasana/corpse pose after a yoga session, the calm after the storm.  and just hugging on to daniel for dear life.  wish i could have hit the pause button.

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emotions relating to the crowd/people are hardcore at EDC.  ike this isn’t some club that you can just swing by when you’re bored on a saturday night.  you have to WANT TO GO and have a significant amount of intention to make it to EDC.  it’s definitely not cheap ($400 for ticket+shuttle pass) and many people travel from really far away to attend.  and as i live and die for events where the excitement is palpable, where people cannot help but uncontrollably exclaim and yell about how excited they are, it is just an awesome feeling to be around these people who are so devoted/passionate about this. 

people are overall really fucking nice/happy too.  attribute it to rave culture, the people that EDM attracts, drugs, whatever, but everyone is all smiles and bringing their a-game and ready to fucking have a good time.  honestly, half of having an awesome night out in the city just involves choosing the right people who are devoted to the cause and not a buzzkill. 

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daniel and i met gianna at circuitgrounds.  she was with some friends, she was an incredibly fun dancer, just totally balls out.  she offered to take a photo for me and daniel.  we danced together for the next couple hours and hung out.  she’s from hawaii and came to hear this one song by above and beyond (featured in the retrospective video). 

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music/dancing.
  THE DANCING WAS A LOT OF FUN.  just going crazy and bouncing or jumping or flailing with the beats, the calm-before-the-beat-drop, the slow-dance swaying, the aggro head-butt dancing, dancing with a twinkle in your eyes, grinding like your life depended on it, the yelling/cheering/singing along, raising your hands as high as they could go, the huge fucking stages/productions, the eye contact/dancing with strangers, incredible light shows, confetti/fireworks, getting pushed up against sweaty bodies, jumping in unison with the crowd.  awesome.

dubstep conan

i would say that i’m a fan of EDM.  not necessarily a die hard fan, but i definitely enjoy it.  specific things that i learned about my tastes with respect to EDM:

  • i enjoy trance and dubstep
  • i enjoy things that aren’t too repetitive that have variants in speed/intensity/whatever of moderate tempo
  • i enjoy “beat drops”
  • i enjoy the physical feeling of the bass
  • i enjoy EDM with vocals
  • i enjoy momentary lapses into mellowness, not everything has to be hard hitting

OTHER THOUGHTS

compliments/validation.  there’s a part of me (that i don’t like) that craves validation.  i think it makes me dependent and vulnerable.  to quote wyatt, i have an inner fat kid.  THAT SAID… ugh, daniel and i got a lot of compliments.  and i guiltily liked it, dammit.  daniel and i were pretty affectionate (overall… people surprisingly aren’t terribly affectionate at EDC, not entirely sure why), pretty liberal with the handholding/physical contact/making out.  some gay guys and lots of straight girls.  a tap on the shoulder, a “hey, just wanted to say you guys are REALLY cute”, a request for a photo, people offering to take photos of us.  anyway, went to my head; not entirely healthy. 

two standout comments, both coincidentally from straight guys: (will be revisited later)

1) at the dubstep stage, a guy with his girlfriend got our attention and goes, “just wanted to let you guys know, you guys are by far the sexiest gay couple here.”
2) daniel and i are walking away from the trance stage, and this drunk guy grabs me by the shoulder from behind and quasi drunkenly bellows “YOU BETTER FUCK THAT GUY TONIGHT!!!” in a very bro, encouraging sort of way. 

THAT SAID, it was also very cool in a “FUCK, WHERE OUTSIDE OF THE CASTRO ARE GAY GUYS WELCOMED WITH OPEN ARMS.” it felt awesome.  awesome.  and that part, i think is totally allowed. 

what exactly do DJs do?

Bassnectar – Pushing buttons or pushing boundaries
tl;dr – some DJ’s just press buttons, but that’s frowned upon.  bassnectar switches things up based on the audience and takes risks.  dj-ing is still a performance art.  this is a controversial question.

deadmau5 – we all hit play.
I think given about 1 hour of instruction, anyone with minimal knowledge of ableton and music tech in general could DO what im doing at a deadmau5 concert. Just like i think ANY DJ in the WORLD who can match a beat can do what “ANYONE else” (not going to mention any names) is doing on their EDM stages too. 

tl;dr: there’s no such thing as good (technical) DJ’ing skills.  why these people are famous is their ability to produce awesome hits.  also, the experience, which you can’t get unless you get famous music producers who are DJ’ing. 

i saw david guetta.  he mostly just played his hits.  and then paused in between while people clapped and cheered and he waved his arms.  that was underwhelming.  that was legitimately an underwhelming DJ experience.  david guetta (titanium, etc etc) has obviously crossed into mainstream, really felt like i was just listening to the radio.  i don’t know.

i still find the idea of “going to a EDM concert” sort of goofy.  like anyone can play avicii – levels.  but why is it THAT MUCH MORE EXCITING when avicii is on stage and playing levels?  several of the DJs have their own songs.  saw sander van doorn play eagles, delta heavy play get by, armin play a bunch of his hits, david guetta and his hits, above and beyond play several of their hits. 

i also saw another DJ play delta heavy get by!  not so different from when delta heavy played it!

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(taken around 6AM after we finally got on the shuttle)

exhaustion is beautiful. EDC was really fucking tiring.  basically there are these people who party from sunset to sunrise (and also sometimes party through the day).  but they were still dancing their fucking hearts out.  which is also what i found so inspirational about dance marathon, these people who were SO TIRED but pushing through it.  which… i find admirable, for whatever reason.  inspiring?  definitely beautiful, seeing people push their bodies to the limit.  that is probably the single factor that inspired me to become so involved with dance marathon, after seeing julia and ryan and alex when i went to visit them at 3AM on a moraler shift.  they could barely keep their eyes open, but just kept shifting their weight from one foot to the other. 

there was a guy in our EDC group who basically didn’t sleep for 72 hours, and flew back to work in an emergency room after a 3 hour nap.  fucking ridiculous. 

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pretty great name for a rave party promoter

sam s used to talk about how his favorite party of circuit party weekends was the last party, where people have been partying for 72 hours and are just totally out of their minds but still dancing.  poetic. 

“it is what it is”/how to deal in painful situations. as expected, moving in large groups, going to an event that is servicing over 100K people/night, there were bound to be a couple of logistical problems.  i had largely prepped for this and had set expectations appropriately, and made it a pointed effort to be very flexible regarding preferences and not to let various logistical hiccups affect my temperament, especially the way i treated daniel (we had both hypothesized that there would be a nontrivial possibility we would get in a fight during the weekend).  and logistical hiccups there were!  shuttle lines/traffic/entrance lines that took 3.5 hours instead of an expected 1 hour (we missed a DJ that daniel really wanted to see… coincidentally, the DJ also missed his set due to traffic).  lots and lots of traffic, basically.  (the venue/associated arteries do not have the capacity for EDC)

but yeah.  group the things that people could have said in the “complaining about being hungry when everyone’s hungry” or “complaining about being hot when everyone’s hot”.  it’s annoying and only brings down the morale of the group.  they should just recognize that nobody can do anything about it, and everyone is gritting their teeth trying to get through it with a smile. 

it can be such an important skill to know when you should JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP, or at least know when you should stop offering your opinion or stop trying to be a cook in the kitchen.  or, if you really think that a different course of action should be taken, how to express your opinion in as neutral and as calmly and as productive-sounding as possible to avoid riling up emotions and really trying to be productive. 

i largely laughed my way through most of it, including when EDC was cut short on saturday night and (as cell phone towers were in no way capable of handling the incoming phone traffic) we could not locate our grouplets in the crowd of 100K people.  there was another moment when daniel and i were both extremely close to our breaking point, when we were promised food when actual food wasn’t until much later/farther away (and after a very hot walk through vegas).  EVERYTHING TURNED OUT OKAY don’t worry. 

AN ACTUAL LOG OF WHAT HAPPENED

DAY 1 (thurs)
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roadtrip.  i got bitch seat, which is what i deserved for being the 5th person to tag along.  9 hours, not terribly painful, did some car cuddling and some getting-to-know mason/david/kevin.  checked in to new york new york, dinner, midnight showing of prometheus. 

DAY 2
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slept in, excalibur buffet, gym, pool, getting ready for EDC, mexican, shuttles, getting to EDC, above and beyond, gareth emery.  met gianna.  went to meet up with david/mason.  saw fredde le grande and i felt not great.  went to wait for the shuttles to get home.  the people who drove back beat us to the hotel by an hour despite leaving half an hour after us.  at edc from 12midnight to 5AM.  didn’t get into bed until 8AM. 

DAY 3
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people were in bed until late.  had a lot of difficulty sleeping that morning.  we resolved to get to EDC earlier on saturday.  we grabbed a quick dinner and drove over.  got in around 8PM to see sander.  dan and i split off from the group and checked out jochen miller.  went to ride some rides, including the ferris wheel.  on a whim, checked out the dubstep stage, which daniel wasn’t initially terribly excited about, but the crowd/music/feel ended up being awesome, and we were there until the music cut-out midsong, the emcee said that they were stopping the show until further notice due to high winds.  daniel and i just stood in the chaos and decided we should finally go to the misting daisies, where mason/kevin found us.  we hunted for david and was slowly reunited with the group at large via some frantic searching.  daniel and i suspected that david went back to the car, but alas he was not (daniel and i got some nice calm hangout time while watching cars stuck in gridlocked traffic).  headed back, vicious, vicious traffic.  really scared daniel would nod off.  1AM event cancellation, 4AM departure from EDC, 7AM sleep. 
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DAY 4
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woke up and headed out to grab a mid afternoon meal.  mark’s friend had won $125K by counting cards/playing blackjack in the morning.  we were told he had some free food at a pool party, thought it was a low key affair.  ended up being a longer-than-expected, hotter-than-expected walk.  it was a hassle to get in, at some point we wondered why we were there.  everyone was getting quite hangry.  we couldn’t get in, there was a line.  stranger dude had to bribe the bouncer ($1K?!) to get us in.  we had to bagcheck my camera.  we had to walk across the street to buy shorts because jeans weren’t allowed.  needless to say, we were grumpy and totally regretful of not just going to grab something quick in the hotel.  and then we walked in….

rehab pool party and hard rock hotel. THIS WAS FREAKING INSANE.  i’ve been to vegas over 20 times, since both my current and prior company did business in vegas.  i’ve been there with family and done the shows/fountains.  i had experienced EDC.  but i had never, ever experienced the high roller, party like a rockstar aspect of vegas, celebrity/hottest club scene, WHICH WAS THE POOL PARTY.  highly sexualized, got bottle service for the first time.  one of the few times where guys needed to look HOT to fit in.  like a straight circuit party.  totally made me understand why thedzdt exists.  incredible. 

we were late getting to EDC, arriving around 12midnight.  caught the tail end of delta heavy (they played get by!) and headed off to see david guetta with the group at large in the center.  it was in close quarters and not terribly pleasant/fun.  dan and i split off and we went to go see dash berlin and saw fireworks and went back to see armin, who luckily was playing a set on sunday (he was part of the famous headliners that were cancelled on saturday).  due to travel logistics, couldn’t get a ride home, so daniel and i just went to our shows, hunted for funnel cake, took photos, and saw aly and fila as the sun came up.  headed out after 5AM. 
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DAY 5
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woke up, ate at the deli, headed back.  saw a bunch of EDC cars at every stop, including a panda express 9 hours after we had left, 2 hours from SF.  total trip time: 11 hours.  got some shotgun time when daniel drove.  got home around 1AM, psyched for work tomorrow.

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