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by Philip Sherburne

July 5, 2011

Electric Daisy Carnival's Greatest Hits

by Philip Sherburne  |  July 5, 2011

Even for a 40-year-old gawker like myself, it was easy to feel welcome at last month's Electric Daisy Carnival, a three-night bacchanal where as many as 75,000 ravers wearing beads, body paint and, often, very little else came together at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to hear some of the biggest names in electronic dance music. That's not just because virtually everyone there was unusually friendly and unfailingly polite. (Even police officers at the scene reported kids giving them high-fives throughout the course of the dusk-til-dawn extravaganza -- a marked contrast from an earlier E.D.C. event in Dallas marred by multiple hospitalizations and one death.) No, it's because no matter where you went, you were bound to hear Martin Solveig's "Hello" blasting out at you from speaker stacks as tall as a midsized office building. DJ after DJ latched on to the French producer's poppy, singsong refrain, sometimes making you wonder if you had wandered into some gigantic, Glee-themed call center from an alternate dimension.

With a cumulative running time of around 36 hours, and with roughly 150 DJs booked across the event's seven stages, the lineup promised, potentially, an almost unfathomable amount of music. To put it another way: 36 hours x 7 stages = 252 hours of total playing time. Figure that the average track sits in the mix for around three minutes, and it comes out to over 5,000 tracks played out over the course of the weekend. Nevertheless, a handful of songs could be heard over and over and over again. Now I know why fans speak of DJs "caning" certain tracks: by the fifth or sixth time I heard "Hello," I could practically feel the welts rising on my back. And I actually like that song.

Some of the biggest hits of the weekend were as-yet-unreleased edits or bootlegs: Strains of Kanye West's "Lost in the World" kept cropping up, as did scraps of Plastikman's percussive classic "Spastik" and even dubstep variants of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name," with which Benga and Skream ended their set, to savage effect, at the disembowelingly loud Bass Pod stage. The weekend's most frequently remixed artist was almost certainly Adele, whose "Rolling in the Deep" served as fodder for reworks by Steve Angello, Laidback Luke and many others. (That seems apropos, given that "rolling," in rave parlance, means "high on ecstasy.")

But plenty of anthems came straight off the shelf, as well. Swedish House Mafia's "Save the World" was a universal constant; Pitbull's "Give Me Everything" could be heard, well, everywhere. A new Nicky Romero remix of the Green Velvet chestnut "Flash" was improbably ubiquitous; Rusko's tearjerking "Hold On" was absolutely inescapable, especially in its Subfocus remix. (Frankly, that's fine by me I don't think I'll ever get tired of that song.)

But, after Solveig, it was Skrillex, a former emo kid turned dubstep breakout star, who really dominated things, between tunes like "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," "Reptile's Theme" and his remix of Benny Benassi's "Cinema." Hell, even Benassi himself reportedly played Skrillex's version rather than his own. And Skrillex also deserves extra credit for producing the one sound that wasn't heard at any other moment during the entire festival: a moment of silence, which he commanded during a lighters-in-the-air tribute to the late Jackass star Ryan Dunn. In a weekend of ringing ears and amps at 11, the quiet, however brief, was deafening.

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