There was a wedding chapel on the grounds of Electric Daisy Carnival. Throughout last weekend, couples could get hitched in the lively and lightning-quick fashion that’s long been associated with Las Vegas. On Saturday, L.A.-based couple Chris Vetter, 30, and Skye Daley, 29, exchanged vows in a ceremony that lasted less than five minutes. The officiant asked them to pledge to “party together,” to keep hold of “the true EDC spirit” and to “rave on.” The brief ceremony was crammed with the hallmarks of both Vegas and the festival—but for Vetter and Daley, a legal EDC wedding wasn’t possible until now. Las Vegas may be known for marriages, but it took a 2015 Supreme Court ruling to grant that right to same-sex couples as well.
Vetter and Daley are planning a wedding for next year, but they decided to legally tie the knot at EDC because they started going to the festival together early in their relationship. The ceremony was live-streamed courtesy of Smirnoff and the reception for the couple took place inside their Smirnoff House activation.
“The fact that we were one of the first to host a same-sex wedding at EDC Las Vegas and the first to livestream the ceremony and reception is monumentally important to us,“ says Smirnoff’s Jim Sias. "We take our support of the LGBTQ community very seriously and were thrilled to be able to share this with the world.”
But while the celebratory event had been a while in the making, the recent mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando brought another level of significance to their nuptials. "We’ve got a ruling from the Supreme Court that says we can get married, but I think it’s abundantly clear, and it’s been brought into super focus, that there are lots of issues that we still need to face,” says Daley.
The Pulse massacre haunted the electronic music festival, and the general political climate of the United States seemed to affect much of the tone. Fans waved the flags of countries from Mexico to Armenia, a display that might not have been as significant if this weren’t an election cycle where one presidential candidate wants to build a wall and block an entire faith at our borders. There were festival-goers dressed in anti-Trump T-shirts and one wearing a pair of Bernie Sanders socks. Rainbow flags were everywhere; so were signs and flags explicitly showing support for Orlando. The focus here may have been on dance music, with a global array of cross-genre superstars and up-and-comers playing the multi-stage event. But it was also a socially conscious gathering of young people on the outskirts of a city with a party-hard reputation. That flies in the face of the popular perception of raves, but it gets to the heart of dance music history.
These days, a lot of stereotypes surround rave culture. It’s often seen as a world of rich white kids of means heading to costly events where they may engage in ill-advised acts of cultural appropriation like wearing Native American headdresses—a world where the common perception is of boys on the stage and girls in the crowd, and where the image of guys is often of straight bros into heavy bass.
That’s a stretch from dance music’s evolution, which is intertwined with the history of gay clubs and the fact that many of the pioneers of DJ culture are people of color. It’s also not necessarily what you will see inside festivals. The crowd at EDC was diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender and sexuality.
In truth, the lineup wasn’t as female-forward as it could be, but there are signs that this has been improving. Anna Lunoe and Alison Wonderland joined the rare ranks of women to play the festival’s main stage. On Friday night, the techno and house-heavy Neon Garden tent boasted three women in its lineup: Julia Govor, Maya Jane Coles and J.Philp. Govor opened the festival, dropping Cassius’ “The Sound of Violence,” highlighting the lyric “when the sun goes down” in the mix at dusk and throwing heart-shaped hand signs to the audience. Coles held the pivotal midnight-surrounding time slot, catching the crowd right as it was hitting a frenzied peak.
The following night, techno artist Nicole Moudaber played to an audience that extended beyond the constraints of Neon Garden. At 2 a.m., the crowd was sweat-soaked and nowhere near ready to call it a night. They danced as hard as the beats that Moudaber threw at them. Flags waved fanatically. They were far from the main stage, but this felt like the heart of the party—a massive cluster of humans moving as one unit. EDC’s official app had been sending out push reminders of the rave motto PLUR (Peace Love Unity Respect), a message that festival-goers had clearly taken to heart.
“This is an amazing community,” Chris Vetter said of EDC earlier Saturday evening. “It’s a place where, if nothing else, you can feel comfortable to be yourself and be who you are and do what you want. We should all feel like we can do that in our everyday lives, but the reality is that some of us can’t. But you can do it here.”