You don’t have to be into EDM to know the genre has exploded within the past decade. And you can partially thank the premier annual 3-day dance festival EDC for that. Now regarded as one of the largest dance festivals in North America, you wouldn’t guess the million dollar idea was born in the dark recesses of an L.A. club in 1993 before dance music was even a thing.
Pasquale Rotella is the creative driving force behind EDC and Insomniac, the dance event promoter Rotella started after he saw a dire need for a rave festival in the ‘90s. “I wanted somewhere to go,” Rotella says thinking back to the decline of L.A. raves in 1993. “The culture had died and I was such a fan. This was a place for me and my friends to express our individuality, and that’s why I started Insomniac.”
The venture turned out to be a roller coaster ride for Rotella. From reports of wide-spread drug use by attendees to LiveNation buying a controlling interest in Insomiac for a whopping $48.1 million, Insomniac has faced just as much heat as it has successes. But that’s what happens when you become a staple in festival culture, often credited with setting a worldwide standard for EDM festivals.
Here’s 10 things you should know about the festival, even if you aren’t joining the neon-clad masses at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend for EDC’s fourth go at Sin City.
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC
There’s a profound focus on the arts, technology and even architecture at EDC. Rotella and his Insomniac team hire trendy artists and architects from all over the world to build art installations and interactive rides at every EDC. From three-dimensional wooden superstructures to LED-infused flora and fauna, the place is made to feel like the ultimate glow-in-the-dark jungle (think Avatar). There’s even dancers, stilters, aerialists and circus performers wandering all over the festival.
KANDY IS A REAL THING, AND YOU SHOULD BRING IT
I know, what the hell is kandy? No, it’s not the edible kind that’s spelled wrong. It took me a while to figure out why it’s so prominent at raves, especially at EDC. Kandy is not only worn as colorful jewelry at dance festivals, but it’s also used to trade and form friendships with other ravers. How it started out? I’m not too sure, but I’m not going to question it.
THE VERY FIRST EDC WAS HELD IN LOS ANGELES
It makes sense that EDC first opened its arms to ravers in L.A. in 1997, considering Rotella began Insomniac in SoCal. “I had 5,000 people in the Shrine Auditorium at the time in downtown L.A.,” Rotella says.“It was exciting but it was hard doing everything from the booking, to the marketing to the actual production. I was a one man show with the help of an occasional friend.” But every year got bigger and bigger, until Rotella was entertaining 40,000 people in giant fields, which you couldn’t find anywhere else in the country during that time.
DESPITE THE RAVER STEREOTYPE, EDC DOESN’T PROMOTE DRUG USE
The reports of young teens overdosing on drugs during the festival doesn’t sound so good. But Rotella says they were “one of the first” to make a dance festival 18 and over. They’ve also employed millions of dollars into onsite ID scanners and medical services. Does it stop drug using from occurring? Probably not, let’s be real. But Rotella says Insomniac does its best to keep “headliners,” aka festival goers, safe.
THE FESTIVAL IS EXPANDING ALL OVER THE WORLD
Besides its Los Angeles roots, EDC has been held all over the country. EDC has expanded to over six major cities, and even crossed the pond to the United Kingdom. Over 400,000 people were in-and-out of the Las Vegas event during a three-day period in 2014, which helps paint a picture for how mainstream the festival is becoming. From London to Puerto Rico, it’s really becoming a worldwide event.
MORE THAN 15,000 POUNDS OF CONFETTI WILL RAIN DOWN AT EDC LV
You should know this because honestly, it’s pretty amazing. Along with 15,000 pounds of colorful confetti, other outstanding numbers include the fact you’ll listen to over 30 hours of live music and watch performances from more than 200 of dance music’s top artists. Plus you know, there’s giant ball pits and helicopter rides.
DANCE MUSIC AND RAVES USED TO BE CONSIDERED COUNTER CULTURE
For those of us who went to college as millennials, it seems like dance music has always been a thing. But Rotella says it has only been a short time that EDM has become a widely-accepted genre. “Even when it was a new hip thing to do, it was underground because no one understood it,” Rotella says. “The masses didn’t get it or respect it as real music or a real culture. It’s only been six years that it’s been more accepted but prior to that it was hard to even rent a place.”
KINETIC FIELD, EDC’S LARGEST STAGE, IS ABSURD
I’m about to drop some stats on you that might make your jaw drop. Kinetic Field at EDC Las Vegas is an insane 440’ wide and 85’ tall, has over 30 lasers, 6,500 video tiles, 1.35 million pounds of scaffolding and truss, 1,000 lighting fixtures and 15 confetti blowers. Not to mention, it takes over 2.5 million watts of power to power up this baby. So if you’re playing at Kinetic Field as an artist, you know you made it.
YES, THE OUTFITS ARE COMPLETELY INSANE
I’m not going to try and justify some of the absurd outfits that people wear to rave fests, especially at EDC. Most of the girls are practically naked (which, I work at Playboy so I’m immune to that), there’s a lot of tutus involved and yes, furry boots. But in a weird way you have to respect it. Rotella has created an event that allows over 400,000 people to invest in their creativity and individuality, even if that means just wearing pasties.
IT’S ABOUT SHOWCASING NEW ARTISTS AS MUCH AS IT’S ABOUT FAMOUS DJS
I’ve been to a few dance festival where it’s just all about getting main headliners performing that bring in the masses. When I looked at EDC’s lineup this year, I didn’t know most of the artists. And to be honest, that might be a good thing. “There’s a bunch of first-timers,” Rotella says about this year’s EDC Las Vegas. “I love that. I consider making the festival more about new artists. I’m excited about a lot of guys that I’ve never had at EDC before.”
Nicole Theodore is an editorial assistant at Playboy. Follow her on Twitter.