The massive Electric Daisy Carnival has been happening in southern California for over a decade, spreading to include Colorado in 2008, Puerto Rico in 2009, Dallas in 2010, Las Vegas & Orlando in 2011, and now the Northeast. It’s also evolved, from single-day to multi-day, single-day events spread across the West to a few core multi-day events this year in Las Vegas, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico (QRO Festival Guide). For the first time ever, the Carnival came to the East Coast, bringing its who’s-who of DJs & dance to MetLife Stadium in north Jersey, Friday-Sunday, May 18th to 20th.
First things first: Yes, despite the name ‘Electric Daisy Carnival New York’, the event actually took place in East Rutherford, New Jersey – at MetLife Stadium, part of the Meadowlands Sports Complex. That’s where the New York Giants and New York Jets play, and while getting there from the five boroughs did require multiple forms of mass transit (subway to Penn Station, NJ Transit to Secaucus, shuttle or bus to Meadowlands), it was only one stop on NJ Transit or the shuttle. It was all pretty clearly marked going there (less so leaving – especially as security seemed to confuse where you get the bus to Port Authority with where you get the bus to Secaucus, despite them being on other sides of the complex…), and you could just follow the sea of neon partygoers.
Second things second: This was no Williamsburg hipster parade, but straight-up Jersey crowd. You had the bros who’d have fit in at the Shore house, and girls you swear were under-age for the eighteen-plus event. The dress code was very definitely ‘less is more’, with tank tops or no tops for the guys, short-shorts or less on the girls (though no out-and-out nudity). There was more neon yellow, pink, and green than one thought possible. While the foodies and fogies were trying to get their grub on in Prospect Park (QRO venue review) at the reportedly poorly run new Great Googa Mooga (QRO photos), the club kids were at MetLife Stadium.
Third things third: It was actually more in the parking lot of MetLife Stadium (which is where The Giants play – but The Mets play at CitiField?…) than the stadium ‘proper’, as only one of the four main stages (the cosmicMEADOW) was actually inside the stadium (and that stage wasn’t open the first day). Instead, kineticFIELD (the biggest stage, with a proper photo pit), circuitGROUNDS (underneath a large and long canopy), and neonGARDEN were in MetLife Stadium’s vast parking lot – and yet there was still ample space to actually park your car.
Other things inherited from the stadium included the vendors, who were selling stadium food – at stadium prices. It was ten dollars for a Budweiser or chicken fingers, five bucks for a bottle of water (though there were two well-appreciated watering stations, where you could refill that bottle or any other one that you brought). It seemed impossible that anyone could get truly drunk at the event, unless you were in one of the raised VIP areas that overlooked some stages – especially as they stopped serving alcohol after 10:00 PM (a rule common in stadiums and ballparks, though with games you have some warning – no more drinks after the seventh inning or what have you, but no such heads up at EDC NY).
And if even if someone did manage to get drunk, there was more than enough security at the event. Whether or not this was some of the same security as worked Giants games is unknown, but they looked like they could handle a football crowd – and certainly any raver (no matter how much the gorilla looked like Ronnie…). However, they weren’t heavy handed or rude – one at the gate did mistakenly tell your correspondent that media had to enter through the other entrance at the other side of the complex (despite that not being true the prior two days) but the security at that gate not only said that the first guy was wrong, but even apologized for the error, wiping away the bad mood that had been building when having to walk across multiple parking lots.
Plus, it’s not like they had to do a whole lot of intervening. Despite the somewhat sordid reputation of Electric Daisy Carnival (mostly earned at L.A. Coliseum in 2010, when numerous minors were able to get into the 18+ event, many attendees had to go to the hospital by paramedics, and one sixteen-year-old died from an overdose), there was no insane, illegal bacchanalia of kids high on everything, drunk bros throwing down, or naked ladies. The most security had to deal with was telling girls in crowds that they couldn’t sit on their boyfriend’s shoulders. It all started at twelve-noon (four o’clock on Friday), and ended before midnight.
Friday was the shortest and smallest day, starting in the afternoon and not including the cosmicMEADOW stage inside MetLife Stadium, but in some ways was the sweetest. The crowds were still thick at the main kineticFIELD stage for the likes of didn’t-look-like-he’s-old-enough-to-get-in Madeon, a killer set from veteran Fatboy Slim, hype-man-boosted Chase & Status, and close-out by superstar DJ Armin Van Buuren. Fatboy Slim’s set seemed especially exuberant, perhaps picking up on the sheer excitement Mr. Slim himself had – a nice change from the more taciturn DJs like Van Buuren or Fedde le Grand (though the Fatboy set could have used more of his own material). There was also a great set at the circuitGROUNDS by TC (though perhaps your correspondent is biased…).
Saturday was the biggest, most bombastic day of Electric Daisy Carnival. Clear headliner of the entire three days was kineticFIELD topper Avicii, as the blowin’ up DJ was the only kineticFIELD headliner not to play another set at Electric Daisy (Friday’s Armin Van Buuren headlined circuitGROUNDS on Saturday, while Sunday’s Afrojack also played circuitGROUNDS the very same day). But perhaps some of the more interesting stuff was occurring elsewhere, such as the now-open cosmicMEADOW inside MetLife Stadium with Thomas Gold and Erick Morillo (who had Brazilian flags waving in the crowd – and security didn’t seem to have a problem with shoulder-sitting), or the Carl Cox-curated neonGARDEN, where the accomplished DJ did a set that proved his bona-fides – and that he should have been playing a bigger stage. Meanwhile, the likes of Avicii and even Calvin Harris at kineticFIELD all seemed a bit reticent, relatively speaking.
Sunday was the ‘goldilocks day’ – nicely between Friday & Saturday in size of crowd: not so few that the party couldn’t start, but not so many that there was a crush. The bald Afrojack and the longhaired Bassnectar topped kineticFIELD, but it was cosmicMEADOW that stole the show before it all wrapped up. Subfocus not only brought a hype-man, but also his ovals of light, while Nero – and his own hype-man, Khadifi Dub – proved why he’s one of the best in the game today. Nothing like partying in the end zone – Nero had even the EMS workers dancing in the photo pit.
Electric Daisy Carnival New York also brought sideshow attractions. There were more rides than a festival in the Tri-State area had seen since Siren stopped happening on Coney Island (QRO recap of last festival there). EDC seemingly hired dancing girls and circus performers to liven up the visuals (and even walk around the festival) – peacock-feathered showgirls, harlequins, and even cheerleaders would sometimes come on stage while DJs were performing, and mimes on stilts and others would perform in the photo pit. As it got darker, spectators could even try their own hand at rhythm – with fire, thanks to the ‘Spire of Fire’, four gas-fueled pits stacked on top of one another, which a member of the crowd (overseen by security) could turn on-and-off to their own beat (when it got a bit colder after sundown, fans would even gravitate to the Spit just for warmth) – if only Beavis were there. The only thing missing at the festival was a place to sit – literally absolutely NO place to sit down at the event higher than a curb on the asphalt.
There was also fire on the kineticFIELD stage – not just fireworks (though there were plenty of those), but actually jets of flame from the front of the stage! It was security’s biggest worry of the entire event…
There were probably those in attendance hoping for an out-of-control European-style rave, but this is America, folks. More importantly, there were probably parents of those in attendance who were worried about drug-induced chaos, which didn’t even come close to happening. EDC NY probably wasn’t the level of party that Las Vegas will have June 8th to 20th – but where in the world can party like Vegas? And yes, the whole thing was in and of Jersey – but Electric Daisy Carnival brought the dance like no one else.
-words & photos: Ted Chase