Rock had Woodstock; house/dance/electronic music has Electric Daisy Carnival – an annual gathering of thousands of fans for what can be understatedly described as the party of the year, courtesy of Insomniac Events. In 2010, somewhere in the vicinity of 100,000 fans poured in the Los Angeles Coliseum for that party. Electric Daisy Carnival Experience is the concert documentary that edits that 22-hour party into 128 minutes of cinematic splendor.
I hated disco when it first appeared on the musical landscape, largely because most of its ‘artists’ were unimaginative hacks who used a compelling beat to hang clichéd writing on. That began to change when some disco bands, like Santa Esmeralda, tried to do imaginative things with the form. Disco eventually gave way to house/dance music and electronic music and that is where I got over it.
The Electric Daisy Carnival Experience movie showcases many artists who have evolved from those disco bands and transformed the genre into something that can be as subtle as Philip Glass, as anthemic as rush, and/or as flamboyant as Prince, Sly and the Family Stone and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
The film focuses mostly on performances – artists like Kaskade, Deadmau5, Moby, will.i.am and Swedish House Mafia are featured – but includes insights from various of the artists [Kaskade and will.i.am are two of the most interesting], dancers, clowns, people in the crowd [one of who made the statement that serves as this review’s headline] and even a cop who works security for the event every year [it’s his favorite side gig because in his time working security, not once has there been a fight].
The actual event is something to behold, too. Over the event, dozens of artists will play sets, of course, but there are carnival rides, giant screen displays, light shows, fireworks, fire eaters [!], clowns and dancers. Costuming is a big part of the event, too – from something basic [platform heels, bikini, clown make-up], to incredibly complex [multi-hued make-ups, teams of performers working theme like the wizard of Oz, to, as one example, a moth costume with moving wings]. Just when you think it can’t get any more out there, members of the crowd start body surfing – or Deadmau5 shows up with his unique electronic mask and psychedelic podium.
There’s philosophical moments to ponder, as when will.i.am likens the EDC to a kind of tribal gathering, but this is a film that is an answer to Jack Nicholson’s great question from Mars Attacks, ‘Why can’t we just get along?’ The answer is that we can, given the chance, do just that – and have a heckuva lot of fun doing it.
Technically, the film is a marvel of editing [courtesy of Agneta Alexander]. Condensing a party of this magnitude into a bit over hours can’t be easy, and director Kevin Kerslake clearly had a few tons of material to go through to provide all the film’s great moments.
Other than when it pauses for moments with some of the artists, EDCE moves like a rocket. It finds the groove of the music, gets into it and just moves through it organically.
Among the featured artists are David Guetta, Boys Noize, Laidback Luke, Afrojack, A-Trak, Travis Barker, Simian Mobile Disco, 12th Planet and the aforementioned will.i.am, Moby, Swedish House Mafia, Kaskade and Deadmau5.
The point of house/dance/electronic music is to get people dancing. Electric Daisy Carnival Experience captures that essence and expands upon it in a way that will appeal to fans of the genre, but without excluding others. It’s a fun, open experience that had me bopping in my seat.
Final Grade: A