Towering above the Speedway and flanked by a pair of owls, the Goddess Gaia purred and hummed as she oversaw her neon kingdom. Tens of thousands of starry-eyed ravers stood, mouths ajar and brains sizzling during her opening ceremony. As the Wagnerian hardstyle thundered out and fireworks burst relentlessly in the sky, it was obvious to everyone around that this year’s kineticFIELD at EDC Las Vegas was far and away the most decadent stage Insomniac has ever built.
While the DJ’s increasingly totemic presence in the middle of the stage often garners much of the attention, at EDC, no one is bigger than kineticFIELD iteself. It’s a monolith, and if there’s one thing the festival has become known for globally in the last decade, it’s the unrivaled production. But what the ravers don’t see is the combined effort of hundreds of handy staff to realize this increasingly mind-blowing rave.
While all roads lead back to Pasquale and his vision for the ultimate party, he has assembled an army of generals around him that can build, dismantle, and tour on the scale he imagines.
After randomly wandering into the Insomniac offices four years ago, celebrated English production director Jake Berry was hired on the spot by Pasquale. Berry is the man you seek out when you’re trying to blow people’s minds with production. His stacked resume stretches all the way back to 1979, boasting seminal stadium rock acts like U2, the Rolling Stones, and Metallica. But despite working with these monoliths of production, he admits being blown away by Insomniac’s ambition.
“The sheer scale, skill, and inventiveness of production—especially with EDC in Vegas—was just staggering,” says Jake. “I think Pasquale’s vision for the whole company, and EDC in general, is unparalleled. His drive and his enthusiasm are great, and he surrounds himself with good people.”
Forrest Hunt is one of those good people.
Shortly after graduating from Cal State Long Beach in 2001, Forrest found himself sitting with Pasquale at his mother’s dinner table, surrounded by her four dogs and a cat, as he was mapping out one of the earliest legal Insomniac parties.
“At that time, Pasquale was still breaking into warehouses and shit, but it was getting so big that he needed to go legal—and he needed help doing it,” explains Forrest. Now as Executive Producer of Domestic and International Festivals, he oversees all stage production.
Forrest was immediately roped into booking flights, negotiating with venue owners, ordering porta-potties, and getting completely caught up in the cyclone of renegade party-throwing on Team Rotella. “At that time, neither of us knew what we were doing, but we figured it out pretty quickly!”
“Every year, it just kept getting bigger and bigger. We kinda shot ourselves in the foot with that.”
Prior to 2007, Labor Day weekend’s Nocturnal Wonderland was Insomniac’s biggest show. But by moving to the Los Angeles Coliseum at USC, Electric Daisy Carnival suddenly became the crown jewel. “The problem with that was that we suddenly had to start dreaming a lot bigger, because that stadium is huge! It’s had two Olympic games in it! Prior to that EDC, the biggest stage we’d ever built was for about 5,000 people. We needed to quadruple that at least.”
Dance music was in a slump around then—the comedown from the much-publicized R.A.V.E. Act had coincided with a resurgence of garage and indie rock—but theatrical electro from Justice and Daft Punk was fast corrupting a fresh generation of music fans. And right at the center of it were Forrest and Pasquale, dreaming up the increasingly mesmerizing production that would define the EDM-era as much as the music.
“Every year, it just kept getting bigger and bigger,” recalls Forrest. “We kinda shot ourselves in the foot with that, though. The mainstage in Vegas is like 400-something feet wide and 100 feet tall. Like, how do you go bigger than that!?”
“kineticFIELD is the biggest stage I’ve ever built, easily” adds Jake. “To bring it into the Speedway and set it up, we had 40 structure trucks, eight ocean containers bringing equipment from Europe, and 16 trucks bringing sound, video, lighting and scenic materials.”
“The whole build from start to finish was around two weeks,” he continues. “We had a total of 50 supervisors, and on some days as many as 100 local stagehands working 12 forklifts, four 70-ton cranes, and 125 boom lifts.”
When Jake first joined the team, they were being tasked with touring the mainstage around the world. But when they arrived in Orlando, it became obvious they had some serious rethinking to do.
“It was about 150 feet too wide!” laughs Jake. “Doesn’t take a genius to realize that it was time to get the hacksaws out!”
With EDC Las Vegas vying to bring its magic to Mexico City, New York, Orlando, the UK and Tokyo, they realized that to transport the festival’s flagship experience around the world, it was necessary to build something modular. “We try to design the stages now so that the middle 220 feet is the touring stage. And then in Vegas—as if it were a LEGO or mechano set—we just add on to it. This allows us to grow and shrink to maximize the use of space.”
While the Las Vegas structure is a mind-boggling 440 feet wide, the Orlando kineticFIELD is a more compact beast—though it packs just as much exuberance and theatrics as its big sister.
Regardless of how much of the mainstage gets packed into shipping containers and sent around the world, moving kineticFIELD is an enormous task, and something the team has been getting gradually slicker and smoother at for years.
“For everywhere but Las Vegas, we start building 10 days out. We allow two nights of programming: one for the show, and then one for the guest artists. So, the show’s on Friday and Saturday. Thursday night would be artist programming. Wednesday night would be lights and video. And then Tuesday, Monday, Sunday, Saturday, Friday would be loading in the production. And then Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday, and even Monday would be building up the stage.”
“We’ve gotten better!” says Jake. “We’ve gone from two weeks to 10 days, and every year, our stage designs become more and more suitable for the spectacle of Las Vegas, as well as the worldwide tour.”
Simply put: If EDC Orlando is going to be your first rave, this shit is about to change your life.
EDC Orlando 2017 takes place Friday, November 10, and Saturday, November 11, at Tinker Field in Orlando, FL. For more information, visit the official website.