The Old Dude at EDC
One day around this time last year, I had called in sick to work. On the phone with a friend who had also called in, we decided to put the same movie on Netflix at both of our houses, sort of like we were watching it together. After a short debate, we landed on Under the Electric Sky, the 2014 documentary about EDC Las Vegas.
While watching the movie, we checked in with each other periodically by text, remembering our OG Electric Daisy Carnival experiences from the concept’s early days. We weren’t at the first event, but we go pretty far back. We have vivid memories of the scorcher afternoon at Hansen Dam in July 2001. We got nostalgic, and by 45 minutes in, we were both crying a little bit. By the end, we had purchased tickets and made hotel reservations for EDC Las Vegas 2015.
I was excited to tell my friends about my plan to re-experience EDC that summer and sent a few texts out shortly after receiving confirmation of my ticket purchase. The responses were all pretty much the same: “Aren’t you a little too old for that?” I found these reactions to be a little jarring. For one, I don’t really see myself as a little too old for anything. I’m 33 years old. While this does mean I’m old enough to remember when liking electronic music was truly subversive, it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how to have fun. Secondly, however, are we ever too old for anything, and if we ever think we might be, doesn’t that mean we should probably do it right away?
Despite criticism from friends, I went ahead with my EDC plans, dismissing entirely the notion of my age, until the day I arrived in Las Vegas. While waiting in line for Will Call, I heard two friends behind me discussing their water rations, one saying to the other, “Ask the old dude if he wants some water.” I didn’t think much of it until her friend tapped me on the shoulder and offered me her water bottle. Wait. She was talking about me?! I shrugged it off, smiled, and told her no thank you. I stood quietly for a bit but then followed up by asking her to hold my spot in line. I ran into Starbucks and grabbed everyone in line iced coffees, holding out the tray like, “Stay cool, everybody!” If I was going to be seen as the old dude, I was determined to be seen as the cool old dude.
“I was fascinated to see how rave culture had changed in my absence from the scene… We used to do stuff like that, but it was never so involved and formalized.”
The EDC I remember was an iconic experience for the time, but nothing in comparison to the proportion and spectacle the party has become. I had some idea of what to expect. Shortly before my trip, a friend sent me a meme labeled “THE FIRST TIME WALKING THROUGH THE GATE AT EDC” with Chuckie from Rugrats in a trance with spirals for eyes. That’s pretty much what happened. My eyes bulged, and my head panned across the Speedway as I descended ever so slowly, one step at a time. I hadn’t slept much the night before, and I should have been exhausted. Nope. The music, the energy from my fellow revelers, and the insane stimulation from visuals in all directions had me wide awake and ready to boogie. Old dude? Please.
My buddy and I made our way over to hear Oliver Heldens at the mainstage, and the getting down was underway right away. He dropped a remix of CeCe Peniston’s “Finally,” and we whooped when the hook from the 1992 jam blared full-force. As we jumped up and down, I observed several iPhones in the air with Shazam twirling on the screen. I guess our fellow partygoers hadn’t rented The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert like I did back in 1994, hiding the VHS in a pile of action flicks so my parents wouldn’t suspect I was gay. A lot of “old dudes” might turn their noses up when a younger generation doesn’t know this stuff, but I choose to see it as a positive—they’re finding their own experiences, and our experiences are often a basis for that.
“To me, this is incredible—to see how many smiling faces are truly giving zero fucks, and to be among them, even as the old dude.”
I was fascinated to see how rave culture had changed in my absence from the scene. At several points during the weekend, my friend and I got lassoed into conversations with fellow “Headliners.” Continually, my friend was the recipient of kandi bracelets, offered to him by way of “PLUR” being spelled out as the bracelet changed wrists. We used to do stuff like that, but it was never so involved and formalized.
Back when I started going to parties, it was far from the norm. A lot of other kids when I was coming up would actually judge us for the kind of music we liked or the way we chose to have fun, and on account of this, the scene was intimate. Over time, electronic music—or electronica, or if you must, EDM—entered the mainstream and became cool. Events sold more tickets, increased in size, and became more spectacular. It would be easy for an old dude to grumble and call all of this “selling out,” but nah. To me, this is incredible—to see how many smiling faces are truly giving zero fucks, and to be among them, even as the old dude.
I might have felt compelled to defy the label at first, but by the end of the weekend, I realized I had to accept it. Three nights of going hard for 12 hours at a time is quite a marathon. My body was off schedule, sort of like jet lag, but it had also been stimulated beyond capacity. I was forced into a two-day-long hibernation with heaps of rest, interrupted only by calls to room service for ridiculously timed breakfasts at around 4 or 5pm.
This summer, I’ll have to pace myself a little better. That’s right—I’m going back. Last summer, I knew I was intending to reconnect with my nostalgia for raves gone by, but who could have guessed I’d begin a whole new tradition of wildness? The old dude will see you all “Under the Electric Sky” this June.
EDC celebrates its 20-year anniversary in Las Vegas June 14–16, 2016. Tickets are available here.
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