Ok, so I like electronic dance music, more specifically Trance. Unfortunately, the US, it's let's just say... a bit behind in that department. If you ever hear such music on the radio, or even in the street, let me know (for instance, in Australia, I heard great Trance in even a waterslide park of all places, and in Europe you can easily get EDM/Trance on broadcast radio).
Since 2004 (it's not 2016), the good news is that Trance has grown quite a following in the US, and places like the SF Bay Area, and while Trance has been declared dead a few times in the last 10 years, it's still going strong here, and we're lucky to have at least one or two big Trance parties per year, so yeah!
With San Francisco and San Jose nearby, I've had some opportunities to see some great EDM/Trance DJs. Back in the early 2000's, they sadly played club music in the US that was nowhere close to the hits they had composed and were known for, but over the years, as Trance started becoming more popular, those DJs finally started playing their good tunes in the US too, and maybe from 2004 on, it's only been getting better.
Over time, I've seen many of my favorite DJs across the world, whether it was locally, in New York City, Canada, Australia, and of course Ibiza, and at Halloween 2004, I finally attended some great local parties that proved that you could get the good stuff locally too (even if all the artists came from other countries .
Over the years, I also got the chance to meet a few of my favourite DJs, here are some pictures with Johan Gielen (2004), Paavo and Tony (2014), and Armin at Ruby Sky in 2005, 2007, and 2009:
I had seen Solarstone once before and he had done a great set at Dreamstate. Then, he did another 5h open to close set at Verso not a long time ago, but I totally missed that one due to poor planning. This time, I made sure to get my tickets early, and ended up going even after finding out my company Xmas party ended up being the same evening (darn), and I did not regret it: Solarstone threw a fantastic set, it was just good stuff up to the end:
And at the end Solarstone was super nice and came out to meet and greet. He loved my shirt and nicely took a picture with me:
I also have to give another big thumbs up to Verso. Not only do they get good DJs, but they have the least about of BS for getting in. Compare with places like Pure Lounge in Sunnyvale, where they first do a weapons search, which is annoying but potentially understandable, however when they do a drug search looking everywhere, even within the pockets of your wallet, this is totally pointless and a great way to turn off your customers.
Moral of the story: Verso: great, Pure Lounge: Bad. Hopefully Pure Lounge gets the hint and losens up. I told them, tell them too, and in the meantime, keep going back to Verso only instead :)
And here is a 30mn summary of the 5H set:
I had never been to Pure Lounge in Sunnyvale before, a short-ish drive from home, and Aly and Fila (really only Aly, Fila doesn't seem to travel to the US), was a good excuse to go. Pure Lounge sadly has a pretty ridiculous search at the entrance, and seemed to say that you could not even take small point and shoot cameras inside? What on earth is that?
That being said, once inside, it was a good evening, good set from Aly:
So, there was a big ass dreamstate event in Los Angeles, but getting there over thanksgiving just wasn't convenient, and became less necessary when I found out that we'd be getting a decent enough Trance event in our backyard, so I went to Give Thanks, and it was indeed a good lineup.
Oakey, Cosmic Gate, ATB, Andrew Rayel (incidently all of them were going to Dreamstate afterwards, so it's good that we got to have them first :):
poor oakey was looking old and tired though, his heart didn't seem into it
Since I was at ThunderHill in Willows during the day and Above and Beyond were playing in Sacramento, almost on the way home, but to make the deal more sweet, it was by McClellan Airfield/KMCC, where I was able to fly in fewer than 30mn from Willows, walk to my hotel, drop my stuff, and go to the party, fewre than 10mn on foot from the hotel and the airport's FBO. Super convenient!
The one lowlight was that it opened at 21:00 while 2 of Above and Beyond (you pretty much only get 2 out of the 3, pseudo-randomly, it's like they draw straws :) showed up around 23:15. It was a long time to wait considering that the music before that was not trance :(
Either way, once they finally showed up, it was sweet:
The next morning, I went back to the nearby airport and flew home:
argh, no, not my plane. would have been nice tough :)
Thanks to my friend David, I've been more up to date with the Trance events going on, and as a result I've been missing a lot fewer of them, which is great news. I did go to FSOE 400 last year in San Jose, and it was actually a good event with a good DJ selection.
FSOE 500 was much more low key with fewer DJs in a much smaller venue, but I actually ended up enjoying that event so much more. It was pretty much non stop quality trance for 5 hours, something sadly too rare nowadays:
Thanks to DJ Blurr, I found out about this evening at Ruby Skye that I was totally not aware of. It was great to have 3 different DJs at the decks, and have Adina sing live with Markus at the decks.
Markus did keep playing past 02:00 all the way to 04:00 although by the time I left (03:00-ish) he had switched to harder stuff that was pretty far from Trance, so being tired anyway, I bailed a bit early. Still, it was a great night though.
DJ Blurr told me about this event, part of the Anjunabeats tour, it wasn't the best time for me to go, but I figured I'd go give it a shot, and try my new electric shirt I was working on for burning man, as well as my upgraded LED shoes.
While it didn't have a concentration of my favourite tunes as high as when Above and Beyond would come, it was still a good evening. A few pictures below:
So yeah, I got a late start with EDC, didn't know about it until last year when I first went, but after finding out what I had been missing out on, I went to fix the errors of my ways :)
while it's only an 80mn flight from San Jose, CA (and an expensive one at this, $450 due to the other 400,000 people also going for that time), it's a bit tough to have virtually a 8-10H jetlag for just 3 days (EDC going from 18:00 to 05:30 and you ideally sleeping from 08:00 to 14-16:00). Without prescription drugs (or otherwise) and caffeine to help with sleep and awakeness, it must be hard :) But before you ask, daytime weather in Vegas was unbearably hot (45C / 112F), so doing this during the day would not work.
Also, people ask me what camera I use. First, that is a correct question :) Cell phones are very poor night cameras due to the insufficient room they have for a good size sensor. I actually carry 2 handheld cameras that I keep on my belt:
Sony HX60V: this one has a small sensor which is not ideal for night pictures, but it comes with a 30X optical zoom and half usable 85 semi digital zoom. This is a must for taking pictures of the DJ booth when I'm so far that I can't even see the DJ with my naked eyes.
Sony RX100M3: this one only has a 3X optical zoom, but it has a very good 1" sensor for capturing night shots and true color fireworks shots
Before you ask, you cannot get a camera that has a big zoom and great night shots without having a huge camera, and usually carrying 2 lenses. By then it's easier to just use 2 smaller cameras :)
At times, I'd also be filming with the RX100 with one hand (I have about 3.5H of video from this EDC) and taking zoomed shots of the DJ booth with the other hand.
This gave me a good chance to try my LED shoes I had hacked to add extra battery life (12H) along with lit shoe laces, and my portable blinky lights for my shirt:
It was a good time to try my shoes I had hacked to have 12H battery life :)
As for how big EDC is, saying it's big doesn't quite explain it, and neither does the map, but maybe this night shot from a heli, will:
map of the grounds, might look small on the map, but it's big :)
Getting 400,000 people there and back is no small feat. I took uber the first night because I only arrived around 03:30 (having gone to Omnia to see Armin just before that), and even then the traffic was not clear. The shuttles work ok, except for the loading that is super inefficient in both directions. I really hope Insomniac gets to fix that because it adds substantial unnecessary delays. The wristbands were by color with RFID to verify single use and spot fakes:
many wristbands, spot the fakes :)
Before starting on the report of the 3 days, I'll start with a few misc pictures of signs and people:
I ran into Dito Milian, who usually takes my picture at Thunderhill :)
my hoola hoop wielding trance loving fan I run into at all events I go to, was here again :)
The first day, the Trance lineup was light (as in nothing before 03:30, just two hours before end of the evening), and I was interested in seeing Omnia where Armin was playing anyway, so I went to see Armin 1h30 (sadly not his whole set), from 01:00 to 02:30, and took an uber to EDC, getting me at Stage 7 just after 03:30. By then, I was able to see John O'Callaghan, Jordan Suckley, and W&W
I stayed until 05:30 when John O Callaghan finished after sunset
back to the inefficient shuttle line to get to bed by 08:00
Quick video summary of Day #1:
Day #2, I arrived earlier (22:30-ish) to enjoy the sights and different stages before Above and Beyond and Armin at 01:30 and 03:00 (both of whom played an excellent set at Cirtcuit Grounds), to be followed by Dash Berlin from 04:19 to 05:30 at Kinetic Fields. There were lots of carnival rides, even a water ride!
the ball swimming pool was always fun :)
help, I'm drowning! :)
EDC also has great fireworks. Check out the 5mn clip of fireworks the 3rd day (they start getting crazy around 02:40):
Some other random pictures of the grounds:
And then it was time for Above and Beyond at Circuit Grounds where they played an awesome set again:
taken with an 85x zoom, sorry that it's a big blocky
Armin was next, he played somewhat harder trance, starting with repeating his opening track from Omnia: "I am the dominator, there is no other". Very subtle indeed :)
After Armin, I went back to Kinetic Fields for Dash Berlin for a sunrise set:
90m of Day #2 highlights I filmed:
Then it was time to get back to my hotel room and catch some sleep before the 3rd day (yeah for a 12H jetlag by just going to Vegas). I arrived a bit earlier on the 3rd day since Paul Oakenfold started at 22:30. Before that, went to check out the grounds a bit more:
Bass Pod caught fire, doh!
Then was time for Paul, who played an OK set, but I've heard better from him, then came Paul van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, Markus Schultz, Gaia (to be fair I preferred GAIA's set last year), Gareth Mery and Aly & Fila. An awesome lineup:
And back for a bit of Aly and Fila before I had to duck out early to catch a shuttle back to Vegas to get a cab back to the airport for a 07:25 flight home. Was in bed by 09:30 for some much needed sleep :) (although I was a bit sad to have missed the last 45mn).
this shot almost looks like burning man :)
90mn highlights video of day #3 I filmed:
Needless to say I had an awesome time, more than last year even (likely due to a more complete trance lineup). This is likely the biggest electronic music festival in the world, and it's pretty spectacular!
Like last year, on the first day of EDC, Armin was playing at Omnia in Vegas. Last year, I had considered going but it was a bit of a pain since Armin was playing smack in the middle of the good parts of EDC (01:00 to 04:00), so I skipped it.
This year was the same thing, but I figured I'd go check out Omnia anyway, and duck out early to go EDC later in the night.
So Omnia is not that simple to get into. First I thankfully had bought tickets online a few days earlier, or I'd have been in an even longer line that might or might not have gotten in that night. Next, they have a pretty strict dress code. For one they stopped me from even getting in with a small black fanny pack that I was carrying the battery pack and lights for my shirt, which of course I was not even going to be allowed to use inside.
Worse, they told me I could not take my small digital camera and that I'd have to use an inferior cell phone to take pictures if I so wished. That was total bullshit, so I snuck it in anyway, but I really don't like having to do stuff like this (their security included a metal detector, like South Los Angeles crime laden location...).
Anyway, despite all the BS, I eventually got in with one of my 2 cameras, which is good because there were good shots to be taken.
there were so many different lines to get in, it was pretty silly and fairly confusing
The main lighting contraption in the middle was very configurable and at times looked like a spaceship was landing to come abduct you and beam you up. It was pretty cool :)
I don't know how many got abducted by the tractor beam :)
It was just a year ago that I discovered Above and Beyond Acoustic on youtube, and I fell in love. Don't take me wrong, I've known Above & Beyond since 2000 or so, and seen them with Justine Suissa first in 2004.
What is Above and Beyond Acoustic? AnB while known for their very successful EDM club tracks, compose very nice melodies, which often get drowned out by the fat beats in many clubs. Their original acoustic performance in 2014 was a huge success, even if only seen by a few people compared to the 3 million+ views on youtube:
I think the great reception from the fans, and comments line mine on their G+ stream, encouraged them to do the Acoustic II tour around the world, which is awesome. As opposed to most DJs who can't play any instruments, hell Tiësto confessed he can't even read sheet music, they are classically trained musicians, and it shows on that performance.
It was also great to see Justine Suissa again, after first seeing her in 2004 in San Francisco, she's definitely a veteran. She was joined by other talented vocalists: Zoe Johnston, Cobi and Natalie Holmes.
The Greek Theatre, while a nice venue, is fairly out of the way (almost 2H to get there on a weekday evening due to traffic), and turned out to be colder than expected. I brought enough layers, but Jennifer didn't, so I shared with her, and was a bit cold by the end of the night:
we got somewhat overpriced tickets in the 13th row in the pit
By the end of the night, people got down from their seats, and just rushed the front of the stage, with everyone standing up. Not quite the same concert hall experience from the original acoustic tour, but you can't blame the fans ;)
Despite the cold and hypothermia, it was a great evening, happy to have been there. A short video summary: