By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
At the Dallas debut of the Electric Daisy Carnival on Saturday night, shock was in high supply. And it was everywhere.
Yep, everything was worth gawking at: the star-studded lineup of DJs that included scene gods Moby, Benny Benassi, Kaskade, Rusko, Klever and plenty of impressive others; the art installations laid throughout the festival grounds that dazzled even the most sober of onlookers; the barely clad partygoers; the fact that there were some 11,000 of them, too; the gaudy carnival rides brought in to keep those masses happy should they get bored; and, most of all, the breathtakingly gorgeous venue.
Maybe you've heard of it? Fair Park, the largely underused—and massive—festival and museum grounds that goes empty most days of the year? That place that makes parking anywhere near the Amsterdam Bar such a bitch come the State Fair of Texas?
Yeah, that one. Kinda drab and dated, if we're being honest. Kinda beautiful, if we're being political.
But on this night? Definitely the latter. Not even up for debate. Really, you should've seen it: Laid out along the grassy esplanade by the park's Parry Avenue entrance, a sea of dancing-like-everyone-was-watching scenesters unraveled pretty much as far as the eye could see, all their attentions focused on the massive outdoor stage set up by the DART stop—and, if not there, then inside the adjacent, ginormous Centennial Building, which housed another three concurrently running stages, two of which rivaled the outdoor one in both size and draw.
Even the lighting of the grounds impressed: With pastel floodlights aimed at the nearby building and statues, the whole place shined with life. It's a simple thing, lighting, but it added plenty of vigor to the venue—a not-so-gentle nudge to remind you that, hey, Fair Park existed before this little festival and will continue to do so after the stages are torn down.
Honestly, to see Fair Park like this was like a smack to the back of the head—or maybe a chorus of "No shit, Sherlock!" being shouted in your direction from a cast of thousands. It suddenly became so obvious: You wanna throw a music festival in Dallas? Of course you should host it here. Why wouldn't you? After all: It was built for this exact purpose. Well, not this exact purpose. But, yes, big events like this. Absolutely. Especially if you can get a crowd this big, this festive, this so ridiculously into what you're offering. The folks behind the Electric Daisy Carnival have some experience on that front. For each of the past 14 years, independent Los Angeles-based booking company Insomniac Events has thrown the original incarnation of the Electric Daisy Carnival in Southern California, where it's grown from an event that drew 4,000 attendees in its first year into a soiree that organizers expect 200,000 to roll through this year (which happens to be this weekend, if you're not busy). And, as Electric Daisy grew in California, it also did so beyond state borders: In 2008, Insomniac threw its first Carnival in Denver; last year, it threw its first branded affair in Puerto Rico.
But—more shock—here's the thing about Dallas' debut: In its very first year, its five-figure draw has already topped the highest draws of either of Electric Daisy's other expansion cities.
No surprise here, then: Insomniac's head, Pasquale Rotella, says that the festival's return to Dallas—and to Fair Park—is essentially a sure thing at this point.
"We loved it," he says over the phone from his Los Angeles office after having just returned from his trip to Dallas to oversee the event. "I mean, seriously, we're very excited. I haven't been this excited about a new market in a while. The crowds were great. The venue was awesome."
To his team's credit, Rotella had done his research: "For us, it's about finding the right local partners and local promoters, and we really liked what everyone was doing out there. And when we talked to artists about what cities they were doing well in, we heard Dallas a lot. We just felt like it was buzzing out there."
And Dallas lived up to those expectations—in attendance, enthusiasm and support. From all fronts, actually: Rotella uses the word "great" in describing his relationships with both Fair Park officials and the Dallas police officers on hand to secure the area.
No, really. The feeling's mutual, too. Thought Rotella admits that Fair Park "wasn't an easy place to obtain," even its officials are now singing his praises: "I was out of town this weekend," says Daniel Huerta, executive general manager of the complex, "but yesterday at our operations meeting, my sales manager said they want us to come to L.A. and look at their show out there because it's huge. Those are their plans for Fair Park. They're already asking for dates for next year's event. This was a phenomenal event, well attended, and it's a brand new opportunity for entertainment for Dallas. We're excited."
Someone who works for the city singing the praises of what was essentially a traveling rave that rolled through his neck of the woods? That might be the most shocking part about this whole thing.
Y'know, Dallas can be pretty cool sometimes. It just sucks that it takes people who live elsewhere to remind us.