Lights All Night Fair Park Saturday, December 29 & Sunday, December 30
I remember when they were called raves -- not that I was ever old enough to attend one, but I remember when these types of electronic music fests were known as such. There was even a whole film subgenre in the '90s that documented young people going out and doing drugs and dancing the night away. One of these wasn't half-bad, and featured a pretty great performance from Mr. Justified himself.
Eventually these gatherings became field parties once the media turned the word "rave" into parental terror. Eventually even those were put out to pasture, as the underground dance music scene moved into the mainstream, and now we have ventures like Lights All Night, a three-day fest that's being held on city property with the full cooperation of the city, curfews included.
The venue's retro futurism fits right in with the concept of electronic sound and a blitz of light, though I think I was one of the few who took the time to soak in the surroundings. It was a stacked line-up, with Saturday night featuring international DJs Tiësto and Avicii, along with up-and-comers like Cookie Monsta and Gamma.
Thousands of similarly-dressed people cavorted around the area, bouncing from stage to stage in an effort to let the beats wash over them and lead them to each other. I cannot drive home the similarly-dressed thing hard enough: Every other person is wearing an animal spirit hood, and the amount of fishnets, fuzzy leggings and neon would make a degenerate gambler wonder where the slot machines are.
I counted at least four Deadmau5 heads, three Paul Pierce jerseys (including someone dressed as a unicorn sporting a throwback Kansas edition), and a young man who couldn't have been taller then 5'5", weighing no more than 120 pounds, sporting an Oliver Miller Arkansas jersey. This young man did not just kill irony with this choice, he tossed it into the sea so the concept could never be mourned.
I pop my head into the coat check and see the entrance line for the fest is verging on a riot. Once they get through the gate, an air of excitement takes over, and groups of people run by screaming and high-fiving. A few make it a point to make me high five them. Outside at the Fountain stage, a Red Bull-themed bus that has room for a DJ, people gather around to do what seems to be the go-to dance move: running in place while sort of skipping, mixed with moving your hands around a lot. Everyone dances like this, with the exception of drunk guys trying to freak on scantily clad girls, but that ends pretty quickly, as grinding and skipping don't go together.
The temperature is hanging in the low 30s, so I decide to skip the main stage in favor of the warmth provided by the Hanger stage and Club LAN, located in the main auto show halls. Inside Club LAN, I watch Cookie Monsta take the stage and people flood into the area to dance. While watching the lights dance on Lone Star Road House sign over the snack area, I see Scooby Doo and Pikachu dancing together.
I stop at the Red Bull bus to catch Gamma, a DJ who is spinning hip-hop heavy mixes that have people losing their minds. A rather intoxicated young man in a Tri Delts shirt keeps trying to dance on top of a monitor. Inside the Hanger stage, merch is everywhere, as people splurge on neon clothing, hats and glasses. You can buy sunglasses with refracted lenses. Pair these with a "Have You Seen Molly?" shirt, and you're halfway to having a future Twitpic preventing you from landing an internship.
I make my way into the VIP area, where a bartender pours me a drink that's three shots of whiskey with a splash of Coke, and judging by the stumbling going on around me, I'm not special. I make my way onto the dance floor and watch an inflated shark get passed around the crowd, which is the closest thing I've seen to crowd surfing. To my right, a young lady dressed in Batman-branded clothes dances in her own world, while to my left, a group of friends take turns twirling lights in front of a girl, a dead giveaway she's on something. I look up to see a VIP who is at least 50 stumble while trying to dance, and two DPD officers chuckle at the sight of him. After seeing a kid in a Carhartt work coat attempt to break dance, I decide it's time to hit the road. While walking out of the fest, I see some officers with a shirtless bro in handcuffs, who is protesting, "I'M NOT DRUNK, I DIDN'T DO ANY DRUGS!"
During my walk from Fair Park to my car in Expo Park, I wonder if the local bars are getting any fest overflow. This leads me to the Amsterdam, where I encounter a guy trying to talk to a girl about the fest and EDM in general. It's obvious she's having none of it, and being a semi-nice guy, I decide to dive on the grenade. The gentleman proceeds to tell me about the marvels of MySpace and how it's an amazing tool for people to connect with. Following a hasty exit, I find myself at Deep Shade's all-vinyl event at Sandaga 813 with some friends. While standing on Sandaga's porch listening to a discussion about LAN, Tiësto and EDM, I see a barrage of fireworks emerge from Fair Park, followed by the roar of a delighted crowd. One down, two to go.
Covering day two of Lights All Night the same day as the Cowboys' final game of the season didn't seem like a bad thing a few weeks ago, when the team's playoff chances were non-existent. And then, as always, the team decided to eek out a chance at a playoff birth that hedged on them winning the final game of the season. This knowledge killed me as I stood in the Hanger watching Australian duo Nervo drive a crowd into a frenzy with their hit (and I might be breaking the rules of calling a song a hit here), "YGLA." These ex-model twins are talented, but you can't help but feel some of the hype comes from their back story -- who wouldn't sign a pair of model twins who claim to be music geeks.
While the early evening crowds were sparse compared to Saturday's flood of dancing bodies, the closer we got to A-Trak's performance, the more people seemed to pour in. I watched a duo named White Panda play a set of top 40 mixes, including a Calvin Harris hit that seemed to incite the crowd, a sure sign of who people were actually there for. While sitting to the side going over my notes and frantically updating Twitter for game scores, a young lady walks up to make sure I'm "all right." I guess cold medication makes you look like you're on a bad trip.
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Over in the Main stage area, Fool's Gold Records owner and overall badass A-Trak was set to blow my mind. I am an A-Trak fan; I find his production to be damn near brilliant and I think his work with Kanye West was responsible for some of Yeezy's best tracks. Midway through A-Trak's set, I realize that with the drop-dead time between the end of his set and the beginning of Calvin Harris', I could make my way to the Meridian Room and catch a beer and a bit of the game.
In between watching the Redskins score and discussing LAN spillover with the bartender, Jordan, it seems when the fest lets out (at midnight Saturday and Sunday, due to a curfew) the area is flooded with people looking for rides because they missed the last DART train, and the Meridian was besieged by people trying to use the restroom and ordering water. During all of this, and with hope stemming from a halftime tie, I start to realize I'm not having the terrible time I expected.
Harris has by far the largest crowd yet, as his radio hits all but guaranteed this. I see a variety of people, from bros in deer-hunting vests dancing with girls in Adventure Time gear, to an older couple in two-stepping outfits gamely dancing along to the beat. Harris plays his Rihanna collaboration, "We Found Love," and the crowd completely loses it. He gets the crowd going by yelling, "Dallas, we're gonna have fun?!," leading to cheers and even heavier dancing. By the time he hits "Feel So Close" and "Let's Go," the lights are flashing at a rapid pace and people are all over each other. It's not even New Year's Eve yet and the make-outs are in full force.
When I walk back to the Meridian, Jordan sees my face and offers me a glass of Jameson. The next 15 minutes are torture, as I see the season slip away via a terrible throw by Tony Romo, a terrible call by the refs and texts from friends. When it's over, I drown my sorrows in my drink and turn just in time see someone walk into a sign. I take this as a signal to head back to the fest to lose myself to the sounds Bassnectar.