Lights All Night Dallas Convention Center Friday, December 30 & Saturday, December 31
Getting ready for Lights All Night, I couldn't help but get nostalgic for my teenage days. Lights All Night was reportedly not a rave, but how about this poorly-kept secret? It was a rave.
Those mid-'90s warehouse parties were pretty janky. I had to do a lot of lying about my age and was dependent on older, cooler kids for car rides and alcohol. You'd call some promoter hotline for the address. It was an after-school special nightmare but, my god, we danced. In that way, I still had something in common with the two bubbly19-year-olds behind me Friday night, waiting to get into the Dallas Convention Center.
"Will you take our picture?" one asked excitedly.They're jumping around either from excitement or because they're trying to keep their barely covered bodies warm. I ask who they came to see and they giggle in unison: "Flux Pavilion!!!"
If Lights All Night was trying to make an impression about security, it certainly did. After an ID check, pat down, purse glance (but no pocket search) and finally a full-body outline with a security wand, I was granted entrance. Oh! One more ID check for the bar-area wristband, and a wristband scan at every single entrance. And exit. I can appreciate the preemptive need for crowd control at an event of this size, but it bordered on animal herding.
Logistical issues aside, those two 19-year-olds and the gang of 23-year-olds who let me tag along weren't there for Festival Production 101. We were there for Dada Life, Benny Benassi and, hopefully, a few surprises along the way.
Dada Life, Swedish duo Olle Corneer and Stefan Engblom's electro-house project, usually provides a playful live show complete with inflatables and a 25-piece marching band. Unfortunately, there was nary a banana in sight, though the crowd included some fans dressed like one, hoping to be pulled onstage. Their high energy set was a fantastic way to start the evening; Dada rarely touches the darker, sludgier side of electronic music and is better for it.
There isn't much to say about Diplo at this point, and yet I feel obligated to mention him. He brings a rock-star confidence to his sets not typically seen inside the DJ booth, or on top of it, where he would occasionally jump to hype the crowd.
Paper Diamond was my only lengthy visit to the Groove Hall, the smallest stage of the three themed halls but worth the trip. Part dreamy synth, part wobbly remix, Paper Diamond's sophisticated edge remained through the arch of his hour. In the bar I met Paul, a 24-year-old Pennsylvania transplant. He felt bad about how ladies in this scene are basically expected to arrive naked. He chose to move to Dallas after traveling here for the Electric Daisy Carnival. "Everyone was really nice," he told me. " And I was going to move somewhere."
As Light All Night geared into the midnight hour, the crowd split into extremes: Those hitting their peak (I don't think I saw anyone staring at hands until nearly12:30AM) and those who couldn't keep up with their particular flavor of inebriation.The walls were lined with those coming down, still glowing in the dark but necks barely bobbing.
Related: Nothing makes me feel older than learning about a new drug at a music festival. Did you know "Cotton Candy" is a mix of LSD and cocaine? To which I responded, "I DON'T THINK YOU SHOULD TAKE THAT!"
Tiesto put on a predictably dance-worthy show but the real master class was given by "The Rave Father" Benny Benassi and jaw-dropping crowd manipulation from Flux Pavilion. Along the way, I made friendly with a poet we'll call Timothy, who was dancing and writing simultaneously during the Diplo set. He'd pass his Moleskin back and forth and we'd all add a line or two. He wanted to discuss Hunter S. Thompson, and 15 minutes into Benassi's hour he looked up and shouted, "OH SHIT! THERE IS BENNY BENASSI."
Benassi's transitions were seamless, and his hour flew by.The Italian DJ's overt European influences were center stage, calling back those '90s raves when most electronic music was being largely produced outside the U.S. His set was the only time those gathered stopped dancing towards the stage and started dancing with each other.
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Don't forget the excited recommendation from my young, cold friends earlier. Joshua Pavilion had already drawn an admirable crowd and it was clear before I even charged to the front they were wrapped around his finger. Flux Pavilion was a reminder that a skilled DJ can actually force you to dance. His set acted more like a conversation, each song a new question and each burst of energy from the crowd answered with a confirmation of his talent and skill. All of a sudden, I barely noticed the strange costumes or nearly naked women.
By its second year, Lights All Night looks like it intends to reach Electric Daisy Carnival or Ultra Music Festival status. The sound quality in the cavernous Dallas Convention Center is not ideal but it didn't seem to stop the party.The Dallas Police Department was a little bit of a buzzkill, though. If I must make contact with them at every single check point, please advise them to be friendly.
Personal bias: I can't help but notice the lack of female artists on this and similar line-ups.That, in combination with the rave girl's role as some sort of electronic-fairy-dance-nymph complete with glitter pasties and wings, has me craving a new cool lady DJ to emulate.