Concert Reviews

EDM Was Alive and Well at Lights All Night's Utopian New Year's Party

Lights All Night
With Hardwell, Kaskade, Porter Robinson and more
Dallas Market Hall, Dallas
Thursday and Friday, December 31, 2015, and January 1, 2016

Lights All Night's two-day EDM dance party at Dallas Market Hall didn't get much better than Flosstradamus’ set on the Mothership. In a set highlighted by the inspired pairing of “Hotline Bling” with the criminally unsung “Crank Dat Soulja Boy,” the duo’s mix of current and nostalgic sounds provoked the crowd into an all-out slam dance party. Fans circled up around the brave souls who flung themselves headlong toward the bass drop, colliding and crashing to the floor, then hoisted back to their feet by fellow ravers with handshakes and hugs. It was a downright utopian experience — a far cry from the LAN of 2014.

Last year's offering was, if anything, a little tense. Perhaps it was scheduling the event after Christmas or bad vibes lingering in the psychosphere, but whatever good will was present on Day 1 disappeared from the premises on Day 2. What remained were fatigued, irritable concertgoers of all shapes and sizes, but especially the brooding muscle men in tights hitting the scene like Peter Pans with chips on their shoulders. EDM as a genre had been accused of falling off in 2014, its festivals scandalized amid reports of overdoses and sexual assault, and the chilliness of those two days at LAN did little to persuade otherwise.

This year founder Scott Osburn and partners Highland Concerts stepped up to correct course. Osburn moved the venue to the Dallas Market Hall, a goal of LAN since its start in 2011. Switching to the Market Hall was a key decision: Its size and layout offer a more immersive experience than the Convention Center alone, not to mention the mystifying lights and shapes generated from the massive spheres hung from the ceiling. 
Setting the date for New Year’s Eve and New Year's Day had been a mutual desire of the fans and organizers for some time as well, and the underlying logic is sound. What better way to refresh for the New Year than with two days of dancing to EDM, marinating in the heat of hundreds of strangers wearing next to nothing? The sales pitch is essentially, “Today’s top DJs play the Garden of Eden! Leave your anxieties at the door; savor the bliss."

Lights All Night 2015 enjoyed the fervor of a church working in cahoots with Comic-Con. People dressed in everything from Adventure Time cosplay to just their underwear hardly went an hour without embracing those around them. Strangers jubilantly danced together and manners were minded. Any cynicism towards EDM festivals met the glittery ass of LAN in 2015.

The lineup of acts this year was strong, too, with no exceptions. Skrillex protégé Porter Robinson headlined the first night with Datsik and Baauer, narrowly edging out his peers by a hair with those indelible wine-colored house melodies; all in all, good vibrations.

Flosstradamus, Yellow Claw, Kaskade and Big Gigantic kept the party going for a somewhat bass-ier second day. Hip-hop held a firm presence in the mixes, with DJs blending popular hits like “Trap Queen” and Roscoe Dash’s you’ll-miss-me-when-I’m-gone opus “All the Way Turnt Up” with house and electro. It felt a tad ironic, given the rivalry between hip-hop and EDM fans still kindling years after these festivals took off in 2011. Rather than one headliner owning the night, each DJ pulled his weight, creating one fluid tapestry that shook audiences in their chests. It’s an accomplishment that underscores the overall caliber of the event this year. Kaskade finished the night with an eclectic sound.

The media hype surrounding EDM may have siphoned off a morsel of its appeal for some, but rumors of its decline are greatly exaggerated. EDM festivals in particular are advantageous in that DJs enjoy relative anonymity compared to acts in other genres, allowing audiences to lose themselves in the spectacle. Humans have an oft-demonstrated need for catharsis with their peers; if the original LAN or Electric Daisy Carnival don’t sell it for you, try Monterrey Pop and Woodstock. Several years after its debut, LAN has finally matured, and its future looks stunning.