Concert Reviews

Last Night: Sitting Through The Two-Hour Electric Daisy Carnival Experience Film

Electric Daisy Carnival Experience
August 4, 2011

Better than: anything else going on in Hurst last night. Granted, we're not familiar with weeknight activities in Hurst, but the screening was sold out, which indicates some level of excitement.

Last night's premiere of the Electric Daisy Carnival Experience documentary was like watching a long music video. A really, really long music video. This film clocks in at over two hours. 

And, for a film with scant, if any, characters, and no discernible plot or conflict, there was little to hold the audience's interest besides pretty pictures and thumping beats. And if that gets you going, we recommend attending a real EDC, as the experience doesn't quite translate onto film. 

For the uninitiated: The film documents the Electric Daisy Carnival dance music festival that took place over two days in Los Angeles in the summer of 2010, which saw, according to founder Pasquale Rotella, over 100,000 people file through the doors of the Los Angeles Coliseum. 

But, although EDC is a momentous event, the film left us cold. 

We're by no means condoning drug use here, but a little something along those lines probably would've helped us get through an experience that can only be described as a sheer beatdown. 

Lest the reader think that this review is entirely negative, let's begin by examining the good points, which were the flawless filming and editing. The cinematography was absolutely gorgeous -- a roster of more than 20 camera operators filmed everything, from every angle, and these stunning shots were edited together so as to perfectly mesh with the rhythm of the music. Costumed dancers, carnival rides, and fireworks danced across the screen in a dizzying kaleidoscope of color. Even the interviews were perfectly lit and well-shot.

However, this film could've gotten its point across in about 30 minutes. The crowd shots, and shots of the dancers, were repetitive; we saw the same dancers doing the same moves, filmed 20 different lovely ways, but it was still the same stuff on the screen. 

The interviews, meanwhile, fell completely flat. The film features interviews with folks like Rotella, DJ Kaskade, and a backup dancer, but they really didn't have much to say. And there was no backstory, no perspective on when this event began, how it is set up, how the events are booked, etc. Similarly, no insight into the history of EDM, and no perspective on the music itself other than a whole lot of vague phrases about how awesome Rotella's promotional company is, and how groovy it is to see all these people come together in the spirit of oneness. 

The filmmakers shot bits of Kaskade at home with his wife and kids; although he says he spends 300 days per year on the road, we got no other information on his career. Kaskade, who comes off rather flighty (sample quote: "It's a spiritual thought in nature - let's throw the biggest party in the world! It's a celebration of life!"), is the only attempt the film makes at showing the everyday lives of deejays (shots of Steve Aoki getting ready for the show don't count; his dad is the millionaire owner of Benihana, and he'd live in that mansion even if he wasn't a DJ). Travis Barker, who talks a bit about his late pal and EDC stalwart DJ AM, is given the same lame treatment. 

Although the editors of this film know how to make things look pretty, they apparently don't understand that part of editing film is crafting a story from your footage. There was no story here.

There was, however, a lot of dancing. A good portion of the film was taken up by shots of elaborately costumed female dancers, who provided a theatrical tone to the concert. The head dance coordinator explained that, by putting the bikini-clad dancers in gas masks, she was trying to present a "different idea of what sexy is." Um, OK. They may be wearing gas masks, but in those skimpy outfits, no one is looking at their faces anyways. In fact, most of the crowd shots included scantily clad, extremely good-looking women. 

But the only women in this film were objects -- dancers or eye-candy concertgoers. All the serious artists were men, albeit men who waxed on such deep topics as togetherness, and how the EDM culture is going to change the world. 

Too bad they didn't go into the "how" part, or the "why". Apparently, EDM culture isn't about history, or technique, or talent - it's just peace and groovy faces everywhere.

Fans of EDM might enjoy seeing performers like Deadmau5, Benny Benassi, and Swedish House Mafia do their thing. However, sitting through two hours of this, with no discernible point or background information, seems like a bit much even for the most devoted EDM fan. 

Towards the end, after talking a bit about spiritual connectedness, Rotella notes that he appreciates "the people who have stuck around through the ups and downs." 

It would've been nice if we'd heard a bit about those ups and downs, rather than just really cool shots of dancers for two fucking hours. 

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
None that I can think of. I like EDM, although I'm not a rabid fan. I went to a rave once in the late '90s. This is a very youth-oriented movement, and I'm 30, so hopefully I'm not too old to still "get it". 

Random Note: My mate is a rabid sports fan who lived in L.A. in the late '80s and attended many Raiders and Rams games at the coliseum where this was shot. When Rotella started talking about how there were 100,000 people in attendance, my partner scoffed. He later broke it down for me: The coliseum holds 75,000 people; although there were people on the field, 40 percent of the coliseum was blocked off. That leaves approximately 45,000 seats. A football field is 900 feet by 100 feet; at a concert, packed in like sardines, we estimated that if each person on the field took up a two foot by two foot space, and if you add in the number of folks in the seats, that brings the number of attendees to 50,000. As this was a two-day event, there were probably 100,000 people over the course of both days; the people in the film fail to mention this. I suppose it's more fun to toss around that 100,000 number and watch people's eyes pop. 

By The Way: The audience in the Hurst movie theater was very young, and many were dressed in colorful rave outfits, which was really cool. We saw a guy in a mouse hat, a girl in a tutu with fuzzy legwarmers, and lots of colorful bracelets. The two cops posted at the door -- no doubt to contain the riots that might happen in a mall movie theater in Hurst -- seemed to be in good spirits.

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Laura Mann