Lights All Night Fair Park Monday, December 31
New Year's Eve is always a tricky proposition, what with the whole cottage industry built around getting you out, getting you tipsy and then trying to get you home. This is probably why Lights All Night saved some of their biggest acts for the third and final night -- they wanted their attendees to think of going nowhere else.
Judging by the crowd, that gamble was right. Much has been written about LAN and its Dallas roots; how it was just a party started by a couple of friends who, through hard work and an eye for what college kids like, have slowly turned it into a destination festival. This weekend was a gamble not just by the organizers, but the city of Dallas as well. For the city to affiliate itself with this "scene" so close to the Electric Daisy Carnival fiasco of a few years ago is a risk, though this year attendance was healthy, and the city seems to be getting an economic return in the form of venue/police/EMT rentals. Toss in the hundreds of people hired just to work the event and you can see how money easily overpowers the fear of some kid getting a little over his or her head with their good time.
That doesn't mean the fear shouldn't have been there. I wrote on Monday about the casual approach attendees were taking to drug use; everyone was trying to track down some Molly (MDMA), and weed was being smoked openly. Add in the rather liberal passing-out of drink tickets to VIPS by organizers, and you could see a potential disaster around every corner.
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I need to take a moment to point out how ridiculous the drink ticket policy was. Every day when you walked in through the VIP entrance, you were were given a lengthy roll of drink tickets, about 11 or so. These could be used for anything from a cocktail to beer to shots to a bottle of water. It was your choice as long as you used them before the cut-off of 11 p.m. If you quickly bled through these, all you had to do was go to a kiosk, flash your wristband and be given more. Such a system was easily gamed; in fact by early Sunday night, I had 32 drink tickets in my pocket, more than enough to put me and two other people in an alcohol-induced coma.
My night started by cashing in a couple of those drink tickets and taking in Austin's Ghostland Observatory. This is Ghostland's third straight year playing a Lights All Night event, and when you add in their frequent trips to North Texas, you notice they've built a pretty large fan base in the area. People were dancing with gusto, and for the first time in three days, an artist is actually playing an instrument. During the set, I overheard a guy make a joke that, "Highland Park girls love these guys, it gets 'em UP!," which may be one of the worst things I have ever heard a person say, and is an obvious dig at the rape case that grew out of an October Ghostland show at the Palladium Ballroom.
This "joke" is indicative of a weird disconnect going on with some of the fans, namely those in a VIP area made up of people exclusively wearing SMU, Baylor, Alabama, Arkansas or Ole Miss hats/clothing, who seem to be cherishing the idea that VIP status makes them special. Honestly, it's hard to blame them for those thoughts. Why be part of the masses when you can pay a little more to be separated from them? Hell, why be merely a VIP when you can spend more to be literally elevated above the masses, separated by a barrier so you can stare down at those beneath you? Privilege is a weird thing to see people take such blatant advantage of.
Some of this has to be part of the cultural appropriation of these types of events, from the Native American headdresses to war paint. It doesn't seem like many of the attendees sporting these looks care, or know that they would have been better off sticking with the superhero hoodie for the night.
When super producer/BlackBerry spokesman Diplo takes the stage, the night kicks into high gear. I cash in even more of my tickets while a shirtless Diplo mounts his DJ platform and demands that people take their shirt off and wave them. All around me, people are grinding on each other. I see a security guard standing in the photo crew area, dancing along, oblivious to his job. When Diplo goes into the Major Lazer part of his set, the crowd erupts. I find myself getting slapped on the back by a gentleman who smiles and yells, "I came all three days just for this!"
After mixing G.O.O.D. Music's "Mercy" with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Diplo brings up a group of girls to dance while he mixes, eventually taking the time to ask them to do handstands, including the classic line, "Girl in the pink boots with the titties hanging out, do a handstand and pop it!"
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At one point while I was making my way from the bar, I see a man in his late 30s wearing a blue leotard adorned with flashing lights dancing past an ACT Events worker hired to sweep up after people who can't be bothered to walk four steps to a trashcan. The worker is staring in disbelief at the gentleman in blue and eventually our eyes meet and we share a look, both of us shaking our head in confusion at the scene around us. How did we get here, and why does this make so little sense?
I end 2012 chatting with a group from El Paso about the insanity of the whole scene and how they're just trying to have some fun. I find this attitude refreshing and decide to let my guard down a bit. The people at LAN don't care about what everyone around them thinks; they don't care about anything but the drop, they dance in sync with the flashing lights and throbbing beat. They only exist in the moment around them, tomorrow is tomorrow, the bass is right now.
While riding the green line from Fair Park, sitting there in a boozy haze, I start to think I've figured out EDM and the scene surrounding it. It's disco. Both scenes are dominated by their sound, one that's used to cover up weak performers and employed by fading established artists to revive their careers. The scenes are both known for brazen drug use and distinct fashion. But what is EDM's shelf life? Will we get the parodies like we did with disco? Where art thou, "EDM Duck"?
We're not far off from a Saturday Night Fever-style remake set around this scene. Just give Elizabeth Olsen the Tony Manero role and have Dakota Fanning play a Molly-popping Bobby C. I can see the tagline already: "Where do you go after the last bass drop?"