Electric Daisy Carnival's Las Vegas Debut Deemed a Success

EDC 2011 Swedish House Mafia 1

Swedish House Mafia and Afrojack emerge as the electronic music festival’s new champions in a genre that's influencing pop and rap more than ever. Next up: EDC the movie, coming in August.

North America’s largest dance music event, Electronic Daisy Carnival, thrilled around 200,000 fans over the weekend in Las Vegas, the first time the annual gathering took place in Sin City.

Top-name draws from Scandinavia and Europe, such as Tiësto, David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia shared the limelight with dozens of equally compelling DJs, known to electronic music boosters abroad and increasingly in America, such as Laidback Luke, Martin Solveig, Benny Benassi, Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Richie Hawtin, Sander Van Doorn, Avicii, A-Trak, ATB, Ferry Corsten and others.

“It was incredible,” Holland-based DJ Afrojack, born Nick van de Wall, said after his set Saturday evening, during which he proclaimed EDC to be the “greatest party on the planet.” The DJ-producer’s slot was a highlight of the fest, proving he may well be one of the top draws next year. With a set to mirror the carnival rides that operated in the background of Electronic Daisy, Van de Wall offered up dizzying drops, smooth-coasting rolls and everything in between. Operating more like a novelist than a DJ, he employed foreshadowing; teasing tracks that he would spin later in his set (everything from Daft Punk tunes to neo-“rave” anthems such as Laidback Luke’s “Turbulence”) to great effect.

The DJ was not an official headliner, but the predominantly 20-something crowd put Van de Wall on the same level as names more familiar to Americans, such as David Guetta. Well before his Saturday start-time, thousands of fans were chanting “Afrojack, Afrojack” as Solveig was finishing his preceding set. By the time Afrojack dropped his hot club anthem “Take Over Control” midway through his set, nearly all of them were singing along. The track’s simple chorus, sung by Eva Simmons, could double as the entire movement’s new rallying cry: “Plug it in and turn me on.”

Now “Take Over Control,” which just debuted on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart last week (at No. 96) despite having been out almost a year, looks poised to hit the Top 40. Even Paris Hilton is a fan (the heiress tweeted about the European smash, despite mangling the title of the track in the tweet, and she is now after Afrojack to write songs for her forthcoming record).

“I met her and she’s pretty cool so we’ll see,” the DJ, who has a top 10 hit at the moment with his collaboration with Pitbull and Ne-Yo (“Give Me Everything”), told THR. “I’m not going to do a pop song with Paris,” he continued. “If I do something with her, it’s going to be real.”

Saturday night, the spinner certainly “kept it real” for hardcore fans and it was sets like Van de Wall’s that explained why the festival remains an essential rite of summer passage for tens of thousands. Despite media attention on the fest’s drug scene and the tangentially related deaths that followed both a Dallas edition of the festival this year and L.A.’s EDC last year, the masses came for the music and fears of large numbers of drug overdoes appear to have been unfounded, although not all reports are in from Sunday evening. On Friday, there were only 14 arrests at the festival (12 were drug-related, one arrest was for DUI, and another involved a traffic accident) and just 21 Saturday night.

All in all, it seemed most fans simply came to flirt and have fun, with or without drugs, and to see some of the biggest names in the dance world. David Guetta, for instance, proved why his sound has conquered American pop charts in the last couple years with an energetic Saturday evening set that featured a mix of older house favorites paired with the Frenchman’s newer rap crossover smashes as fireworks exploded above.

But the weekend may have belonged to dance music’s brightest stars: Swedish House Mafia. The trio of Swedes -- Axwell, Steve Angello and Sebastian Ingrosso, all well-known solo DJs in their own right, dazzled fans with a stellar turn early Monday morning that proved a fitting finale to the festival -- even though their set was hardly the last of the night (music went until sunrise at EDC).

Their brand of anthemic, crescendo-heavy house was well suited to playing festivals, and the act came across as dance music’s rock stars. They arrived like rock stars, too, via helicopter.

                          Swedish House Mafia

Indeed, Watching SHM’s set proved a sensorial rush replete with a lighting show more befitting larger rock acts such as U2. Multiple Swedish flags were visible in the crowd early Monday morning as the three dropped their hits such as “One (Your Name)," "Miami 2 Ibiza” and their latest, “Save The World,” which was a festival favorite the entire weekend (several other DJs played the track Friday and Saturday night). “There is so much going on here in Las Vegas… it’s definitely a new hotspot,” said Angello of the city’s blossoming scene before the act’s set.

Dance fans who couldn’t make it to Vegas or L.A. in previous years will still have an opportunity to experience EDC for themselves via a new film about the festival. The Electric Daisy Carnival Experience will hit theaters nationwide August 4, it was announced Monday. Over 500 theaters will screen the movie, which was shot by noted music video director Kevin Kerslake and will feature scenes from both the Las Vegas and L.A. editions of EDC as well as footage to be shot next month at an invite-only event in Hollywood.