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Wednesday night in the heart of Hollywood found news outlets, surprised tourists and local commuters unwittingly caught in the crosshairs of underground dance music culture. The cause of the human logjam? The premiere of Insomniac’s Electronic Daisy Carnival Experience movie at Grauman’s Chinese theater, which spun out of control at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland in the early evening hours.
Police in riot gear fought off crowds who came to see well-known California-based DJ Kaskade in a scene recalling the worst music-related riots since Depeche Mode’s ill-fated record signing event in 1990 at the former Wherehouse Music near the Beverly Center.
Blame for the crowds was placed equally between promoters Insomniac, who invited media and friends to the premiere at Grauman’s Chinese theater, and house DJ Kaskade, who tweeted to fans that he was playing a free set on Hollywood Boulevard prior to the invite-only screening.
The result was nothing short of absolute chaos between the hours of 5p.m. and 8 p.m. as invited guests tried to make their way to the screening while thousands of revelers converged, some who drove in from as far away as Bakersfield.
The near-riot pitted LAPD officers, who were trying to clear Hollywood Blvd., against fans trying to catch a glimpse of Kaskade, despite audible warnings via megaphone from Insomniac staff and Grauman’s Chinese employees stating over and over that Kaskade’s appearance was “canceled” and that fans should vacate the premises. In fact, the DJ himself sent several tweets pleading with fans to “chill” and leave the area after he got wind of LAPD problems with crowds.
In the end, police were forced to physically push crowds away from the entrance of Grauman’s, which resulted in a well-reported fracas.
Yet the screening for invited guests did take place, despite the chaos outside. Many media members were unable to attend, as LAPD told most attempting to approach the red carpet that the screening was called off.
Insomniac’s Director of Communications, Erika Raney, told THR at the theater that “around 650” guests were invited. Only 300 or so made it into the screening, which took place despite the chaos outside.
So how was the Kevin Kerslake-directed film at the center of the madness? The short answer is good, yet hardly worthy of the melee that took place on Wednesday night.
“It’s a testament to the popularity of this music,” director Kerslake told THR following the film’s premiere. “It’s unfortunate that the reaction to something so positive could be construed as so negative,” he said of his documentary-style film, which captured the cultural movement that drew over 100,000 people to L.A.’s Memorial Coliseum for the Electronic Daisy Carnival in 2010.
In fact, the EDC “movie,” set for release in select theaters August 4 and on DVD afterwards, focuses mostly on the 2010 edition of the massive music festival, featuring footage shot from helicopters above the stadium as well as candid interviews with artists such as David Guetta, Steve Aoki and Kaskade, who emerges as a sort of eloquent spokesman for the entire emergent movement in the film (somewhat ironically, as Insomniac seemed to try and insinuate he was to blame for the record crowds after a tweet about the industry-only screening).
“It goes very deep,” the DJ, born Ryan Raddon, said in the documentary at one point about EDC and the electronic music scene in general that is all but taking over the pop charts at the moment. “You’re celebrating being alive… it’s a cultural movement.”
Raddon is right. EDC has proved itself to be a movement that mainstream media is only recently catching up to, yet for the wrong reasons.
Coverage from the 2010 edition of EDC in L.A. focused heavily on the unfortunate drug-related death of a teenager after the festival, in addition to crowd control problems (fans rushed the main stage and broke down barriers outside the fest in order to get closer to popular European DJs playing the main stage last year).
However, many covering the event last year and earlier this year after the festival was forced to move to Las Vegas missed the point of the movement entirely: it’s about the music.
This new documentary came close to capturing the magic that was EDC’s 2010 edition, which is Insomniac’s prerogative, especially given the beating they took in the press last year.
“It’s so much bigger than me,” festival founder Pasquale Rotella said early in the documentary. “It’s not something I created but something I’m just a part of,” he added. Curiously, Rotella wasn’t even at the screening (he was barely in the film as well, choosing instead to let the artists who played the festival last year and in years past to explain the allure that has drawn hundreds of thousands over the past decade).
But the man behind the mega-fest is just a cog in the wheel: the real stars are the DJs who pull in fans by the tens of thousands, and Kerslake smartly asks them why they think EDC is different in his two-hour-long look at the festival.
“There’s a lot of chaos now but I wanted to take the opportunity to capture the positive vibe,” he said after the film. “I did Nirvana in their darkest days but this scene is different,” the director known for videos such as Nirvana’s “Come As You Are,” said.
Kerslake did manage to at least touch on the magic that was EDC’s last blast in L.A.’s Memorial Coliseum, with fantastic footage from several vantage points: backstage,from above via a few daring arial shots, and close-up with fans, artists and the players that go unsung, such as go-go dancers who show up every year (paid by Insomniac to add to the experience).
In one unexpectedly touching scene, Kerslake interviews deaf fans that speak via a translator in sign language. “We feel the love,” one hearing impaired woman said regarding why she came to EDC last year.
Despite the length of the documentary, which is no Depeche Mode 101 and clocks in at a good 45 minutes too long, fans of the festival and electronic music in general will enjoy the film. Footage of acts such as Boys Noize, David Guetta and the recently deceased DJ AM will guarantee as much (the film was dedicated to the late DJ in closing credits). As will.i.am says about halfway through the film: “We can all understand the beat.”
Indeed, Kerslake and Rotella know they have tapped into a global zeitgeist, and they smartly focused on last year’s edition which took place in downtown L.A. and featured a uniquely California manic energy like a tightly wound coil (unlike this year’s relatively tame edition in Las Vegas). Likewise, this premiere had the air of hometown pride and proved that, like 20 years earlier with another buzzed about act (Depeche Mode), Hollywood history has a way of repeating itself (and catching mainstream media off guard).
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