JUNE 26, 2017

Dance music is the pulsing heartbeat of Las Vegas year-round, but during big weeks like this when the Electric Daisy Carnival blows in town, it really becomes the centerpiece of the city. EDC, as the three-night music festival is more commonly known in the dance world, brings more than 400,000 music lovers (approximately 150,000 per day over three days) to Las Vegas’ Motor Speedway every year.

Catering to the energetic and trendsetting electronic music fans, the clubs on the Strip and the whole go harder than ever during EDC Week. Hosting a series of superstar DJs, the promoters give partiers a place to party prior to the festivities (or to continue raging long after the sun comes up). The folks without tickets, meanwhile, get a chance to get in on the action without having to stray too far from the Strip.

The best way to get a taste of the unrivaled EDM scene that happens here in the desert is to experience it firsthand. So, I embarked on an EDC Week endurance race in an attempt to capture the high intensity excitement that is throbbing under the pulsing lights. Donning my dancing shoes (more like spine-shattering stilettos, actually) I dropped in on ten clubs in eight days. Here’s what the scene was like from the inside.

Monday, June 12

Night One at Encore’s XS for Duke Dumont

This first night of the official EDC Week kicks off with Duke Dumont — a creative English DJ and owner of the Blasé Boys Club imprint — which seems like as good a way as any to start an endurance race.

For Vegas nightclubs, it’s all about the entryway, and XS goes all out with golden bodies everywhere. Shapeless angels emerge from the walls and greet guests upon entry, while larger than life headless female forms make up the back wall of the bars. Even the flawless bottle girls are clad in sparkling gilded mini dresses.

After taking a few laps and evaluating the scene, I’m instantly captivated by a young man in a denim kilt, lopsided glasses and a massive head of curls. Turns out, he’s a recent USC grad who’s pursuing an advanced degree in computer engineering. He’s got style for miles, and I’m not the only one to notice.

With ideal mood lighting emitting from the massive table lamps, and screens perfectly placed everywhere, XS is a mix of chic style and modest touches. As the dance floor packs in below the dozens of disco balls, it’s becoming quite the party. There’s a couple dancing like no one’s watching, interspersed with those who maybe should care a little bit and a select few that everyone’s watching. Once Dumont takes over the tables, he shows his chops and musicianship by first pandering to the crowd with a dazzling drop punctuated by a blast of fog from the ceiling-mounted smoke machine.

Duke Dumont plays in Vegas regularly throughout the year, which makes sense, as the crowd is moving in an orchestrated unison with him as the conductor. He’s also due at EDC 2017, but this expanded set allows him to call the shots all night. As a rare cool breeze comes off the pool over the DJ booth, it’s the perfect climate to dance the rest of Monday away.

 Tuesday, June 13

Night Two at Caesars Palace’s Omnia for Zedd

I made a point to be early to Caesars Palace because Zedd is beloved in this town. I learned this last year during the iHeartRadio Music Festival when I got elbow checked as fans bum-rushed the pit when he took the stage.

It’s already packed inside the minute I step in the doors! I make my way upstairs to check out the breathtaking terrace that overlooks the strip. I’ve heard it was inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m met with extreme disappointment, however, as the sizable security guard informs me that it’s closed for the night. The centerpiece of the massive 75,000 square foot space is a mammoth, automated, light up the chandelier. Pulsating with alternating blue and purple hues, it’s mirroring the anticipation that DJ Fergie is building. The crowd is with him tonight.

The people perched in balcony booths look poised and happy as they overlook the massive dance floor. My jealousy is intensified as one of the sleek, Omnia staff members delivers the largest pizza I’ve ever seen to a ravenous table of men.

As midnight hits, the whole club loses its collective mind as the chandelier drops from the ceiling and becomes rings that look an awful lot like a spaceship. All of this is timed with blasts of confetti strips that pace the pulsing beat. Get it, Fergie!

This place is truly a visual and sonic masterpiece. From the chandelier to the lights to the screens, it complements electronic music in the way it’s meant to by offering sensory overload. The Omnia bottle girls evoked the EDC spirit with angel wings, spirit hoods, and bright colors, which were perfectly fitting with the overall vibe. 

Right on cue, Zedd emerges at 1 a.m. with “Stay the Night.” The chandelier and the crowd are on full tilt! A true showman, Zedd gives up a grin that’s visible from every corner of the venue. When he gets to his “If I Lose Myself” mix, the whole venue is moving in unison. It’s hard to say whether it's because everyone is actually in sync or if it’s just so crowded that we’re all physically attached at this point. Zedd’s well-received set includes a cameo by Lil Jon for a rendition of “Follow You Down.”

Despite dozens of laps of the massive space and some rigorous dancing, Omnia stayed perfectly cool, which I didn’t notice until I made my way to the parking garage and broke my first sweat of the night.

Wednesday, June 14

Night Three at MGM’s Hakkasan for Hardwell

I’m a glutton for punishment — well, and a weirdo about elevators — and so the first thing I do upon entering the famed Hakkasan is walk up another six flights of stairs. (Side note: I’m pretty sure my calves will be in the best shape of my life after this week.)

My first thoughts are how pretty this venue is. I must explore it! This is another huge club, but from the way it’s set up with multiple rooms, it seems more intimate.

House music is the name of the game tonight, and the well-coordinated light show showcases the venue’s production. Of all the events so far, tonight is the most dance-friendly, which could be because of Hardwell, tonight’s DJ, knows how to make people move. His best drop of the night comes around midnight. With the club completely dimmed, an outlandish mariachi-inspired beat blends into Michael Jackson over a hard house backdrop.

Although Hardwell’s set precedes his EDC appearance this year, he’s not in town just for the festival. The Dutch DJ is a frequent visitor to Vegas, performing at various venues across the Valley throughout the summer.

Hakkasan is laid out in a typical manner with two floors facing the DJ booth, but the stairs and balcony booths obstruct the view from upstairs. The tasteful décor is Asian-inspired, but each room has its own dedicated light show and mood. The dramatic go-go dancers keep perfect time to Hardwell’s body moving set.

I think it’s official: EDC Week is in full affect. The dress code in Hakkasan isn’t only typical club attire. There is a whimsical and playful nod to the getups that were selected for the night.

Thursday, June 15

Night Four at Venetian’s TAO for Dreamstate

TAO is an enticing venue. Upon entering, guests are treated to aesthetic thoughtfulness throughout. Bathtubs brimming with rose petals mark the entry while the red lighting embodies an inherent sexiness that awaits.

After climbing the staircase, I’m greeted by two beautiful girls encapsulated in glass boxes. As they sway and move to the beat, they smile knowingly, first at each other and then at me.

Dreamstate is a touring trance lineup, and tonight at TAO, that includes Paul van Dyk, Aly & Fila, John O'Callaghan, Solarstone, and Vini Vici. Each act has its own signature light show and digital backdrop that complemented its individual style.

The ambient, hypnotizing style of electronic music whips the crowd into a synchronized mass in no time as TAO packed in, wall to wall.

Beyond the high-ceilinged main room, there is an intimate hip-hop party space in an adjacent room appropriately called Opium, which serves as a distraction from the trance that ensues just outside.

Friday, June 16

Day Five at Mandalay Bay’s DAYLIGHT for Laidback Luke

I’m awake and ready to tackle my first beach club ever, and Mandalay Bay’s DAYLIGHT seems like a great place to start. The beach club is situated across the parking lot from the convention center, where EDC-goers are collecting their tickets.

After kicking off my flip flops (thank goodness heels aren’t a requirement here), I put my feet in the pool and I’m met with smiling faces.

Kid Funk set the stage for the early part of the day, while the venue filled in almost entirely. The private pools for those who reserved a cabana eventually become the only water that can be seen beneath the pulsating bodies.

When Laidback Luke comes out onto the massive and well-protected stage, it’s obvious the crowd is ready to party before embarking on the journey to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the first night of EDC. Luke’s brand of high energy house is the perfect way to celebrate the sun, and at one point every single person in DAYLIGHT was standing up and fist pumping to the beat.

Although clothing is scarce (as required by the dress code), style was still on full display. One fiery dude with red hair, clad in a sailor uniform, is dancing with another man in boardshorts, whose mohawk is woven into a French braid that trails down his back, finishing in feathers. Both men are wearing the signature EDC bracelets.

Night Five at Wynn’s Intrigue for Dillon Francis

The smallest club on the Wynn-Encore properties, Intrigue is also the swankiest. After heading down a staircase, I’m greeted by a fresh, bright space. The crowd matches the upscale and open layout. Dressed to the nines, everybody is looking quite at home at the elegant booths.

I head outside to the patio refuge that offers a refreshingly cool breeze that’s coming off the waterfall cascading from the man-made mountain. Fountains or volcanos? It’s hard to say, but the fountains in the middle of the pond behind the DJ booth shoot fire from the top, while light dances on the water below it.

This refined EDM crowd doesn’t look the part, but they aggressively dance to the mixes as soon as the beat drops. The rest of the electronic music junkies are likely already at EDC for opening night, but the preview set Dillon Francis delivers gives those not brave enough to battle the heat an opportunity to hear his signature mixes.

The well-situated poles around the venue each had a girl (or several) dancing on them. None of them are professionals, mind you, but they all look like they’re having a good time. One set of lovely ladies encourages me to give it a go, and I begrudgingly oblige. They don’t argue when I quickly step back down to the safety of the floor. Sadly, I simply don’t have what it takes.

When Dillon Francis hit the stage at the 1 a.m. the whole venue ignites with a renewed energy. Fiery digital projections accompany punchy beats and add a new heat to an already sweltering club.  

Saturday, June 17

Day Six at MGM’s Wet Republic for Tiesto

After walking by several oasis style pools, I make it to MGM’s famed Wet Republic. As I wait to get in I can hear that Tiesto has already taken over the tables. As a Hakkasan resident, this electronic legend is often alternating between the mega club and the beach party on any given week. Of course, he’ll be at EDC as well.

The title of “The Greatest DJ Of All Time,” isn’t taken lightly by the DJ or the worshipping crowd. Tiesto not only captures the attention of everyone in the pool, but also gives every bit of himself as he plays. As he makes his way through his many original creations, he mixes in some other catchy hits, ensuring that there is never a dull moment or an excuse to be still. The popularity of the DJ and the venue is apparent by the large, happy crowds that are enjoying themselves by wading in the pool, dancing in the shady bar area or lounging in the elegant cabanas.

I make my way around the expansive pool area, which is set up with the water in the middle, just below the DJ, while booths and cabanas surround from all sides. The raised bungalows offer their own soaking pools, which are filled with beautiful individuals all celebrating the DJ and the sun.

Catching a set by Tiesto is a must for any electronic music lover, and I’m just glad I had the opportunity to see him turn Wet Republic into a sea of outstretched arms.

Sunday, June 18

Day Seven at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Rehab for Audiotistic

This is my first visit to Rehab, even though this spot at the Hard Rock essentially created the pool club concept. Seeing the need for a day life aspect that was at one time, all but missing from the city, this Hard Rock institution built on the idea that Vegas can be a party at all hours. Over the years the space has been renovated and transformed into what it is now, which is a gorgeous, inviting pool.

The space offers plenty of room to swim or lounge or dance. Countless cabanas on two levels surround the diverse pool. As I circle the area, I walk in the sand and on the pavement, passing shallow and deep sections of water and daybeds full of sprawling bodies. The Grotto bar in the center of the lazy river is definitely a highlight with its waterfall and pool, which is far less crowded. This area is a sanctuary.

The cobblestone dance floor happens to be situated in the shade, which encourages people to congregate and worship the DJ. This Audiotistic Pool Party has a lineup of DJs, including K?D, Madeon, Seven Lions and Trippy Turtle.

Trippy Turtles high energy and quirky set captures the attention of everyone in Rehab, the dance floor filled in and people danced from their respective areas.

I wander upstairs, following the sounds of laughter. Apparently, the Bassrush DJs are having a party upstairs in the private bungalow, which sounds like a good time. Despite the captivating sounds, I can’t muster the energy to dance today, so I dive in and swim a few laps before lounging in the center of the pool to enjoy the remainder of the party.

Monday, June 19

Night Eight at The Cosmopolitan’s Marquee for Carnage

With EDC officially over, it’s time for the DJs to celebrate too. The party at The Cosmopolitan’s Marquee marks the closing event, and the line that stretches around the entrance is a testament to its popularity.

The line is long but efficient, and I end up making my way inside within twenty minutes. As I’m waiting, a group of EDC DJs enters the venue. (Honestly, I’m not great at remembering DJs faces, so I only know this because the girls behind me in line told me.)

After an elevator ride up a few floors, I take my initial lap. Carnage is already going hard. I quickly find another room, where another DJ is playing outlandish mixes to a small but lively crowd.

Back out on the main floor, it’s packing in with people eager to finish up EDC Week strong. I take a quick respite on the patio that overlooks CityCenter, it’s a beautiful view and the sounds from inside can be still heard at full volume.

A Marquee resident, Carnage is easy to find in Vegas on any given weekend, and as evidenced by the crowd, he’s a DJ’s DJ.

Poised to continue well into the night, this closing party has some of the most intense energy as well as the thickest crowds of all the EDC Week events.

After witnessing the diversity, calculated showmanship and beauty that exists within Las Vegas’ many night and day clubs, I feel better acquainted with my home town. Spending time with the electronic music community also made me feel more intimately connected with the genre and those that worship it. Although it was an exhausting journey, my respect for both the DJs and fans has intensified, because they have truly written the blueprint on how a proper party should be executed.

Vegas is already the city where you can escape your daily life, the struggles and problems that you leave back at home. But when partaking in the EDC scene, you can literally be anyone you want, with any judgment sailing over your bobbing head and outstretched arms.