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A Beginner’s Guide to the Electric Daisy Carnival

As a woman of color, I feel free and safe to be who I am dancing in the middle of the desert at EDC.

Imagine your adrenaline beating with the flashing lights as you walk through a tunnel leading you to the peak point of the 1,200-acre Las Vegas Motor Speedway. As muted electronic bass seeps into your ears, all your pain, cares, and anxieties melt away and you are officially ready to take your personal plunge into the evening’s revelry. Whoever said Disney World is the happiest place on earth has not been here. Welcome to the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), America’s biggest electronic dance music festival.

The Electric Daisy Carnival is more than your standard festival. While all their performers make music that technically falls under the umbrella term “electronic dance music” and there are over 300 performers and 10 stages to choose from, there literally is something for every music appreciator to enjoy. And the Electric Daisy Carnival is a literal carnival, with rides, parades, neon art installations, arcade games, and more. The experience is better than being a kid again.

The “carnival” at Electric Daisy Carnival
photo by April Rushin

But my friends were skeptical of the carnival, saying, “You’ve lived in the suburbs too long to think dancing naked in the desert is something black people do.” My rebuttal to that was to tell them about themselves. Electronic dance music is Black music. It can be traced back to the rhythmic beats of African nations that were then carried to the Caribbean islands, where dance- hall and reggae music blasted across sound systems. The fathers of techno were Black, like Frankie Knuckles, the grandfather of house music. Every year that I attend the crowd appears to be more and more diverse and follows a mantra of love and respect. To be perfectly honest, as a woman of color, I feel freer and safer to be who I am dancing in the middle of the desert at EDC than I do in my own community.

If you’re thinking of attending the best carnival this summer, EDC is the one. Planning can be a little hectic for those new to the scene, but with two EDCs under my glitter tutu, I am here to help get you there.

Pick Your Squad
Whether you take your girls, significant other, or your mom, the perfect squad is essential. Travel with those who match your party tone. Are you late or the first one in? Upfront in the mosh pit or in the spacious VIP deck sipping daiquiris through curly straws? Is everyone mentally and financially committed to a good time? People who you should probably leave at home include I-Drink-Too-Much-and-Pass-Out Nelson, I-Left-My-Wallet-at-Home Michael, and I’m-Only-Here-to-Purchase-Drugs Shelby. No crew? No problem. Going alone is an equally beautiful option. The festival’s good vibes create opportunities for instant new friendships at every corner. EDC’s subreddit r/electricdaisycarnival is helpful in planning meet-ups for single partiers.

Rocking the silver braids and body glitter with my best friend at our 2nd EDC
photo by April Rushin

Know This Ain’t Free
Let me rip this bandage off quickly: EDC is an expensive endeavor. Expensive, but 100 percent worth it. I have not been alive for very long, but in my 25 years I have not experienced anything even close to the spectacle that is EDC. The chance to be submerged in this mystical environment filled with fireworks and impressive laser light shows made my decision to pick up a mundane side gig as a grocery bagger worth it. General admission starts at $400.00. Passes go on sale in October and sell out quickly. Stay ahead of the game—visit insomniac.com to subscribe for ticket alerts. Since EDC is not a camping festival, hotel and travel can add additional costs. Accommodation is available close to the Speedway, in Downtown Vegas, or on the Las Vegas Strip. Insomniac.com as well as JusCollege.com offer fantastic hotel deals. If booked far enough in advance, Airbnb and HomeAway offer affordable housing choices. Our first year, we managed to book a dazzling penthouse suite at the Palms Resort and Casino for only $80 a night through Airbnb.

Transportation from your hotel to the event must be purchased. Festival shuttles are the most economic transportation option. JusCollege.com offers Black Friday deals for hotel and shuttles. They start at only $5! More expensive options include taxis and Uber (don’t do it), driving yourself (although depending on your post-party physical state, this may not be the safest option), or helicopter transport, with rates beginning at $300 per trip (110 percent perfectly worth it if you are ballin’ like that). Below is a chart I created based on my expenses for my 2015 and 2016 EDC experiences. Depending on your tastes, you can get away with less, or choose to indulge in some Sin City Luxury.

Express Yo Self
The best part of EDC is the freedom to be whoever you want to be. Want to walk about boasting only cut-off shorts and pasties? Go at it. Prefer to wear your Hello Kitty onesie? Also acceptable. Creatives go insane designing out-of-the-box outfits. If you’re not hurting anyone, no one cares about your personal style choices. See somebody wearing something you like? Compliment them! Always err on the side of love.

Pro-Tip: gym shoes with corresponding arch support are the only acceptable festival footwear. Open-toed shoes beget smashed toes, Chucks give you shin splints, and heels are just no. Unless they light up, no one will be looking at your feet, and it is best to choose comfort over fashion. You will be standing, walking, jumping, and running for hours. Orthopedic sneakers or a comfy, worn-in set of cross-trainers with some slip-in Dr. Scholl’s insoles will make your experience a hundred times better!

No crew? No problem. Going alone is an equally beautiful option. The festival’s good vibes create opportunities for instantaneous new friendships at every corner.

Party All Week
EDC officially starts Friday at dusk, but EDC week begins the weekend prior. Multitudes of nightclubs and daytime party options compete for your attendance. If you want to learn more about the industry, the EDMbiz Conference & Expo is worth a visit. Stay an extra post-festival day to enjoy the spa. It’s rough being a nonstop party animal, and you absolutely need a day to decompress prior to returning to your regularly scheduled life.

In 2016 the festival hosted over 400,000 attendees. It is hilarious to see all the oblivious vacationing families gawk at the sea of rainbow-colored hair as EDCers flood their hotel lobbies. Anytime you walk down the strip during EDC week, you are liable to see someone start chanting “EDC! EDC!” and hear the crowds join in, gaining volume as it echoes from The Venetian miles down to Mandalay Bay. The excitement is in the air. For music fans age 18 to 100 (yes, I saw a 100-year-old man there once!), EDC is their mecca.

The Neon Garden at EDC
photo by April Rushin

Take care of yourself!
EDC is not for the faint of heart. While you will be having way too much fun to notice the buckets of sweat streaming down your face, a weekend turning up in 900-degree desert heat truly takes a toll. Go on a health cleanse and amp up your usual workout regime before the trip to guarantee stamina. Water is essential, so be sure to drink it as often as you can. CamelBaks are a festival-goer’s personal gift from God. Medical staff constantly roam the area and are approachable if you need anything.

Pro-Tip: fanny packs are also very convenient. Along with your ID, pack tissues for the bathroom, ChapStick to protect your lips from the dry desert winds, and an external battery charger so you have enough juice to power your awe-inducing Snapchat stories.

At your first Electric Daisy Carnival, you will experience a level of happiness that you never believed possible. You will make new friends and may even want to return again! Believe me when I tell you those lessons learned will travel with you far beyond the glimmering lights of the Las Vegas Strip. You will leave this experience empowered to be who you are—glitter tutu and all.

 

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