Nov 23

“A Piece of My Electronic Soul Remains at Tinker Field”



It’s no secret that I love going to festivals. I love the music. I love the atmosphere. I love making strangers my new best friends and being united by the beat. There’s something about the environment that transcends all perceivable human emotion. The setting for the electronic symphony of sociology at hand, was EDC Orlando. What follows will not be a simple regurgitated set list, but instead my account of one of the most magical weekends of my life. Armed with: my camera, a positive attitude, and a screenshot of the lineup because cell service is never assured, I embark on a story with: new friendships, personal discovery, great music, and the combo that ties it altogether, lasers and BASS. Let’s begin.


So that this will be a natural progression of experience and positivity, I’ll get my only complaints, both logistical, out of the way right now. Whenever you have a jam-packed lineup there will almost always be a conflict of interest. It’s wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time to know you have options but that you have to accept that you won’t be able to enjoy the full sets of your favorites. My second area of concern would be getting into and around the festival in a timely nature. There’s not really much that can be done to streamline this process because the festival is trying to accommodate thousands upon thousands of people and their happy vibes. Insomniac did a wonderful job. My observation is tied into my chief complaint, which is not being able to see everybody you would want. Until teleportation is mastered or an EDC Zipline is installed you just have roll with it. Such is the nature of the festival experience. Get over it and get back to your happy place because there are hours of entertainment, that will reside in your heart for a lifetime, waiting to fill your open mind and ears.


Day 1

This is my first EDC experience so I am not quite sure what to expect. I had been regaled with stories with definitive verbal gaps, which I contributed to the lack of words that could adequately describe a place that “you just have to experience for yourself.” With my mind marinating on that, excitement grows with every passing heartbeat. I’m inside. Now what to do? I’m surrounded by a sea of smiles and elaborate costumes. The music is faint at the gates, but I know it exists. I can see a long boat carnival ride, with the likeness of a pharaoh, rising and falling above the scattered treeline. I have no plan but simple immersion. Time to mingle.

Guided by impulse and what I will qualify as instinct, I make the trek to the main stage, aka Kinetic Field. I am greeted with the pleasant buzz of house music, courtesy of Deniz  Koyu. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing this gentleman perform live before but it just seemed right that he was the curator of my first EDC set of the day. The sun is shining and people are dancing. The lights of the ferris wheel don’t quite stand out yet but you get the feeling that an evening to remember has already begun.


My heartbeat and the music have synced up. Time to check out the rest of the festival. I migrate over to the Neon Garden. This area is proximal to the Pharaoh boat ride, the SkySwing, and the bulls-eye glow pads. I safely speculate that these pads will definitely become a point of interest once the sun goes down. Cassy is providing the soundtrack for what, at least in terms of natural light, I shall call the “transitional” period. There is something so pleasant about the Dj visibly smiling from their own grooves. Having periodically satiated my techno-infusion need, it is time to mix it up.


The lineup, coupled with the erratic AT&T service I am getting, makes setting up a home base at main stage for the next few acts an easy choice. Luckily, flexibility and the lineup pave the way for an evening of awesome music. Arty is on the decks and his idea to ring in the sunset with progressive trance is extremely well received. The time of day has come for this festival to officially come to life. Neon accents dot the human landscape. The trademark ferris wheel is in full swing now, offering a majestic view of the pure, unadulterated bliss that is being enjoyed by everyone below. I catch myself doing a double-take the first time I pass someone wearing “I Need R3HAB” glasses because I know exactly what that means. We are about to receive a healthy dose of dirty Dutch House, courtesy of the man, R3hab, himself. I haven’t always been in tune with the universe but on this matter I am  completely correct. Day 1, you are already a success, and we have barely scratched the surface of what’s to come.


One of Canada’s most prolific super-duos, Zeds Dead, is next to the stage. Something about the energy these guys bring to their sets is easily translated into how animated the audience is. I think there are actual moments where everyone at main stage is off of the ground at the same time. Disingenuous apologies for those that live around Tinker Field. Sorry. Not sorry, but there is a party going on of epic proportions. I’m afraid you will just have to bear with us for the duration. Something about a healthy dose of BASS has me feeling rejuvenated. To perpetuate my now officially BASS-tastic mood I’m in, making the move back to Circuit Grounds, to witness some 12th Planet style destruction, is a no-brainer. It seems only fitting that the L.A. native opens by professing his love for Mickey Mouse before unleashing his signature “dubbed up electro-step” that we have all grown to know and love.


The Dutch trance project, known as Dash Berlin, is about to take over Kinetic Field. Trance and nighttime mean two things to me: LASERS and audience-wide “electro kumbayas.” Both of these elements have a calming effect on my soul. Dash Berlin’s mix of soothing melodies and soft vocals is now responsible for the smile that I can’t get off of my face. I made a promise to myself regarding the next artist to the stage, Porter Robinson. Ever since I read that his set at Matador Festival was shut down by the police, earlier this year, I vowed to immerse myself in the PR experience, in its entirety, whenever I was given the opportunity. Porter brings the heat that is responsible for transporting him from Tar Heel country to the internationally recognized phenomenon that he is. It’s amazing the genres this guy can seamlessly merge into one hour-long set. I guess it’s not ironic that Porter is responsible for coining the term “complextro.”


It’s the eleventh hour, literally, and I am faced with the biggest logistical obstacle of the evening. Calvin Harris is about to begin forty feet from where I’m standing, but I would be remiss if I didn’t get to see Mr. Minus himself, Richie Hawtin, for at least a little bit. I sprint to the Neon Garden, and as I get closer I can hear that familiar ambient, minimal sound. Yes, my friends, that’s Hawtin techno for you. It is a beautiful sight to see the entire spectrum of EDM being supported here. People are dancing like there’s no tomorrow. Only there is tomorrow and it’s going to have more wonderful music for us to enjoy. With that in mind, I dash back to main stage to close out my evening with the one, the only, Calvin Harris. Fireworks, lasers, and Calvin’s classics help solidify tonight as a total victory. The dreams of tonight will pale in comparison to the reality of what will materialize tomorrow.


Day 2

Today is going to be a little more streamlined than yesterday. I have the layout burned into my brain. The logistics of today’s lineup are less complicated, which means I get to find my happy balance between running around and dancing to the music. I’m already feeling that today is going to be a remarkable experience, but something is about to happen the will reinforce the positivity that this entire experience and community is all about. Allow me to digress for one moment. About a month ago, I wrote an article about two very special ladies, Mrs. Terry Bresler and her daughter Alix. Alix brought her mother, Terry, with her to TomorrowWorld. Traditionally, this would be seen as a daughter bonding with her mother, but this scenario is just a little different. Mrs. Terry is suffering from Stage 3 cancer and a recently replaced hip. In addition to these maladies, she is also suffering from “chemo brain” in response to her continued treatments. Besides for radiating positivity, Mrs. Terry has adopted what she calls the “PLUR cure,” which is the assimilation of EDM into all aspects of her life, from treatments to travel time. Her body started responding better to treatment and her overall quality of life has improved. Their love for: one another, the music, and the EDM community inspired me. Fast forward to EDC Orlando Day 2 and these lovely ladies are the first two people I come across as my adventure begins. I can feel warmth and kindness simply beaming from these two. I ask them about how Day 1 went for them. I expect a good story. They speak about the music and the atmosphere with absolute fondness, but one aspect of their story brings a look of raw, intense emotion to their faces. They proceed to tell me about the wonderful care that the Head Night Owl, Mr. Insomniac himself, Pasquale Rotella, has shown them. They are almost beside themselves about telling me how much genuine personal interest he has put into ensuring their experience is maximized. Alix tells me, “There isn’t a mean bone in that man’s body. He helped my mom out of the golf cart, pulled out chairs for us, and constantly kept checking to make sure my mom was having a good time. He didn’t have to do any of that.” I guess he really means it when he calls us (the festival goers) the most important headliners of all. I was already sold on Insomniac events from my Day 1 experience, but hearing this was another kind of music to my ears. It’s always refreshing to know that the person who could let us all fade into relative obscurity, from their respective perch at the top, cares about the well-being of each and every one of his guests.


Feeling revitalized after my encounter with Alix and her mother, I decide to take the battle-plan out of the day. I’m going to just go with the flow. New music. Old favorites. Lasers. Impulse. “Hey, kid, you have found your candy store. Enjoy.” It makes more sense for me to enjoy this last day, to soak in as much experience as possible, and to just let the music guide my path. The lineup is no longer a Rubik’s Cube, wrought with logistics and point A’s and B’s, but an unspoken pact between my soul and music yet unheard. I’m an open-format kind of guy so the pressure is officially gone. I like this new system.


I don’t know the names of a lot of songs. I think seeing a track’s genre description with five contrasting elements, separated by dashes or slashes, is more than a tad unnecessary. I refuse to hold my phone above my head trying to “Shazam” the whole evening. Time to put something in my personal “pro” column. I CAN recognize something with zealous regularity…good music. Good music takes a variety of forms tonight: Umek, 3lau, Candyland, Martin Solveig, Madeon, Seven Lions, Cedric Gervais, New World Punx, Dada Life, Gareth Emery, Krewella, and Kaskade. You can’t stop the free high fives, all night, as I ping back and forth to the main stage. The “electric chatter” that fills the air as people voyage between stages is one of my favorite components in a festival atmosphere. I overhear vivid descriptions of sick bass drops, face melts, lost friends, found friends, and pretty much anything else that has its own festival hashtag. These people are happy. They feel bliss. They have the music.


Long after the last note has faded into the night sky, an overwhelming sense of understanding and belonging is still present. The cohesive force that unifies us all has been and always will be the music. I am here.  I am a headliner. Now, I am officially a Night Owl.