Music Festivals

EDC Time Capsule: A History Of North America’s Biggest Rave

Over 525,00 ravers are expected to descend upon the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when Insomniac‘s 26th annual Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC)—the largest electronic dance festival in North America—returns to Sin City next weekend. Hundreds of the world’s best DJs will join them.

When the event kicks off May 17-19, 2024, Las Vegas’ population of roughly 650,000 will swell to over 1.1 million, making it the 10th largest city in the country, bigger than Austin, Jacksonville, and San Jose.

With nine main stages, massive art installations, carnival rides, thousands of event staff, well over 1 million watts of speaker power, a tens of million dollar budget, and a more than 213-acre (over 9 million square feet) footprint, EDC Las Vegas is truly a behemoth.

But it hasn’t always been this big.

Take a trip down memory—or rather, daisy—lane to discover the festival’s evolution, biggest wins, challenges, and iconic moments with EDM Maniac’s EDC time capsule below.

EDC flyers, 1991-93. Courtesy: Gary Richards.

1991-1995

Though Insomniac isn’t in the picture yet, SoCal promoters Stephen Hauptfuhr (aka Mr. Kool Aid) and Gary Richards (aka Destructo) held the first-ever Electric Daisy Carnival rave in Pomona, California. An outgrowth of their early ’90s Double Hit Mickey Rave, the party continued in 1992, 1993 and 1995.

In 1995, Insomniac founder and CEO Pasquale Rotella acquired the rights to use the name “Electric Daisy Carnival” with help from his partner Philip Blaine, a partner of Richards’ at 1500 Records and the influential promoter behind SoCal’s first legitimate dance festival, Organic ’96.

Richards has since become a commercially successful DJ and started HARD Events and AMF; Rotella has built his own 30-year empire with Insomniac; and Blaine has co-produced Coachella and directed festivals for Goldenvoice.

Performing DJs: Mr. Kool-Aid, Joey Beltram, Michael Cook, Jon Williams, Destructo, Eli Star (1991).

EDC 1997 flyer. Courtesy: Kiko Miyasato / Las Vegas Weekly.

1997

In 1997, after two successful Nocturnal Wonderland events, Insomniac’s Electric Daisy Carnival debuted at the 5,000-capacity Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles, California. The show is Insomniac’s first at a proper host venue. Tickets cost just $20.

Performing DJs: Rabbit in the Moon, Ani of Dee Lite, Taylor, Fester & Obscure, John Kelly, Thomas Michael, Dieselboy, Raymond Roker, Curious, Fusion, Jun.

Mars performs at EDC 2001. Courtesy: Pasquale Rotella.

1998-2002

After a year off in 1998, the festival found a new home at Lake Dolores Waterpark in Newberry Springs, California in 1999. It featured four stages: Techno/Trance, House/Breaks, D&B/Jungle and Hardcore/Happycore.

In 2000, EDC moved to the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California. A fifth stage was added for downtempo music and the event drew 24,000 attendees, then an attendance record for a North American massive, according to Las Vegas Weekly. Trance artist DJ Doran wrote his album Electric Daisy Carnival, to commemorate the occasion.

Another move, this time to the Hansen Dam in Lake View, California, in 2001 included named stages for the first time: the Merry Go Round, the Fun House, Clown Alley, the Confusin’ & Amazon’ Mirror Maze, Bassrush Arena, and the Cosmic Healing Temple. EDC Texas debuted at Austin’s Thunderhill Raceway.

In 2002, EDC was held at the Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach, California, where Insomniac has now recently returned for events like Apocalypse Zombieland and Day Trip Festival. Insurance issues with the Texas promoter licensed to hold EDC Texas led to its last-minute cancellation. Another smaller event was held in its place one week later.

Performing DJs: Bassbin Twins, Phantom 45, Rob Gee (1999); DJ Dan, BT, DJ SS (2000); Carl Craig, Mark Farina, Andy C (2001); Donald Glaude, Mars & Mystre, Craze (2002); and more.

2003-2006

In 2003, EDC moved to the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, California. The festival remained at the NOS for the next three years—the beginning of a relationship that continues to this day with events like Beyond Wonderland and Countdown NYE.

In 2005, the first of EDC’s current stage names were established: kineticFIELD, cosmicMEADOW, neonGARDEN, and bassPOD.

Performing DJs: Christopher Lawrence, Sandra Collins, Gene Farris (2003); Miguel Migs, Felix Da Housecat, Mampi Swift (2004); Ferry Corsten, The Crystal Method, Jurassic 5 (2005); and more.

Iconic Moments: A helicopter flying above the NOS showered the crowd with fresh-cut daisies (2006).

EDC 2010. Credit: Mel Marcelo.

2007-2010

In 2007, at the very beginning of EDM’s commercial explosion, EDC was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Expo Park for the first time. It stayed for the next three years.

In 2009, the festival expanded to two days and hit the six-figure attendance mark for the first time. An even larger and raucous crowd in 2010 led to fence jumping and a dangerous crowd stampede, which catalyzed EDC’s search for larger venues outside of  LA.

Meanwhile, EDC Colorado debuted at Aurora’s Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in 2008, continuing through 2011. In 2009, EDC expanded to Puerto Rico, where it made a seven-year run. Dallas was added to the mix in 2010.

Performing DJs: Paul Oakenfold, Kaskade, Deep Dish (2007); Paul van Dyk, Moby, Armand Van Helden (2008); ATB, Thievery Corporation, Boys Noize, STS9, David Guetta (2009); deadmau5, Swedish House Mafia, Claude von Stroke, Armin van Buuren (2010); and more.

Iconic moments: Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo cameos at Steve Aoki’s set (2010); Duck Sauce made their live debut (2010); Lil Jon memorably called out fence jumpers (2010).

EDC Las Vegas 2014. Courtesy: Insomniac Events.

2011-2014

In 2011, EDC’s first-ever three-day edition at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway drew 230,000 attendees and injects more than $1.5 million into the Clark County economy.

Also in 2011, EDC Orlando debuted at Tinker Field, adjacent to the Citrus Bowl and Insomniac launched Insomniac Cares, which has since donated over $2 million to national charities and community organizations.

EDC Las Vegas 2012 saw a 30 percent year-over-year attendance increase to 320,000 ravers. Night two was shut down early due to high winds, but not before Steve Aoki delivered a memorable art car performance to over 90,000 fans who had been relocated to the bleachers.

EDC New York debuted at East Rutherford, New Jersey’s Met Life Stadium in 2012 and returned for the next three years. In 2013, EDC went global with a festival in London, and EDC Chicago was held for the first and only time.

In 2014, the festival added Milton Keynes, England to its portfolio with EDC UK, returning through 2016, as well as EDC Mexico.

Under the Electric Sky, a film documenting EDC Las Vegas 2013, premiered at Sundance Film Festival.

Performing DJs: Tiësto, Avicii, Zedd, Porter Robinson, Hardwell, Zeds Dead (2011); Carl Cox, Fedde le Grand, Adventure Club, Calvin Harris (2012); Dash Berlin, Chris Lake, Dog Blood (Skrillex B2B Boys Noize), The Bloody Beetroots (2013); Knife Party, Art Department, Axwell Λ Ingrosso (2014); and more.

Iconic Moments: Celebrating EDC’s move to Las Vegas, the Red Bull skydive team parachutes into the festival (2011); Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman officially dubs the week of the festival, “EDC Week” (2013); The “cathedral” stage (2014).

EDC Las Vegas 2016. Courtesy: Insomniac Events.

2015-2019

In 2015, EDC Las Vegas added three more stages, bringing its grand total to eight. EDC also debuted in São Paulo, and the following year, expanded to India. Insomniac launched its EDC Charity Auction.

Over 400,000 attended EDC Las Vegas in 2016, where Alison Wonderland and Anna Lunoe became the first women to play a solo set on the main stage.

EDC Las Vegas 2017 drew over 135,000 attendees on opening night, but the area emergency services fielded doubled the medical calls from the year prior, with many cases of heat exhaustion. This inspired a change in dates from June to May in 2018, in addition to earlier opening times to reduce traffic congestion.

Camp EDC was also introduced in 2018, and over 400,000 people attended the festival over three days. EDC was also held in Japan and China.

In 2019, high winds once again forced brief stage closures, but the Las Vegas festival avoided cancelation. EDC Orlando expanded to three days, and the festival debuted in Korea.

Performing DJs: Martin Garrix, Afrojack, Excision, Camo & Crooked (2015); DJ Snake, The Chainsmokers, Afrojack, Dada Life (2016); Alison Wonderland B2B Diplo B2B Jauz, Marshmello, RL Grime, GRiZ (2017); Dillon Francis, Tchami, SLANDER (2018); Alesso, ILLENIUM, Gorgon City, ZHU, Major Lazer (2019); and more.

Iconic Moments: Bryan Cranston “pushed the button” with Above & Beyond (2015); Eric Prydz debuted “Opus” at Circuit Grounds (2015); Marshmello and Tiësto’s infamous unmasking troll (2016); BassPod caught fire (2016).

EDC Las Vegas 2022. Courtesy: Insomniac Events.

2020-2024

As the world came to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, EDC Las Vegas was rescheduled from May to October, but eventually canceled. Insomniac streamed its EDC Virtual Rave-A-Thon on Twitch and YouTube in its place. Held in late February that year, EDC Mexico escaped COVID-19 shutdowns. 

In 2021, EDC Las Vegas was originally scheduled for May, but moved to October after Las Vegas failed to reach the city’s target vaccination numbers before gatherings were permitted.

EDC Las Vegas ranked No. 3 in DJ Mag‘s Top 100 Festivals poll in 2022, and earned a No. 4 ranking in 2023. bionicJUNGLE was added in 2022 and the 2023 edition saw record-breaking attendance, totaling over 500,000 across three days.

Next week, the 2024 edition of EDC Las Vegas will return to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a 13th year, with artists like Adam Beyer, Sara Landry, FISHER, Dom Dolla, Peggy Gou, Subtronics, LSDREAM, and many more.

Performing DJs: Eric Prydz, Louis The Child, Kygo, Rezz, TOKiMONSTA (2021); Charlotte de Witte, Grimes, Honey Dijon, Vintage Culture, G Jones (2022); Anabel Englund, Galantis, Duke Dumont, Louie Vega, Kaytranada (2023); and more.

Iconic Moments: Tiësto played his 10th EDC Las Vegas (2021); Snoop Dogg performed with Jauz (2022); Unexpected rain after the fireworks at Above & Beyond’s set (2023).

Featured image courtesy: Insomniac Events.

Written by
Peter Volpe

Journalism student at The Ohio State University with a passion for culture and fat basslines.

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