When Insomniac released the lineup EDC Vegas 2017, the art cars immediately stood out. Not just the lineups that would grace each car throughout the weekend, but the art cars themselves. Most Insomniac events have one car, but EDC Vegas 2017 had four.
EDC is known for its massive stages which look like space-age cathedrals or mystical glaciers. Despite this reputation, Insomniac has been working hard to provide smaller environments within the fluorescent maw. One of their first efforts was establishing Neon Garden as the home of techno at EDC. Now techno is a lot bigger though so EDC went even smaller.
Of course, art cars were around long before EDC was in Vegas. They’re a standard at Burning Man, and there are even festivals like Boogaloo where art cars are the only stages in the entire event. Festival artisans are constantly designing new art cars. Here’s why:
1. DJs Love Them Too
A lot of festival attendees write off the art cars at larger events. After all, EDC Vegas might be the only event in the southwest United States that offers such massive production. People want to take advantage of it while they’re there. However, as much as fans want to enjoy the enormous stages, the artists want to take advantage of the art cars.
Keep in mind, many of these DJs play on giant stages all over the world all year long so it’s nice to switch it up from time to time. Many artists revive lesser-known monikers or participate in unannounced back-to-backs on the art cars. For example, Major Lazer went back-to-back with GTA on the Parliament art car at EDC, and Funtcase played his last set under the alias Haze on the Boombox Art Car at Project Z 2016. Festival veterans never doubt an art cars lineup.
2. Lowest of Keys
Rare sets that happen on art cars all have to be unannounced. If “Major Lazer b2b GTA” was listed on the lineup for an art car, thousands of people would surround the vehicle for hours before in order to get a good spot. This inherently defeats the purpose of the art car.
An unannounced set serves another important function as well. The only people who will be at such a set are those who are there by chance, risk-takers who would rather see who’s playing there than go see someone they know, and people who heard and were stoked about it. In general, those aren’t the people who make up the crowd at Mainstage. Because of this, DJs will play sets at the art cars that they wouldn’t play elsewhere. Usually they’re filled with unreleased tracks the artists are testing out.
3. A Different Kind of Expression
A lot of people who got into festivals recently aren’t aware that they used to be the product of the attendees as much as the producers. People literally built their own stages, opened their own bars, and created their own entertainment. Festivals like Burning Man still pay homage to this tradition, and EDC is doing their best to honor it as well. Most producers sacrificed attendee-involvement for safety and logistics, but the tide is turning and more creativity is always a plus.
4. Branding Is Essential
Those who paid attention to the art cars at EDC this year noticed that some of them had hosts. For example, one night Desert Hearts hosted Kalliope. Another night Brownies & Lemonade hosted Parliament.
Desert Hearts is a collective that prides itself on intimacy. Even as they see their brand expand, Mikey Lion and his crew of misfits find ways to coalesce their infamous vibe into the largest events out there. Brownies & Lemonade started in 2013 with a tiny show at Lash. Now they’re hosting small stages at Coachella, HARD Summer, and EDC Vegas.
The DJs playing on the cars these nights are certainly capable of playing one of the larger stages, but playing on a smaller art car is in the spirt of the host. A Desert Hearts takeover at Cosmic Meadow isn’t the same. Neither is a Brownies & Lemonade party at MainStage. Art cars allow these brands to maintain their reputation even at enormous events.
5. Mobile Partying
It’s always a bummer to miss a set like GTA b2b Major Lazer. However, the nature of art cars makes it easy to catch those sets by accident. You could be walking to get food then the art car turns the corner and Kaskade is standing there spinning a Redux set.
After all, these are cars we’re talking about. They have engines, wheels, and if you stay at one for a decent amount of time you’ll make your way around the entire venue. At smaller festivals you can even ride the art cars yourself. The artists come and go during their sets like tour guides taking you to different parts of the festival. There probably isn’t a better way to get around while you’re there.