I’m not an EDM junkie. My last concert in the genre was Major Lazer in 10th grade, but I remember being completely overwhelmed by the music and schizophrenic light show, the scene’s intensity, darkness, and passion.
Last weekend’s Beyond Wonderland festival in Mountain View, while just as fun, felt too tame and too comfortable. Granted, four years after that first Major Lazer concert I am harder to awe. I am still confident, though, that these festivals can still pack the carnal power and unbridled euphoria that made my first experience so memorable.
EDM during the daytime is weird. It’s a genre designed for dancing hidden under the cloak of darkness, when you can’t see others dancing and they can’t see you. The midday performers all seemed to struggle with the central contradictions of an all-day EDM festival; the genre is all about building up, but you can’t build a crowd up for ten straight hours. The acts I saw – Morgan Page, Dash Berlin, Carnage, Arty, and Benny Benassi – were entertaining, but their sets of beautifully melancholy female vocals bookended by bass drops were too similar to occupy every stage all day.
While the daytime acts felt repetitive and exposed, the headliners (Tiesto especially) reinvigorated the ecstatic dancing and feeling of community that best characterize a rave. Hardwell’s best was his megahit “Spaceman.” Tiesto opened with an electrifying yet haunting mix of Lana Del Ray’s “Chasing Young & Beautiful,” and continued with a melodic, high intensity set highlighted by Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake’s “Holy Grail” and Lucky Date’s “Everybody Fucking Jump.”
During the day, Beyond Wonderland bopped around too casually, lacking urgency and luster. After sunset, it came alive and reminded me why I was so excited to go the festival in the first place. Unleash these guys live after midnight, and bring EDM back to its comfort zone.