As an ad for the Electric Daisy Carnival — an annual electronic dance music festival — Under the Electric Sky is pretty good. The gigantic animatronic owl whose nest serves as the event’s main stage is flat-out fun to watch: those opening wings! That bobbling head! Those expressive eyes! I mean, it might get old after, say, three days and nights in the Las Vegas heat, but it works for an 85-minute feature. And it’s not like it’s working alone: there’s all sorts of other eye-candy on parade, much of it lit from within and brightly colored. Plus, there’s lots of music and dancing (mostly of the “Pretty Young Things holding their arms aloft and jumping up and down” variety).
The founders at Insomniac Events have taken the rave out of the warehouse, cleaned it up (mostly), brought in some production values, and generally transformed it into something not unlike that other Happiest Place on Earth. Las Vegas’ usual brand of fantasy has gotten it labeled Sin City, but the lovefest that packs over 300,000 fans into the Las Vegas Speed Bowl is something closer to Sinless City. Everything at EDC is love, unity, peace, and respect. Everyone is accepted for who they are. Just ask them, or don’t — they’ll tell you anyway.
Under the Electric Sky
And that’s where Under the Electric Sky really shines: as a generational portrait. If the Boomers had Woodstock and the Xers had Lollapalooza(?), then here’s Gen Y’s version, complete with Upworthy inspirational stories. A young man whose severe scoliosis has put him in a wheelchair, a socially anxious Texas girl, a bunch of polyamorous Peter Pans, a couple separated by jobs on opposite sides of the globe, and even the Wolfpack — a group of bros who have recently lost one of their own — all make the journey to Vegas to be in the moment and take it to the next level. It’s a proper pilgrimage; commenting on the event’s enormity, one attendee says it does what cathedrals were designed to do: make people feel small and spiritually alive.
“Feel” is very much the operative word here. There is lots of talk about the EDC’s felt significance, but it’s hard to see what’s meant by that, beyond the mutual feeling provided by the music’s build and drop, by the number of fellow fans, by the electrified spectacle of it all. Attendees learn that they’re part of something bigger than themselves, and that thing is the Electric Daisy Carnival. The DJs tell the fans that they’re the real headliners, and as fantasies go, it’s sweet and harmless. And who wouldn’t thrill to the sight of a wheelchair-bound fan held aloft above the throng? But it is perhaps telling that when the film’s token oldsters decide to get married on the final night of the event, they have to bring in their own minister instead of using the onsite “marriage official.” As they put it, “We wanted a real wedding.”
Or maybe I’m just old.