Festival Review: Electric Daisy Carnival, New Delhi
Eye-catching visuals, strobe lights and thumping electronic music braced the first Indian edition of the festival
When it comes to EDM, Indian festivals have been making their own mark all these years, making the country a regular stop on every major DJ or producer’s tour schedule. In 2014, however, rumors of Belgium’s famed Tomorrowland setting up in India did the rounds, with its organizers confirming they had plans. Instead, all India’s EDM diehards got was just someone selling the experience through a screening.
All that changed earlier this year, when American electronic music festival Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) announced it would be traveling to a new city this year, bringing its mammoth production and Ibiza-esque dream world to India with stilt-walkers, verdant surroundings and all.
Of course, it’s an overstatement to say Ibiza had come to Noida. But the Buddh International Circuit hosted nearly 15,000 people over two days at EDC India this past weekend. The festival lined up most of the big names in international and Indian electronic music, from Steve Aoki and Afrojack to Goa-based desi bass producer Nucleya on the bill.
We made our way from The Brew District, our campsite for the weekend which was a five-minute walk to the festival grounds, but before we could get in on the action, a lack of security briefing held us up at the entrance. The security personnel were confused about allowing our photographer in with his professional camera. After a 40-minute wait, we were ushered to the sprawling festival grounds.
Finally after clearing security and entering the venue, the festival ambience was exactly that of a carnival – people on stilts, dancers, clowns and even a moving boombox stage that DJs could jump in on.
To start off, there wasn’t much of a crowd at the Neon Garden stage, which was our first stop where Mumbai-based DJ and producer Sandunes was just about to take the stage. Performing from her new album Downstream, Sanaya Ardeshir took a while to realize that fellow electronic artist Dualist Inquiry aka Sahej Bakshi was trying to get her attention for a quick wave from the crowd. Midway through her set, a sizeable crowd had gathered and that’s when it started to feel like a music festival.
Attended mostly by people from Delhi NCR, EDC did have the right location for hooking an audience that takes their EDM religiously. Fan-crazed, one of them asked if we could help him get a picture with Afrojack. Apart from the music, there were signature EDC motifs and symbols – from enormous luminous-eyed owls overlooking the Kinetic Field main stage to art installations and a Ferris wheel that gave attendees a view of the festival grounds.
Festivals tend to feel more natural once the sun sets, and that seemed evident at EDC, tipsy partyers now dancing without a care in the world and just having an overall great time. Watching the massive stage production in motion at the Kinetic Field stage, the scale of the event felt most evident here, with Dutch DJ and producer R3HAB queuing up selections from the Netherlands for his set, unlike anything we had heard so far.
With day one coming towards the final straight (because we were near a race track) the dilemma was between whether to catch Dutch DJ Ferry Corsten at the Circuit Grounds stage or Swedish whizkid DJ Alesso at the Kinetic Field stage. Running across to both stages felt like the appropriate option. Ferry Corsten tested some pulsating new material, probably as preparation for his new album in 2017. Although there were plenty moving to Corsten, most people had gathered for Alesso’s ecstatic set, fireworks, confetti and all. Talk about ending the night on a high.
The big draws on day two were more or less Nucleya, Steve Aoki and Afrojack, who were all playing consecutive sets at the Kinetic Field stage. One of the day’s early sets included Mumbai-based producer SICKFLIP at the Circuit Grounds stage, picking melodic and serene sounds.
Back at Kinetic Field stage, Dualist Inquiry was delivering his guitar-driven electronic sound, bringing his latest album Dreamcatcher to life, complete with the right tempo changes and energy. Anticipating one intense finale at the main stage, anyone camping at the Brew District was recharging at the Budweiser lounge, resting their legs from all the walking and picking up a few refreshments.
By now, no number is too big for Nucleya, hyped by festival co-organizers Only Much Louder (OML) as the most formidable contemporary to worldwide EDM hitmakers. And without a doubt, Nucleya’s showmanship and delivery showed us exactly why he is one of the top DJs in India. The crowd jumped, danced, chanted and even sang along to the refrains that drove Nucleya’s performance through the roof (or sky). Habitual cake thrower, American DJ and producer Steve Aoki was only going to amp up proceedings. With a patronizing wave of the Indian flag, he played remixes of songs such as Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?,” Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” and My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome To The Black Parade.” Without fail, there were two cakes waiting for hungry (?) fans holding up signs.
We quickly headed to the Circuit Grounds stage where American producer BRILLZ was blasting his trapped-out blend of hip-hop and EDM. Meanwhile, seasoned producer Arjun Vagale was closing the Neon Garden stage, where he had a sizeable turnout considering Afrojack was on at the same time at the main stage. Vagale played a very bass-heavy set where if you were too close, you could feel your chest pumping.
Closing proceedings was Afrojack who played to a packed ground, forthrightly building up the tempo for a crowd that was pretty much at its peak energy levels. The song that drove the audience wild was his remix of “Hey Mama” by David Guetta.
Watching that many people amidst the stage lights, strobes flying in all directions and fireworks piercing the sky, EDC was a clear success in a city that has a massive EDM following. They might have lost NH7 Weekender, but it looks like the capital has a new festival to brag about, possibly for every passing year.