EDC, more formally known as Electric Daisy Carnival, are three words and letters that any raver and dance music lover holds deep to their heart. EDC Orlando is one of those EDC’s that genuinely means the everything to me and opened up my world to the dance music community. On November 12 – November 14, 2021, Insomniac Events held their biggest and largest EDC Orlando to date, with over 300,000 people in attendance in three days at Tinker Field located in Orlando, Fla. The festival’s second year moved from two days to three days, bringing hundreds of acts, art installations, rides, performers, and five stages. Coming off of a missed year due to COVID-19, Insomniac held nothing back for the 10th anniversary.
For those who do not know me, I have attended EDC Orlando nine years in a row since my first year in 2012. I have had the honor and pleasure to see the festival grow, evolve, and morph into what it has become today. Seeing a music festival mature and develop is truly a blessing, especially since I dream of throwing an annual running music festival one day. EDC Orlando is also one of my all-time favorite festivals because I lived in Florida and went to school there. It is always a family reunion with many people, friends, individuals who work in the industry, and a great festival to network.
In the beginning, EDC Orlando originated with only two days, and according to an article by the Rose Inn, the first EDC Orlando back in 2011 had 12,000 attendees, and the next day had 20,000. They also had four stages at the time, kineticFIELD, bassPOD, circuitGROUNDS, and neonGARDEN and the map was half the size of what it is now. Over the years of my attendance, I have seen the map switch around so many times and watched production grow to new heights, and it’s been a beautiful process. The city of Orlando has grown to welcome headliners and the head owl himself, Pasquale Rotella, CEO and founder of Insomniac Events, with open arms every year.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, “More than $50 million was the forecasted economic impact for the city of Orlando as a result of the 2019 EDC, which topped 2018’s $35 million. Including the money brought into the city from festival attendees spending on hotels, transportation, and food in addition to the money paid by Insomniac Events to local vendors, among other things. $60,000 will be donated from Insomniac Cares (the event producer’s charitable giving arm) to Strengthen Orlando, a non-profit that helps provide funding for municipal purposes and projects in the city of Orlando. The funds will benefit the West Lakes community near Tinker Field and Camping World Stadium for building improvements, landscaping projects, and other community needs” (Connolly, 2019).
Given the backstory of EDC Orlando, it is without question that Insomniac Events was gearing up to have their biggest installment in 2020 for their 10th anniversary. However, in a million years, no one would have seen COVID-19 knocking on the doors, putting a standstill on all live events, and forcing the festival to cancel the November 13 – 15, 2020 dates and plan to have it return November 12 – 14, 2021. One of the quickest turnarounds is that EDC Las Vegas had to push its dates back several times due to COVID-19 causing the festival to operate from October 22-24, 2021. Giving Insomniac no wiggle room to recover from EDC Las Vegas, but this did not stop them from going full send to Orlando, and I am so happy to recap my experiences with you all, so buckle up.
It has been an EDC Orlando tradition for us to drive down to Florida from Atlanta usually, and we arrive the day of the festival. Still, this year we decided to fly and come a day early to celebrate one of my best friend’s birthdays at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter located at both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. One of the best perks about attending EDC Orlando is its location in the world’s amusement theme park/attraction capital. There is so much to choose from, such as Disney, Universal, resorts, and other independently run parks. Little secret, sometimes the artists are roaming around the parks as well the day before. We lost ourselves acting like wizards and witches in Diagonalley and Hogsmede and made friends with these two genuine souls attending EDC Orlando.
Quickly, day one came, and it was time and full speed ahead to reunite Under the Orlando Electric Sky at Tinker Field. Everyone wasted no time to get ready, called the Ubers, and kick off the next best three days of our lives. It is always a given that the traffic on day one can be the worst because it’s a weekday and rush hour traffic, but luckily we are veterans at this festival. We planned accordingly because we did not want to miss the one and only ACRAZE from Orlando. This year was the first year the north entrance did not have attendees enter through the stadium, and it was farther down West Church Street and Rio Grande Avenue. Since this was the first time they did this, it would have been helpful to have more signs and evidence on the festival map, but it helped create a better flow upon entrance. Once I passed security and realized they brought the megastructure for the neonGARDEN, it was game over.
The rise of house and techno in Orlando and the United States quickly came thanks to the lockdowns forcing more artists to expand their horizons with tech and deep house beats and tempos. Standing back inside EDC Orlando was the first time I could actually breathe a natural breath in months because I knew I was home. Seeing the Anima art installation took me back to EDC Las Vegas in 2019, where she was introduced and is now an EDC staple. After getting a drink and filling up the bladder pack, I was thoroughly surprised at the number of water stations, one more than the previous years; I went to kineticFIELD (mainstage). Let me say the pictures and videos do not do this stage design justice. From the moving of the head, the eyes staring deep into your soul, the pillars, attention to detail, and bright and vibrant colors.
The vibes and energy from that stage on day one were beyond contagious, and it was at that moment in time we ravers have finally reunited again. You could feed off the energy and see that everyone knew we were back, baby. There was also no better start to the weekend than listening to ACRAZE and just losing yourself to the house beats and dancing the past year and a half worries away. After ACRAZE, I got to see some of Morten and finally got to experience his Future Rave music that he has been working on with David Guetta, and I loved it. The sun was shining down, reflecting off the owl, and seeing everyone move and sync together on the dancefloor made my heart full.
From there, we wanted to explore the festival grounds, as traditionally, on any first day of the festival, I love to check where everything is and what has changed or moved. StereoBLOOM’s stage got a makeover, and they brought the one from EDC Las Vegas, and I was hoping they did because I would spend more time at that stage. The Daisy Lane bridge is always such a beautiful walkway to get to the other side of the festival, first introduced in 2019. The other side of the festival has the south entrance, the Corona Beach sponsored stage, more interactive art, the rynoBUS art car stage, and of course, we cannot forget one of my favorite stages, circuitGROUNDS!
I say this every year, and I do not know how they outdo themselves with the circuitGROUNDS stage production and design. Personally, I thought 2019 was one of the best designs they have ever had, and I felt like it was a Tron LED gaming board. I would have even been a happy camper if they had recycled that stage design for this year. However, Insomniac Events always gives Orlando its own unique design, and this year was no other. A U shape of triangular-looking stage designs with beautiful crips LED visual boards engulfed the crowd from left, center, and right. Talk about a gorgeous setup for anyone who played there. ATLiens, SAYMYNAME, and Said The Sky lit that stage up, and I soaked up every second of it. From hearing the dirty festival trap and watching the pyrotechnics go off to watching Said the Sky glow up the crowd with his stunning crisp clear visuals.
It made it super hard to leave, but I committed with my family to meet up at the Ferris wheel and head over to Dr Phunk for most of our first-ever full Hardstyle set from start to finish. This was on my festival bucket list, and I was beyond stoked for it. I genuinely believe the stereoBLOOM stage was perfect for this, with the moon overlooking the audience and having the stage feel like it was hugging you in closer after each drop. Full of lasers, non-stop good energy, and of course, more FIRE! From now on, I will be a forever Dr Phunk fan, and you need to check him out. Major kudos to all your ravers who only attend hardstyle music festivals because that is intense, but I lived for it. Hands down, he was one of my favorite sets and memories all weekend long.
Friday felt like a marathon with how long it felt, and that is just how I love days at festivals. Friday had a stacked lineup for the festival weekend kickoff, which always sets the tone for the weekend. After going hard for a good hour, it was time to see a legendary back to back, Afrojack b2b R3HAB. This set’s energy on the main stage was on a whole other level. I got to meet so many beautiful people during this set, trade kandi, rage my butt off, and be immersive. This was my favorite set Friday and a b2b that if you missed, I am sorry, but you can enjoy this video below.
Drone shows have started to rise in popularity worldwide and now even in the music festival scene. Drones at Insomniac Events first appeared at Day Trip, an all-house music festival hosted by Insomniac Events in California in 2021. Videos surfaced over the internet and broke social media with its beauty, hoping this would be a norm for future Insomniac Events. EDC Las Vegas announced drone shows, and then after announced them coming to Orlando. It was beautiful to see them in action forming the iconic EDC owl and forming into other loving messages and images. Ensure to catch a drone show at least once if it’s happening at an Insomniac Event near you.
To finish the night, we went over and saw ZEDD bright up the circuitGROUNDS and even caught a little of NGHTMRE at the Corona Beach stage. Then the night took a turn for the worst, trying to leave the festival out of the south entrance. Growing pains for a festival are real, and with the rise in attendance, it is harder to clear everyone out after closing time. I believe the south entrance is where the shuttles are, so road closures are more common on that side, but still, something needs to change. The festival ended at midnight, and we did not get home until about 2:00 a.m., and we stayed only 20 minutes from the festival. Uber’s were scamming everyone, there still was no service, and people stranded on the sides of the road. Again, this is not entirely the festival’s fault; however, when your festival is starting to outgrow its current venue, you have to anticipate this and logistically look at operations on both exits of the festivals. Improving the rideshare experience, so everyone is safe has to be a constant question because it was a nightmare.
Glorious day two came around and was without question the best day of EDC. You know it will be a good festival weekend when each day gets better than the previous one. Day two was the day we would enter into the glorious megastructure called the neonGARDEN and spend all day there. The lineup for that day was Adin, Nasser Baker, Moon Boots, Eli Brown, John Summit, Dom Dolla, Green Velvet Presents La La Land, and then the surprise B2B2B2B2B2, which was Dom Dolla B2B Green Velvet B2 John Summit. It is without question that the neonGARDEN was the place to be on Saturday.
To put this in perspective, we walked into the neonGARDEN when it was daylighted out and when we left it was nighttime. The moment we stepped foot inside the stage, it felt like we were in a different festival dimension. The way the sound bounced off the walls and the ceiling was incredible, the beautiful people and vibes at this stage, and of course, the lightning was just on a whole other level. There were times that I felt as if I was in a different country listening to dirty techno, and I could not get enough of it. Eli Brown won the award from me for best newly discovered house artist that I have never heard of before and now will never miss a set.
Truthfully, I could probably type up just a separate article just about neonGARDEN because that stage was a work of freaking art. Each day it seemed as if there were more lights added, the way the fans clacked around the stage (not in an annoying way), the energy from everyone, shuffle circles opening up left and right, whistles being blown, this is what raving is all about and was founded. This is Factory 93, where underground raving was born and opened the gateway for today’s scene.
Something also to note the festival fashion at this stage was looking good and did not disappoint. The best set of the night goes to Dom Dolla, just entirely on another level, how he got the crowd elevated. It felt good to cross another item off the festival bucket list and not spend a whole day at main stage because neonGARDEN was a piece of art that deserved its day to basket it all of the house and vibes.
Sadly, all festivals most come to an end, and just like that, the final day. The last day had the most significant time conflicts, and another stacked full day on every stage; as much as I wanted to go back into the neonGARDEN, there were artists I wanted to see on the main stage, and I still wanted to get one last stare down from the owl on the kineticFIELD. AC Slater, Kygo, JOYRYDE, Alan Walker, and Seven Lions were on my schedule to see. To be honest, I was not impressed too much with the acts on Sunday except for JOYRYDE, and Alan Walker, who I believe stole the show on the main stage. Kygo did not incorporate too much tropical house into his set as I remember he does, but it has been years since I have been able to see him.
I planned to close out the festival with SIDEPIECE at stereoBLOOM, but each year I get older, my body reminds me that I am not as young as I am. As much as I exercise, eat healthy, rest, sometimes the body wants to rest. I did not go to any after parties and ate breakfast each morning, but I believe Friday night’s late arrival back home from the rideshare was catching up to me. Sometimes you have to listen to your body and not fight it. I ultimately crossed everything off my EDC Orlando bucket list that I had created and was beyond proud of the whole weekend. Now let’s break it down to the good, the bad, and the ugly of EDC Orlando.
EDC Orlando has outgrown their venue at Tinker Field, and the festival is at crossroads. Just on Saturday, there were over 100,000 people, according to WFTV 9ABC. I can contest that Saturday felt like packed sardines trying to move from stage to stage. Logistically, the festival map can not handle that many people and needs to expand to host that many attendees. The bathrooms were a nightmare with having the same people go in and out for GA+. The placement of food and vendors took potential more room up both at the main stage and near the art installations near neonGARDEN. As I see it, EDC Orlando has three options.
Option 1: OPEN THE STADIUM UP. This would allow more room outside the stadium to create a better traffic flow and more room to move around from stage to stage. You can carry art installations inside the stadium and then focus on more space for attendees to relax in the field outside of the stadium.
Option 2: Sacrifice more interactive art installations such as cloud swings, etc., to create more room at the festival. They already had to because the Pixel Forest was missing at the festival this year, along with the Polygon Park installation from Vegas promised on the EDC Orlando Instagram.
Option 3: Do not oversell the festival. Sell fewer tickets and understand the size and scale of the festival with the rise of popularity with moving from a two-day festival to three days.
The noise bleed between neonGARDEN and the main stage fixed with having the megastructure; however, at times, I went to the main stage, and the sound seemed low on Saturday night during Galantis, and at times I felt like in the back you could hear nothing so not sure what was going on there. The rynoBUS art cart stage, I believe, was also too close to the circuitGROUNDS where both sounds were bouncing off from one another to enjoy that area fully. Still, I loved the vibe they created there with the Pixel Bar, blue astroturf, and seeing them form the futuristic rave style with videos games blended well together for an overall theme.
To end on a good note, this was still one of my favorites, if not the best EDC Orlando’s I have ever experienced. All weekend long, I felt the energy of EDC come back to life and its original roots where people were being kind, trading kandi and holding those PLUR values high and loud. The stage productions quickly were the best stage productions in the nine years I have attended the festival. Quite frankly, their neonGARDEN megastructure, I think, is even better than the Carl Cox megastructure. Yes, I just said that.
This EDC Orlando was different because I expanded my horizons and wanted to switch it up. I dedicated days and time to each stage they offered, broke out of my shell, and walked the whole festival grounds to explore and see all they had to offer. I fully immersed myself in what Insomniac offered its headliners because the next festival is not promised, and I wanted to make sure I soaked it all in. The peak of my trip was spending a whole day in neonGARDEN as I have told myself years I would do that now and I am moving that up to two days of the festival will be spent in the megastructure. The pit of the trip was the rideshare of the festival and just the overall logistics of the festival. Remember, reading this, I have attended nine years in a row, so I am going off past experiences. I miss being able to lounge in the open field, seeing glovers galore, flow artists, and people on tapestries soaking in the beats and connecting.
In the end, congratulations to Insomniac Events and Pasquale Rotella for celebrating 10 years Under the Orlando Electric Sky. It has been a true blessing to be a part of this journey with you and to see it grow. I care deeply about EDC Orlando so much, and I only want to keep seeing it succeed over time. Orlando has a beautiful dance music community with so much talent that it’s a staple now for the community. I appreciated the diversity with the most extensive lineup to date, hosting major house talents on the main stage, having women take over the neonGARDEN to close out the festival on the last day, and bringing drone shows to Orlando. I am still buzzing from this festival, and it’s been a couple of weeks. See you all Under the Electric Sky next year.
Thank you to all of the medical staff, fire department, police, event organizers, security, and the city of Orlando for having us back and allowing us to reunite.
Tickets are on sale now for EDC Orlando 2022, which will be November 11 – 13, 2022.
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Cover Phot: Captured/Edited by Jason Adamchak