"Huge" is the first thing that comes to mind when you walk into the ballroom holding the main stage (dubbed Mothership 2.0) of Lights All Night. While it's almost certainly -- sorry, I forgot my measuring tools at home -- not the biggest festival stage in Texas, it looks the part; open space has a way of making the massive look less so because it lacks a frame of reference.
It's hard not to be impressed by what Lights All Night has managed to build over the last five years. From El Paso to Houston and many points in between, Texas has a lot of EDM festivals; and Something Wicked is certainly right on its heels, but every year Lights All Night shows up on the final weekend to remind everyone who rules the Texas EDM festival scene.
This year the trek for those heading up to Dallas was not easy, rain and traffic being what they are, but that's the price you pay sometimes. As is custom, here's a recap of what two days of following the lights entails.
Friday, December 26
6:45 p.m. -- It's a small miracle they don't ask us to remove our belts to go in to an EDM show. Security checks are a first world problem to be sure, but really, who benefits from us all taking off our shoes? Not the people who have to check the shoes.
8:15 -- The second stage (dubbed The Drop) has a case of genre whiplash as it moves back and forth from trance to bass music most of the night. Andrew Rayal was fine, but things pick up as DJ Mustard takes the stage and, after an awkward opening, begins to run through his sizable collection of bangers and other rap tracks he happens to like. It's good stuff and a sizable crowd shows up, thus avoiding a situation like last year when DJ Green Lantern was on early but the crowds weren't there.
10:35 -- I'd like Crizzly even if he wasn't a Texas boy, but the fact that he is and that he reps his state makes me like him just a little bit more. His remix of "Fuckin' Problems" is damn near dangerous, and one of the highlights of the festival. Not sure why he has a hype guy, as he doesn't seem to have any problem handling the mike, but it does add energy to the set.
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10:45 -- All I learned from watching Zedd is that Magic!'s "Rude" actually is popular and that Billboard hasn't been playing some sort of bizarre joke keeping it in the Hot 100. I also manage to catch "Clarity," which is still a lovely song.
1:10 a.m. -- Skillex is basically exactly what you expect him to be, all fire and bombast, until he isn't what you expect at all. After blasting through his big songs and other aggressive tracks, he slows down things during "Cinema" to address the crowd on the subject of how we all should be nicer, better people in the next year.
He's real good at connecting with a crowd, and for a moment the whole thing approaches something poignant. Then he says he's going to play something for the haters and throws on Big Sean's "I Don't Fuck With You" and yep, we're definitely at a Skrillex show.
Saturday, December 27:
6:45 p.m. -- There was a 20-degree temperature drop over the past 24 hours, but if you thought that would make for modest outfits on Day 2 you clearly don't understand the dedication to EDM fashion.
8:15 -- Although on the grand scale they may be best known for their viral hit "Selfie," The Chainsmokers have legit chops when it comes to putting together a festival set. They had the crowd going mental for the entire length of their set, which at the early hour was pretty impressive. The highlight was taking the piss out of their big song; I guess they've learned the same lesson Baauer learned via "Harlem Shake."
9:15 -- Every festival seems to have that one set that sticks out because it's almost completely divorced from everything else on the bill. In this case, that set came from Odesza, a Seattle duo with laid back beats that were among the most enjoyable of the fest. Enjoyable, that is, if you could get past all the people trying to talk over it. A non-bombastic electronic music set getting talked over? Shocking, right?
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10:45 -- One-half of Disclosure asks us if we're ready to party, which is somehow weird and not. Disclosure, while making electronic music, don't really come off as a festival group, but they're popular and the crowd seemed to have a good time. Those looking for something a little noisier had Seven Lions to fall back on, who put on a typically crushing performance.
1:08 a.m. -- DJ Snake started 15 minutes early, which meant the room wasn't quite full up as he took the stage. Still, as his set time proper arrived, more folks showed up, a combination of people who prefer bass to Armin Van Buuren and those who just want to experience the novelty of hearing "Turn Down For What" in person.
Here's the thing about that particular song: on the right sound system, at the right volume, that song... well, it won't change your life, but it might change how you approach life, for a few minutes at least. This was not that sound system or volume, but with sub-40 degree weather outside, there were worse places to be on a Dallas night.
And with that, the Texas festival season comes to a close. Here's to doing it all again in 2015, for better or worse, from the unbearably hot to the unfortunately cold, with tired feet and sore throats and happy hearts. Happy New Year!
Personal Bias: Driving to Dallas is the worst.
The Crowd: Oblivious to cold weather.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Uber, nigga, Uber!!!" yelled a white kid as he passed a row of taxis. I'm not sure where on the peace, love, unity and/or respect scale that type of behavior falls on, but I find that PLUR is one of those ideals that by and large only exists as long as music is playing.
Random Notebook Dump: Over the weekend I saw three people being escorted to the medical area clearly out of their heads, and one person having straight-up convulsions. I also saw one broken toilet lid.
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