Ever since Donna Summer’s synthesiser fuelled classic ‘I Feel Love’ exploded on to the club scene in 1977, the electronic dance music movement has been gathering pace. Today, EDM is a thriving sub-industry boasting around 40 large-scale international festival events, many of which rival – and in some cases exceed – the audience figures and income of the most successful rock festivals in the world.
Its pièce de résistance is the Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), a brand founded in 1997 by leading EDM promoter, Insomniac Events, and rolled out around the USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico and in the UK. But its jewel in the crown is EDC Las Vegas which attracted no less than 140,000 fun lovers on each of its three days at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this June as Insomniac pushed the venue’s physical boundaries to accommodate its widest range of top DJs and electronic acts, and a host of other cool attractions.
Kinetic Field, EDC’s traditional main arena, saw its stage transformed as Insomniac’s largest to date – and reportedly one of the biggest ever built for a North American festival. Provided by Stageco US and referred to as ‘The Cathedral’, the structure’s chapel-style pillars were accentuated by animated waterfalls, and bookended by two heavily detailed inflatable owls sporting enormous wingspans.
For Stageco, the EDC project began in March with a test build at its Belgian HQ, instigated by production manager Jake Berry who led a successful presentation to Insomniac Events with project manager and engineer Tom Frederickx of Stageco US. “Up until this year, Insomniac’s team had been putting up large scaff-based stages that were very labour intensive, and in the end, no matter how you dress it, you can’t escape the fact that looks like a big, old scaffolding structure,” said Berry.
“But this year’s set design [by Netherlands company Jora Vision] was going to make a big feature of towers and this led everything. It meant that we would save so much time; we’d use less climbing personnel, generally cut crew requirements by around 50% and, ultimately, reduce outgoings. So it was a huge step forward for the organisers. It went up quicker, it looked neater and came down much faster.
“It’s very difficult to explain to someone how a tower system works if they haven’t seen one before, but Tom Frederickx and I planned this presentation down to the finest detail, and they went away satisfied that we had a good plan.”
In the weeks leading up to the June 20 kick-off, the steel systems were fabricated in Belgium and shipped in containers across the Atlantic. Seven containers arrived at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway site direct from Belgium, while 27 trailers came from Stageco US’s Colorado Springs base ahead of the seven-day stage build.
A crew consisting of 14 Stageco supervisors headed by Farley Gross, James Ramacus and David Lanosga, and aided by up to 50 local crew at the busiest point, worked through the evenings and early hours to construct the monstrous stage structure, the front of house mix riser (minus roof) and 11 delay towers including two for another of the seven stages.
The main stage measured 120 metres (400’) wide in total with its height rising from 22m (72’) at the sides to 30m (98’) at the centre – notably taller than the 2013 stage. The centre portion featured 10 lines of columns, with six towers on one side and seven on the other. With support from its trademark black steel, Stageco’s only scaffolding on the main stage was a 20m high row on to which the two inflatable owls were attached.
Frederickx explained: “It would have been completely impractical to work under the unforgiving heat of the desert sun. You can’t even touch the steel during the day out there so everything was done overnight when the site cooled down to 30°. It was one of the few shows we have done where we didn’t provide a roof, but that’s the Vegas climate for you.”
This was Stageco’s début for EDC and, as Frederickx admitted, making the best possible impression on Insomniac was a big priority for the company. “It’s something we felt very passionate about. When you’re building something that’s new like this, you expect to negotiate a few practical issues, but I think we did very well. We certainly had to develop a faster means of loading in and out, and Jake’s leadership and experience with tight scheduling at a high level was crucial. It was the first time I’d worked directly with Jake and it was a huge pleasure.”
Berry commented: “The idea of using a lower sub-deck at truck height to help speed up the process of getting things on and off the stage is something I’m accustomed to on the bigger rock tours, so it was just a case of applying that for a few nights instead of a year.”
Was Stageco the natural choice of staging vendor for Berry? “Put it this way, there’s Stageco and then there’s everyone else who are at least a lap behind them. I’m a great believer in the company; I’ve loved their work and been a big fan for years. They have some seriously talented people and Hedwig De Meyer is a fabulous guy. Yes, Stageco would have been my choice but most importantly they were the right fit for this show and together we showed the organisers what could be done.”
As 33 Stageco trailers headed back to Colorado Springs, Berry claimed that EDC’s Las Vegas triumph was one of the “most profoundly enjoyable” experiences of a career that is now almost 40 years old.
He said: “EDC is the jewel in the crown of the electronic dance movement and events like this are the way of the future. I’m a jaded old rocker and I really wasn’t sure what to expect but it was a breath of fresh air. It was such a beautiful vibe and packed with excitement from beginning to end. For me, it’s the heavy metal of the 21st century.”
Milton Keynes Bowl hosted the UK edition of EDC on July 12 and, once again, Stageco handled the main stage requirements as Avicci, Bassjackers and Calvin Harris starred amongst the headliners.