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When It Rains It PLURs: Portraits from Electric Daisy Carnival New York

We Saw This

By Chuck Squaregood

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At 4:20 PM last Saturday, a flash flood warning went out on cell phones across the Electric Daisy Carnival, the electronic music festival happening at the massive MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The stadium is where the Giants play football, and it takes a lot of people to fill it up for that—the capacity is 82,560. An even greater number than that—100,000, according to organizers—had shown up to rave at what was an actual carnival, with rides and concessions and any number of games, depending on your definition. The concentration of those T-shirts seemingly exclusively for sale at that shop where they worked at on “The Jersey Shore” was, in this writer's estimation, unprecedented.

The rain dumped suddenly, and minutes later anyone without cover—and anyone with it—was soaked to the bone. Blau was on one of three outside stages. Inside the stadium, where the field was entirely covered by a dancefloor, the crowds tried to hang on in the downpour for Alex Metric, who eventually had to cut his set short. The attention shifted quickly from the music to the weather, or finding shelter from it. It was madness: No one would willingly leave cover.

Young women hugged just-as-young men and wept. People panicked on cell phones. The obvious stink of weed and the sheer number of people was borderline terrifying. There were terrified teens shivering in crop tops and so many pairs of daisy dukes, as well as shirtless men with embarrassing tattoos and too many abs. Everyone had goosebumps. All the neon looked chic against the slate of the rain. The crowd huddled in knots to keep warm. Given the state of things, it seemed like a good time to meet people and see who, exactly, had come to EDC:

Gina, 23, was decked out in a Native American headdress, a Hopi-styled crop top, tiny shorts, and enough Perler beads to tile a bathroom. It was only her second festival. “I sell rave clothes on my online shop,” she told me, discussing her work. “It was slow going the last couple years, but it’s really starting to pick up. It’s rave season, festival season.” A giant plastic mushroom reading “PLUR WARRIOR” hung around her neck and countless plastic candy bracelets covered her wrists. “PLUR is Peace, Love, Understanding, and Respect,” she said, pointing at the anagram on any of the dozens of bracelets she had on. She took my hand and did a complicated gesture and put a bracelet on me. “That’s what we do. Now we’re bonded.”

“Last time I rolled I just sat on the floor,” Erika, 21, from Long Island, told me. “I don’t do drugs anymore.” She was drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette.

“I come here for the love of the music. I’ve never touched a drug in my life,” Ben, 25, from the Bronx, said. “We’re here to see Hardwell, no matter what. It said rain or shine. I don’t get it. But it’s good to take a rest in the middle of the day. A lot of these 18-year-olds come here and ruin it just by doing so many drugs. These kids will buy nine different drugs off a random person and they end up doing all these things and end up dying. They don’t know how to take a break.”

Both explained how strict security and baggage policies at the festival are. Ben graphically demonstrated a full-body search on himself. Erika showed all the places to hide things: socks, in the back of a bra, and in special phone cases with false bottoms.

“I hid caffeine pills in my vagina because with my luck that’s something I would get in trouble for,” she added.

At one point, restless party goers started trying to raid fridges full of beer bolted shut with padlocks. A lone dancer emerged from the sidelines of the arena and danced to nothing in the downpour as the security guards held back the sopping throngs.

“I don’t want to touch anyone,” Danny, a 27-year old salesman from East Orange, New Jersey, said. “There’s like a slime, a real new kind of filth on everyone now. We’re elbow to asshole here.” He said this to the rain in the arena, where the blue lights from the stage show remained paused. Shirtless, dripping wet, with green Nike Flyknits and khaki cargo shorts, Danny then sucked on the hose coming out of his CamelBack and pointed at the butt of a young woman who walked by.

Denise was a 28-year-old photographer in a fluorescent orange tube top and daisy dukes. “I think it’s great this can be so expressive and free and stuff,” she said. “I’m here to see the people, and I guess Krewella. But I don’t like seeing so many young girls in crop tops sort of holding their stomachs all ashamed. Maybe they’re cold. But you can be anything here.”

At 5:25 PM, the bass hit like the thunder that never came. The lightning threat was called off, and the rain dwindled. The mobs of people held back at the gates ran into the stadium screaming, like a neon amoeba.

Backstage, a clearly under-credentialed photographer named Jerome drunkenly tried opening the locked doors on each artist’s green room. “This is bullshit,” he said, his dreadlocks swinging over his olive green shorts and Let It Be T-shirt. “Where’s the free booze? What the hell are we doing here anyway? All this music sounds the same. It’s like a mayonnaise sandwich.” He eventually was escorted offstage.

David was a 31-year-old in camo cargo shorts, filthy white New Balance sneakers, and a pink velvet cowboy hat. “This really is music of the people,” he said. “Listen: no ideology, nearly lacking a form, no sense of tradition. This is just right now.” As he said this, the strains of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” were being chopped up and unloaded on the dance floor at 120 beats per minute “It’s truly the music of the people.” He then started dancing with no restraint, a strange mix of Irish step dancing, pop-and-lock, and moshing. No one at EDC dances the same. No one has to.

Chuck Squaregood is off that molly water. He's on Twitter - @squaregoodchuck

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