EDC NYC MetLife Vs. Citi Field – The Ground Report

EDC-NYC-2012Concluding its second year in the NJ/NY Metropolitan Area, Insomniac’s Electric Daisy Carnival proved once again to be a force to be reckoned with drawing tens of thousands of people to take part in the “EDC Experience,” the largest electronic dance festival in North America. Our area is one of the stops along the way to Las Vegas, where the “grand finale” of the festival takes place, typically attracting crowds of 300,000+.

2012 was the first year Insomniac brought the festival to New York, uh actually, New Jersey as it was held at MetLife Stadium. Let’s try not to focus so much on how once again, New Jersey doesn’t receive its due on being a major player in the history of the dance music or the right to have its name affiliated with a major event…or team that plays in state. That’s a whole other article. The purpose of this post is to compare the two venues with the hope that someone at Insomniac, Citi Field, MetLife, or festival goers who demand more for their dollar, will read it and care.

I must confess that as a New Jerseyan, right off the bat, I would love to see the festival come back to MetLife simply because of convenience. It was awesome jumping on a train close to my town and transferring at Secaucus to be dropped off at the doorstep of MetLife. This first argument probably holds little weight as I’m quite certain that people in New York were equally annoyed to commute all the way to Jersey from the 5 boroughs last year, and were probably as exhausted when they finally made it home from a 12-hour day of non-stop fist pumping as I was this year. Proponents for Citi Field may argue that Secaucus Junction was a nuthouse last year with the amount of people transferring through there; however, remember that half of those people were also heading to Bamboozle in Asbury Park, which inconveniently, was scheduled the same weekend. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised at how well the NYC stations and subways handled the capacity of EDC-goers. It makes sense though; New York transit systems are designed to manage large crowds on a daily basis with all of the concerts, sports, and other events happening all over the city. So here, I’ll call it even.

Now on to entry. One of my biggest criticisms of MetLife & Insomniac last year was the admission process. Frankly, it was a liability and huge safety concern. Large masses of people with no clear direction were pushing up against one another in the general admission line, as there were hardly any barriers placed to funnel them in an organized & safe way toward the gates. Coupled with the heat on the days of the festival both days last year, this was a reckless scenario. People waited as long as 45 minutes at times just to gain entry; not a good way to set the tone for the day. Citi Field did an excellent job with entry. Stations were clearly marked: General Admission, V.I.P., Lockers, and Will Call were all in one place instead of spaced apart like MetLife, which caused more confusion & wasted time. Everything centralized, as well as manned by the appropriate amount of staff, made Citi Field the clear winner for admission.

Any event this massive needs proper measures of security, especially when most people will likely be under the influence of some substance, legal or illegal. As someone who goes more for the music than the adulterated experience these days (been there, done that), I find myself fearing for the safety of my fellow festival-goers as I watch them being carried away semi-conscious on golf carts, wheeled away by EMTs, or worse, lying in their own vomit at times. This is the darker side of the scene, when people go from “recreational” use to life-threatening abuse. I’m not writing this to bash the scene or be lame, it’s just the truth and that being said, anyone reading this should always look out for their friends or any person that needs help. This is another thing I have to compliment Citi Field this year for; EMTs were clearly visible during the entire event, walking about the crowds with bright vests. I really appreciated that they appeared to be looking out for people’s well-being, not trying to harass anyone. To MetLife’s credit, it’s not that I didn’t see any EMT presence last year, it was just better executed at Citi Field.

While the Citi EMTs had the attitude that I felt was most conducive to a safe & enjoyable day, the other security personnel will not get such a positive review. Many of you that attended might disagree as the event staff that checked us in was friendly and helpful. However, I’m positive that while I enjoyed not being treated like I was getting checked-in for in international flight at Newark Airport this year by NJ State Police (I’ll revisit that in a moment), I’m pretty sure a kilo of coke could’ve made it through those gates no questions asked. And based on the amount of baggies & bottles I saw on the ground that day, I’m positive that almost, if not everything anyone had on them made it by gates that day. NYPD worked the periphery of the stadium & I spotted plenty of undercover inside the venue, but for the amount of drugs consumed those 2 days, very little control was in place, and while I didn’t see that as a major problem – most people had themselves under control, it still reads as kinda dangerous to someone who definitely has had their share of risk taken in their lifetime. On the other end of the spectrum, the police presence last year at MetLife was borderline Gestapo – NJSP lined the walkways of the train station, manned Secaucus Junction, worked the admission gates, patted people down, had the dogs out sniffing people walking by, were up on the catwalks of the stages…did I forget anywhere? There were additional security personnel inside as well, but unlike the almost-too relaxed Citi police/security, the mood of the MetLife police was pretty clear: don’t fuck around in here. My hope is that there can be a middle-ground worked out by next year. Bust the traffickers & deny admission to people who are clearly over their limit, skip the occasional joint in the shoe and the disdainful looks of contempt…this is still America and people are allowed to have the time of their lives at concerts and enjoy letting go of the every day, even if just for a moment. Let’s try and let them do that, relatively safely.

You can find tons of threads out there already about the differences in the music lineups this year vs. last; I’m way over on the MetLife side of this argument as the winner. With the loss of the third day of the festival at EDCNYC this year, there’s an automatic advantage in play when you think of what could have been. Nevertheless, the two remaining days did not quite live up to the standard expected for EDC in general, and for the price paid for admission, we should expect more. Especially fans of the music from around here; we’re not some hicks who wouldn’t notice the lack of quality. The lack of New York powerhouses like Victor Calderone, Danny Tenaglia, and Erick Morillo is almost offensive; not sure if it’s the person doing Insomniac’s booking or maybe the artists didn’t want to come this year (seems unlikely), but you could have transplanted this lineup in any part of the world, except for New York/New Jersey and gotten by. You can’t get away with that to people who know the genre, know it well, and grew up listening to it. It’s in our frigging DNA. Please do better next year for us, we deserve it; without the fans of EDM in this area, this music wouldn’t be where it is today. Pay some respect.

Staging & layout of the festival grounds (with the exception of entry) at Citi paled in comparison to MetLife. Stages were more elaborate last year, which is probably not that important in the end, but a huge impact was felt with the removal of the host stadium being used as a main stage. One of the most awesome features of EDC 12’ was the Circuit Grounds experience; standing on the field of MetLife feeling the bass rush over and around you, the vibration of the floor, and the unique contrast it gave to the outdoor stages. It was like entering a different world! This was definitely missed with Citi Field used just as a backdrop this time around (I know it’s baseball season, that’s besides the point). Main stages placed too close together at Citi created a messy overlooping of drops and beats, leaving you confused as to which artist you were listening to. Times of performances were off lots of the time; some artists didn’t show up at all (Nervo you jerk), Neon Garden looked like the ugly stepchild of the whole event when ironically, this is the place where you can find the true sound of New York/NJ.

Personally, I’ll never “get” the phenomenon of the carnival rides at EDC; I grew up in Jersey, I have been on enough rides at Great Adventure & at The Shore to make me not want to waste time that could be better spent taking in all the wonderful music I paid to hear. For those that do like the rides though, I will give this one to MetLife again; there were many rides there last year that weren’t around this time and the lines weren’t nearly the size I saw at Citi. One ride had a line at least 150+ long; I’m quoting Sweet Brown on this one, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

So next year, I hope we will see: well-managed entry, friendly and reasonable security, EMTs helping our friends that went a little too hard, more carnival rides, a better lineup, artists authentic to the area, adherence to schedule, a stage inside the stadium, better placement of stages, and a location that pleases everyone. Maybe announcing the lineup more than a few days before the event is getting crazy, but everyone can dream, can’t they Insomniac?

In the end, no matter what side of the Hudson you believe EDC should end up in, let’s celebrate: water stations, pretty lights, thought-provoking art installations, great music, memories, enjoying your freedom, and having the best kick-off to summer imaginable right in our backyard. For an event that doesn’t have a single billboard or mainstream announcement in the entire metro area & still brings out the crowds it does, we have to walk away appreciating that although the scene has gone through many changes, it’s very alive and it’s not going anywhere.

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Why We Should Thank the Sopranos

sopranos_tour_satrialesJanuary 10, 1999: Sopranos airs its first episode, creating an inertia of interest in New Jersey that would create an entire genre of entertainment that no one, except for the people of New Jersey, could have imagined.

See, there’s two types of people: those that are from New Jersey, and those that wish they were from New Jersey. Before the Sopranos, we Jerseyans knew how interesting, authentic, and alive our state and its inhabitants are. The problem was, we were primarily only known as “The armpit of America” to everyone else. If you’ve lived here for any length of time, you’ve endured the tired standards – we don’t have our own football team, we’re just an industrial wasteland with some highways running through, the poorly imitated “Joisey” accent (always puzzling as no one from NJ has ever pronounced it that way),and a few other dismissals that made us the laughing stock of the 50 states. We got no respect; Tony Soprano came along and bailed us out.

When the Sopranos hit the scene and became one of the most acclaimed series of all-time, it was the ultimate acquittal for New Jersey. Funny thing is, didn’t mask who we are and what we’re about, it didn’t de-bunk any myths or stereotypes; it didn’t even prove any of the out of state-naysayers wrong and avenge us from their jokes. What it did do was give us the last laugh as people who had nothing but bad things to say about Jersey suddenly wanted to try on our accent, dress a little flashier, go to the Pork Store, and had to come to grips with the fact that their lives were just “ordinary” in comparison to Tony’s New Jersey.

Flash forward fourteen years and they’re still at it; the rest of the world can’t get enough of our swagger. There’s more reality shows about NJ than any other place in the world; you can debate all you want about whether it’s positive or negative attention, but at the end of the day, that statistic stands alone in terms of what a socially relevant powerhouse we are. It doesn’t hurt that we’ve never had a shortage of scandal, drama, and real-life characters that helped keep the rest of America & sometimes the world tuned in along the way either, thanks to Gov. Christie, “Tanning Mom”, and Snooki for that.

One of the problems with NJ being as controversial as it is, especially in its entertainment content, is that this always generates criticism, sometimes in the form of self-loathing. However, anyone who tries to deny the fact that Jersey-based television shows have been hugely beneficial to the state in terms of interest, tourism, business, and general likeability, needs to do their research. People need to stop whining and own it. We’re New Jersey. We’re unpredictable, unapologetic, legendary, mysterious, traditional, diverse, complicated, and oddly beautiful. Just like Tony Soprano.

Be thankful for The Sopranos, dammit. The alternative reality was ending up to be the perpetual dumping grounds, literally and figuratively, of America for the rest of our lives.