For a more than a few years now, the Sundance Film Festival has included some terrific concert films and music docs: Oscar nominee Searching for Sugarman, LCD Soundsystem’s Shut Up and Play the Hits, Joe Berlinger’s Under African Skies, and Dave Grohl’s Sound City, just to name a few. Among the offerings at this year’s festival was the Electric Daisy Carnival documentary, Under the Electric Sky. Check out the full review (and possible Daft Punk news) after the drop…er, jump.
- Directors: Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz
- Cinematographer: Reed Smoot
- Starring: Pasquale Rotella, Kaskade, Tiësto, Above & Beyond, Avicii, Dillon Francis, Afrojack
Over the last 15 years, the Electric Daisy Carnival has become one of the largest and most popular music festivals in the world, heralding the rise of electronic dance music in mainstream culture. With each year’s, festival founder Pasquale Rotella sets to outdo the spectacle of the previous year. Last year’s EDC drew a crowd of nearly 120,000 from all over the world, and featured some of the most elaborate technical and stage production of all time. Under the Electric Sky follows a handful of separate superfans on their pilgrimages to Las Vegas to attend the 2013 festival, and showcases a number of highlighted performances.
PLUR: Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. It’s hard to deny the good vibes of this film. All of the fans featured in the film are so thrilled to be part of the event, and their excitement is infections. Even in the face of hardship, the positivity of EDC brings out the best in them. The fans’ stories include a long-distance couple reuniting at the festival, a couple who’ve raised a well balanced family by the values of the EDM community, a lonely small town girl finding herself in a supportive crowd, and a group of bros honoring the memory of their friend. You can’t help but share their joy, as they each find their own profound moments over the course of the weekend. Though there isn’t much story beyond “They all travelled to Las Vegas and had a great time,” it’s still an emotionally relatable way to convey the festival’s meaning to the individuals who attend.
Just Say No: Unfortunately, EDM is often associated with drug use, which comes at a great cost to the legitimacy of its popularity. The film, without being judgmental (again, PLUR), does display the presence and dangers of taking drugs at EDC. The promoters and planners display how they take great care to provide the safest environment possible, and all the interview and story subjects are drug free, illustrating that you absolutely don’t need drugs to have a great time at EDC. Ultimately this should allow people who let this facet of EDM keep them away from the scene feel a little more comfortable when entering this world.
3D: Really, the most impressive design elements of the film come from the festival’s production itself. Well crafted stage pieces, performers’ costumes, the sexy/goofy/outlandish outfits attendees wear all speak for themselves, without any assistance from the camera. What could have been a much more impressive theatrical experience ultimately remains about as visually stimulating as any average concert film. All the narrative shots and talking head interviews were filmed in 2-D and remain so, which ends up making the v style feel inconsistent, at times (Not that it would have helped, given the flat framing of the narrative segments). The sheer scale of the event may have been a bit more than directors Cutforth and Lipsitz could manage, compared to the single, contained stage show in their Katy Perry documentary.
Musical Taste: I’ve got to admit that I’ve had my own struggles learning to enjoy and get involved with EDM. However, when I did, it was within its a handful of its many subcategories. But many of these musical nooks are hardly represented, in spite of their presence at the festival. If you’re not into main stage style house music, you’ll probably enjoy the film less than those who are. The fact that this is where the focus of the film’s soundtrack lies betrays the other styles of music that aren’t prominently featured. It may nod to the different kinds of music happening across the festival with peeks at sets from Afrojack and Dillon Francis, but most of what we hear is the kind of European house music intended mostly for huge festivals like this one. For a movie about a community which values acceptance of uniqueness, it’s a pretty homogenous representation of the music itself.
Under the Electric Sky is a movie that people who have attended EDC will probably love, if only to be transported back to the party. It seems like an unforgettable experience to attend, and this film may act as a means for fans to get an extra taste of the fun in the 362 days between festivals. But even though it brings some pleasant empathy for the individuals it chooses to focus on, as either a documentary representing the EDM community, and as a theatrical 3D spectacle attempting to recreate the magic of the actual festival, it leaves much to be desired.
At the premiere’s Q&A with Pasqualle Rotella, I asked if Daft Punk would be playing this year’s EDC, which drew some applause from the crowd. He laughed and simply said, “Yes.” Then he back pedaled a little bit, saying, “I Daft Punk, obviously, but the lineup isn’t finalized yet.” So feel free to speculate on that as you will…