It’s 8:45PM on a deceptively chilly San Diego night, and already the neon-clad, kandi-covered line stretches half way around the Valley View Casino Center, littered with folks chattering excitedly as they ready themselves for the madness that is to come.
The two-hour drive from LA has gone by surprisingly quickly, buoyed by Dirty South’s solid Christmas Mix and Knife Party’s blood-curling, electro-redefining, our-name-is-Knife-Party-and-we’re-about-to-take-over-the-world-announcing Essential Mix recorded last summer at Space Ibiza. We’re very excited. As proud participants in the LA scene, we’re used to behemoth Insomniac massives and intelligently assembled HARD lineups. But the bill for LED’s anniversary party was too good to miss.
Officially, the headliner is Dirty South. But the real reason we’re here — the real reason everyone is here — is to see Knife Party. Last summer, Pendulum’s Gareth McGrillen and Rob Swire took some time off from their day jobs running the world’s biggest drum ‘n’ bass band to create a truly special side project. Knife Party’s remix of Swedish House Mafia’s “Save the World” was the pick of the bunch, and since then, the duo has gone on to dominate the electro world. Wolfgang Gartner aside, is there a finer act in the subgenre? (Editor’s Note: If you think there is, let us know in the comments.)
By 9PM the line has swelled noticeably. Knife Party won’t be on stage for another five and a half hours, but these people don’t care. They are the devout, the dedicated — the fans who make EDM the most exciting genre in the world. “Knife Party!” they yell, clad in black tops that proudly display the band’s logo. We yell back. We haven’t even made our way inside yet, but one thing is already abundantly clear — San Diego knows how to rave. Luckily, so do we.
Moment of the Night:
We’re walking down back to the stadium’s floor after a brief bathroom break when we’re forced to pause, gasp, and take it all in. The sight before us is beautiful and arresting. Dirty South is on stage, weaving his way into “Walking Alone.” The song is proud and triumphant. So is Dragan. As he raises his right arm in a signature salute, five thousand hands follow his every move. DJ and crowd connect, on every level. Everything is in sync. Everything is perfect.
The track builds. Dirty South is in complete control, and the crowd — the placid, tentacular mass of gently flailing arms and glowsticks — is at his mercy. There is unison in the universe. Moments like this remind us why we love EDM so much. Moments like this defy explanation. Moments like this are magic. Goosebumps, as we never get sick of saying, never lie, and we got goosebumps typing these words. Thanks, Dragan, for an image we’ll never forget.
Disappointment of the Night:
Kill the Noise’s set, in our opinion, lacked the fluency and cohesiveness that we expect from DJs of his level. In his hour on stage, Kill the Noise didn’t really find a groove to work the crowd. There were many massive, screeching drops (which we duly appreciated), but they weren’t built into with appropriate rhythm. Isn’t a DJ supposed to… erhm… be able to keep a beat? Perhaps the lowlight (or highlight, depending on whom you ask) was when he dropped Big Sean and Nicki Minaj’s “Big A$$.” Luckily, Kill the Noise saved face with his excellent Dillon Francis collaboration, “Dill the Noise,” but the set, overall, was disappointing.
Performance of the Night
Knife Party took the cake, but we’ll get to them soon. Dirty South was excellent (when isn’t he?). But Bingo Players deserve an extremely honorable mention for their massive, pounding, big-room set. Let’s take a second here to define “big-room” (this is an EDM blog, after all, so we love arguing over semantics). Big-room applies to those select tracks that are designed for the explicit purpose of making every person (and thing) in the venue vibrate. Big-room isn’t about intimacy. It’s about power. With one titanic drop after another, the Dutch duo demonstrated why sometimes, bigger is better.
At about $50 if you bought your ticket early, the LED anniversary party was well worth the price of admission. We were slightly underwhelmed by the screens behind the DJ — which were a little small for our taste — but if you got close enough to the decks (as we did for Nobody’s set), they did the job. The lasers, on the other hand, were spectacular. The sound system disappointed slightly from the very back of the arena, but as soon as you got within a reasonable distance of the stage, it was more than sufficient. We were particularly impressed with the conduct of the security team, which was courteous, professional, and made us feel safe rather than bullied.
All in all, we were extremely glad that we made the trip down to San Diego, and we’ll definitely be back for more LED events in the future.