“Every single creative spark will be put into one massive fantastic arena, featuring some of the world’s most exciting and sought-after electronic performers. The entire arena will be transformed into a place where dreams can be both seen and heard.” This past weekend, at the famed Cow Palace (where the Beatles and the Rolling Stones both played in their heyday), over 15,000 people flocked to one of the largest electronic music events that the West Coast has to offer. ETD POP 2010: The Dream was exactly what its website promoted–an ethereal, enormous and jam-packed rave that both electronic diehards and casual partygoers alike attended.
The Electric Techno Disco Popsicle (ETD POP) was first held in 1997, and has steadily grown in popularity since. Annually featuring the world’s most famous DJs and electronic artists, it is one of many festivals on the West Coast that ensure not only high quality music, but also state-of-the-art light shows, an energetic crowd and an all-night party. Sold out just a few days before the concert, this year’s ETD POP was titled “The Dream,” with the idea that those attending would feel transported to a dream world, with excessive glitter, fog, lights and an incredible amount of white. What made it truly like a dream for most, however, was this year’s musical lineup. With trance god Armin Van Buuren and the incredibly popular Infected Mushroom headlining, world-renowned DJs like Boys Noize, Steve Aoki and Benny Benassi were just icing on the cake.
Upon parking in the massive Cow Palace lot, it became quite evident that this was not just an ordinary concert. Dressing in all white, as the website encouraged, was quite conservative. Most concertgoers were completely decked out in traditional rave gear, with tutus, furry boots, incredible amounts of beaded jewelry (or kandi, as it is called in the rave world) and other neon and outlandish getups. Glowsticks were a must, and many had gone a step further, wearing copious amounts of LED lights on all parts of the body. After a long line to get through the intense security process, Intermission made it inside to catch the tail end of Stanford favorite LA Riots’ set. With a giant rotating DJ platform in the middle of the arena, it was impossible to have a bad view. The light shows were like candy to the eyes, and the excitement was clearly building to a frenzy, even as early as 5:30 p.m.
After LA Riots, Gareth Emery took the stage. After gaining considerable popularity in the past few years, his anticipated set consisted of addicting trance and, as droves of people came in from outside, the floor began to fill with dancers. Placed on platforms throughout the arena, hired dancers swayed and gyrated in beautiful white costumes, glittering and flashing under all of the lights. After Emery left the turntables, the hypnotic voice that was placed between each set boomed over the audience. “Attention dreamers,” it said, sounding like a soothing flight attendant. “Let your mind be free and dream to…Steve Aoki.” Cheers throughout Cow Palace went up as Aoki dropped his now-trademark mix of music from “The Lion King.” The arena thumped as the bass soared over thousands of dancers. The electro house DJ was certainly a different vibe from the one before him, but he was a wonderful prelude to the highlight of the night, Boys Noize.
Hailing from Germany, Alexander Ridha (or Boys Noize) has earned a huge following in the world of house music, and his fans were certainly not disappointed at this year’s ETD POP. His set was incredible throughout, and Fedde le Grand, who followed, did well at keeping up. DJ superstar Benny Benassi was next, and he proved why he is considered one of the best DJs in the world. With his 2007 smash hit “Satisfaction,” Benassi is one of few house DJs that have reached household name status, and both hardcore ravers and electronic amateurs knew exactly who he was. When he dropped the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Otherside,” the audience enjoyed a rare moment singing along together. Taking the stage at the climax of the night was Dutch trance DJ Armin van Buuren. Ranked as the number one DJ in the world for the past three years by DJ Magazine, van Buuren is the ultimate heavy hitter in the world of trance. Despite the audience having been on their feet for the past six hours, nothing felt more like a dream than van Buuren’s trance set, which was only enhanced by glitter falling from the ceiling of the arena. In order to beat the traffic, Intermission left before Infected Mushroom’s set, despite the enormous popularity of the experimental psytrance group.
While beautifully executed and both visually and audibly stunning, ETD POP 2010 was not without conflict and tragedy. With over 65 people arrested for selling illegal substances and copious amounts of drugs confiscated, it is clear that Ecstasy, normally associated with rave culture, was running rampant at the event. Because of buying drugs laced with toxins, 11 attendees were rushed to the hospital, with one young man from Santa Clara dying as a result. This gruesome situation served as a reminder to be safe in environments like ETD POP where drugs are highly prevalent. The hospitalizations and death were nightmares in the midst of an otherwise beautiful dream.
Featuring some of the world’s most talented electronic artists and light shows that you would have to see to believe, ETD POP 2010: The Dream was truly an event like no other, and certainly one that Intermission did not want to wake up from.