It’s no secret that EDM has a bad reputation. Why? Like with many things, we can blame the media. But is the media correct? Does what they have to say about this raging ruffians and “dangerous” atmosphere valid? Do these raves really result in hospitals making more money off ravers than any other genre?
Well I put it to a test and found that rather than the so called “raging ruffians” the attendees were happy, peaceful self-identifying family. They were there for the best lineup Arizona has ever seen, they said, and there was not a problem to be had. It was all about loyalty to rave culture, which draws people of all ages with its positive vibes and upbeat music.
From spectators to security, the overwhelming consensus was that this festival was practically perfect.
So, we give Phoenix Lights a 9/10. Here’s why:
Headliners DJ Snake and Kaskade made this a can’t-miss event, and a whole roster of quality artists (MK, Yellow Claw, Excision, and more) were there to back them up.
Check out this 15 second video posted by Tony Swan. (Desert Canvas media team affiliate.)
Photography taken by Mitchell Gross. (Desert Canvas media team affiliate)
The more party focused lineup featured trap in favor of trance and focused on artists that would bring eager festival goers to the park. Few lamented the lack of on-the-margins subgenres, though they were excited to see the numbers
Weaving through the crowds at the two stages, we found the DJs who would be playing were the source of the excitement.
- “It’s probably the best lineup AZ has had.”
- “It’s better than any bar or place that plays the same stuff over and over again.”
- “I like the more upbeat techno house.”
The family was all smiles about coming together, excited about the lineup. Everyone must have given over a thousand hugs each during the festival and traded just as much candi.
“There’s an entire community of ravers that see each other and hit each other up, and we’ve known each other forever and have fun together. And you see DJs that you’ve loved since you were in high school. You feel the music, you feel the people, and it fits together,” said spectator Raven Ryder.
“It’s a great community. Everyone is friendly toward each other and very much aware if someone needs something,” said Davis Housner, who runs the silent disco.
The Following two photos are by Sara Tiberio, Desert Canvas Social Media & PR manager. See entire Facebook photography album here.
Food tents line the back fence of the festival, offering a wide selection of treats to keep you fueled for a weekend dancing to the body-shaking bass. It’s a wide variety, but there is one man who looks down the row with a sense of pride. He runs the whole operation and will likely be at festivals to come.
Farther down from the foods, clothing vendors hawk the same sort of apparel seen on those browsing (read: bedazzled bras, shorts the length of underwear, etc.).
One vendor who caught our attention was MCA, short for both Multi Colored Animal and music, creativity, art. Based out of Phoenix, this start-up—Phoenix Lights was their third festival ever—favored headbands over stereotypical rave gear. But not just any headbands. These are repurposed t-shirts, each featuring a unique design and a patch of the logo owl.
Their goal? “To support creative outlets and expand the community.”
Between the two stages was a small corral with people wearing headphones, known in the community as a silent disco. Loved for its alternative option of music to listen to, attendees wandered in and out of the disco between earlier sets.
Kimberly Soto, who spends half her weekends in Amsterdam, loved the silent disco for the deep house it offered that reminded her of the raves across the pond.
“It’s the best music in here.,” she declared. “This [trap] would never happen in Europe.”
Next to the silent disco, a huge tent with multiple canvases was the site for the live painters, who added to their works all day.
Lights, lasers, and giant screens were the go-to’s on the two stages to accompany the performances, and the backdrop of the second stage was a tentacled creature whose mouth the DJs played from.
Thomy Hoefer of Gestalt Theory is the mastermind behind the visuals. He started out working parties, but his style was like nothing anyone had ever seen.
“They got wind of what I was doing, and nobody else was doing it,” he remembered. “Now we run all the festivals in Phoenix.”
Hoefer’s masterpieces turn music listening into an experience—so much so that he travels with Marshmello on his tours. (No, we didn’t learn who Marshmello is, but we did ask.)
Pyrotechnico freelancer Anthony added his lasers to the chaos, modeled after the ones he saw at Zedd’s show at The Shrine in L.A. “I decided this is what I wanted to do,” he said of the set that quite literally changed his life.
The “R” and “B” stands for “Rebirth” a festival that Desert Canvas hosted on January 16th 2016.
These letters were a splash of color during the day and came alive with lights as the sun went down.
We added a glowing cactus structure this time, which added some adventure to the photo-taking.
And of course, the Desert Canvas experience would not have been possible without the team that consists of a bunch of young ambitious kids in their twenties plus a handful of performers (you’d probably say) with their dazzling hula hoops all night.
The team who brought the festival to life had to set up, host, and tear down in a matter of days. Not 13 hours after the end of DJ Snake’s closing set, Margaret T. Hance Park will look like a regular park again.
One of the unique effects at Phoenix Lights was the literal fire, handled by Pyrotecnico and atypical of Phoenix festivals.
“There were a lot of hoops to jump through,” said backstage manager Joe, who heads a massive team at just age 23.
But apparently, Kaskade really pushed for it, and the result was unforgettable.
After watching the success of the first day, operations and logistics manager Kiri Gragg was impressed with how her work all came together.
“I think the West coast can compete with the East Coast,” she said of festivals she has worked and attended, such as Tomorrowland and Electric Zoo.
Issues of stage placement were the main reason people we talked to were hesitant to rate Phoenix Lights a perfect ten. Alongside the back fence, vendors could hear both stages at once, and several of them mentioned this mishap.
“It would be great to have more stages, more opportunities for artists to have some sets and for people to enjoy different kinds of music, more trance and hardstyle than dubstep and what’s currently trending,” said Anthony.
To bring in a wider variety, though, Phoenix Lights organizers will have to make more adjustments, mostly regarding the window of time each day.
“I guess my only complaint would be how early it is,” said spectator Chris Adams, “but because of regulations, it’s hardly fixable.”
For its first time in a new venue, Phoenix Lights was a huge success. Audio and visuals came together while the backstage team ensured that all ran smoothly. There was enough variety in foods and vendors. But it was the attendees—the family—who made the event a true celebration of peace, love, unity, and respect. And we can’t wait until #TheLightsReturn next year.
What were your thoughts? What did you think of Phoenix Lights? Any experiences you want to share? Please let us know in the comments below!
Featured photo by Graham Merwin.