At Lights All Night, the Lights are Bright…. Deep in the Heart of Texas
The day after Christmas normally is reserved for naps and abusing all of your Christmas gifts to death. But if you happen to be an electronic music lover in the state of Texas, December 26th marked the first day of Lights All Night’s 5th anniversary. Lights All Night returned to the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center where 40,000 people 18 and up danced their ass off in this year-end festival.
The Location and Stages
As I pulled into my parking spot, hints of what the people I would be dancing the night away with walked by. Girls in bikini tops and fuzzy boot covers and guys in neon tanks filled the lines awaiting the doors to open. After checking tickets, all attendants were sent through a TSA-style security check demanding everyone to remove their shoes and empty their single drawstring bags for any items not allowed…including lighters. The struggle of getting through security was quickly forgotten as you entered into Exhibit Hall A to view the Mothership 2.0 stage in all its glory. The mainstage was adorned with 8 large screens surrounding a 9th larger screen, with the artist under the middle.
The second stage, named The Drop, could have been called The Pyramid as they constructed a stepped, peaking structure out of LED lightboards, which highlighted the artist at the top. On each side of the pyramid were light fixtures that spanned the entirety of the hall length and definitely took the room to the next level. Although this wasn’t the mainstage, it was my favorite stage of the event.
Along with the two stages, Lights All Night also included two Silent Disco stages that were named The Deep End and The Turn Up; I’ll give you two guesses on the type of artists they had on these stages. While smaller, these two stages provided the attendants with an opportunity to be right up close to the artists allowing fans to give them high-fives when they heard a that song. The Deep End featured a RedBull truck as the stage, while The Turn up sported a giant screen behind the DJ table.
Day 1 Lineup
As the festival started, the DJ contest winner Akoou and Nick Van House started the festival off with some house beats as Brazzabelle and WishFM got the crowd rowdy. I was most surprised by how amazing of a set that Brazzabelle was playing. Smashing our ears with bass, she definitely got the crowd bumping on a whole different level. WishFM destroyed the crowd with lasers, making their set a much more visual experience. As 7 PM rolled around though, the vibe became that of a full blown festival.
The mainstage saw Destructo trying to start his set early and turning the volume up to level 9 to no avail from the event staff. When he did start though, he brought his deep and dirty “g-house” to Dallas which resulted in much head bobbing and shuffling. The LA native turned the crowd into some street thugs as “Coco” boomed through the subs and twerking visuals ran rampant through his set. (Check out my interview with Destructo, the mastermind behind HARD Events coming soon.)
Andrew Rayel brought the progressive sound to The Drop as he smashed out a set filled with monster tracks and visuals. Everybody’s hands were in the air for his set as I started to roam around the complex enjoying the grandeur of it all. Before I knew it, Boys Noize was already setting up on the Mothership 2.0 stage in what ended up being the stage of the night.
The second stage suffered from a lack of identity as DJ Mustard’s hip-hop beats were replaced by Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano’s progressive house only to switch back into a bass-heavy Crizzly set. While each set was awesome in its own right (and trust me, Crizzly brought down the house), it was hard to create an aura around the second stage when each progressive set was a 180 degree genre turn from the last.
Zedd followed Boys Noize, bringing with him a heavier set than usual and was enjoyed by 90% of the crowd. His hour and a half set was filled with his classics along with a plethora of Big Room tunes to satisfy the broader mind. For many Zedd fans, 12:15 came by too quickly, but they didn’t fret since the king of dubstep, Skrillex, arrived right on his heels.
Skrillex continues to amaze me with how relevant he stays in this industry and Friday night was no exception. His new style was heard through his set as he played out new and old tracks to create a magical experience. Yes, he played “Take U There” and yes the crowd got rowdy, but the peak of his set came when he threw in “Cinema.”
He switched the drop before turning the music down and grabbing the mic. Speaking to the whole crowd, he spoke of being nicer and accepting of people in 2015 that was met with resounding applause and yells. He capped the night off with some massive drops, bass and a little bit of Lion King to satisfy the thousands of ears that had descended on the Convention center.
Everybody left the convention center Friday night buzzing from the music they had just heard and anxious for the next day.
Overnight, the city of Dallas was greeted by a 20 degree temperature drop louder than any of the first day acts. Though the temperature was cold outside, that didn’t stop anybody from wearing the least amount of clothes possible. With my batteries recharged from the previous night, I made my way over for the final night ready for an amazing experience, and I was not disappointed.
Gathering myself for the second day, I decided to make sure to check out all the different vendors that were available but was quickly swept away by the music. The mainstage was being commanded by chilling live vocals and a house beat from local Dallas group, Paradise. This 5some consists of 3 singers along with two DJs that were mixing a perfect set for the early evening. Everybody I saw in the crowd was grooving to the music and experiencing the live DJ clinic that the group was performing. From this moment, I knew it was going to be a special night.
Stepping over into The Drop I was curious to see what openers they would have before the meat of Day 2, with a nighttime lineup consisting of Paper Diamond, Seven Lions, Zeds Dead and DJ Snake. Awesome.
This stage was sure to be where the party was tonight. At 6 pm, the California native Whyel took the stage by storm as he put together a huge electro house set that had hints of trap, house and dubstep intermixed within. If these two artists were any indication of what was to come, the crowd was in for surprise.
Being a fairly new festival attendee, I found myself walking back and forth between the 7 o’clock acts as Audien and Firebeatz were on the two major stages. During this time, you could see the crowds growing, the mood changing: it could be felt right down in your bones. The energy was increasing. Audien’s massive progressive sound set our hearts alight as Firebeatz broke us down with booming bass and a solid visual experience to go along with it. As 8 arose though, I had to make a decision, The Chainsmokers on the mainstage or 12th Planet on the second. As I headed my way over to the mainstage, I could already tell that this was a good decision. Welcome in The Chainsmokers.
Regardless of what you think of Drew and Alex’s attempt at EDM (cough cough, #SELFIE, Kanye) The Chainsmokers do know how to play an amazing DJ set. The two bounced back and forth between the roles of DJ and hype man as they blew the speakers (not literally) with a multigenre-infused set list that included a bunch of new tunes from the duo. Yes, they threw in “#SELFIE” and “Kanye” but, not the originals (I suspect even they may have even grown tired of them…perhaps.) Everybody listening was jumping up and down, screaming their lungs out as Alex explained to the crowd what Kanye means. It doesn’t mean to be in love with Kanye, it means to do something that you love and forget everything else. Amidst the yelling, screaming and cheering from the crowd, I had to hand it to them; I was thoroughly impressed with the set and am eager to hear what they have in store for 2015.
As 9 approached I was struggling to keep my camera batteries alive so I clamored across the entire complex trying to find a, and I mean “A,” plug to charge my batteries on. Yes I know I could have used the media room for charging, but I would have to suffer from not hearing the music and you couldn’t have that, could you?
Luckily I found one over by the Silent Disco stage, The Turn Up, where the Raging Pandas were,well, raging. This Dallas duo is formed by the beautiful DJ Snow White along with her friend DJ Kayla Kruz. These two DJs are consistently being seen at local clubs and are shattering the status quo in this industry as being female DJs. They put together a great set that would truly fill up a room if it hadn’t been trapped inside some headphones.
With my camera batteries charged, I reentered the masses, gearing up for the main acts setting the stage. Paper Diamond crushed his entire set, but I missed out on one of the best sets of the weekend. Many different articles I have read discussed how Odesza flipped the whole festival around and laid down one of the best chill sets anyone has heard. Sadly, I missed their set and missed 95% of Disclosure’s DJ set. I know, I know, let the hate mail begin. I did catch some photos from Disclosure, but the booming bass from Seven Lions and Zeds Dead was too hard to ignore.
Seven Lions filled the stage with rumbling bass and melodic touches as he threw down a top-notch set. This was the first time that I had heard Seven Lions live and let me tell you, I can’t wait to see him again. I put Seven Lions on the same pedestal as Bassnectar and he proved me right with that set. A technical prowess was displayed on the decks as Seven Lions took us on an adventure with his visuals. The heavy bass continued through his set as Zeds Dead took over for Seven Lions.
This was the second time that I had seen Zeds Dead live and, again, they did disappoint. Their heavy style fit perfectly within the groups that had played earlier and provided an excellent option to listen to if you weren’t feeling the chilled out scene the main stage was producing. Zeds Dead knows how to command a crowd as they boggle your senses with a mind-altering set. Their hour and 15 minute set went by faster than an episode of Robot Chicken as they filled the time with plenty of hits including their “Eyes on Fire” remix along with ending their set with their take on Jack U’s “Take U There.”
The hardest decision was moving to listen to all of Armin Van Buuren’s set or to listen to the last 30 minutes of Zed’s Dead. As the King of Trance, I couldn’t say no to Armin, so I made my way over for the finale of Lights All Night 2014.
Armin filled the crowd’s heart and minds with joy as he mastered a set that is definitely top 5 of the weekend. The will of one man spread through the entire crowd instantaneously once Armin hit the decks. He strutted his stuff as he made Atlas poses on the stage, culminating in his signature hands out airplane pose (which I believe people even call “The Armin”) with a giant heart behind him. Words do not describe his set well enough; you simply had to be there. He finished the night with his mega-hit “This is What it Feels Like” which was the perfect way to end the festival. He reminded us all that this is what it feels like when you listen to good music. The main lights turned back on and before I knew it, the event was over.
The Not So Great Lights At Night
While the event rocketed its way to success, no festival is without its share of heartaches. Night 1 saw a rather disappointing set from the Chromeo duo on the second stage and DJ Snake provided an uneventful close to the evening on Night 2. While the second stage had quite a lineup over the two days, the lack of creativity (and some crowd reactions) at the stages close was a sad sight to see since I know both acts are known for some crazy sets and an even more impressive visual experience. Then again, how do you overshadow Skrillex and Armin Van Buuren? Maybe that’s the better question.
While the two Silent Discos were awesome ideas, they seemed to lack a constant crowd as most were at the two mainstages. This culminated in closing sets that lasted only a half-hour rather than the full hour and some groans from the smaller stage’s artists. Mostly I chalk that up to swaying people away from a name they know to an artist they don’t know.
Now to talk about the dark stuff: over the festival, 9 people were hospitalized and 38 were treated for symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse. Considering nearly 40,000 people attended the event, I think that those hospitalizations could have been avoided. That said, on a percentage basis it is quite a small and I was quite happy to see almost everyone enjoying the festival safely.
The Good Lights At Night
The 5th year anniversary was a huge success for Lights All Night and I am anticipating what the 6th year has in store for the city of Dallas. As electronic music festivals become the go-to events for the growing fanbase, Lights All Night has solidified itself as being the top event for EDM listeners in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Lights All Night continues to expand on its original plan, bringing in the world’s greatest DJs’ and providing an amazing outlet for new artists to garner attention into the New Year.
Crowds of guilt and carefree millennials filled the Convention Center with peace, love, unity and respect (PLUR) throughout the weekend as everyone gave each other warm hugs and smiles across the weekend. Cheers of seeing close friends ran rampant throughout the event and promise to be a recurring theme at Lights All Night. The event staff was more than helpful during the concert while some sported their love for the movement by trading “kandi” with the attendees.
While festival season is typically March through September, Lights All Night continues to make the statement that festival season knows no bounds. The winter season is quickly becoming a festival landmine as Lights All Night, SnowGlobe and others fill up the holiday season with plenty of opportunities to hear your favorite artists. Who needs festival season when we have the holidays? Check out the pictures I took throughout the event and keep your Christmas weekend open as Lights All Night will return for their 6th year soon.
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