Kandi MAINSTREAM / May 2014

KANDI RAVERS AND THE ELECTRIC DAISY CARNIVAL

Photography by Roger Kisby
Text by Dora Moutot

Welcome to the world of the Electric Daisy Carnival. The festival gets called “the Ibiza of America”. Caught between two worlds, the Electric Daisy Carnival is a strange encounter where mainstream meets underground. It’s as if Burning Man decided to mate with David Ghetta.

The Electric Daisy Carnival is not quite a carnival in the way we typically think of it, even though the costumes are clearly part of the décor. This is an electronic music festival. “EDM” music, to be more precise. This means “Electronic Dance Music”. It’s a mix of Techno, House and Dubstep, a popular music of nightclubs. Born in California, this festival exists since 1997 and now takes place in Las Vegas over the course of three days. In 2013, the Electric Daisy Carnival gathered over 320,000 people. And yet, unlike Coachella and the Burning Man, the festival remains little known, especially in Europe. The media has not yet grasped this growing phenomenon that is nevertheless gaining momentum every year.

 

 

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AN IMMERSIVE AND ARTISTIC ENVIRONMENT

 

Imported over from the Burning Man to the EDC festival, one takes note of the giant lighted art sculptures designed by alternative artists, as well as eccentric performers who are paid to deliver shows. “A lot of people that are hired to work there are people who would go to Burning Man and do installations. There is some crossover”, explains Roger Kisby, an American photographer based in Brooklyn. Kisby has created a documentary series of the festival, brilliantly photographing its atmosphere as well as its participants.

“We wouldn’t do an event without art,” says Pasquale Rotella, Insomniac Productions founder and CEO. “To me, it enhances the whole experience and is an important piece to people having a memorable time. It started from me going out to underground parties; what really stuck out in my head was things I would see that were visually stimulating.”

“A credo that Pasquale and I have developed over the years is [to create] more of a fully immersive event where there’s not such a fine line between the performers and the superstars and the crowd” says Blaine, who handled the art installations at Coachella prior to joining the EDC team. “Sometimes our performance artists, our dancers, our troupes – whatever you want to call them – are indistinguishable from our attendees because our attendees are not just attendees, they are participants as well”, he tells Rolling Stone.

 

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THE RAVE UNIFORM

 

At the Electric Daisy Carnival, most participants blend in with the décor. You don’t come here without the appropriate wardrobe. “I concentrated on the some of the most visually interesting people but not everyone is dressed up. There is definitely a kind of uniform though. There is a certain style that is very specific to the festival: it’s the Kandi ravers. But there is also an element that has crossover and is more mainstream, that a lot of people wear”, explains photographer Roger Kisby.

So what we’re talking about is a real mainstream rave, where all the fresh out of high school “Paris Hiltons” and “Bros” of America come to party to club music with fluorescent clothes recalling the birth of rave, in a look caught halfway between Kandi Raver and Forever 21.

The look is typically composed of “spirit hoods” made of fake fur, flurries, fantasy fur boot covers, fluorescent tutus and customised bras, also known as “rave bras”, and above all, many colourful beaded bracelets. The look is all at once childish and sexy.

The boys wear t-shirts with more or less vulgar slogans, such as “We came here to party/ I need a drink/ Dance until dawn/ Sleep & eat & poop & dance & sleep”, as well as the infamous beaded bracelets, which are central to Kandi Ravers culture.

 

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THE PHILOSOPHY AND RITUALS OF THE KANDI RAVERS

 

More eccentric than other party goers, the Kandi Raver has the particularity of wearing hundreds of these bracelets made of colourful plastic beads. Behind these bracelets, there is the philosophy of the festival as well as a ritual, in which all participants of the festival partake.

PLUR: Peace, Love, Unity and Respect, such is the mantra of the festival. “There is a certain handshake to trade Kandi bracelets. Each thing stands for something: Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. And then you trade it. This is all a ritual”, he says.

When you trade bracelets with someone, you shake the hand of the other person so that you form one, and you move the bracelets along with the other hand. Each of their bracelets symbolise a meeting, a particular moment.

They hand-make these bracelets they give out, they trade to each other. Some are really complex. From what I understand, they figure a way online and teach each other how to do it. They also make headpieces. There are some crossovers with the Native American style”, says Roger Kisby.

 

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A real competition for the creation of these objects made using these infamous multi-coloured beads has emerged, with each object being crazier than the previous. Websites dedicated to Kandi creations are exploding. The “rave bras” are also very popular for girls during the festival.

Many tutorials presented by full figured blondes explain how to customise bras for “raving”. Fake diamonds and daisies are key.

 

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PLUR and “do it yourself” culture comes then from these rave care bears or Kandi Ravers. The ethos has now permeated the festival as well as its participants. But Kandi culture hasn’t always been so nice and playful. In the 90s, those who dressed in a very colourful style and accumulated these bracelets were actually those selling drugs. An easy way of signal, let’s say. Today, the Kandis are not dealers, even though it is undeniable that they have a particular taste for the consumption of MDMA, which they nickname “molly”.

Of course, the festival can’t please everyone. “I talked to people who are purist, they see it as a commercial version of what they believe the rave culture has become, they are anti-that”, says Roger Kisby.

What we’ll remember from the festival is that it is “a non stop dance party. It’s non-stop energy. It’s the best way to describe it”, concludes Roger Kisby.

The first reportage on the festival entitled “Under the Electric Sky” by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Festival. The film will be out in theatres in the coming months. We can’t wait!

 

➜ http://rogerkisby.com

 

 

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