I stepped onto the ledge of the stairs and looked out at the arena. Everything hit me at once—the owl-head stage with its glass-looking eyes, the silver tunnel-stage, the tent-like stage with the swooping mesh curtains and blinking lights running up the sides that reminded me of tiny ants, the spinning carnival swings, the traveling bus-stage, the iridescent caterpillar, and the lights intertwined around dancing mushrooms and stages and people, filling every open space. Standing there I felt slightly woozy, just taking it all in.
It was almost sunset. The purple and orange clouds were flitting around the top ledge of the arena bleachers casting a golden hue over the entire place. The color mixed between the spokes of the nearest Ferris wheel and tinted the 9 foot, larger-than-life daisies just in front of me. Everything felt warm and inviting.
I was waiting for my group of friends who were just a few security steps behind me. I took another step forward and closed my eyes, willed myself to remember this moment: the way the dry heat felt like a blanket fresh from the dryer, the way the voices and whirring carnival rides and music seemed to crash together into this one beautiful, chaotic sound, the way the entire place smelled like heat and hamburgers and bubblegum and carnival popcorn and fire and perfume. I willed myself to remember the colors: the black stage, blue Ferris wheel spokes, lime caterpillar, green daisy stems, red bus, multicolored outfits, silver metal stage, black ground. I wanted to remember it. I wanted to relive it over and over again.
My heart was fluttering and my hands were sweating, almost the same nervous-excitement as moments before a solo or speech. I wanted to scream. I wanted to jump up and down. I wanted to run and lose myself in the crowd. I wanted to grab the person nearest to me and just hug the life out of him or her. I couldn’t believe I was really here, a Chicago girl in Vegas, 1713 miles away at Electric Daisy Carnival.
My friends ran up behind me, grabbing me into a huge hug, and taking me completely by surprise. We were an assortment of fluffy boots, neon shirts, shiny skirts, a floral body suit, eye gems, bright orange bandanas, and kandi all along our arms. I loved each of them. I loved this moment. I loved life.
We stepped forward and I let the music wash over me. The feeling was unbelievable: a warmth, a calm, a tingly-fingers and tingly-toes, a bubbling energy, a weightless heart, an ear-to-ear smile. I felt transformed, like another person. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. I couldn’t stop smiling at every person that walked by, telling them how much I loved their rainbow tutu, red cat ears, caution kandi mask, or sequined rave bra. Everyone looked beautiful. The world was beautiful.
We stood at the edge of wasteLAND, a stage designed to follow its name, with fake ‘caution’ garbage cans and rubble sprinkled about. The speakers were set in a half-circle around the entire space, creating a surround sound and keeping the bass contained. The music was hard-style, heavy bass that shook my toes, my heart, even my brain. I jumped. I screamed. I laughed. I closed my eyes and nodded my entire body to the beat. Nothing else mattered in that moment but being there, at the edge of that stage, surrounded by hundreds of head-banging, eyes-closed people, feeling nothing but the bass as our pulse.
I traveled from stage to stage dancing, singing, screaming, and smiling. I rode swings and Ferris wheels and took pictures of the pebble-looking lights from the very top. I danced around LED-infused flowers and animals. I buried my bare toes in fake grass and laid back, taking in soothing, chill beats. I smiled. I drank probably a gallon of water. I sat on shoulders and threw my hands in the air. I danced in the center of crowds. I danced on the edge. I danced with people. I danced alone. I danced. And I danced. And I danced until the sunrise peeked over the edge of the bleachers again, washing my skin with pastel pinks and yellows. And then I stumbled to the exit, covered in sweat and glitter, my legs heavy and jello-like. I was exhausted, but my heart was so full, so happy. And it was only day one.