As 131,000 exhausted and exhilarated fans walked out on the final night of EDC Las Vegas on Sunday, one detail seemed both surprising and edifying: There were no deaths as yet reported at the festival this year.
Fan deaths had been the major cloud over the festival ever since the 2010 incident that contributed to the festival's departure from L.A. and into the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
EDC has since grown significantly, and with it came a stereotype that – though risk is perhaps inevitable at any fest of this size – it was potentially a dangerous show, from illicit drug use to heat to all of the things that come with a 400,000-strong rave in Vegas in the summer.
There were 212 medical calls and 40 felony narcotics arrests on Sunday – the latter being a record for the festival. But that also may reflect an increased vigilance for policing on the festival site.
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The big achievement this year is that, whether from a combination of luck, friendly vigilance from EDC's Ground Control team, advance warnings about heat or even possibly a general maturation of its fan base, everyone managed to stay fundamentally safe this year – the first time since 2013 that no one died at EDC.
As the EDC glow fades into Monday, the high points of the music – surprise appearances by John Legend and '90s house diva Robin S., rousing sets by underground heroes Anna Lunoe, the first solo female act to headline EDC's main stage, and Chris Leibing, as well as an assertive turn from pop maven Zedd – may be less important than this year's zero death toll. If EDC is going to be a perpetual teenage and early-20s cultural staple, it proved that raves can be a safe part of growing up.
For all of Insomniac's challenges of late, EDC looks to finally be settling into its rhythms, from the music to the logistics to the security systems that are now more fundamental than ever to saving raves in the U.S. From San Bernardino to Argentina, governments are taking second looks at what EDM culture means to the safety of cities and their citizens.
If EDC is going to preserve its status as America's preeminent dance music festival – and keep all the idiosyncrasies that make it what it is – it will need more years like this, where fans and staff step up and make a concerted effort to stay safe. This problem isn't unique to EDC or to dance music, but this culture has a steeoer hill to climb to persuade governments and parents that the scene is a safe one.
While it's impossible to control fans' actions off-site, this year, through a mix of prevention, action and maybe providence, EDC appeared to do it right.
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