I recently stumbled across an article in the OC Weekly in which author Alejandra Loera endeavored to compare America’s two most prolific dance music festivals, Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra Music Festival. In my opinion Alejandra, with very little fair or in depth comparison, rushed to the hasty conclusion that EDC is the superior festival. Having attended both festivals (EDC four times and UMF once) myself, I feel that she failed to clearly examine the strengths and weaknesses of each festival. I believe that each festival has a lot to offer, but both could also improve in certain areas. In her article Alejandra breaks her comparison down into three categories, Setting, Experience, and Logistics. Thus I will do the same, examining her claims while also expressing my own views.
1. The Setting
In my opinion this is the most puzzling part of Alejandra’s article. Her examinations of each festival’s setting are completely different and they fail to sufficiently compare and contrast anything at all. Regarding UMF she primarily talks about the festival’s line-up, praising UMF for its big headliners, crossover bands that utilize EDM in their music, and the presence of lots of techno and tech house. Then she jumps over to EDC and claims that it has the better venue, later hours, and better location within the city in which it resides. Comparing one festival’s line-up to another’s venue and time frame hardly make for an apt comparison. This is like comparing apples and oranges. While her assertions about EDC’s setting may be valid, her examination of UMF here really doesn’t look at its setting whatsoever. Line-up should really be a separate fourth category in her article, so that’s what I’m going to do later on here. In my opinion both festivals have great settings. The Speedway in Las Vegas in massive and expansive and Insomniac does a great job of turning it into a nocturnal raver’s playground. On the other hand UMF is right on the water in beautiful downtown Miami where the brilliant sunshine and beach vibes permeate the entire festival from noon until midnight. In my opinion neither festival is better than the other when it comes to setting, rather they are equal but different. Both run for 10-12 hours, thus the main differences lie in their location and feel mostly. If you want to enjoy sunshine and energetic daytime beach vibes, then UMF is for you. And if you want to run around a raver’s playground until the sun rises then EDC is for you. And if you enjoy both then by all means attend both!
2. The Experience
Once again I feel Alejandra’s comparisons here are not really fair or balanced. She spends one short paragraph talking about UMF and two lengthy ones talking about EDC. All that she says about UMF is that the stages are too close together and that there was a girl there that made out with a tree. She then goes on to gush about EDC and its interactive art, carnival rides, theatrics, fireworks, confetti, stages etc. for two long paragraphs. Once again I do not feel that she gives each festival its fair chance. While everything she says about EDC is true, UMF also has its unique and special qualities that make it an equally awesome experience (although I will give her credit about the stage proximity observation, some were too close together and there were some sound bleed problems.) UMF’s location in downtown Miami allowed for some amazing special effects, namely 3-D projection mapping on the sides of skyscrapers that surround Bayfront Park. In my opinion this feature alone blew anything EDC has to offer out of the water in the visuals department. In addition UMF also had fireworks every night, extremely impressive stage lighting displays, confetti blasts, and a wide array of unique stages set-ups, all just like EDC. Furthermore, while she complains that the stages were too close together at UMF, at times I felt that the stages were too far apart at EDC. It often took a good twenty minutes to walk from one end of EDC to the other, which in my mind just equals lost time watching your favorite DJ’s. The only huge strength I see EDC having over UMF in the experience department is the presence of numerous carnival rides. If this is your cup of tea then EDC is definitely for you, and I must say having ridden several last year, it is a lot of fun. Thus when all is said and done, I believe that both UMF and EDC are more or less equal, but again different in the experience department. Neither really trumps the other in my eyes.
When it comes to logistics Alejandra once again fails to fairly examine the pros and cons of each festival. She bashes on UMF for being hard to enter (it wasn’t), its long bathroom, beer and water lines (no longer than at any other festival including EDC), and lack of safety because there were kids climbing in trees (who cares??). She then goes on to declare EDC one of the most well put-together and coordinated festivals of its kind and gushes about how PLUR Pasquale Rotella is towards his attendees. Her one point on which I agree is that EDC’s free water refill stations are a great feature, but they are hardly unique (Coachella started doing this long ago). What she fails to mention are the complete logistical nightmares that were present at EDC last year. The wait times and lines for the shuttles that took people from the Vegas Strip to the Speedway were horrendous. The lines to get through security and into the venue were much worse than at UMF as far as I saw. Worst of all was the return trip to the Strip once the sun came up; attendees were forced to wait for what seemed like forever for their chance to hop on a bus back to the Strip. Furthermore this all happened with the Nevada sun blaring down on everyone; people became dehydrated and one of my friends even suffered heat stroke on the first morning, ruining the rest of her weekend. While I hope that Pasqual will rectify these problems at EDC this year by adding more shuttle buses and venue entrances, all I can say at this point is that hopping in cabs to go to and from UMF was a piece of cake compared to what I endured at EDC last year. Logistics: UMF 1 EDC 0
In my opinion a festival’s line-up is its most important feature. While many attend these festivals regardless of who is playing, ultimately it is the caliber of the line-up that can truly make your weekend magical and unforgettable. This is also the area where I feel UMF trumps EDC completely. Comparing the two festivals it’s plain to see that there is nothing that EDC has to offer that UMF doesn’t, and UMF then takes it a step further by including acts on its line-up that will most likely never grace the stages of EDC. First and foremost UMF beats EDC with its shear volume of performers. EDC only has five stages (six if you count the miniscule Heineken Dome), while UMF has eight. This fact alone allows UMF to boast a much bigger and more diverse line-up than EDC. Now obviously one could argue that quality and not quantity is the most important aspect of a festival line-up. However in this instance I must insist again that UMF has the more quality line-up. For the sake of brevity let’s cast aside all of the artists that these two festivals share in common and then see what’s left. Both feature your typical big guns, Tiesto, David Guetta, Dada Life, Wolfgang Gartner, Avicii, etc. There is no point in comparing those types of acts because both festivals have them in droves. The question then is what makes one festival stand out over the other when you strip away everything that they have in common? It is here that we see UMF’s clear strength over EDC. You will probably never find a stage at EDC featuring artists such as Maya Jane Coles, Art Department, Damian Lazarus, Popof, Beltek, Phunk Investigation, or Tensnake. Thus far you’ve also never seen a stage at EDC featuring such live acts as New Order, Kraftwerk, M83, Miike Snow, Duran Duran, Underworld, Erasure, The Klaxons, The Killers, The Cure, Prodigy, or Chemical Brothers. Some of these acts are cutting edge. Some of them are what make up the heritage and origins of dance music. And assuredly all of them are just plain awesome. However none of them appear on this year’s or last year’s EDC line-ups and some probably will never play EDC. While EDC’s line-ups are undoubtedly great, they always seem to lack something compared to UMF’s line-ups. They cater less towards a well versed, discerning eclectic multi-national crowd and more towards a young eager audience that wants to hear the big hits of the moment played by the DJ’s that created them. UMF’s line-up is superior because it provides things that EDC does not and never will, and does so for a broader spectrum of festival attendees.
Thus I’ve come to the end of my UMF vs. EDC analysis. Unlike Alejandra I do not think that I can easily assert that one festival is better than the other, especially not in the lopsided way that she did. While I do feel that UMF has superior line-ups, this doesn’t necessarily matter to everyone out there. Both have their perks and their pitfalls, and in the end both are a lot of fun and will leave you smiling from ear to ear each day you attend. It really all just comes down to you and what your main concerns are when attending a festival. Everyone has their own set of priorities that will guide them to the festival that is right for them, or if you’re lucky enough, to both!