EDC 2013: Under the Electric Sky, 2014
Directed by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz.
Starring Pasquale Rotella, Tiesto and Avicii.
A documentary following revelers at EDC 2013, the largest dance music event in North America.
3D shades aside, I prefer to go into festival films as blind as possible. It’s a dangerous game of movie roulette, the onscreen equivalent of the popular cinema snack Revels. To mix metaphors, EDC 2013: Under the Electric Sky was a coffee-flavoured bullet to the temple.
“I’m just stoked on life!” screamed one of the documentary’s subjects in the opening segment, an instant indicator of how much I would enjoy the film. EDC, the event’s organiser tells us, has become the largest dance music festival in North America, and the attending ravers are the best crowd in the world. Under the Electric Sky follows a few of them, escaping their normal lives to cover themselves in glitter and jump around in a stadium for three days straight. They’re all similarly ‘stoked on life,’ as the UV-painted girl yelled at the beginning – a rather hollow statement considering how many of them claim to only live for EDC, with the remaining 362 days presumably a form of purgatory. But they’re not just stoked on life…
Drugs are a strange element for the documentary to ignore, as they’re a huge part of rave culture. There are brief sections following the festival’s medical team, but they blame their patients’ conditions on too much alcohol – a hard pill to swallow (geddit?) when there is hardly a beer in sight. Water bottles, chewing gum and gurning, however, are abundant.
The documentary only follows those who don’t take drugs. One group had a friend who died from an overdose, so they’ve stopped, and others say they are HIGH ENOUGH ON LIFE ALREADY. To focus on the small minority who abstain is lying by admission. The tone comes across as horribly PR-driven and promotional.
That, however, is arguably digging up a tad more substance
abuse than necessary to explain why I disliked Under the Electric Sky so much. The real, mechanical reason as to why the documentary fails is that none of the people it follows are interesting.
They all claim to be outsiders and bullied at school, and that the festival is the only place they feel accepted. Which is a perfectly plausible feeling, because running around at work half-naked covered in UV paint wearing a horse’s head is generally frowned upon. But their collective plights ring a little hollow. The guys are mostly well-built slabs of muscle and the girls parade around with perfect tans and bikini tops.
Another documentary prances to mind, one that couldn’t be more opposite in its demographic: the fantastically heartwarming Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony. The subjects there genuinely are outcasts. One of the bronies lives in a backwater town with a population barely over 200. Abuse is yelled at him in the streets, windows have been smashed on his car. He really can’t be who he wants to be, and his subsequent meeting of likeminded folk is a profoundly heartwarming, moving moment. In comparison, it’s hard to empathise about the marginalisation of a group of jocks who call themselves the Wolfpack (and remind you by chanting the name every chance they get), or a differnt group of very attractive 20-somethings who all have orgies together.
Some people like coffee Revels. But they’re the die-hards, the ones that eat Revels day-in, day-out. They eat Revels, sleep, rave and repeat. I’m not the target audience for Under the Electric Sky, and it did nothing to convert me. Ironically for the dance music genre, there’s just no hook. The absolute rave-fanatics might enjoy this, but hardly anybody else. It’s just all surface level, and worse, focuses on people you simply can’t give two glow sticks about.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Oliver Davis is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors. You can follow him on Twitter (@OliDavis).