Even The Glitter Is Bigger In Texas – A Look Back At Lights All Night 2013

*written by A’Damaged Pro for Electronica Life

Lights All Night is back!!! Dallas is ground zero for one of the most acclaimed parties to help close out 2013. Hosting an amazing lineup and stellar production, here is my account of what it’s like getting lost in the music. Enjoy…

I’m not even sure where to begin. Any time I try to reflect on a weekend that is responsible for countless smiles, my memory produces one of those high-speed flickery productions, reminiscent of an early Chaplin film. The key difference is that the movie in my mind’s eye is in full technicolor, replete with lasers and a killer soundtrack. It’s a good thing I brought my camera and my dancing shoes. Add the abilities to high five strangers and smile for prolonged periods and you, my friend, are as prepared as you’ll ever be.

Dallas, thank you for welcoming us back again. “Lights All Night.” The words themselves hold power, for those that have attended before and those that were indoctrinated properly this year. Our crew last year used them as a rallying battle cry. It’s ironic that you gear up like you’re going to “war,” only to be greeted by some of the happiest people on the planet. I’m not a doctor of metaphysics but when the music infiltrates your soul, it’s impossible to be outwardly unhappy. Don’t fight it. Embrace the experience and relish the freedom. I’m going to try my best to recount a blissful blur of: non-stop dancing, amazing production, migrating droves of uniquely bedecked rage-ready individuals, and, of course, the music that unites us all. I would like to thank Highland Concerts, MCP Presents, Eventbrite, and the wonderful crew over at Giant Noise for making this adventure possible for all of us.

With my media badge in hand and an open mind I’m prepared to tackle this event. I’m speculating, but I’m sure that an aerial view of the Dallas Convention Center (and at least 10 blocks in any direction) would look like neon ants being called back to the colony. Tutus, rhinestone-covered anything, fluorescent accessories, and non-prescription hipster glasses help the other pack animals identify you and your intended destination. Anticipation is present. Apprehension is a four letter word at this point. The only thing to fear is whether the lines will be long to get in or not, and there’s really no need to focus on that because as soon as that’s over, you’re in.

Every festival is different. The set-up. The organization. The amenities. The crowd. One thing that is always constant is that once you make it inside, even the air you breathe is electric. You checked your troubles at the door and you’re ready to venture into the night. Make a stranger your friend and go let your mind be infiltrated by the music. If you: respect yourself, respect others, and stay hydrated, your only obstacles will be finding your friends in the madness and making critical lineup decisions. Overall, that’s a small penance to pay for an unforgettable experience. If you’re ready, here we go.

Day 1

I complete a rough survey of the lineup and I already know I’m going to be running around for most of the night. There’s so much good music between the two stages and just one of me. I have to capitalize on the staggered set times in order to fully utilize the time allowed in the photo pit. Sounds simple enough. I’m glad I’m wearing comfortable shoes.

I love being exposed to new music so anytime I see a person/group on the lineup that I’ve never seen live before or have never even heard before, you can find me in the mix. Here’s a disclaimer that I feel compelled to include before I proceed: This is not going to be a set list. I did not run my battery down Spotify-ing the entire sets. I don’t get too caught up with the genre distinctions. We are in an age of fusion. Styles are blending. History is being made. Be a part of it or be apart of it. For the most part, you can safely speculate that the artists are feeding off the crowd’s energy and the music will be amazing. Even if the song playing isn’t exactly your thing, you can see countless others jamming out like there’s no tomorrow. To each their own, but at a festival we are part of something bigger. There’s a difference between listening and hearing. Just ask Wesley Snipes.

My first infusion of the night is the musical stylings of heRobust at the Boombox stage. This stage is comprised of a rectangular projection screen, several stories tall, with a balcony DJ perch in the middle. I don’t know what to expect. Random people describe his style as “gritty” and “in-your-face.” Descriptions like that definitely pique my interest. This guy is delivering as promised. The night is off to a great start.

Icona Pop is up next on the Main Stage. The Swedish duo have a sound quite their own. I’m hard pressed to use another artist or duo to describe their style. Their method of combining synth beats and live vocals is pleasing to my virgin ears. I must have been living under a rock to have never been exposed to them before, but they just earned a new fan. I’m not alone because the crowd seems to love them.

I’m ready for another round at the Boombox. This time it’s for Le Castle Vania. In my opinion he looks like he could be Richie Hawtin’s skateboarding younger brother. This guy is high energy right out of the gate. He’s got one hour to leave us with a lasting impression and he’s doing just that. The combination of the larger-than-life visuals and the hard-hitting baselines are extremely welcome. Let the transition into Sensory Overload Land begin.

Back at Main Stage, the Chipotle Gang head honcho, Carnage, is getting things started. I had never seen him live before either, but I was assured by some of the crew that you couldn’t miss this guy. I tip my hat to him on his showmanship alone. He doesn’t strike me as someone who has a verbal filter, but it sounded like he chose his words carefully. He hits the crowd the with classics and bangers. So far tonight, I’m thumbs up, 4/4, for artists that I’ve never seen live before. The momentum for the evening has taken over. Everyone is fully aware that the party is in full swing and we’ve still got the home stretch to go.

Hands reach to the sky and hearts are scattered throughout the venue as one of my favorite Dutchmen of all times, Fedde Le Grand, takes his place at Main Stage. The positivity this accomplished Dance4Life ambassador brings to his music is quite moving.  I’m in familiar territory, and I’m happy. I’m unbelievably happy. It adds a little extra something when the gentleman responsible for making thousands of people move and shake is all smiles, himself. It reminds us why we are here. You can’t buy a frequency alignment and harmonization on QVC, but you can get one here just by opening your ears and your hearts. Thank you, sir. Thank you.

A migration back to the Boombox is in order to get a healthy dose of something eclectic and funky. Griz and Gramatik are powerhouses in their own right, but when they connect like Voltron to become GrizMatik, you need to be aware that face-melting is a real phenomenon. They seamlessly blend genres across the board, resulting in an electro-funk medley so rich you can’t help but dance. You can’t be angry and listen to this music. Your body is designed to embrace this synergy. I’m not alone in this. In a packed house, real estate is at a premium, but I assure you everyone is at least owning their own private six inches to shuffle away.

It’s headliner time. The showdown between Canada and the U.S. is upon us. At Main Stage we have the reason there are Mau5 heads scattered throughout the audience, Mr. Deadmau5 himself, and at the Boombox we have the trio of Jahan, Yasmine, and Rain Man, formally known as Krewella. Time to exercise some strategy because both venues are completely packed. I guess all bathroom breaks and merchandise shopping was concluded before the starts of these sets because there are more people than I remember seeing all evening, and they are already to bring night one to a close, with a bang. My strategy is worthless because I want to hear as much as I can of both. What’s the solution in my mind? Stretch those legs out and prepare to make mad dashes between the stages. It’s not an ideal scenario but those are the breaks if you want to experience both. Deadmau5 begins his set with the feel of a deep electric symphony. Slow, drawn-out melodies that you know are providing the baseline for something much more intense as time progresses. Commence Mad Dash #1. As I approach the Boombox, I can already hear their heavenly voices as the ladies of Krewella regale the audience with some of their classics. All it takes is one look to see that these talented ladies truly enjoy what they do and the crowd genuinely appreciates their vigor. I look behind me and I can see around the curtain that divides the two rooms. Deadmau5 has picked up the pace considerably from earlier. Enter Mad Dash #2. He’s dropping classic after classic and this room is jumping, literally. You can feel the floor shake from the crowd. We are officially at DEFCON Level: Deadmau5. I want to finish out the night with a final serenade. It’s time for Mad Dash #3 back to the Boombox. Krewella is holding nothing back. They are showing so much love for their fans with this performance. I see people in tears, but I know they are tears of joy. We are sad to see Day 1 end, but it ended in style. It’s time to make the trek back to the hotel, wash off tonight’s rage, and regroup for tomorrow.

(click the picture above for more photos)

Day 2

Last night was a resounding success. My feet aren’t as sore as I thought they would be and I’m in super high spirits. The venue schematic and the schedule for tonight are burned into my mind. Three words to describe my attitude for tonight: I AM READY.

With the music on my mind, once inside I make a beeline for the Boombox. The first artist on my agenda for the evening is one of Ballerado’s finest, Paper Diamond. Knowing that he’s controlling the visuals and the music by himself just adds to the performance. “Diamonds in the sky if you feel my vibe.” Uttering these simple words whip this crowd into a frenzy. Spilled drinks are now a common casualty because these kids are bouncing. I mean we came to dance, right? The night is just beginning for me and I have a great feeling about what’s to come.

First up on my recommended “you have to hear this guy go crazy” list is none other than  the latex-masked mystery man, DJ Bl3nd. Once he starts dropping the fire he doesn’t let up. I can only imagine how hot he has to be under that mask because he is non-stop energy. I get hot just watching him. Maybe it’s the dancing. Maybe it’s the packed house. What’s the quick fix? Hydrate and keep dancing because this guy isn’t going to stop until he’s told to do so and even then it might be a challenge.

I’ve been listening to the next guy on my list for years but I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing him bring it in person. I find it extremely fitting that A-Trak is playing at the Boombox. His swagger and his styling seem rooted in the era of breakers, track suits, and, of course, boomboxes. Heavily influenced by early hip-hop, he uses his passion to bridge electro-bounce elements into a style that is all his own, and the crowd loves it.

It’s pretty standard to see a portion of the crowd transition, sometimes in large numbers, between sets to make their way to another stage. That didn’t happen here. Flags, banners, and signs dedicated to the Group Therapy maestros, Above & Beyond, have now been unsheathed and are proudly being displayed. It’s time to fill the air with uplifting melodies and outstretched arms. Their visual display takes us on a journey around the world and helps us prepare for the close of 2013.

Back at Main Stage, Nicky Romero has taken his place behind the decks. I have to mentally prepare myself for a healthy ration of Dirty Dutch House that I know I’m about to receive. The voice of Protocol Radio knows the recipe for a successful mix. His combination of big room bangers and audience interaction secure his place as a crowd favorite. It’s only human to have doubts about a performance when you have such high expectations, but it’s such a rewarding feeling when the artist in question does exactly what you hoped they would do…deliver the goods.

I promised myself last night that I didn’t want to spend the headliner sets running around again, but hearing migrating bystanders shouting “throw your lazers in the air” and seeing “Atmosphere” flags doesn’t make anything easier. Major Lazer or Kaskade? Why must I always have to choose? I decide I’m going to make a game of it. I won’t judge these sets on what I miss in-transit between them, but I will appreciate and relish every moment that is spent bathed in the music. I will be perpetually running towards the sounds that have synced up with my own heartbeat. I’m no longer running. The music has taken over and I’m being guided like a tractor beam between stages. My soul is taking everything in and my eyes can’t keep up. All I’m aware of is that great music is filling the entire space. Lasers, confetti cannons, streamers, balloons, and tons of glitter fill the air and cover the floor, respectively. At one point, Diplo takes to the crowd in one of those giant hamster balls. This is real life and it’s happening right in front of me. The hard drive in my brain for memories is approaching full capacity as the final sounds of the evening settle. We not only survived, we conquered.

My Lights All Night Veteran Pass has been stamped again. We march victorious into the streets. Old friendships have been made stronger. New friendships have been fused through the music. Everyone’s experience was different but one thing remains the same: good music brought us all together. Thank you Dallas, and thank you Lights All Night. Until we meet again…

(click the picture above for more photos)