Event Recap: Lights All Night

It’s not every day you get the chance to be in the same building as some of electronic music’s biggest names and even bigger fans. It’s even more rare to do it two nights in a row. But that’s exactly what Lights All Night did for Dallas and everyone who traveled across land and oceans to be there.

We, like over 20,000 others, left our regular lives behind early on Friday, Dec. 30 and set a course to the Dallas Convention Center where we’d get to witness first hand the genius that is Tiesto, Benny Benassi, Laidback Luke, Diplo, Excision, Flux Pavilion, and so many others. I could feel the energy and passion of the EDM community as we excitedly walked through the doors and entered one of three massive rooms filled with intense sound, stimulating lights and vibrant, beautiful people.

Tiesto at Lights All Night 2011 in Dallas, Tex.

» View our complete photo album from Lights All Night here.

And no matter what genre of electronic music you call favorite — trance, house, dubstep, or the many others — there really was something for everyone at Lights All Night. With such an stellar lineup on the first night alone, it was sometimes tough to decide which stage to occupy but I was able to move between the rooms relatively easily to see parts of several performances.

We arrived during Ladback Luke’s set in the Dance Hall and I was able to see most of Benny Benassi and Tiesto and parts of Excision and Flux Pavillion in the Bass Hall.  Having seen Benassi at Escape from Wonderland in October, I was eagerly awaiting his set and he certainly didn’t disappoint. He also surprised us with a special appearance and live performance by Gary Go, the man behind vocals on Benassi’s ever-so-popular “Cinema.” The crowd went wild when he unexpectedly sampled Skrillex’s Cinema remix.

As the night progressed, the crowds in each hall slowly started to shift as people made their way to see Tiesto close down the night with his 1-3 a.m. set. This was the first time I had seen Tiesto live, and while some thought his energy level was not as high as normal, I certainly didn’t notice. With a killer mix of his own releases and sampling of plenty of mainstream tracks, he certainly kept the crowd fully amped all the way to the finish. A personal favorite was his remix of Rihanna’s “We Found Love” as the room was flooded with pure shades of yellow. It’s also amazing how well branded Tiesto has become. Graphics promoting “Club Life” — Tiesto’s radio show, podcast and compilation album series — seemed to dominate the LED screens.

While we weren’t able to stay for the second night, the Facebook and Twitter comments have proved that it was possibly even better than the previous night. Girl Talk headlined and rang in the new year Dallas-style complete with a perfectly timed massive balloon launch in each dance floor. Night two also brought performances by Ghostland Observatory, Pendulum, Wolfgang Gartner, Caspa, Porter Robinson, Neon Indian and Felix Cartal. And unlike some of the other NYE festivals going on around the country, I didn’t hear of any performance cancellations or delays either night.

On the technical side of things, the audio quality was pure, rich and intense…especially if you were standing near the stage. You could literally feel the bass ripple through your body one beat and bass drop at a time. The only disappointing thing for me was the lighting. Since there was such a large area for the lighting effects to spread out, it didn’t seem to be as focused and the back sides of the rooms were almost too well lit.  I mainly expected to see more lasers, but it seems those were used more on the second night (perhaps because they’re always a part of Ghostland’s show). I also would have loved to see more professional dancers on stage and around the venue as they can often keep a crowd energized when the music may not. Perhaps Insomniac’s amazing experiential productions have spoiled me a bit.

Logistically, the event ran more smoothly than some of the larger events I’ve attended. While it’s typical to see disruptions and confusion when you get such a mass amount of people together, that certainly wasn’t the case here. We found the entrance security lines to be quick and relatively painless when we arrived around 9:30. The bathrooms were easy to find and lines were manageable. The event staff members were friendly, helpful and seemed to legitimately care about the safety of everyone in attendance. Even the somewhat chaotic exit out of the convention center down several flights of stairs at the end of the night seemed to go off without any problems, though it took some patience to wait it out. There did however seem to be some frustration with the continuous wristband scanning that was required as you moved between rooms. I realize the purpose is to control capacity levels, but it just seemed like an overly cumbersome way to do it.

All that being said, EDM events are really about so much more than the music or dancing. For me, it’s about the total experience. It’s about the special effects that bring the music to life. It’s about the outfits and costumes that define personalities. It’s about the unique community of people who proclaim peace, love, unity and respect as their living motto. There’s an entire culture that has been built around these events that most don’t even know exists until you attend one yourself.

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend this amazing event and I want to thank the entire crew at Highland Entertainment and MCP Presents for organizing and the folks at GIANT Noise for granting us media credentials and being so pleasant to work with.

On a final personal note, I’m proud to have introduced two of my close friends, Drake and Andrew, to the electronic festival scene and PLUR community for the first time at Lights All Night. You could see a transformation taking place in them as the night progressed. On the car ride home, Drake tweeted “@tiesto made a believer out of me! Life changing night. #hooked.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. If you were there and would like to share something about your experience, let us know in the comments.

Be sure to check out our short video recap here.

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Kent Otto

Kent is founder and editor-in-chief. He's always had a love and passion for music of all types, but didn't discover the music festival scene and community until moving to Southern California during his early post-college years. He returned to his roots in the Midwest in 2011 and has since been determined to share the magic and beauty of the music scene with as many as possible. Email kent@edmcalendar.com.

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