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Originally published Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 3:05 PM

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‘Under the Electric Sky’: Music fest dances to its own beat

A movie review of “Under the Electric Sky,” a documentary about the 2013 Electric Daisy Carnival, a three-day electronic-music festival. It got three stars on a scale of four.


San Francisco Chronicle

Movie Review ★★★  

‘Under the Electric Sky,’ a documentary directed by Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz. 85 minutes. Rated PG-13 for suggestive material, partial nudity, drug references and brief strong language. Pacific Place.

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Except for electronic-music aficionados, the appeal of “Under the Electric Sky” — a documentary about the 2013 Electric Daisy Carnival — will not be the music or the behind-the-scenes glimpses of celebrity DJs. The appeal will be of having an encounter with something you completely do not understand.

Needless to say, not everyone will be in the mood for that kind of experience. But if you approach this documentary in a tolerant, anthropological frame of mind, it does have its rewards. You get to witness a foreign subculture, with its own aesthetics, values and heroes. And you get to meet people participating within it — people who talk about why this thing they’re doing is not just great, but transcendent. Indeed, the less you connect with the music, the more foreign this film seems, and the more interesting it becomes.

The Electric Daisy Carnival is an electronic-music festival that takes place in several cities, though in Las Vegas it’s on an epic scale. It goes on for three days and features many hours of acts playing on various elaborate, brightly colored stages. These stages are flanked by amusement park rides, and the party goes on each night until daylight.

The movie follows a variety of people who converge on the event. There’s a jolly couple in their 30s, a rather sweet young woman suffering from recurrent anxiety, a group of rowdy guys grieving the drug death of a close friend and a half-dozen or so good-looking young people participating in group marriage. We see all of them looking forward to the Electric Daisy Carnival like salvation approaching. Their love of this is so earnest and so complete that you either write them off as crazy or start looking forward to the big event, too. Do the latter, and you’ll enjoy the movie.



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