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The Electric Dancing of War Babies

Playing in theaters nationwide Thursday, August 4, 2011. Details here.

"The Electric Daisy Carnival Experience" captures a dance music scene I tend to find noisy and vapid. But that's me. If you're a big fan of DJ-based acts like 12th Planet, Major Lazer, Moby and will.i.am, or just a true devotee of the rave scene, this film is immersive, passionate about its subject and visually striking. Director Kevin Kerslake seems to have as many cameras on hand as the Beastie Boys handed out to concertgoers in their gonzo 2006 music doc "Awesome; I F----n Shot That!"

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It helps that Kerslake is a veteran music video director (R.E.M., Nirvana) whose career is probably older than most of the screaming kids in the crowd. He shows no restraint in dropping the camera deep into the mob like a performer into a mosh pit but doesn't let the chaos take over. It also helps that, right up front, like Michael Bay showing us a Victoria's Secret derriere in 3-D at the start of his last Transformers movie, Kerslake crams as many shots of unbelievably gorgeous girls doing cartwheels in clown makeup and lingerie as mathematically possible.

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The cuts may be more frenetic, but Kerslake's focus stays on the performances. The rapport between DJ and crowd keeps it closer in spirit to classics like "Woodstock" and "Wattstax" than the endless buy-our-tracks promotional DVDs that have passed for concert docs in recent years. The relentless pace and volume of a music video go on for over two hours here--exhausting for me, but it doesn't seem possible that the target audience for this film will be sitting still at a laptop in quiet room alone when this thing is streamed or screened.

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"Can you feel the love?" hollers DJ David Guetta to the shrieking thousands in L. A. Memorial Coliseum. And while the music he spins sounds sort of like an unusually rhythmic Nintendo DS game to me, it's hard to deny that this ocean of beautiful young dancing fools isn't getting something just as deep and soulful from these electronic chirps as did the flower children at Woodstock or the ghetto working stiffs at Wattstax.

Pasquale Rotella, the babyfaced CEO of Insomnia Events, the company that puts on this spectacle, describes club music as a modern extension of tribal spiritual rites. In talking heads interviews with friends and collaborators like will.i.am, we learn that Rotella rose to his powerful status in the house music scene P. Diddy style, from his start as a lowly show flyer distributor in high school. His passion as promoter and "the mirror image of the scene" helped him become what one insider calls "one of the five most powerful people in music today."

The youth movement on display here is pushing the same timeless peace and love message that made all the great music happenings memorable. If only I could stand the music itself. But if you can, this films should be a treat.

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Steven Boone is a film film critic, filmmaker and video vandal based in New York City. He champions big ideas and small budgets at Big Media Vandalism, writes about essential films at Keyframe and Press Play, and about his experiences with homelessness at Capital.

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