Phoenix Lights Festival 2016: A Field Guide to This Weekend's Event at Hance Park

Carbon-based life forms of the Valley, be warned: the phenomenon known as the Phoenix Lights will once again invade our city a few days from now, bringing with it an otherworldly aura and an array of colorful beings into our midst.

But before you start stocking up on ammunition or looking into alien abduction insurance, it bears mentioning that we aren't necessarily referring to the unidentified triangular-shaped array of lights that appeared over Arizona in 1997, but rather the local electronic dance music festival it inspired, Phoenix Lights.

Last spring, the outdoor EDM event brought thousands of dance music fanatics to downtown Phoenix for its inaugural edition, and looks to do the same this weekend when it returns for another visitation. And, by the way, it’s gotten a major upgrade.

As before, Phoenix Lights 2016 will offer close encounters with a number of chart-topping DJs and EDM artists. This time, however, it's expanded to a two-day affair taking place on Saturday, April 2, and Sunday, April 3, that will touch down in a new location, Margaret T. Hance Park.

Its lineup has also expanded and with twice as many performers promised, including such famed DJs and producers as Kaskade, Tritonal, Excision, Claude VonStroke, and Eric Prydz. Arguably the most recognizable name on the lineup is DJ Snake, whose collaborative hits with Lil Jon (“Turn Down for What”) and Major Lazer (“Lean On”) have been inescapable in recent years.

We, for one, welcome the invasion of these EDM overlords and have assembled a guide to Phoenix Lights 2016 to help prepare you for the experience.

When and where: Phoenix Lights will beam down on Saturday, April 2, and Sunday, April 3, at Margaret T. Hance Park. The festival rages from 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. each day.

Prices: General admission tickets are $69 per person for Saturday or $79 for Sunday, and $119 for a two-day pass. Big spenders eager to attend in style with such extras as private viewing areas and commemorative lanyards can opt for VIP access, which will run them either $99 or $109, depending on the day, or $179 for the weekend.

Age limits: Phoenix Lights is open to anyone 18 and older. Those 21 and older, however, can drink, provided they’ve got ID.

Daily lineups: Artists and DJs scheduled to perform on Saturday include Kaskade, Yellow Claw, SNBRN, Eric Prydz, BTSM, Illenium, 4B, and Jai Wolf. Sunday boasts an even bigger lineup of talents, including gigs by DJ Snake, Tritonal, Excision, Claude VonStroke, Drezo, Dr. Fresch, Ghastly, MK, Troyboi, Cut Snake, Bakermat, and Ephwurd.

Weather: As you might expect, it's going to be warm this weekend. The good news is that it won't be a heatstroke-inducing swelter fest. Temps will be in the neighborhood of 85 degrees during the hottest points both days, which means you'll want to bring sun protection, seek shade, and hydrate often. 

Getting there: Light rail is the way to go, since the station at Central Avenue and Roosevelt Street is mere blocks from Hance Park and it might help you avoid any DUI danger, space ranger. One-way tickets are $2 per person; an all-day pass costs $4. Several park-and-ride lots are situated along the light rail (including 19th Avenue and Montebello, Seventh Avenue and Camelback, and Central Avenue and Camelback) for your convenience. 

Parking: There are a number of spaces near Hance Park where you can leave your car for the afternoon and evening but, realistically, most will be taken by the time you get there. A better option is to head for one of the parking garages located further into downtown, which will run you anywhere from $10-$20 for the entire day and then hop aboard either the light rail or a pedicab to get you the rest of the way.

Food and drinks: Vendors and food trucks will have eats available for purchase and multiple bars will be serving those of legal age. A free water station will be available and both reusable bottles and CamelBak-like bladder systems are permitted if empty upon entry.

Bring: Definitely bring some ID, since you’ll need it to pick up tickets or purchase adult beverages. And since the bars and most vendors only take cash, hit up an ATM beforehand. Friendly vibes, glow toys, colorful outfits, and kandi are all encouraged, since this is an EDM event and all, but don’t forget a hat or other sun protection, since it's Arizona. You can also bring your grooviest totem (aka those sign-like decorated placards popular at festivals) but only if it's made from lightweight materials and is no bigger than 10 feet in height.

Don't bring: Any sort of drama or a disruptive attitude. Ditto for drugs, weapons, fireworks, eyedrops, large bags, or pets (Fido will have to rage at home). And as with any concert, forget about bringing any sort of laser device, whether it’s the thing you use to tease the cat or a blaster rifle. 

Still got some energy and mojo leftover after raging away for hours on end? Post-festival parties will take place each night at Monarch Theatre, headlined by Kaskade on Saturday and Datsik on Sunday. Doors open at 9 p.m. 
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.