"[Rotella] had the money to be able to invest in this and build proper stages," says Ryan Raddon, a.k.a. Kaskade, who just recently sold out the Staples Center—where U2 and Lady Gaga play when in town—in Los Angeles. "'Cause I think before he came along, a lot of the guys were doing these shows and promoting parties, but people weren't putting the thought and the time into the production aspect of it. So, it's like you'd go there and you'd set up on a card table. It's like, man, I think we can do a little better than this."
That's not to say music wasn't on the agenda. "I think Insomniac's really smart because they understand the role of the music and how it relates to the people going to the show," Raddon says. "They've had a lot of stuff talking about 'the experience,' but early on, Pasquale was very involved and he knew the importance of booking the right musical acts to make sure that experience was what it should be."
Those shows helped foster to a semi-underground rave community whose size waxed and waned over the years but that Insomniac remained unwaveringly aligned with. "When dance music was at a low ebb in the mid-2000s, Pasquale was still flying the flag," says Paul Tollett, president and founder of Goldenvoice, the company behind Coachella. "He's been the most consistent force in the country."
Tollett's a prime example of how Rotella's work has impacted the industry at large. The Goldenvoice chief said that a show he financed with Pasquale in 1997 became "one of the inspirations for Coachella," which had its first run in 1999. That festival, held yearly in the California desert, prizes rock and hip-hop alongside dance, but also features gargantuan art installations, roaming performers, and other interactive amenities. The emphasis for Goldenvoice on "experience" has paid off: Advance general admission and VIP passes for both weekends of Coachella 2013 were long gone not even a full month following Coachella 2012, with not even a hint at a line-up announced. Attendees are wrapped up in the veritable aura of those Empire Polo fields: green grass, fringed everything, sunshine, optimal settings for Instagram shots, and the kind of spectacular non-musical amenities pioneered in part by Insomniac.
"When Pasquale was doing major production on stages, hospitality and perimeters at his shows six or seven years ago, 95 percent of the promoters in the USA were just setting up a stage with some speakers and a few lights," says John Dadzie, also known as the an up-an-coming dubstep and drum-and-bass artist/producer 12th Planet. "Now everyone is in a rush to either match or beat the production at an Insomniac party. But unless you're Burning Man, you have a major uphill battle ahead of you."***
For all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into his events—Which Ferris wheel to book? Which costume designer for the performance troupe? Which artists to build 50-foot-tall flaming installations?—Rotella has become something of a celebrity himself. Like any good, empire-overseeing star, he's in constant touch with fans over Twitter, even responding to individual comments issued from long lines outside venues. He's dating former Playboy model and reality-TV star Holly Madison (who's almost about to give birth to their baby girl), and a Hollywood biopic about his life is in the works. (Rotella say she's flattered by the choice of actor to play him: "Way better looking than me.")