Despite the weather however, Insomniac made sure its attendees were in for a safe and magical evening down the rabbit hole of this Alice in Wonderland themed event. Thousands of EDM fans came out prepared, dressed in rain boots and umbrellas ready to rave in the rain! Insomniac took care of everything--from chartering buses, giving traffic advice, selling ponchos and sweatshirts, covering all five stages with tents or putting them indoors. They even made the longest tent ever used on the main stage for the event.
This main "Queen's Domain" stage was hosted by Armin Van Buuren's "A State Of Trance" radio show, which is streamed live to 20 million listeners on 60 stations in more than 50 countries. For over a decade Armin has brought ASOT all over the world bringing the top trance DJs to play for millions of fans live. To celebrate the 550th episode, Armin is streaming six different shows in five different countries throughout the month of March. A State of Trance hasn't come to LA since New Years Eve 2008 for a special Armin Only event at Together As One and the anticipation was phenomenal.
One of the most mindblowing performances of the evening in the ASOT tent was by John O'Callaghan who must have made the trance gods happy. Everyone danced so hard it even made the rain stop for quite some time. His set brought forth a plethora of trance tunes and hard hitting bass tracks, including his remix of Gareth Emery's "Concrete Angel" which seemed to be the anthem of the evening. The Russian Arty also stood out; at such a young age, he has produced amazing music. His set included his Dirty South Remix of "Walking Alone" which I almost fell in love to as I danced in the VIP section with a mysterious Italian man. He also premiered his latest song (still untitled for now) with BT and Nadia Ali as the crowd chanted his name over and over again in delight.
When Armin Van Buuren took the stage, he put us all in a state of trance with his euphoric tracks, remixes and mash-ups. No one will forget his visual light shows, the adoration of the raging crowd, songs like "Brute" dropping hard, and van Buuren's intense energy as he jumped up and down. When he stood on the stage with an American flag proclaiming peace and unity in the trance family it brought tears to everyone's eyes. Sied Van Riel described the experience best as he got off stage and spoke with Armin: "It sounds so cliché but you see the people, the signs and all the hearts and all you can feel is love. My fourth year performing ASOT and this was the most insane!"
That love shared on stage between the DJ and the audience is what dance music lovers live for. I know the stigma EDM festivals get, but I was 100 percent dead sober and was still on the most amazing high from the energy, wonderful melodies and hard-hitting bass. People say dance music is just a bunch of "ravers" and "hippies," but are they really trying to pretend that people don't go to any other major music festivals (such as Coachella) without frying their brains or getting wasted beyond belief?
There is drug use and binge drinking anywhere you go--whether it's a hip-hop show, rock concert or an EDM festival--but that doesn't mean you have to be on anything to enjoy the music. That high you get from being amongst thousands of other dance music lovers belting out your favorite tune, dressed crazy and freely expressing your love for music, art and the culture is something you can't begin to put into words, let alone stereotype in a box. And you definitely don't need to be on drugs to feel it.
The other five stages all hosted world renowned talent filled with the same love from big room and tech house, drum and bass, dubstep and electro. I literally did everything (besides drink or take drugs) as if I was Alice on a wild adventure. I partied backstage in the trailers with artists one moment, and was held up on someones shoulders as Steve Aoki poured champagne and confetti in the crowd the next. Aoki's was by far one my favorite sets of the night. If anyone knows how to party it's Aoki, and he made that "Caterpillar's Garden" room rage and dance so hard I came out sweating in 40 degree weather.
Steve Aoki premiered a bunch of new music off his new album and made us go into "Turbulence" with his stage diving and raft raving antics. He even married a couple on stage and threw a Dim Mak cake into a fans face! But the ultimate highlight was having Blink182's Travis Barker come out and perform "Cudi the Kid" live with him. He brought out the entire Dead Meat tour group and took a giant group photo with the artists and the crowd to highlight what a special evening it was.
Insomniac's state of the art production, lighting, design, theatrical performances (such as go-go dancers dressed as rubber duckies dancing on stage with umbrellas), art installations--there was even a tank with swimming mermaids in it--all added to the magic of everyone's Beyond Wonderland experience. Whether you were getting lost in the music at the trance stage or shaking your booty at the drum and bass stage we were all sharing our love for the music in a unique wonderland themed experience. The rain didn't stop anyone; in fact, it made us that much closer because we were all facing mother nature together down a crazy wet ride into the rabbit hole of EDM music heaven.
Critics Bias: I only like to critic a performance if I watch the entire set, but I did catch a good chunk of EDX, Hardwell and AN21 and Max Vangeli at the "Madhatter's Castle" and they were an awesome hard hitting dance party!
The Crowd: There was PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity and Respect) being spread everywhere you went including from the staff.
Overheard in the Crowd: I thought it was funny when Armin asked a couple girls who they were most excited to see live on the ASOT radio show and they said ATB who was playing at a different stage.
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Random Notebook Dump: Insomniac owner Pasquale Rotella was walking around incognito wearing an Ape/Monkey mask with a suit for a bit if you were lucky enough to catch him.