Sept 22 – 23, 2012
NOS Events Center
Over the weekend the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino was transformed into a magical Alice and Wonderland electronic dance music themed festival filled with five different stages, interactive art installations, pyrotechnics, themed performers and thousands of EDM fans dressed the part. Giving Disneyland a run for it's money, Insomniac Events created Nocturnal Wonderland for it's 17th annual journey down the rabbit hole and we are breaking down the two day event from A-Z with the good, the bad and the plain bad ass!
A – is for Axwell who rocked the shit out of the Labyrinth Main Stage closing out Friday night. With mash-ups like ASOL and Dyro's “Top of the World” vs. Wippenberg's “Pony” vs. Tommy Trash's remix of Aston Shuffle's “Won't Get Lost” the stage was in full rage mode. Though we heard Sebastian Ingrosso's set was pretty similar we give it up to the Swedes for knowing how get a party dancing and producing some of the sickest tracks of the season like “Greyhound” and “Don't You Worry Child.”
B – is for Bass, and we wish it was for good reasons. The sound systems were noticeably missing lots of bass and we hear it was due to noise complaints from the neighbors and new city regulations. Though the main stage could have been turned up a notch the Sunken Garden hosted by Bassrush filled most of our heart pounding drop desires with sets from the always incredible 12th Planet and legendary Andy C.
C – is for costumes. Our favorite part of Insomniac's wonderland parties are the chance to dress up and play a role in the interactive festival. Just like the DJs do their part in bringing their A game to the stage the thousands of EDM fans in attendance also spend countless hours preparing some of the most elaborate and intricate outfits. We saw everything from Street Fighter costumes to pasties.
D – is for Downlink, who at a time when the main stage was too mainstream, boring and predictable took us away in a fantastic bass heavy journey. With songs like Excision and Datsik's “Guess I Got My Swagger Back” and an MC that made me wish I knew more dubstep, Downlink was the perfect wicked escape into a world I'm still exploring.
E – is for EDM. We really hate this word and really only use it for SEO online purposes. Electronic Dance Music is really just dance music like the rest of the world calls it and we hope that the more we start to embrace dance music in the US people will see that it's far more than the stigmas EDM is given. Ranging in genres from house, electro, trance, dubstep and everything in between dance music has been evolving for decades and will only continue to get better.
F – is for Fedde Le Grand whom after begging Pasquale Rotella, Insomniac's CEO, to bring him back via Twitter we were completely disappointed with. Playing the same Beatport top 40 songs whom his predecessors on the main stage played we thought it was a snooze fest and wanted a little more originality. One Republic's “Apologize,” really? If you're going to play a song that's five years old at least make it classic.
G – is for the Gotta Dance Dirty crew who did an impressive job to team up with Vagabond and book the talent on the Wide Awake Art Cart. With acts like Long Beach's own Shae B, Dim Mak Studio's BONES and Miami's Troy Kurtz they kept us dancing dirty (we also saw a booty shaking contest) all night. The beats were bumping a Funktion One sound system and gave us an up close and personal Burning Man feel with some good house, tech and deep basslines.
H – is for hotel after parties. Since it was a two-day event, there was definitely an EDC-like feel to the festival and everyone wanted to keep the party going. From the Hilton to the Super 8 Motel, there were crazy after parties all over town keeping the music and plur (peace, love, unity and respect) vibes going till way past 6am with our own DJs, lights and lasers.
I – is for the Ice Cream Truck which was bumping reggae and some dub near the bar and general store. Since the tents and hangers lacked air conditioner even at night it got extremely hot. The ice cream truck was a chill place to take a break, cool off and still enjoy some bad ass music.
J – is for Jamie Jones who brought his signature underground deep and tech house sound to the Upside Down Room on Saturday night. This Crosstown Rebel was showing California what it's like to party in an Ibiza style like party with dim lights and very little LED walls or lasers. It's no wonder why Resident Advisor named him the number one DJ in 2011. The vibe in the room was sexy and left us wanting more.
K – is for Kandi Kids which are a huge part of the EDM scene and the original rave culture. Being a kandi kid is about taking who you are in the inside and physically representing it on the outside with bracelets (not always made of kandi but mostly beads) and other seemingly juvenile clothing. These plur kandi kids keep the loving, playful youthful vibe alive at EDM festivals and if they take the time to give you one you should feel honored and special.
L – is for “Levels” because for the first time in a very long time we didn't hear it every hour. Maybe it was because we stayed away from the Labyrinth Main Stage and explored all of the other incredibly talented artists being showcased. From the Discovery Project winners to the trance at Alice's House. We were just glad the song wasn't in every set we heard.
M – is for Mat Zo. This Anjunabeats artist showcased how you can step out of a genre box and still move an audience. He hooked us by opening with Shade Sheist's “Where I Wanna Be” featuring Nate Dogg and Kurupt. With mash-ups like his original track “Mozart” with Simian & Mobile Disco's “We Are Your Friends” he helped us forget about the shitty lighting and lasers and made us lost in the music spliced with some really epic bangers.
N – is for Norin & Rad, another Anjunabeats record label duo straight from Orange County. For those of you who thought trance can't go hard they had the crowd blowing whistles, shuffling and hollering. Sticking to the Group Therapy theme they also played songs like their remix of Above & Beyond and Andy Moor's “Air For Life” which had one of the biggest drops we heard all night!
O – is for Omma. Though we loved all the music, the art instillation were also a big part of Nocturnal Wonderland. During the day, they adorned the landscape and as the sun went down they came to life. The Omma was a sculpture which illuminated the right side of the lake and had two giant feet to sit on or rest against.
P – is for Pretty Lights. Honestly we have no idea what
they are he keeps doing at EDM festivals, but for those who like to smoke some dub and just chill out and let the soulful music move them this was the place to be with all of the crazy visuals, giant squid thing in the middle of the crowd and rocking beats.
Q – is for Queen's Grounds. This stage was closed on Friday, but brought some of the most unique electronic artists from Orbital to Neon Indian and everything in-between. Early on we heard some rocking electro with Dimitri Vega & Like Mike and later on we got intense with a live performance from Röyksopp. We loved the variety and kept coming back for more.
R – is for Raging! There was straight up raging going on everywhere you went. Minds were blown and faces were melted with the amazing array of artist. Yet most important where the “Headliners” which were the thousands of fans in attendance dancing their asses off until they went home tired, bruised, defeated and yet satisfied. Congrats!
S – is for Spin the Vote. Insomniac is known for their community involvement and dedication to enrich the lives of it's fans past the gates of the festival. They partnered with Rock the Vote to encourage young people to have their voice heard and register to vote at their events. Skeptically we asked ourselves if people would really take the time to stop by. But they managed to make the booth so fun and interactive that we saw it busy all weekend.
T – is for ticket prices. We know talent is getting more expensive, permits are rising and inflated prices of everything makes prices go up but if you are going to double the ticket prices then you would at least think that production would be better not worse. The elevated ticket prices were also perhaps a major cause of the attendance drop, so maybe it was a good thing because we had plenty of dancing room.
U – is for UMEK who, for those of you who didn't check ahead of time, canceled his performance at Nocturnal Wonderland due to “illness” two weeks in advance. He posted on his Facebook that he had to “take a few weeks off to regenerate from heavy touring in the last few months,” but we sure heard a lot of people missed the memo and were complaining about the absence all night.
V – is for VIP. It's really funny how much the VIP bottle service clientele has grown over the past couple of years. We understand Insomniac has some high profile attendees that need the VIP treatment, but besides your own private bar it's not even near as fun as raging in the crowd, sweating balls and feeling the bass in your face.
W – Is for W&W. As usual W&W stole the show at Alice's House to what looked like a sea of people from backstage. You know the set is good when the DJs them self are jumping up and down enjoying it. They went hard remixing lots of classic trance anthems like Above & Beyond's “Sun & Moon” with their signature hypnotizing sound. We still have all the “woo, woos” ringing in our ears.
X – is for XTC or ecstasy which we know there was plenty of going around. We aren't sure how many times we got asked for “Molly,” but for some reason it seems like there is always a shortage on the second day. Too many kids going hard the first day we figure.
Y – is for YOU. The biggest attraction to Nocturnal Wonderland is what YOU bring to the festival. You're outfits, your positive attitude, your light shows and dance moves it all adds to the experience. Sometimes it's nice to get away from the masses and explore, make a new friend or find a new act you never thought you would like. You are the magic Insomniac just gives you a place to show it freely.
Z – is for Zoa. We can't express enough how much these kinds of festivals are really what you make of them. Sure it's great to get sloshed and get wild to your favorite DJ with all your friends. But there are plenty of other magical things to explore like the rides and art installations. The Zoa was another favorite because it was conveniently next to the rides and epic trance stage.