A Mad Journey At Beyond Wonderland Bay Area 2014

We’re all mad here, I’m mad, you’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cheshire Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

White rabbits, purple grinning cats, red queens, mad hatters, and Alices of all different shapes and sizes descended upon the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, to create a special kind of madness at the third annual Beyond Wonderland Bay Area. The weekend was a journey through a vibrantly colored rabbit hole into a world of pulsating bass; it is a world that came to life by the movement of all those searching to go beyond wonderland. Although this was my first “Wonderland” experience, I already had expectations walking in because of my previous experience with Insomniac’s more global festival brand, Electric Daisy Carnival. I knew the production, music, and overall experience would be on point and was worth traveling to the other side of the country for a mid-size music festival. What I received in return was way more than I had ever expected.

“There is a place, like no place on earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger. Some say, to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter. Which, luckily, I am.”

Initial entry was a pleasant, expedient process even with the thorough searches. Upon entering, I noticed the plethora of available concessions and the presence of knowledgeable staff answering questions and directing attendees to the right places. What immediately won me over with this venue was the fact that they allowed us to use the onsite restroom facilities and maintained the cleanliness during the whole weekend. The natural setting and perfect Bay weather topped off the “why this venue is the ideal location” list.

Queen’s Domain
Queen’s Domain was the home of the smoking caterpillar and many of the top billed DJs of the weekend with its storybook design and other worldly laser and LED display. Paul Oakenfold mixed it up early on Saturday with trance tailored for the main stage. Oliver Heldens picked up the pen and continued the weekend’s journey with his brand of futuristic house.

Mat Zo put on a genre defying show especially when ‘Sandstorm’ was dropped in to a Hardstyle remix and then a Trap remix. Above and Beyond closed out Saturday with a full hour and a half of Anjunabeats greatness. Unfortunately, the audio cut out for a brief moment in the beginning. However, Tony and Paavo quickly regained their momentum and had the crowd swooning in no time. Sunday was an equally diverse selection of music at the main stage with the likes of Audien, Showtek, and Dada Life. Kaskade befittingly closed out the weekend for his beloved Bay Area fans complete with fireworks and feels.

The Mad Hatter’s Castle was a wild corner of wonderland featuring artists such as Myon & Shane 54, Cedric Gervais, DJ Snake, and GTA. From Melbourne Bounce to Trap to Hard to Electro, you could get your madness fix here. A highlight at Mad Hatter’s, and certainly for the weekend as well, was seeing house legend Donald Glaude throw down an energetic, funky set early on the first day. Accompanied by his pineapples, Destructo also provided one of the more memorable sets emanating from this corner of the grounds.

Cheshire Woods
Cheshire Woods was like a world of its own nestled in a wooded spot on the opposite side of the main grounds. Saturday was a bass heavy affair with Drum and Bass and Dubstep ruling Cheshire Woods. Dieselboy, 12th Planet, Crizzly, and Doctor P catered to the bass heads with Pendulum spinning a DJ set to close out the first night. Sunday was a mass gathering of the Trance Family as sounds of psychedelic and uplifting trance spilled from the gates of Cheshire Woods. It was hard for any member of the Trance Fam to pull away from Cheshire as Sunday’s lineup was completely stacked from beginning to end. Jordan Suckley and Psymon Patterson obliterated the grounds with their dark, galloping BPMs, while the uplifting sounds of Photographer, Andrew Rayel, and Aly & Fila transcended you to soaring heights.

The Boombox Art Car was a great chill spot at the bottom of a grassy knoll. The urban design of the stage was playful as costumed performers danced and acted on top of the “buildings” and “boombox”. Hosted by the Discovery Project on Saturday, aspiring DJ/Producers showcased their talents on the decks inside the Boombox. On Sunday, the Boombox Art Car dived deep into the groove with artists such as Kidnap Kid, Henry Krinkle, and Justin Jay. The French Express label was represented strongly by two of its mainstays, Perseus and Moon Boots. A personal highlight of the weekend was Moon Boots’s two and half hours of pure vibes overtaking the intimate crowd as the sun dipped below the hills.

“Have I gone mad?
“I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers.
“But, let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”

The music. The lights. The art. The experience always comes full circle with all the bright, interesting characters that bring the weekend to life. It’s been a few years since I’ve attended a California massive, and Beyond Wonderland reminded me why I missed it so much. There is a manic energy that I haven’t quite experienced anywhere else and an unparalleled vibe in the scene. The random, ridiculous conversations, passing smiles, twerk lessons from strangers, and impromptu dance offs put the “wonder” in wonderland.

Although the media sensationalized the issues associated with the event, Beyond Wonderland Bay Area was certainly a success in its third year, and second time at the Shoreline Amphitheatre. The number of arrests was similar as the year prior and noise complaints reduced by over half from the number of complaints from the previous year. Insomniac also donated $20,000 to a local creative program called the Oakland Youth Radio/Youth Media International which helps train young people interested in video, music production and graphic design.

We’d like to thank Insomniac for putting on yet another quality event, the DJs for making the weekend’s soundtrack, Shoreline for a great venue, and the Bay Area and its people for the hospitality and smiles. Until our next adventure, stay curiouser and curiouser.

Photography by Andrew Dang
Quotes from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll