Nocturnal Wonderland 2018
This past weekend marked the 23rd edition of Nocturnal Wonderland and I could not have been more excited to attend. As North America’s longest running dance festival, it holds a special place in my heart. Nocturnal has been the only event still running at this venue to date. Over 65,000 headliners flocked to San Bernardino’s Glen Helen Regional Park for the black-lit neon playground. The event boasted four state-of-the-art stages, costumed creatures of the night, glowing art installations, camping activities, and top notch performances from over 60 artists. Main acts included AC Slater, Audien, Cristoph, Illenium, NGHTMRE & SLANDER plus much more.
Catering to a more mature crowd, this event carried drum and bass, a little bit of dubstep, and a lot of tech house. Black light shines everywhere, jungle vines and neon painted creatures pop out in different corners. I caught the tail end of Brennen Grey up at Sunken Garden. This stage had a lighthouse that situated at the dark corner atop of the hill with its search light circling. Grey’s set sounded comparable to the great Eric Prydz.
Heading down the hill to Danny Bryd, I thought to try some new music out. His drum and bass set kicked off the night perfectly. High energy and a hype man to let us know just who we were watching, I had a good feeling about this event. Jonas Rathsman brought the deep house vibes sprinkled with some tropical feels. Finding the Boombox Art car at the bottom of the hill in the back corner, Scooby performed some more DnB. The space around here is open so pushing through crowds was not necessary. Habstrakt performed his hype house music with trap at the Wolves Den. I heard about Cristoph but wanted to see him live so we made our way back to the Garden. Only the best deep, progressive house vibes found here.
My most anticipated artist of the weekend, no doubt, was Netsky. He delivered at the Labyrinth above and beyond my expectations. With his amazing drum and bass hits, he illuminated the crowd. Intensive energy from all his fans exuded for that hour set. I even heard some happy hardcore and hints of dub which threw more wildness into the air. It certainly fit the weekend’s theme. The greatest thing about this stage were the lasers!
Oscar Da Grouch had three rappers battling it out. I had never heard words spoken so fast but it was quite a show. For anyone in the area at that time, Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella roamed around and took pictures with everyone, myself included. Eli & Fur brought the smoulder of deep house vibrations. Their minimal, deep tech-house set showed that DJing is not just for the boys.
Figuring out who to close with was tough. I had to bounce around between Illenium, Nora En Pure, and Flux Pavilion. Illenium explored the bold and beautiful shades of bass but also mixed in his emotional hits as well. Flux put on a heavy bass/dub/trap set. I ended with Nora’s tropical deep house sound. Jumping and X-stepping all night requires a bit of calm.
Gearing up for day 2, Dateless caught my attention with his tribal tech house set. However, I had to catch BlackGummy as he is a legendary sound engineer. His unique prowess deems him worthy of the mau5trap label. I’ve been following his music for a while now so to see him live, it was great. AC Slater killed it as always. Mikey Lion B2B Lee Reynolds introduced me to the Desert Hearts label and they threw a party like no other. Tech-drenched house energy and attitude, this was a wicked performance.
Said the Sky had the feels coming out like waves. Boombox Cartel gave a unique set true to their sound. Throwing in some bass/dub and trap, the crowd got lit. Deorro returned to this event and gave us the best big room house anthems we’ve had since festivals began. Ending a predominantly house event with MK made the weekend all worth it.
Overall, I think this year’s event succeeded in its re-branding. The whimsical performers, live mural paintings, and psychedelic 3D art spoke to the child in all of us. While I didn’t get to camp this year, I know its tradition lives on and tops itself each time. It’s the perfect venue that casts the perfect vibe of outdoors and music festival. Despite one death, Insomniac continues to provide outstanding massives that we remember forever. As we enter Fall, I wait anxiously for the next event. Until next time–peace, love, night owls unite!
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