This past weekend was a special one for the team over at Insomniac Events. They said goodbye to one of their most iconic event/venue duos: Glen Helen Regional Park and Nocturnal Wonderland. This past weekend saw 80,000+ headliners take to the park over the course of two extraordinary nights in order to send off the beloved venue. With this being “America’s longest-running dance music festival”, what more could we ask for?
This years festival was made up of three massive stages, each with its own spectacular vibe, catering to a specific sound. These three stages consisted of ‘Wolves Den’, ‘Labyrinth’, ‘Sunken Garden’, and that of the ‘Parliament Art Car’. The weekend saw 60+ artists take the stages, with even more if you count the camping-exclusive silent discos. If you happened to be in attendance this weekend, you know exactly the madness that took place. If not, check out below, exactly what you missed out on.
Prior to this year’s Nocturnal Wonderland, I had never camped at an event – much less a music festival. I’m the type of person who absolutely adores an air-conditioned hotel room, loves taking a shower after a night of sweaty, crowded dancing, and enjoys sleeping in till the next days festivities. By camping, I got none of these things, with that being said, I would do it again.
Camping included numerous activities that were not available to normal festival attendees. A few of these included the water park, a ‘Kandi-Workshop’, a slack-line class, a tie-dye party, & Chakra-rebalancing. There was also a pretty sweet yoga session that loads of people took part in. One of my favorite parts of camping at nocturnal wonderland, was the communal feeling that I shared with my fellow campers, and ravers. I can only imagine how this must feel at an even bigger festival event.
One other aspect of camping I thought was amazing was not having to worry about traffic getting to the event, or finding my way back home or to my hotel after the event. Another added bonus to camping was being the fact that I was able to leave the festival for a breather at any moment, and go relax in my tent. I tried not to do this too much, as the festival was rather short, and I wasn’t exactly there just to relax. There was music to be heard!
Pre-Party & Silent Discos
My absolute favorite part of the Nocturnal Camping experience was the silent disco. There was a special pre-party held just for campers before the festival even took place, which included everyone from Champagne Drip, SayMyName, Dr. Fresch, Schade, and Franklyn Watts. These artists played with a vengeance, as if they had something to prove, and I was absolutely loving it.
After SayMyName took the stage, the ‘Full Moon Pre-Party’ turned into a full-fledged silent disco, as this was when the noise ordinances took effect. If you were there, you would know the disco was anything but silent. The silent discos continued throughout the weekend, and was honestly a bit too much for this first time camper. After joining in on the pre-party festivities the first night, I retreated to my tent to rest for day two. I missed out on the silent disco day one (which ran till 6 A.M.) but managed to rest up for day two of Nocturnal Wonderland. Fair trade in my book.
I had the pleasure of covering Nocturnal Wonderland with my fellow writer Tiffany Pridanonda. This is what she had to say about the Wolves Den:
Nocturnal’s main stage returned with an even bigger and better Wolves Den compared to the last year’s stage. The massive infrastructure was adorned by a massive array of giant LED screens. The beauty of this set-up at Glen Helen became truly astonishing when the sun would start to set behind the crowd, and the stage became engulfed in the warm ribbons of the sky. Saturday’s lineup threw down with artists like Drezo, K?D, Snakehips, Deorro, Alan Walker, and Jauz closing out the night.
Sunday’s lineup focused more on the heavy G-house basslines of artists like Dr. Fresch, Chris Lorenzo, Joyryde, Malaa, and DJ Snake. Saymyname, Wenzday, and Kyle Walker also invigorated the stage with their lively sets. Joyryde called out his ryders with an adrenaline-packed set as his sportscar visuals displayed on the LED panels. Wolves Den by far had the most impressive display of pyrotechnics and fireworks.
If you know me, you know that I’m the kind of guy who loves all things 4-on-the-floor. This means house, techno, trance, progressive, and the like. You can even throw hardstyle into that mix. What I’m not big on, unfortunately, is bass. More specifically, I’m not a fan of the newer styles of bass music like riddim. But I have been known to listen to trap, dubstep, and all of the other bass music genres – so don’t label me an anti-basshead just yet.
That being said, as a writer reviewing music festivals, I feel like it is my duty to step out of my comfort zone. It’s important to check out the music I’m not very fond of, the artists I’ve never seen, and the stages I normally avoid. For this reason, I spent a great deal of my time at Nocturnal Wonderland at the Labyrinth stage. I tagged along with my biggest bass-head friends. The type of people who couldn’t get over the fact I had never heard of certain artists. These were artists like Zeke Beats, Sumthin Sumthin, Bleep Bloop and Peakaboo. Boy, was I in for a treat.
Saturday at Labyrinth was hosted by Deadbeats. This night ended with a set by the label-heads themselves, Zeds Dead. The day started early with a Frostybyte set, which was then followed by Sumthin Sumthin. At this point in the day I was just making my way into the venue. Luckily, the stage was set up right by the entrance, meaning I couldn’t get away.
I managed to catch Lick, who I had been following on Twitter for quite some time. I made it a point to check him out, and was easily impressed. Up next was Champagne Drip B2B Zeke Beats, and I could tell that the heat was started to turn up a bit. I remember being mesmerized by some of Zeke’s visuals, and thinking to myself “WTF”. I’m pretty sure this occurred more than once. I had managed to catch a bit of Eprom before I left to get some water, as he is one of the DJs that I have seen before. The dude is great at what he does.
I returned for the rest of Gentlemans Club, and prepared for what was easily my most hyped set of the night, Subtronics. Now, if you haven’t heard of Subtronics, he’s been absolutely smashing the bass scene lately. Literally, breaking necks, and cashing checks. His discography speaks for itself, and while i’m not huge on this style, his collab with Griz speaks for itself. For a solid hour Subtronics smashed the Glen Helen dancefloor, showing why he is one of the hottest artist out right now.
From here on I managed to catch just a bit of Ganja White Night, before I ventured off to grab a refreshment as I had just seen at one of my prior festivals. Sorry boys. I ended up catching a bit of Alan Walker as I walked to grab myself a drink, before watching some Zeds Dead. After this, I made my way to the main stage and caught the end of Jauz at the main stage.
Day two of the Labyrinth stage was hosted by none other than Bassrush. Bassrush is known for the harder styles of bass music, and this day was no different. I ventured around the venue, and caught some of the other stages, as I wanted to make sure catch Bleep Bloop midway through the night. I did just this, and was pleasantly surprised. He indeed brought the bleeps, and even more bloops. This is an artist that I wouldn’t mind seeing again, his eclectic sound design, is out of this world.
Peekaboo is one artist who really piqued my interest, with just his name alone. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but after catching his set I was most definitely blown away. Peekaboo is known for what is known as his ‘freeform’ & ‘space’ bass takes on the dubstep genre. If you listen to his tracks, i’m sure you could agree it sounds a bit like Subtronics at times. This was a good set, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. G Jones was next. It was easy to see from the reaction of the crowd, this was going to be a fun one.
The hype surrounding G Jones was unreal, as this was an artist multiple people kept talking about all weekend long. If you’re unfamiliar with G Jones, you should check out a set from his ‘The Ineffable Truth Tour‘. If not, listen to his set from Porter Robinson’s Second Sky is just as good. This was my first time seeing Jones, and after doing so I can see why everyone loves him.
Next up was Black Tiger Sex Machine, stylized as BTSM. This was a group that I had never seen before, but as I bought their jersey if only to stay warm at this past EDC, I felt it was only right to check them out. I donned my sleek BTSM jersey and took to the stage after refilling my Camelbak. I was not ready for the intense vibe that they brought.
The group is made of up Julien Maranda, Marc Chagnon, and Patrick Barry , who all wear light up tiger helmets and play live. They are as bass, as bass music can get, and it shows. For a taste of what they bring to the table check this out. I skipped out on Zomboy, as he’s another artist i’ve seen numerous times, and instead my way to see the epic Camelphat B2B Solardo set, a bit of Mat Zo‘s epic D&B set, and ended my night with the legend, DJ Snake.
I had the pleasure of covering Nocturnal Wonderland with my fellow writer Tiffany Pridanonda. This is what she had to say about the Sunken Garden:
While Wolves Den and Labyrinth hosted some of the biggest mainstage acts for both days, house music blossomed at the Sunken Garden. Sunken Garden came to life through a nautical themed, rustic lighthouse that overlooked the ethereal hills of Glen Helen. Hosted by Insomniac Radio, the curation of house music at this stage was definitely a treat. If you’re into Night Bass, Saturday’s lineup at Sunken Garden was definitely one for the books. Gracing the stage included Kendoll, Dustycloud, Taiki Nulight, Sage Armstrong, and Redlight. Schade also threw down his first-ever Nocturnal Wonderland debut, all while wearing a windbreaker that said “F*CK ICE” on the back.
On Sunday, mau5trap signee Anakim opened up the stage, providing the perfect setting with his melodic techno. A massive Space Yacht flag waved in the air during Londonbridge’s amped up tech-house set. Later in the evening, Sunken Garden featured artists like Eli Brown, Mason Maynard, and Sacha Robotti. Camelphat and Solardo closed out the night with a spectacular B2B set.
Parliament Art Car
I had the pleasure of covering Nocturnal Wonderland with my fellow writer Tiffany Pridanonda who had this to say about the Parliament Art Car:
For those that have been to EDC Las Vegas 2019, You might remember the notorious owl-inspired Parliament Art Car. It’s an art car that boasts a full-blown sound system stage. This year, it was in its very own corner to the left of Wolves Den. Being that the Parliament Art Car had a smaller space, it created a more intimate experience. No fancy LED panels, just music, and good vibes – these are all of the amenities one would find at this stage. Being in a corner next to the glowing mushroom installation, the sound at this art car was definitely more contained, providing a more immersive experience for any attendee venturing its way. Saturday’s lineup consisted of Kayoh, Rawtek, Lektrique, Jayceeoh, and ETC! ETC!.
By Sunday, the Parliament Art Car became a massive hot pit for the Space Yacht takeover. Just when you thought the Parliament Art Car would be a great mini-stage to escape for a break from the other stages, think again. Sunday’s lineup consisted of artists like Atlast, HVDES, Yakz, Nitti Gritti, and a special DNB set from Mat Zo. The number of people at the Parliament Art Car on day two could have easily filled a small club. With no visible edge where the crowd ends, Parliament Art Car’s acts definitely packed some major heat.
Nocturnal Wonderland once again perfect showcased exactly why Insomniac is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the festival space. They know just how to cater a lineup, and how to make the most of their festival grounds. This years lineup had a bit of everything but was mainly focused on all things house, and bass.
The mainstage was a bit of everything mainstream. From Deorro, to Alan Walker, DJ Snake, to Jauz, the headliners on this stage alone could really make any festival. Those who played on the mainstage earlier in the day were still stars in their own right. These are artists like Wenzday, Dr. Fresch, Drezo, and K?D. It should be noted that up & comers like Hydrah, Dreamers Delight, & Kyle Walker should all be closely followed, as its only a matter of time before the masses start catching on to them.
If you made your way to the last installment of Nocturnal Wonderland at the Glen Helen Regional Park, I’m sure you can agree that it was a great one. Things seemed to go off without a hitch. However, it wasn’t without some worries.
The water lines at this years event were some of the worst that I have ever seen at an Insomniac event, and the heat didn’t help in the slightest. The lines had nearly 30 minute to an hour wait times, to the point where waiting in them would have had me miss out on an artist you wanted to see. It was so bad, that rather than wait in the lines, the better option seemed to head to the retailers and purchase a refreshment. In hindsight, I wonder if this was by design.
In years past, I’ve fallen victim to the dust clouds caused by the thousands of dancers. This year, I did not have this issue. The sound quality was on point, and the stages did not seem to bleed into one another. The crowds were not too thick, and moving from stage to stage was not a burden, as is customary with other festivals. If Nocturnal Wonderland were to return next year to Glen Helen, I would definitely be returning as well. Since it’s not, I will keep my eyes peeled to see what venue “America’s longest-running dance music festival” will call home next. I recommend that you do the same.
See you next year!