Festival Review: Nocturnal Wonderland

Insomniac Events' Nocturnal Wonderland took festival-goers down a rabbit hole this past weekend.

By Aiden Meehan

Nocturnal Wonderland
September 21-22
Nos Event Center – San Bernardino, CA

Insomniac Events have been steadily increasing the scale of the Alice in Wonderland-themed series of festivals to reach a larger market. From September 21-22, some of the world’s premiere DJs and electronic music producers came to the Nos Event Center in San Bernardino, California to perform at the Nocturnal Wonderland 2012. With the appearance of EDM giants such as Alesso, Axwell of Swedish House Mafia, and Pretty Lights this year, expect the small audience of this somewhat unfamiliar festival to grow very quickly.

Musically, Nocturnal Wonderland had an artist for every spectrum of electronic music. At the Labyrinth main stage, house classics, both old and new, were dropped from the Pioneer DJ decks. My personal highlights at the Labyrinth were Fedde le Grand’s mix of “Somebody That I Used To Know (dBerrie remix)”, a track that rose to public attention at Ultra 2012 and Benny Benassi’s mix of his 2010 hit “Cinema” with Skrillex’s remix of the same track. The Sunken Garden stage hosted dubstep/Drum n’ Bass performers while the stage Alice’s House focused on trance/electro artists.

Not only was the line-up of Nocturnal Wonderland surprisingly diverse and esteemed, but the production of the festival was on par with that of many larger festivals. Just a few of the festival’s attractions include: a full-size Ferris wheel, giant inflatable caterpillars and a mechanical bird that somehow spit fire. The festival planners somehow managed to avoid many of the cons of the country’s bigger festivals. Because of the small size of the festival, with a little skill, I was able to get to the front row for almost every artist that I wanted to see. Standing front and center for Alesso’s classic club anthem “Pressure” and Pretty Lights’ bass-heavy mash-ups was an incredible experience—an experience only realistically possible in a smaller festival setting where you don’t have to elbow those around you just to breathe.

Quite often, only the most hardcore fans choose to spend time in the crowded center of the pit. Luckily, Insomniac provided activities for every facet and mood of the festival experience. One could get comfortable under any number of the festival’s obscure and colorful decorations and listen from afar, willingly jump into the hot and cramped center of any of the five stages, or simply relax on the Ferris wheel and watch the sunset.

In conclusion, I feel that Insomniac Events have learned a lot from their previous planning mistakes which have greatly improved the quality of their events. Festival security was extremely tight, and the wait to get it was absolutely worth the added safety. Water was made free and available all throughout the festival grounds to prevent dehydration and over-heating of attendees, a problem that has resulted in deaths at previous Insomniac festivals. The combination of the relatively safe environment, incredible line-up and small size made for an amazing weekend. I highly suggest attending Nocturnal Wonderland in the future if you like EDM or music festivals in general. Drive up to San Bernardino, get your glow sticks and dive down the rabbit hole.