Festival Review: Escape From Wonderland All Hallows Eve

From festival's Facebook page

From festival’s Facebook page

Mark Morris

Escape From Wonderland All Hallows Eve

NOS Events Center, CA

October 31-November 1, 2014


In one of the biggest fall festivals of the year, Insomniac events came together to produce their annual Halloween electronic dance festival, Escape From Wonderland All Hallows Eve, where over 40,000 ravers from all over the Western United States came together dressed in their outrageous costumes. The festival featured a wide variety of headliners covering many of the trance, dubstep, festival house and deep house genres. The lineup featured some of the world’s most renowned DJs such as the legendary Armin Van Buuren and Tiesto, seasoned veterans like Steve Angello and Adventure Club, and up and comers such as Oliver Heldens and Blasterjaxx, to name just a few. The festival design for the Halloween event was one of the greatest that I have ever seen, it was obvious that the great people at Insomniac spent countless hours on a design that featured a pumpkin head on the main stage that showed different facial reactions based on different performances, two different haunted mazes, as well as a floating pumpkin patch at the entrance gate, it felt like walking into a new world once you entered the festival grounds.

The first set I saw at the main stage was the Dutch DJ sensation Tiesto. With hit songs such as Footprints, Wasted and Red Lights, Tiesto had no problem drawing in an incredible crowd. Fans truly went all out in their support, bringing out tons of signs and cardboard cutouts of Tiesto’s face. The highlight of the set and the first mind-blowing song to drop of the festival was when Tiesto played Ping Pong. This song brought the crowd together and made all the screaming fans wave their hands back and forth in unison. It was truly a great feeling seeing thousands of members in the audience all in sync and it gave you the sensation that the entirety of the crowd was united as one. Another exciting moment of the artists set is when he dropped his hit Wasted. Tiesto played a remixed, faster paced version of the song and this was the first drop that featured the use of the streamer/confetti cannon. Being so close to the front of the stage and having confetti being rained down on me, it was an incredible opening set and a great first taste of the festival.

Later on at the smaller ghouls graveyard stage Astrix put on an amazing show for all of the trance lovers out there. He shapeshifted fast paced beats that kept the crowd jumping the entire time. He was one of the darkest sets at the festival that produced music that sounded like a soundtrack from a zombie-chase scene in a movie.

Then came one of the greatest shows of the entire festival, by none other than the Dutchman himself Sander Van Doorn. Doorn really knew how to get the crowd going. A few minutes into his mix he dropped one of his most renowned songs Gold Skies, after this, he had all of his observers in the palm of his hand. Most of the set was mixed so seamlessly that the majority of people around me were in complete nirvana. His most memorable drop was when he threw on “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurhythmics. The crowd’s reaction was incredible, everyone stopped and looked at one another in amazement with the sound of the initial beat, then as a chorus, screamed the lyrics to the heavens, this was the greatest drop of the festival in my opinion, as many other DJ’s decided to mix it into their sets later on.

Finally came Afrojack, the main headliner of the night. Afrojack took the stage and immediately started performing one of his top hits, Ten Feet Tall, while infusing it with multiple drops, helping create the most energizing set of the entire festival. Afrojack had the majority of my newly acquired friends and I vibing the entire time, but my favorite drop of the set had to be when he spun “Titanium” by Sia, which had the crowed immersed in the sounds for the latter part of the night by having everyone slow down their fast paced jumping for a calming melody that had only been present at the beginning of the show.

While Day 1 had its moments, Day 2 was spectacular in many different ways. I began at Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano’s stage for a few moments until Tommy Trash began to play. The people who I came to the festival with that day had no idea who this Australian genius was, and wanted to leave, when he opened up with his hit HEX, I gave one look to my friends after his initial opening and they yelled at me that we were staying, and I could not have been happier. Trash mixed many popular tracks, but instead of simply throwing a few beats of his own on top of hits everyone was sure to know, he made each and every one of the songs his own.  Mr. Trash had the hardest drops of the festival, which were produced with enough bass to wake a Grizzly Bear from hibernation. The set was so great that I witnessed a girl crying in front of me asking why it had to be over, in all my days of festival going I had never seen anything quite like that.

After, I made my way to the main stage where I came across The Chainsmokers. The Chainsmokers, who most famously produced the song “#selfie”, surprisingly played their radio hit, which was to the excitement of the people residing around me. The duo provided their own spin on many current hits, most notably “Sleeping with a Friend”. The main excitement from the group under the tent was for there summer smash hit, Kanye, which met the roar of the real headliners of the show, the fans, which was Insomniacs’ motto for festival.

The last set I had the pleasure of seeing at the main stage was that of the incredible Armin Van Buuren. Armin was a surprise late addition to the lineup who took the place of Avicii when the artist announced he would no longer be performing shows this year. Armin has been one of my long time favorite DJ’s and to see him was a dream come true. Known for being a master of trance, Armin was the perfect selection to wrap up the main stage for day 2. The DJ was incredibly uplifting and playing songs that were largely progressive trance. The highlight of his set was when he played his most famous song This Is What It Feels Like. Van Buuren spun the song differently from how most are used to hearing it, yet the entire crowd was still in love with this song.

Finally came the greatest set of the entire festival, Oliver Heldens. Heldens is an up and coming DJ who was placed at #34 as his initial ranking on the top 100 DJs list. Known for his deep-house vibes, Oliver certainly put his abilities on display for the closing show of the night, following an awesome performance from Adventure Club. The set included some of his hits such as “THIS”, “Gecko” and of course “Koala”. The song that set the tone for the entire set had to be “A Lot Like Love”, a track that has been sitting highly on the beatport top 100 charts. Just by looking around the auditorium while he was playing, one could see virtually every single person dancing their hearts out, even after the toll of the 8 hour long day. Heldens set himself apart from many of the other Djs that were featured at the festival with his own unique sound. Even with all the incredible performers to play over the weekend, Oliver Heldens proved that his set could not be beat.

The thought of leaving such a great festival was depressing to almost every single person on the walk out. Even though many seemed drained physically, they all seemed rather satisfied that they were able to take the time out of their routine lives for just a little while and experience a state of pure trance and euphoria at the escape festival. This was my first insomniac festival, but after such a great experience with such amazing imagery and stage design, I can say that I will continue to travel to their events, confident that I will never be disappointed.