This past labor day weekend, almost 85,000 ravers from across the nation adjourned in San Bernardino for Insomniac’s 20th anniversary celebration of Nocturnal Wonderland. With a lineup of over 115 diverse artists, the weekend was set to be historic. It’s no surprise that when Insomniac events announces another one of their famously themed events, people naturally develop high expectations. Luckily, Insomniac does a phenomenal job of delivering an amazing, communal, musical experience for all of its’ attendees. This year at Nocturnal wonderland, dance music fans from all over southern California (and some neighboring states as well), flocked to San Bernardino to fill the San Manuel Amphitheater for Labor Day weekend. The lineup was stacked, the stages were breathtaking as usual, and the positivity was flowing throughout the festival grounds.
For Nocturnal’s big 2-0, they built 5 stages which included the following: Labyrinth, Queen’s Grounds, Sunken Garden, Upside Down Room, and last but not least, the Temple of OM. Each stage had a special vibe unique from one another. For main stage titans, you could hit either Labyrinth or Queen’s Grounds, but once you were ready for a slightly more intimate setting, you could pop through any of the other stages. The main stage (Labyrinth) was an enormous structure composed of a house of cards and towering chess pieces. The next biggest stage (Queen’s Grounds) was stacked with LED panels that pulled you in and forced you to dance, and another of my favorite stages (Upside Down Room), had hip hop legends like Craze and Beat Junkies take the stage to showcase their ability on the turntables.
Friday included artists like W&W, Snails, Datsik, Kennedy Jones, Trollphace, Z Trip, Graham Funke, Dr. Fresch, and many more. The energy was bubbling as fans filed into the festival grounds, prepared to experience another transcendental night of music. Some noticeable sets on Friday night were Kennedy Jones, who played a beautifully diverse set, which even included him showcasing his ability to spit some fire bars. A few more honorable mentions include Shaun Frank, Dr. Fresch, Z Trip, Chevy Chase, and Trollphace. Heading backstage artists like 4B were interacting with devoted fans after their sets.
The whole weekend was a non stop party, but Saturday was definitely one of the best nights of the 3 day festival. The Sunken Garden was hosted by BassCon on Friday, but on Saturday, it was transformed into a safe haven for all techno and tech house lovers. Titans such as Adam Beyer, Nicole Moudaber, and Bart Skills took the stage to curate an infectious vibe that you couldn’t help but bounce to. Heading over to the Upside-Down room I was able to experience the beautiful art of turntablism and Hip Hop DJ’ing. Legends like Beat Junkies (Melo-D, Rhettmatic, Babu, D-Styles) took the stage to deliver two hours of soul filled hip hop and face melting scratching. Some other noticeable artists that took the stage at the Upside Down room that night include Craze and Dj Jazzy Jeff.
Along with non-stop energy and a constant flow of music, Insomniac realizes the importance of a theatrical presence within its’ festivals. The grounds were scattered with artistic installations, decorated trees, and a plethora of comforting lights. They also displayed a spectacular 20th anniversary 6 minute firework show each night.
All in all, Nocturnal’s 20th anniversary was a pleasure to experience, and Insomniac’s reputation continues to shine. Whether you were riding rides, or losing yourself to your favorite DJ, the positivity and shared love for the music was widespread throughout the whole festival. So if you have friends you’d like to make everlasting memories with, or if you’re looking to make new friends, make sure you attend Insomniac’s Halloween event… “Escape All Hallow’s Eve”. Enjoy these marvelous snapshots that capture the essence of Nocturnal.
Marc Van De Aa
Doug Van Sant