If you felt the ground shake last month, keeping you up till the wee hours of the night, that’s because thousands of music lovers came together to dance their hearts out at one of the liveliest EDM festivals Southern California has to offer: Beyond Wonderland.
In typical fashion, Insomniac made the foothills of San Bernardino come alive as world-class DJs, laser shows, and wild onstage productions mesmerized the crowds and set the standard for a year of unforgettable fest-going experiences. And you better believe the bass was dropped. A lot.
But if you happened to find yourself with too much homework or a cold you just couldn’t shake, never fear! Here’s our recap of a weekend in late March at the San Manuel Amphitheater — and the moments that brought out the dancer in everyone. The only question you’ll have left is, when is the next Insomniac event?
As soon as we stumbled upon the gates of Beyond Wonderland, it became clear that magic and awe awaited on the other side. With queues that were blissfully quick and camaraderie tangible from all sides, getting in was a breeze with Verified Tickets from Ticketmaster. The Ticketmaster app was a big convenience. Fans got right in with their tickets on their phones.
Highlights: Day 1 Performances
For all of the early fest-goers like us on Friday, there was a lot to do, see, and hear in the daylight hours, especially at the smallest and most charming stage, the Funk House. Bringing a bit of old school funk to the warming-up crowds, LA-based DJ Troy Kurtz helped ease us all into the Beyond Wonderland spirit. With belly dancers emerging from behind curtains flanking the DJ stand, Kurtz’s set put the groove in all of us. From old school funk tracks like “All I Need” to the more bass-heavy “Rotate Them Hips,” the crowd was proud to have gotten in early to catch Kurtz in action. It also helped that a Stormtrooper was keeping guard at the entrance, making us all feel safe in our electronic daze.
Next door, a whole different musical landscape was being set. London artist Ilan Bluestone was blowing up the Mad Hatter stage with wild trance beats. The blood-pumping rhythm set against the picturesque mountains created an otherworldly setting for the audience to immerse themselves in the unique experience of Beyond. And believe me, people wasted no time getting in the spirit and losing themselves in Bluestone’s sonic waves.
There’s no denying that the biggest bangs were going to be had at the Queen’s Domain, the fest’s largest stage with the loudest and most outrageous stage theatrics the electronic world has to offer. With Alice in Wonderland’s caterpillar sitting front and center as Kidnap Kid took the stage, the throngs of festival goers wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. All he had to do was cue up his remix of Jessie Ware’s “You & I” and the masses flocked — and pretty much stayed — the rest of the night. Treeman (the guy on stilts dressed as a tree) emerging from the set on stage may have helped to seal the deal. Just maybe.
And this, my friends, marked the beginning of the real fest experience that so many came from far and wide to witness. The moment French DJ Tchami hit the stage, it was like a moth to the flame. Not only did night finally fall, but the crowd had grown to fill the huge lawn that the Queen’s Domain was situated on. “After Life” caused an instantaneous synced response from the audience. No one was idly standing by as neighbors lifted each other up to jump along with the contagious beats. Imagery of cogs and machinery on the big screens helped lend an industrial quality to the mechanic sounds. But really, what’s more unforgettable than have a solid ceiling of green lasers above your head as you and everyone around you gets lost in the music? We’re not quite sure.
And then, there’s the man himself: Tiësto. A seamless transition led from the madness of Tchami into the straight-up blissful chaos of Tiësto’s set, which caused a sea of people to stream in from every corner of the fest to witness the magic in person. Just when you didn’t think it could get any louder, the veteran DJ proved otherwise as the bass literally rang throughout the entire valley — exactly what the audience craved. All the passion and excitement one expects at a fest like this accumulated at Tiësto, and that spirit lived on throughout the rest of the weekend.
And of course, we can’t forget the ladies representing Beyond. London-based DJ Maya Jane Coles brought us into the tent of Cheshire Woods to truly welcome us, visually and musically, into the world of house music. With insane light shows and graphics Maya was just what we needed to lead us into the late hours of the fest. It only makes sense that “Nocturnal Sunshine” was a fan favorite as the crowd evolved into creatures of the night.
For those looking to immerse themselves fully into the fest experience, campsites were the perfect place to rest up, meet new people, and continue the party. Nestled in Glen Helen Regional Park, campers at Beyond Wonderland were surrounded by natural beauty and insulated from the rest of their world in their own magical paradise.
At night, the campgrounds were a sight to behold as strung lights were strewed across the grounds, providing a dreamlike glow to the fantastical happenings within. Looking on from the fest itself, the camp site took on the form of its own city, and it truly was as — campers made it a home away from home, even if it was just for a night or two.
Highlights: Day 2 Performances
The second Hardwell entered The Queen’s Domain, there was no question in anyone’s mind: the night was about to jump off. The Netherlands transplant pulled out his usual hard-hitting sound, leaving no feet on the ground, and he made sure to not hold back one bit. The crowd was more than thankful, soaking up every single bit of it and holding up their totems with pride.
Confetti, streamers and lasers all came to a climax when a brilliant firework show completed Hardwell’s memorizing and unforgettable set.
The night really turned up when Slander, Brillz and Sub Focus had back-to-back performances at the Mad Hatter’s Castle stage. Fans danced from 9pm to Midnight as each DJ had a moment to rule. Taking the middle slot of this nonstop dance party was Brillz, and the crowd couldn’t resist two-stepping to his bouncy beats and tracks that fused trap, EDM and hip hop. His crew, the twonk team, had their own style that kicked up the energy, and we think its safe to say we all became Twonkaholics in the end.
DJ Jazzy Jeff delighted the crowd at The Funk House with throwback jams and hot beats. You can’t argue with a man who’s created some of the most nostalgic hip hop of the ‘90s with the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith. DJ Jazzy Jeff shared the booth with Z-Trip and the two brought unique, fun flavors that resonated throughout a groovin’ crowd.
Adam Beyer took the stage at the Cheshire Woods tent with killer motion graphics that burst out from the screen, and a lightshow that created a surreal experience for the crowd. To the excitement of the audience, he played new material with Joseph Capriati.
— Adam Beyer (@realAdamBeyer) March 22, 2015
London-based duo Knife Party have been rampaging through the world of electronic music, truly establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with. As they took the mega stage at the Queen’s Domain at Beyond Wonderland, they proved that all the hype is 100% validated, and the packed crowd was really feeling it as the pair’s high-octane tunes filled the late-night air.
This VIP-only area overlooked the Queen’s Domain main stage. It gave those looking for a moment to chill a chance to relish in their surroundings. Plus it had tables, comfy chairs, and decorations that really immersed you in the world of Wonderland. Did we mention there was a ball pit?
As we left the festival, we couldn’t help but feel re-energized…and a bit exhausted from dancing. It only took us a few days to recover, and now we’re officially ready to rock out at another Insomniac event. Bring it on, EDC.