Nocturnal Wonderland's 20th Anniversary Was Spectacular

September 10, 2015 -

Fadi AbuZaineh

This past Labor Day Weekend, ravers and music lovers from all over the world joined forces to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the longest running dance music festival in America, Nocturnal Wonderland. The 3-day main event accompanied by the 5-day camping experience was held at the San Manuel Amphitheater, and this venue continually holds its value as the best spot for a festival of that size and nature. Returning to a layout similar to that of the 2013 edition, the two larger stages were on the outermost ends of the festival with the smaller stages in between. I felt like this enticed people to step out of their musical comfort zones and spend time at one of the other stages listening to something new. What I liked in particular about this year was that there was not an exact "main stage," and what I mean by that is every stage had its own stacked lineup and visually stunning design and production without compromising sound quality or dancing space. There was absolutely no way you could squat at one stage the whole weekend.

The first day of a festival is always exciting because you get your first serving of the visual and sonic wonders that the event has to offer. Upon entry at 4PM sharp (because I'm punctual), I spent a good hour or so exploring the festival grounds with no destination in mind. The Labyrinth stage, stretching 177 feet long, was an intricately assembled house of nearly 250 colorful cards flanked by 50-foot tall King and Queen chess pieces. In honor of the festival’s 20th anniversary, four stacked LED screens mimicked a tiered anniversary cake and the DJ booth was adorned with vibrant icing and gold accents. Very festive, indeed.


Photo by Marc Van Der Aa

The next stage that caught my eye in particular was the Temple of Om stage. The giant Buddha figure and color scheme were aesthetically pleasing, and it was a perfect spot to come relax at. With sets from local LA underground house artists including Drezo, Bones, and Dr. Fresch, it was easily one of the most poppin' stages of the festival all weekend.


Photo by Jake West

The Queen's Grounds stage was also monstrous in size and delivered an onslaught of great music from some top notch artists. Ranging from hip hop to dubstep to experimental house and Flosstradamus, there was plenty of opportunities to find yourself raging at that stage. My favorite sets on this stage from each day had to have been G Jones, TÂCHES and the king of bass himself, Bassnectar.


Photo by aLive

Fans of hardstyle, techno, and Anjunadeep found home at the Sunken Garden stage, a tent with lights not only in front of you from the stage, but also all around the tent which made for a fully immersive experience that was sure to leave a lasting impression in your mind. If there was one stage to get lost at, it was definitely this one. One of the most looked forward to sets at that stage was Adam Beyer's, particularly because it was a 2 hour set encapsulating the techno label he created entitled Drumcode. On Sunday, I spent the last hour of the festival watching Dusky at the garden, and it was the perfect ending to my weekend. Especially after having to pick up my face after having it melted by Bassnectar's set.


Photo by Jake West

My favorite thing about Insomniac events is that there is always something going on no matter where you find yourself at. You could be sitting on the ground near a tree but you can stare into the festival for hours. Whether you like to people watch or admire the scenery, there was no pressure to be at any stage the whole time. The good vibes and positive atmosphere make for a worry-free environment that gives festival goers the feeling of freedom and safety. Just look at this guy having a grand old time on the water slide in the campgrounds. Priceless.


Photo by Get Tiny

Nocturnal was actually the first Insomniac massive I ever went to back in 2013, making this year my third time attending. But each time I went after 2013 (including this time) I was continuously reminded of why I got into this lifestyle of going to festivals...for the experience. There is really nothing that compares to it. Whether you're bringing a friend to their first rave, or it's your first time camping out at a festival, or you made the last second decision to buy a ticket, you are in for the time of your life.


Photo by aLive

Congratulations to Insomniac on achieving this epic milestone! Two decades of amazing festivals! We hope to see many more years of great music and great times. Cheers!


Photo by Marc Van Der Aa


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