Two decades ago, in the time of hidden locations and JNCOs, Nocturnal Wonderland made its debut. Twenty years later I stepped into the San Manuel Amphitheater, ready to return to my second Nocturnal and could feel the years of built up good vibes and excellent music upon me. Nocturnal Wonderland, usually a two-day event, had an extra day added to it this year in celebration of its anniversary. The anticipation for the weekend was well rewarded. As with all festivals, there were a few glitches—but overall the security, staff, stages and ambiance were on point. I, myself, did not camp but spoke to many of the camping attendees who were more than pleased with the camping set up—which included arts and crafts, yoga, and—best of all—a water park. It seems that recent events have led to Pasquale to diligently pursue making vast improvements to each Insomniac festival. No complaints here.
Getting Deep in the Sunken Garden
The Sunken Garden stage was the simplest stage design-wise but was by far the most intriguing. I found myself at this stage numerous times to meet up with friends for some Drumcode and Anjunadeep sets—it became harder and harder to leave. The energy radiating from the tent was unreal, the music was prime, and the acts were talented. I stood on the side of most of the sets, completely enthralled by the shufflers, hoopers and the entertainers doing the robot to some deep house. After being let down by a couple mainstage sets on Saturday, I wound up at Nicole Moudaber’s Sunken Gardens set. It turned my whole night around. I had no idea who she was until after the festival when I looked her up and after seeing her set, it’s obvious to me the talent Carl Cox saw in this Nigerian DJ from London and how she reached the top of the Beatport tech, tech house and deep house charts with her 2013 album. It was mesmerizing.
Anjunadeep also had several artists at the Garden throughout the weekend, so I returned Sunday to see Lane 8. This is an artist I have been very anxious to see for months and I was not disappointed in the least. You know a deep house set is working the crowd when on certain queues, you can hear a unanimous “oh snap” after a hypnotic drop. The satisfaction felt after every set at that stage was a new experience for me because it was just that: blissful satisfaction. If I could have only stayed in one place the whole weekend, it would’ve been on the side of that tent getting funky and sinking even deeper into the Sunken Garden.
One to Remember
As always, Kaskade playing in southern California means a set with a lot of heart. Nocturnal was one of the last stops before he begins his highly anticipated Automatic Tour this October so we got an epic sneak preview of what he plans on dishing out and all I can say is: you’re going to love it. Kaskade has always had a unique feel to his music, but what really stood out this set was the passion behind that uniqueness. His set started with several minutes of “I Remember,” a song he hasn’t played in a set in a very long time. From there on out, it was gold. Every transition, every drop, felt heartfelt and like it was coming straight from Ryan’s heart to us. Even through the thick dusty air, the radiation of love and unity through music shined bright from both Kaskade and the crowd, resulting in the perfect concluding set to an amazing festival.
I believe that Insomniac events always have the best vibes from its attendees. Nocturnal Wonderland only furthered my love for my fellow headliners. Nocturnal’s an excellent sized festival in a superb location that allows for people to come together with one another, creating this utopian festival harmony. Saturday I attended alone. I knew many people that I planned to see there but drove down alone, changed in the parking lot in my car and hit the festival on my own. Being a solo lady at a festival seems to be a shocker to many people but by now I’m used to it (although still oddly humored by it). Every single person I encountered on Saturday was kind, generous and genuine. There were endless invitations to join many groups, offers of hugs or water and trading of kandi. Although lineups are my main concern when attending a festival, being able to feel comfortable and safe, especially attending alone is absolutely crucial to me. Luckily Nocturnal Wonderland remains a place that feels like home.
Photography by Doug Van Sant and aLIVE Coverage.