Beyond Wonderland SoCal 2022: A Walk Through Mind-Bending Fantasy
You open your eyes. You find yourself gazing upward as the sun beats down overhead. Confused, you slowly look around, taking in your surroundings. It is then that you realize you are in a strange, unfamiliar place. All around you are others who look just as confused as you are, and no one seems to have any idea of how you came to be here. Odd-sounding music floats toward you from an unknown source, and you decide to follow it. The sun sinks as you walk, and looking around you notice some rather unusual characters among the throng of people marching forward… foxes and mice, rabbits in checkered suits, psychedelic dogs, and peculiar men with clocks for faces, all heading to the same unseen destination. As you approach, you see it: a large sign with “Beyond Wonderland” painted in bright letters. By this time the sun has almost vanished and this new world has begun to shift shapes, warping in unexpected ways, brightly colored lights dancing across the landscape of this mysterious so-called Wonderland. Well, I’m here, you think to yourself. May as well explore.
The first area you come upon is a shaded grove surrounded by towering plant stalks topped with illuminated spheres. Through the brush you can hear a pulsing beat, otherworldly music unlike any other you’ve encountered. When you part the branches and step through, you see a magnificent structure draped in what at first appears to be spiderwebs. As you step closer, the colors change from green to blue to purple and back again. You have stumbled upon the Caterpillar’s Garden, and the shining decorations you see are in fact not spiderwebs, but caterpillar silk. You spend a few minutes staring into the middle of the stage, entranced by the dreamlike music washing over you. Names flash on the screen, some you recognize and others you don’t… Elevven, ALPHA 9, Paul van Dyk, HoneyLuv, J. Worra, Shiba San… At some point you snap out of it, unsure of how long you have been standing there. You decide to move on before the Garden’s inhabitant comes back.
Advancing through the crowd, you carefully train your eyes over the unearthly environment. Eventually you come upon the edge of a lagoon. Lily-like flowers dot the surface of the water. They appear much the same as the waterlilies you are used to, but there is something different about them you can’t put your finger on… that is, until you see them gradually opening. Suddenly, they make a loud popping noise and then… WHOOSH. Flames erupt from the core of the flowers, and you stare in awe from the safety of the shore. You wonder how you found yourself in such a place, a mystery you have not yet even begun to solve.
Once the flames die down, you turn your attention back to the task of exploring. Wandering further, you come to a sort of natural walkway lined on either side with towering vines. In the distance you see more flashing lights and the urge to investigate takes over. Walking down the path, you notice something very peculiar. The orbs hanging from the vines appear to be blinking at you, following your steps as you head for the end of the trail. With a shudder you realize that they are the eyes of a giant cat. Upon nearing the end of the trail the colossal cat’s face appears overhead, manically grinning down at you before vanishing into the darkness once more.
As the cat’s leering expression fades away, you can see more clearly the lights that first drew you here and make out more sounds beyond the vegetation. You have reached Cheshire Woods, and come upon the most wonderful sight: crowds of people dancing and swaying, all dressed in bright colors, united as one on the dancefloor. The stage boasts even more familiar names – Tsu Nami, K?d, Jason Ross, Soren, Ben Nicky, Lady Faith – and again the passage of time becomes meaningless as you join the soirée. Finally, the desire to explore reaches you once more, and off you go.
You continue to adventure through the distorted landscape, your senses overwhelmed by the cacophony of stimuli around you. You soon come upon a giant chessboard filled with life-sized topiary chess pieces. You sit down to rest, but your moment of relaxation ends quickly when you see a group of living, breathing playing cards stampede through the crowd. Wherever it is they are going, they seem awfully excited…
You follow from a distance until you reach a large tent-like structure. Colors and sounds you could not comprehend the existence of until this very moment race toward you from the stage where the Queen of Hearts is holding court. More familiar artists – Matroda, Chris Lorenzo, DJ Snake, Zedd, Blossom, JOYRYDE, Seven Lions, Above & Beyond – join your running list of intriguing spectacles. The magnificent spectrum of reds and whites begins to combine and blur before your eyes as the spotlights rotate, and you feel yourself melting into the crowd, becoming part of a nameless, shapeless sea of individuals, all oscillating as one being to the rhythm of the music. Under the potent spell of the Queen’s Domain, you barely notice when someone takes your hand and begins to lead you away. Detached from the frenzy once more, you realize you are being lead by a fox. She turns to you with a sly smile before quickly bounding away into the throng of people.
The Mad Bazaar
You wander through Wonderland, almost aimlessly but not quite, as though you are being beckoned by an invisible force. You come across a corridor lined with doors, each one a portal to yet another new world. Behind one of the doors you can hear the sounds of music and joyous laughter, so you turn the knob and step inside. Sprawling before you is the Mad Bazaar, and all around there are creatures smiling and celebrating with the people of Wonderland. Friends and strangers are gathered on the floor of a large tent hosting a tea party, while a live band provides entertainment. To your left is a trading post, where people are lined up to exchange what little they have for different trinkets and baubles. A man in a wooden cart is giving out strange-looking candies; you take one from him, and are surprised to find that it tastes of childhood and something else you cannot quite place. How this is even possible you are not sure, and yet the sensation is authentic. As more people pack themselves into the space, you move on to the next attraction.
Mad Hatter’s Castle
On exiting the Mad Bazaar, you see a large flashing sign to your right which reads “Mad Hatter’s Castle.” Behind it you can hear music, but this music is nothing like the other stages of Wonderland. It is dark and intense, with a much slower beat. As you round the corner and mount the stairs, you see a mass of humans and creatures all bobbing in unison to the bass booming from the speakers. They appear to be worshipping the sounds of Bassrush, and again you notice familiar names on the screen as time passes – Kai Wachi & PhaseOne, Diesel, Jauz, Calcium, Netsky, Zeds Dead. Towering over you are large rectangular screens lighting up the arena with each beat. Could these be the portals back to your realm? But it seems a bit too obvious, and you leave to continue your search.
(Through) The Looking Glass
Once you exit the Castle, you notice a structure you have not yet investigated. Was it even there before, or did it only just appear? You enter through the side into a tunnel-like room. It is completely dark aside from the lights bouncing off the walls. More strange music comes from the stage, this time much faster than what you have heard elsewhere in Wonderland. These tunes are delivered by the likes of Qrion, Spencer Brown, Tinlicker, Kevin Saunderson, Len Faki, and Reinier Zonneveld, and you begin to lose yourself in the crowd as you listen. You have been there for a few minutes, or perhaps hours, when you manage to fix your gaze on a large gemstone in the shape of a diamond hanging over the stage. A strange feeling creeps through your body, and as though sleepwalking, you slowly make your way towards it. You feel lost and disoriented, like you have no power over your actions. You focus on the diamond, but something about it seems different. It has come alive, and reflected in its surface you can see the reality you came from. No longer in control of your limbs, you stumble and reach out to touch it… and everything stops. No more lights, no more music, only darkness and stillness.
The “Real” World
You awake on the floor of your room, propped up against the wall. You must have dozed off while getting ready for the festival. You check your phone: dozens of missed calls and texts from your friends asking where you are. You can still make it in time. Sitting up, you catch a glimpse of your face in the mirror. Memories of Wonderland flood through your mind and then disappear as quickly as they came. You shake your head and gather your belongings, the crazy fever dream growing more and more distant with every passing second. As you head for the door, you slip your hand into your pocket and pull out a piece of candy. Unsure of what it is or how it got there, you toss it in the trash and step outside, ready to experience Beyond Wonderland for the first time.
Thank You for Joining Us at Beyond Wonderland!
Beyond Wonderland 2022 was certainly a year to remember, and whether you missed the action this year or are ready for another round, tickets for the 2023 edition are ON SALE NOW! We can’t wait to see you again in the World of Beyond.
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