With reporting from David Matthews, John Ochoa, Sam Yu and Sharon Hinojosa.

We all know Escape: Psycho Circus 2016 was lit, fam. There was so much to do and see that we, too, are still trying to wrap our heads around all the magic and music from both days. While the festival offered a little something for every type of Headliner, here are some of our favorite highlights from the weekend.

Going Insane at the Escape Asylum

 

I’m a pretty levelheaded guy, but trudging through the how-creepy-can-you-handle maze at this year’s Escape almost made me question my own sanity. Maybe it was the fact that the undead nursing staff bound everyone in a straitjacket upon entering, or the Silence of the Lambs–like mask they strapped over our faces, or the mysterious “meds” they force-fed the admitted on the way into the psychiatric ward, but I totally lost my shit while I hopped from room to nightmarish room, which could only be explained as mentally deranged compartments born from the darkest recesses of the Ringleader & co.’s unstable minds. Having the life scared out of me is normally not my cup of tea, but I felt strangely comfortable with the sadistic story the Escape Asylum had to tell. —Sam Yu

Taking a Break, But Not Really, at the Psycho Circus

 

More often than not, it would take a bulldozer to strip me from the dancefloor and away from the music. But I had no qualms about taking a breather to check out the Psycho Circus shenanigans going on inside the big top. Grabbing a seat, kicking back, and watching acts like Super Tall Paul and his gang cracking jokes, burlesque dancers raising a few eyebrows, and the Psycho Circus troupe hysterically bantering was more than enough to keep me entertained whenever I found enough time to slip away for a few laughs and a show that, quite frankly, doesn’t roll into town other than when Escape is in full swing. —Sam Yu

VIP Was the Real MVP

 

I don’t know if you can call it a life hack, but between the hours of 5–7pm, the hospitality hit a new level once the two food trucks at the Slaughterhouse VIP started handing out a few items on their menu free of charge. Deciding between the three savory choices of crepes and the delectable Vietnamese dishes was on par with choosing which stage to hang at on any given moment. Options are always the way to go, so I gorged myself on some delish steak-fried rice and washed it down with a serving of some mighty-fine hazelberry crepes. The complimentary eats were just the tip of the VIP iceberg, because I kept coming back for the multiple hotpoint stops, signature cocktails with shorter lines (who doesn’t love that?), a front-row section reserved for up-close dancing, and other added amenities that made the enhanced experience worth every penny. —Sam Yu

Bassrush Takes Over

 

Hands-down, the Bassrush takeover at the Chopping Block had the whole massive room bangin’ throughout the entirety of day one. KAYZO, Borgore, Snails and a full roster of fellow bass gods murdered the stage with their sick sounds and intense drops Friday Night. It’s no wonder the entrance line for the indoor stage was spilling far outside the doors. As always, Bassrush surely served it up proper for the bass-heads of Escape. —Sharon Hinojosa

Awesome Costumes and Awesome People

 

This is a no-brainer: Combine some of the most creative young people and one of the best dance music festivals in the world, and you’re in for some costume insanity. Spending days preparing your outfit isn’t abnormal in our world—just take a look at some of the Headliners we met on night one and night two for examples. You know what really cracks me up? Those T-Rex costumes, and lo and behold, there was a dancing dinosaur at every stage I visited. They may have been annoyed by all the pictures I tried to take, but YOLO; they knew what they were in for. —David Matthews

Looking Into the Future With the Fortune Teller

 

I’m all about living in the moment, especially in a festival setting, but I’m a human being, so naturally I’m also very curious about what the future holds for me. Thankfully, there were a handful of fortune tellers at the Psycho Circus to help ease my life anxieties. I’ve always been a bit skeptical about people who claim to have the ability to look into the future, but in these past three or four years, I’ve opened up to listening to the messages the universe has been trying to communicate to me—via oracle or otherwise. Luckily for me, my cards are aligning and the future is looking bright (more festivals?). I won’t tell you exactly what was read to me, for the fear of jinxing my good fortune, but take a look into your own future with the friendly Escape fortune tellers next year to see what life has planned for you. —John Ochoa

Looking Into the Future Via Virtual Reality

 

Speaking of the future, I stepped into what may potentially be the future of music festivals via the virtual reality booths at Escape. Strapped into an HTC Vive headset with some proper V-MODA headphones over my ears, I entered a virtual world that transported me from the Slaughterhouse and Ghouls’ Graveyard in real-time. I got a first-person view from the DJ decks, something I’ve always dreamed about, into the massive crowds at both stages. It was a whole new perspective I’ve never experienced, and I was even able to take a quick flashback trip into EDC Las Vegas 2016 via interactive footage archived in the machine. Virtual reality definitely has the potential to take music festival culture into the future while enhancing the experience for on-site attendees and home users alike. What a time to be alive, indeed. —John Ochoa

Sonny Fodera Taking It Way Back

 

While many selectors are completely content with pulling a few tracks from the Top 100 and calling it a day, Sonny Fodera isn’t about that life. The estimable head showed up to Escape with a nimble finger on the cue button, as he scrolled through his folder and retrieved records that paid respect to the golden era of house music. It was hard not shaking a leg or two to mashups and reworks—he sometimes even gave the original versions a turn—of classics like Armand van Helden’s “You Don’t Know Me,” Hardrive’s “Deep Inside,” and Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman.” I couldn’t have been any more down with what Fodera was cutting into at the Chopping Block. —Sam Yu

Chilling Lakeside With Your Friends

 

We’re all well aware that Escape equals one big, crazy show, but there are times when we need a moment to sit back and just chill. What better way to turn it down a notch and catch a breather than by unwinding by the lake? It’s the perfect place to rest those dancing legs and take in all of its captivating beauty while embracing a more soothing side of Escape. —Sharon Hinojosa

Going Full Techno at the Factory 93 Experience

 

“This is the best underground stage ever produced by Insomniac.” That was the first thing I heard as I ventured backstage at the Factory 93 Experience Saturday night. And considering this was coming from one of our main talent buyers who’s an avid techno and house fan, I wasn’t going to doubt it. Top performances of the weekend, in my book, went to Rødhåd and Chris Liebing, two living German legends who threw down some intense sets that had our Headliners in a techno trance. Though the underground dance community is still growing in the American dance music scene, the house was packed. Good music brings good people! —David Matthews

Keeping Warm With a Cup of Hot Chocolate

 

I always forget how cold it gets out in San Bernardino—or the Bern, as I lovingly call it. No matter how layered I am, I always make time for a cup of hot chocolate to warm my body and soul. The Midnight Witches Brew held it down with some gourmet coffee and hot chocolate over at VIP. One cup is like an internal hug of the heart and belly. Trust me: Next time you’re out in the cold nights in the Bern, especially for those heading to Countdown 2016 during wintertime, layer up and grab a cup of that sweet, hot cocoa. Your body will thank you for it. —John Ochoa

Armin van Buuren’s Creepily Awesome Costume

 

There’s no doubting Armin van Buuren’s headlining set as one of the best at Escape; the dude always holds it down. But can we take two minutes to appreciate his creepily awesome costume? Way to get into the Halloween spirit and go full-blown with your getup, Armin! —John Ochoa

One Brave Headliner Taking a Dip in the Water

 

While we’re on the subject of how dope it was kicking it next to the lake, one careless Headliner gave zero fux and, without any shame whatsoever, booked it straight for the center of the waist-high waters. She splashed around for a quick second, and it was all fun and games until security came to escort her out. Drenched and most likely shivering in regret, she acted on a compulsion that may make for a cool story to tell but probably wasn’t worth slogging around in soaking clothes for the remainder of the night. Lesson learned—hopefully. —Sam Yu

Riding Atop the Ferris Wheel

 

Experiencing festivals on the ground is one thing, but seeing them from the air is a whole other picture. Escape 2016 was massive—like, more than 110,000 people across two days massive—and it was never clearer than when we were chilling at the very tippy-top of the Ferris wheel near the Slaughterhouse. As much as we may take festivals for granted sometimes, bringing tens of thousands of people together takes an incredible amount of people power and effort, and it’s moments like these that make you appreciate the love and hard work that goes into every single Insomniac festival. Pro tip: Ride the Ferris wheel on the final night of any of our festivals; it’s the best sendoff, guaranteed. —David Matthews

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