• Best of Nocturnal Wonderland: Day 1

    The energy has been awaiting for so very long, and yesterday we basked in it during the first day of Nocturnal Wonderland. It's the 20th anniversary celebration of the party, and as such, all y'all Headliners really brought it, with many people arriving on Thursday night and filling in the campground around the venue to get the party started early. (Thursday night’s Not-so-Silent Disco busted out jams until the early hours of Friday morning.) The vibes were abundant yesterday afternoon when the gates opened and the fabulously dressed denizens of Nocturnal streamed in to enjoy the art, the community, and music by artists including Armin, Z Trip, Datsik, Andrew Rayel, and Kennedy Jones. The best part is, we're just getting started.

    These are some of the best moments we experienced on day one.

    Hucci at Queen’s Domain

    The festival took a trapped-out turn at Queen's Domain when Hucci took the stage last night. While it was not the usual sound for a late-night bass set, the Headliners had their elbows flexing hard to the raw underground beats dropped by the UK DJ. With the help of a sidekick MC, the teenage producer maestro had the crowd vibing to his mellowed-out future tunes. You could find me twerking a bit on the hill, as this was definitely a highlight to remember from Day 1. —Joe Wiseman
     

    Bones at Temple of Om

    There’s a reason why Bones sees himself on more California lineups than any other DJ. After a very turned-up DJ duo tossed around an hour’s worth of supersized trap anthems and Oasis bootlegs, Bones rocked up to the decks at the Temple of Om stage and brought a chunky serving of Night Bass-inspired house weapons. Without flexing on the microphone too much, he relied on his catalog of tunes that included old-school dirtybird classics and unreleased tunes from the likes of Jauz and Wax Motif. It was the perfect warmup for the Australian duo Go Freek who took to the stage like seasoned vets. The guys have already taken Australia by storm with their gutter-tech style, and it’s only a matter of time before they become a household name here in the States. —Troy Kurtz
     

    Best Introduction

    Armin van Buuren getting on the golf cart to film Golf Cart Confessions and introducing himself as Ferry Corsten. He was joking, obvs, and I found the joke funny. Real funny. To be fair, though, they do kind of look alike. —Katie Bain
     

    Kennedy Jones, Man of the People

    DJs have been known to make dramatic entrances, but trap kingpin Kennedy Jones took it a step further by grabbing a wireless mic, throwing a bandana over his distinctive red beard, and kicking off his set incognito from deep in the crowd. It was a true showman’s move, and once he revealed his identity, he was swarmed by a mass of hands and cellphones. After finally making it to front of house, Jones hopped the crash barriers, threw down some final daps and handshakes, and raced onstage to commandeer the decks. As always, Jones putting the “G” in ginger. —Rich Thomas
     

    Happy Birthday to Us

    It’s not a proper birthday celebration without a cake. In between sets by Sander van Doorn and W&W, the LED panels on the Labyrinth stage transformed into a massive, multi-tiered confection while Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella recounted some of Nocturnal’s history over the last 20 years. Word on the street is there will be more birthday celebrations throughout the weekend, so keep your eyes peeled for more cake. —Rich Thomas
     

    W&W Warms up the Crowd for Armin van Buuren

    It’s a little past midnight, and after a full eight-hour shift of nonstop raving, our trap arms flail like jelly and our legs feel like spaghetti. As W&W unloads a wave of high-energy big-room badassness up at Labyrinth, everyone is still in the best spirits, including every Headliner in the never-ending sea of ravers and the all-smiles security guards backstage. It’s a metaphorical passing of the baton, with W&W holding down one of the hardest jobs of the night: directly opening for the master himself, Armin van Buuren. With the onstage water fountains reaching skyscraper levels and confetti bombs filling every inch of the sky, W&W close out their set with their endearing “The One.” I do a slow twirl and gaze upon all the lovingly embracing couples. It’s the most PLUR moment of my night. Armin would be proud. —John Ochoa
     

    Playing Pac-Man at History 101

    The History 101 activation is inviting guests to step back in time to an era in which dance parties had nothing to do with laptops—an era, in fact, in which laptops didn't even exist. Marked by the time traveler’s car of choice, the DeLorean, History 101 features all-vinyl sets tricked out with old-school jams that one might have heard back when Nocturnal was in its infant years. The tent also features some awesome Insomniac art from back in the day (and rendered in blacklight paint, of course), and the turntables are even set up on a stack of cinder blocks for that old-school DIY rave look. There’s also a giant game of Pac-Man, for maximal back-in-the-day-style fun. —Chase Welcher
     

    To Write Love on Her Arms

    Located across from the Temple of Om, To Write Love on Her Arms is an activation providing support for people struggling with depression, addiction, self injury and suicide. The organization’s booth is asking Headliners to write down their biggest fear and biggest dream and post it on their wall, and reading the thoughts of fellow attendees was a profound experience. Amid the music and the fireworks and the displays of spectacle, talking with others at the tent about their struggles made me feel more connected to my fellow Headliners than I did all night. As the poster hanging in the tent read, “You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and roadtrips, airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You’ll need other people, and you’ll need to be that other person to someone else, a living, breathing, screaming invitation to believe better things.” Goosebumps. —Chase Welcher
     

    EDC 360 Experience

    For those of us who missed out on EDC this year, the EDC 360 experience is a chance to take a three-month step back in time, during the weekend this past June when the dial on the Speedway was set to maximum. With the help of a virtual reality headset and a vibrating chair, the EDC 360 experience transports attendees back to the show via technology, and is the next best thing to actually being there. With the VR set on, I loved seeing the faces in the crowd and standing among tens of thousands of Headliners. The simulation even had me dancing in my seat. Get in on the action by visiting the EDC 360 booth right next to the VIP area by the Labyrinth stage, or by grabbing a Google Cardboard setup and downloading the EDC 360 app, which lets you experience EDC anywhere! —Chase Welcher
     

    Yo-Yo

    The Yo-Yo ride served as the centerpiece of the festival, affording Headliners what was most certainly the best view of the entire spectacle from an exclusive vantage point. Every time I descended into the main hub of the show, this ride looked like the crown jewel of the whole thing to me. There’s something about being whisked off the ground with no control over where you’re going or how fast, and being utterly and completely okay with it. The Yo-Yo ride proves it wouldn’t quite be Wonderland without a whirl. —Anum Khan
     

    Music of the Past, Present and Future

    Aboard our confessional golf cart, I asked Z Trip what period of history he would travel to if he could time-hop to any moment in the past or future. The artist born Zach Sciacca then dropped some real wit by saying he’d go to the distant past and blast Skrillex for the older-than-old-school people he met there, just to see how they’d react. Genius. Watch the rest of his interview on an upcoming episode of Golf Cart Confessions. —Katie Bain
     

    Andy C Raising Records to the Open Sky

    Many of you newcomers may have never experienced an actual vinyl-spun set before. But with Nocturnal Wonderland celebrating two decades of dancing in the dark, it felt super apropos for drum & bass deity Andy C to give a proper introduction to the ways of the wax. The dude was rinsing some of the most impressive pressings up there with MC Armanni Reign, who was handling the crowd like a riot control specialist. Before dropping each D&B weapon over the waiting and willing, he made sure to hold up the record high over his head to let you know the big one was coming. It's a party practice you don't really see much onstage these days, which made it that much more special. ­—Sam Yu
     

    Making Noise at the Not-so-Silent Disco

    The early owls that flew in Thursday were able to squeeze in a day of pre-festival fun at the campground. At sundown, a wall of speakers was erected at the Silent Disco stage to start the Noc 20-year off with a bang. Camping Headliners wasted no time at all to show off a seemingly practiced performance of throwin’ up dem trap arms, head-banging with the squad and a whole mess of group chanting. Guiding the get-down for the night was a solid group of selectors including Trent Cantrelle, Dr. Fresch, Flinch and Ookay. Word around the campfire is that it was lit. ­—Sam Yu
     

    Arms Out With Armin

    You can hold on to your DJ praying-hands pose, because Armin van Buuren doesn’t play all that. Instead, the king of trance prefers to remain on the receiving end of that praised position with his signature arms-extended-out-like-Jesus stance (I’m surprised he hasn't trademarked that mess yet). A helpful hint: You know it’s getting really real whenever he decides to bust this move out. The second he did, the elements around him appeared to be at his complete disposal. Like a musical messiah, fire and water and blasts of air were dancing at his command. At least, that’s the way it looked from where I was standing. —Sam Yu
     

    The Comeback of “Sandstorm”

    I expected to hear a fair amount of classics getting tossed around this weekend, with it being the 20-year party and all. But I never guessed how many selectors would revive the rave staple “Sandstorm” by Darude. No joke, I heard at least five or six different iterations of the throwback track throughout the entire day, with each one taking the piece to someplace totally unexpected. I’m pretty sure the dude Darude never thought his release from 2000 would be going strong 15 years later as it reaches hardstyle, trap, and big room heads through remix. —Sam Yu
     

    Dr. Fresch “Call on Me”

    I was prematurely walking away from Dr. Fresch’s set after a few minutes of fresh house beats, G-house swag, and future bass rumbles, when all of a sudden he dropped Eric Prydz’s unforgettable “Call on Me.” Through its cheesy synths and iconic and equally cornball music video, “Call on Me” is an instant classic. The ultimate track dance music-lovers love to hate, the song holds its own even 11 years after its original release. Along with Benny Benassi’s 2002 dance staple “Satisfaction,” “Call on Me” is one of my earliest memories of electronic music. It made me a raver before I even knew I was a raver. With Dr. Fresch at the decks and “Call on Me” in the air, it was the perfect combination of classic dance music and future sounds. —John Ochoa
     

    Sparkleflies

    Whether they were bringing more sparkle to a stage, more crystals to the crowd or more glamour to the grounds, the Sparkleflies dazzled wherever they went. Anyone who knows me knows I am a fan of anything that glitters, and these bedazzled butterflies were simply breathtaking. My penchant for these characters kept me on the lookout for them throughout the show. It also doesn’t hurt that my rave name is Sparkle, and if I had to pick a rave spirit animal, they would look a lot like this. —Anum Khan