With reporting from Boojie Baker, John Ochoa, Rich Thomas and Sam Yu.
Beyond Wonderland has quickly become one of the most beloved festivals in SoCal over the past seven years. Serving as the quintessential springtime celebration in the US, it marks the official kickoff to festival season every March.
This year, Beyond Wonderland returned to its original home at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA, for the first time since 2012. To mark the special occasion, we reimagined our much-loved event into a brand-new, fantastical dimension: the Endless Sea, an aquatic-themed creative space offering unforeseen adventures.
And many adventures did we indeed experience: mermaids and mermen, SpongeBob SquarePants and all his Bikini Bottom squad, krakens and sea monsters, and plenty of fish and underwater creatures all across the waters of the Endless Sea.
Here are a few of our favorite things and moments from our maiden voyage to Beyond Wonderland: The Endless Sea.
Headliners Diving Headfirst Into the Aquatic Theme
There’s no question about it: Headliners rule our world. So, we were extra stoked to see you lovely Headliners dive headfirst into our newly introduced aquatic theme. The diversity and creativity of your out-of-this-world costumes and totems left us speechless. Props to all you beautiful mermaids, powerful King Neptunes, silly Left Sharks, and cute Nemos and Dorys for truly bringing out the sea creature in all of us. —John Ochoa
Trippy Projection Mapping at Queen’s Domain
We brought out some new tricks for this year’s Beyond Wonderland SoCal over at the mainstage. While we indeed packed out the entire Queen’s Domain in lasers and lights, we stepped it up about 100-fold with state-of-the-art projection mapping and fancy technology I’m probably not equipped to explain. Just trust me when I say it was lit, fam. On a technologically advanced screen in front of the mainstage, as well as over our heads on the roof of the tented structure, scenes of aquatic beauty and underwater wonder filled Queen’s Domain and created an awesomely immersive audiovisual experience. Production is key to the Insomniac experience, and this innovative approach really redefined the definition of a light show. —John Ochoa
Everybody loves a good photo op, and few places offered up as popular a squad shot location as the winged, cross-key BW logo just outside the Damus building. It’s a growing theme at Insomniac festivals (who waited in line to get pics in front of the glowing EDC logo in Carnival Square?) and one that gives Headliners a chance to #hashtag their location and create major FOMO for their stay-at-home friends. —Rich Thomas
Twirling Those Tentacles
You know how touching the art at museums is always a huge no-no? Well, the installations at our festivals don’t play that. The mechanical octopus, which you hopefully caught chilling by the Beyond Wench, caused a huge splash. Eight at a time, Headliners huddled around in a circular fashion to twirl its tentacles. It was an easy way to kill some time and likely make some new festival friends in the process. A win-win the way we see it. —Sam Yu
Trance Heaven With the Dreamstate Fam
It’s a universal fact: Trance is bae. So of course, we were expecting all the feels to hit us full force at Cheshire Cove, where the Dreamstate fam hosted a two-day trance takeover. The true beauty of these Dreamstate-hosted stages lies in the diverse lineups, which take Headliners on an epic journey through the full spectrum of the trance sound. From the psytrance barrage of Astrix and Vini Vici, the 138 bliss of Chris Schweizer, and the anthems of genre leaders Aly & Fila, Markus Schulz, and Paul van Dyk, Dreamstate offered a true trance heaven for newbies and lifelong fans alike. Bonus points for those floating jellies, which keep the party popping off. —John Ochoa
New Endless Sea Performers
Whether it was the sleek and shimmery Aquatic Aerials suspended from the rafters of Queen’s Domain, or the fan-favorite Queen Tridents strolling through the grounds, the new performance troupes dreamt up for our journey into the Endless Sea captivated the crowd all weekend long. Fishy Fish people? Yup. Sea Foam Sirens on stilts? Got them, too. How about Cthulhu-agogo, the octopus ladies? Of course. —Rich Thomas
Beyond Wench Came A-Rockin’
After making its grand debut last year, the Beyond Wench returned for its second run, and the result was a boat party that had all the motion of the ocean. With the trusted Cats & Boots crew at the helm, the steampunk-style art car was swaying nonstop from the most legit low-end-loaded house sounds you’d find this side of the Atlantic. From the wobble-heavy beats of Dillon Nathaniel to the sweaty rhythms rolling in from all the label regulars, the Wench was the spot you kept sneaking back to whenever there was some wiggle room in your schedule. Side note: Dropping anchor by the lake worked forever in their favor, because it gave them prime real estate as one of the only stages where Headliners could post up on a nice, soft patch of grass. —Sam Yu
REZZ Speaks, Headliners Listen
Something I knew going into this past weekend was that the hype around REZZ was palpable. I caught a sliver of her set at Life Is Beautiful last year and was digging the few tracks I heard. But with all the Gesaffelstein references being thrown around, plus the fact that my time was limited and it was in the middle of the day in an open-air structure, I left LIB intrigued—not so wowed.
Beyond Wonderland was an entirely different beast. Doing her thing between Cut Snake and Shiba San (who closed out the night), REZZ shut it down—literally. She had so many Headliners inside the Citrus building that they couldn’t fit anyone else in. With the doors closed and the room’s energy set to maximum, the situation was primed for the eerie and ominous 100-BPM romp through some seriously hard-edged, twitched-out beats and breaks. It’s not as easy task to be both unconventional and highly functional when speaking to a festival dancefloor, but REZZ threw down for both causes.
Something I learned at Beyond Wonderland this past weekend: In the current climate, where too many DJs sound stunningly alike, REZZ has something unique to say—and I, along with the thousands of Headliners around me, enjoyed listening. Hype is funny thing, but sometimes it’s justified. —Boojie Baker
Ok, it’s more pond than lake, but NOS just wouldn’t be the same without it. The first time I sat ‘round this tiny body of water as a rave raged on was about 20 years ago, and it’s still the PLURfect spot to get your chill and chat with friends (or make some new ones) as the night burns on around you. My mind, body (well, mainly my feet), and soul thank me for it each and every time. What can I say: When you find something you love, you don’t give it up. I’m talking raving. But the pond is cool, too. —Boojie Baker
The Bubbles Were Poppin’
I can’t think of a single situation that couldn’t be made better without a little bubble action. At every stage (minus the indoor Aquarium stage, because slippery floors are a buzzkill for dancing), there were bubble machines working overtime to fill the air with more bubbles than I’ve seen in my lifetime. On top of creating the illusion of being submerged deep in an underwater paradise, the thousands of tiny globes of soap took in a world of color when the lighting was just right. —Sam Yu
The Fuck Salt Guy
If you take in too much salt, your blood pressure raises because it causes your body to store too much water. Which means your heart works overtime just to do what it needs to do to keep you going. So don’t eat too much salt; your heart will appreciate you more. Plus, you don’t want to piss off your arteries, kidneys and brain, because too much salt can lead to heart attacks, strokes, dementia and kidney disease. Fuck salt. And fuck yeah to this guy right here—I get you, man. And so do the Gastropod heads. —Boojie Baker
Front-Row Headbanging With Team Bassrush
Trust us: We know a thing or two about headbanging. But nobody does it heavier or harder than #TeamBassrush. We saw it firsthand in the front row at the Outer Realm, where bass-heads were losing their minds and banging their heads away to the sounds of Alison Wonderland and Bleep Bloop on night one and Herobust and 12th Planet on night two. The bass fiends who comprise the international Bassrush squad are always the wildest and loudest at our shows, no questions asked. And the Beyond bass-heads were no different. Keep those horns up in the air and heads banging forever. —John Ochoa
AC Slater Knocking Heads
Word must have gotten out about how many flame emojis have been used in reference to the Night Bass name, because the line to get into the Aquarium felt like it was wrapped around the building right before the label’s head honcho, AC Slater, was scheduled to take the stage. He came out with the bass house bits blazing, obviously, and set the speed of his set with his newest joint, “Head Knockin,” which incited a collective “woop woop” from everyone on the dancefloor. The giant rainbow-colored octopus and glowing jellyfish troupe must have felt the raw energy, because they were flopping around above the Headliners’ heads like fish out of water. Even this shy wallflower made a sad attempt at shaking a limb or two. —Sam Yu
This Freaky Sea Creature
We have performers, and we have Headliners who dress like performers—as with this sea creature meets vampire meets a whole lotta awesomeness right here. Often seen roaming around Insomniac VIP areas, this guy regularly spices up our life and deserves a special shout-out. —Boojie Baker
New Looks at the Merch Booth
We’re kicking down some new looks here at Insomniac HQ. In fact, we officially launched our new lifestyle and clothing brand at Beyond Wonderland. If you stopped by our merch booths over the weekend, you got a firsthand look at our gear in action. The new line of products is a nod to Insomniac’s storied legacy in dance music, mixed with modern wear: classic rave culture vibes for today’s festival warrior. And we’ve brought on a true OG to help lead our vision: Rick Klotz, founder of the seminal brand Freshjive, which became the de facto American streetwear line in the ‘90s, with an especially deep influence in the underground rave scene. The Beyond Wonderland SoCal 2017 merch collection is the first step in our long journey to help shape the future of festival and lifestyle fashion and become leaders of the new style. You can peep our steez at our recently launched Insomniac Shop, the central hub for all our latest looks and products. If you missed out on any of the gear at Beyond Wonderland SoCal, head over to the Insomniac Shop, where we’ll be hosting the collection in full. —John Ochoa
A Full House at the Upside-Down House
The Insomniac Records team has been cooking up tons of new tunes recently, and they showcased some of their latest artists and releases this weekend at the Upside-Down House, where they curated two full days of fire beats and future sounds. Wedged between Queen’s Domain and the Outer Realm, the Upside-Down House hosted proper house party vibes, with special guests Gladiator, JSTJR, Redlight and more. Parisian up-and-comer Dombresky held it down on night two with a finessed canon of fly house beats and slick productions. Keep an eye on this rookie: Rumor has it he’s got big things In / Rotation. —John Ochoa
Welcoming Sofia Vergara to Her First Rave
We’re all about inclusion here at Insomniac, especially when we can welcome newcomers to our loving community for a glimpse of the PLUR life via their first-ever rave and music festival. We had the pleasure of introducing Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated actress Sofia Vergara, of Modern Family fame, to the rave world this weekend. Turns out her husband, actor Joe Manganiello, is homies with drum & bass legend Dieselboy. Small world! Here’s hoping the Hollywood couple spent their weekend headbanging to some proper D&B alongside the Bassrush squad. Hope to see you again, Sofia, and please spread the PLUR vibes to all those Hollywood hopefuls. —John Ochoa
The Totem Plug
One of our favorite conversational topics on show days is pointing out the ridiculously entertaining memes-on-a-spirit-stick we see bouncing around the dancefloor. It’s a sight that would make the internet proud. The act of participating and self-expressing is king at Insomniac, which is why we decided to launch a new loaner system called Holy Totems. Headliners can rent one on us for the day; simply swap your ID for a premade selection. As for the totem bearers who are looking to add a dash of pizzazz to their pieces, the booth had an assortment of lights and crafty add-ons that were also up for grabs. Try to think of the booth as totem training wheels, where after a few safe rides, you’ll feel confident enough to take creative control of your own festival statements. —Sam Yu