Escape From Wonderland—11 Hours Of Hardcore Dancing

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All Photography by Adam Leene

Let’s grab a box of tissue… there’s no escaping the fact that we’re back in reality. The ghouls have disappeared, the goblins have ceased, the gates are closed and everything is back to normal. The quiet county of San Bernardino can rest in peace until next year.

On October 29, roughly 45,000 guys and girls invaded the NOS Event Center for the first annual Escape From Wonderland hosted by Insomniac. It’s the newest addition to the incredible line-up of Insomniac’s resume of events. Festivities started at 3 pm and lasted until 2 am—that’s 11 hours of hardcore dancing to some pretty amazing music. Incredible.

The layout of Escape From Wonderland definitely resembled a scene out of the film Alice In Wonderland. My eyes couldn’t resist looking at all the décor surrounding the place. There were roughly ten attractions in addition to the five massive stages. There was a graveyard to the right of the entrance decked out with countless tombstones which ended up being a comfortable chill out area for people dying to sit down. The two ride attractions (the flight ride and the swings) had such a gnarly line throughout the night that I’ll admit that I wasn’t willing to stand in line for an hour to ride the swings. Although at the end I was a bit sad that I didn’t. The two haunted mazes didn’t disappoint by any means—people were screaming ever chance they could. The labyrinths we’re shockingly impressive considering this was at a massive EDM festival. I definitely didn’t expect the walk though to be scarier than Universal Studios. It was. The Manguin Tunnel ending being the biggest hit of the night—it was a 3D affair featuring some pretty killer visual effects. They positively left my brain in a glitch—that’s a good thing, btw. It was gnarly because the effects would move from screen to screen so you would have to keep up but it was lovely watching others completely amazed by the visual as if they were children meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time at Disneyland. Classic.

Being a huge festival… of course there were booths all over place. Some were selling food, which surprisingly wasn’t overly priced, some were hocking EDC 2012 early bird passes, there were countless cocktail stations with ample amounts of alcohol—If you needed anything, you could find it. The best thing about the refreshments was the fact that Insomniac provided two free water stations. People weren’t required to fork over $4 each time they needed water. The only downfall was there were only two, which created an insane line at one in particular close to the Mad Hatter’s Hospital stage. The free water station that were opposite of the first didn’t have a line at all which means people probably didn’t read the map. If I could recommend anything for next year I say there should be at least four free water stations due to the amount of attendees Insomniac attracts.

Now lets get to the best part, the music. There were five stages: Cannibal’s Tea Party, Mad Hatter’s Hospital, Chopping Block, Ghouls Graveyard and Size Matters in the Slaughter House. The Slaughter House stage was massive. It was definitely the longest and widest stage I’ve ever encountered at a festival. It topped tents at Coachella, Warped Tour, Hard, etc. Seriously… the amount of people it could fit was impressive. Each tent was dedicated to a certain genre of electronic music: the Mad Hatter’s Hospital was mostly trance, the Chopping Block provided drum & bass and dubstep, the Ghouls Graveyard and Slaughter House ended up playing all forms of electronic music and the Cannibal’s Tea Party stage introduced new and upcoming acts in the EDM scene.

My favorites sets of the night were Nervo, R3hab, ATB, Steve Angello, Dash Berlin, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and AN21 & Max Vangeli. As a general rule, I’m typically against artists having hype men during their set. It might just be me, but I believe they tend to hinder the performance with their endless talking. Boring. I gotta say, though, it worked for Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. Their set ending up being the shortest yet they managed to keep the crowd hyped the entire time. They even played the R3hab and Swanky Tune remix of “Maximal Crazy” by Tiësto. If I had any calm composure at that time it was gone…I was going nuts on the dancefloor. “Levels” by Avicii was of course played countless times throughout the night. The Third Party remix of “Otherside” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers was impressive, as was the diversity of their set list. It wasn’t boring and it was very apparent people were enjoying themselves. The artists that were extremely impressive were R3hab and Dash Berlin. R3hab is known for his incredible remixes but I encourage everyone to see him live. His set was amazing, words can’t even describe the energy this man brought to his show. His drops were the sickest and you could see the excitement plastered across his face with an ear-to-ear smile. He danced, mocked the sounds with his hands and was even jumping behind his decks at one point. As a fan that’s the best part of attending these festivals because you get to witness artist elated to have the chance to perform in front of a crowd going insane over them. Dash Berlin seemed like a happy go lucky type of guy. His visuals weren’t the best but his set was impeccable. Being able to hear his work is what DJing is about. It’s stellar when artist play other works by their associates but when I’m ready to watch Dash Berlin, I expect to hear music by Dash Berlin. This wasn’t the case for Benny Benassi either, which is why I didn’t stay for his entire set.

The one artist I was upset that I didn’t get to witness live was Markus Schulz. Same goes for Borgore, Sub focus and Third Party. Still, close to a week after Wonderland, I’m hearing amazing things about Markus Schulz—even to the point people admitting he saved their lives with his music. Man, that’s incredible. Borgore, is a rising dubstep artist who I missed at Warped Tour, as well. He’s receiving a lot of hype and is well respected by dubstep artist alike. Subfocus is always amazing. They did a remix to one of my favorite tracks by Rusko. I prefer their remix to the original. And as for Third Party, anyone who can enhance a Red Hot Chili Peppers tracks deserves kudos, a high five and a golden star. Literally.

Let’s get honest here… Being that this was my first massive rave in life, the bad reputation Insomniac events carry suck because the organization of the event was grade A. There were first-aid paramedics walking around through the crowds to ensure everyone’s health was intact, the security was good except for the mini pile up around the Slaughter House stage. All in all, I’d say this event was a huge success. I’m not alone on this: “Escape From Wonderland was amazing,“ Danika Osumi said, “It’s like a world where all different kinds of people come to worship DJ gods.”

The negative connotations (drugs) associated with the events aren’t the main aspect of the EDM scene. Witnessing thousands of people going insane over Afrojack, Steve Angello and Dash Berlin was beautiful. Hearing thousands of voices singing in unison so loud you could hear their voices over the music was proof that the electronic dance music scene is a community of people who share admiration for the music itself. I remember walking to the car after the event and hearing the screams and people singing blocks away. I can’t wait for Escape From Wonderland in 2012.