White Wonderland: 3… 2… 1… 0 Happy New Year!

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All photography by Matt Little

White Wonderland became California’s most anticipated event this New Year’s Eve after Insomniac’s CEO Pasquale Rotella announced that he would be taking Giant’s “Big Time NYE” line up consisting of Dada Life and Benny Benassi. Rotella then announced he would be adding an additional day, several other artists and a new venue location that has never been used before for electronic music.

This will be one of the first years that Insomniac is not teaming up with Go Ventures and their annual New Year’s Eve celebration called Together As One or TAO. With TAO moving from Los Angeles to Southern Orange County, Yost Theater bringing in Benny Benassi as well, Sutra and Ten Nightclub throwing XL NYE with Manufactured Superstars and ATB, and The Drop OC at the Grove of Anaheim with headliners Nicky Romero and Bart B. More there were several events for electronic music listener to attend in the Orange County area. However one name usually does better than the rest, Insomniac.

When the announcement came there was much question around the event because the line up was left unfinished and said additional artists would be added. Rumors spread for several days before the official announcement came of who would be added. White Wonderland had announced that Day 1 lineup would be Trent Cantrelle, Kaskade, Dada Life, Benny Benassi, and headlining was Paul Van Dyk. The following day to celebrate the New Year was Tara Brooks, Thomas Gold, An21 & Max Vangeli, and finally one of the members of Swedish House Mafia, Steve Angello.

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With the artists known the second question was around where the White Wonderland venue would be. Rotella had tweeted that it was not in LA but 35 miles out at a location they have never guessed. Lying about that distance outside of LA was the city of Anaheim. And lying inside Anaheim was the convention center.

Thousands of visitors to the city were attending the White Wonderland event. As time closed in on the 6 pm start you could start seeing the masses of people in white march towards the venue. And as soon as you were inside that’s all that you would see, white.

The layout of the indoor event was very typical to how Insomniac does a lot of their events. A large stage with a giant dancefloor enclosed by VIP stages and concessions. LED displays hung on foundation pillars and lights were fixed to the ceiling for the length of the floor. The stage included a large LED wall, two florescent white light trees, and several other lighting effects off the stage such as lasers and strobes.

The line up that had been set up for the night was an arrangement of top electronic artists across several genres. First up was Trent Cantrelle a progressive house/tech house artist. He played a very smooth set with good progression and dropped some of his biggest songs such as “I Want a Freak” and “Come With Me.” Originally the set was designed to open for Kaskade and was to last only 75 minutes however Cantrelle didn’t leave the stage until 8:30pm.

It was not announced to fans and attendees that one of the biggest artists on the night’s ticket would not be attending. Kaskade, who has been announced as America’s best DJ, could not make the event due to weather conditions of Orange County. Kaskade first reported it through his Twitter account that he could not make it. He then retweeted a comment that implied he would make it up to the fans in attendance for him and lets hope that’s true. Shortly after those tweets, word spread throughout the dancefloor and people began trickling out and seemed to get tired of Cantrelle.

Then around 8:30 pm we hear a small intro build and then drops the vocals of “Kick Out the Epic Mother Fucker” and the crowd goes bananas. Emerging out of nowhere is the two Swedish producers/DJs Dada Life. All of a sudden Go-Go dancers were out, speakers were turned up, lights were dancing and Dada Life was playing. They played what I thought to be the best set of the night with many of their original hits including “Happy Violence” and “Unleash the Fucking Dada.” Their stage presence was nothing different than what you could normally expect from Dada, with them jumping around and acting crazy gave the crowd their needed boost of energy.

However that energy must not have carried over for the legendary artist Benny Benassi. Arriving before midnight, it was Benny’s duty to bring in the New Year. Benny delivered a well-rounded set that was for all music listeners rather than just for the electronic ear. This included his remix of “Cinema” with live vocals by Gary Go, who stuck around to sing a few other tracks.

With much anticipation and great build up for the New Year to come maybe music became less important. There were less dancers and less energy coming from Benassi as well as the crowd. And then the LED wall started the countdown clock at 1 minute and the sell out crowd of 14,000 joined in at :20 remaining… 3… 2… 1… 0 Happy New Year!

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Fountains of sparks, streamers shooting, and celebrations through kissing, hugging, and high fives filled the crowd. 2012 was finally here and so was Paul Van Dyk, who had maneuvered himself onto the stage at some point during the ending of Benassi’s performance.

Van Dyk played a very symbolic set to his style of music. The heavy trance artist wanted to bring in the New Year on a positive energy note. As the crowd got lost in the music to some of the artist’s more popular songs and a sampling of Kaskade’s “Move for Me,” which brought a small tear to your eye because of the previous events, the 2 am event curfew was among us. Before you knew it we heard the last words over the speakers as Paul Van Dyk sent us on our way, “Happy New Year.” And that was it 2012 was here and White Wonderland was to continue for some and end for others.

After the first day, mixed feelings surrounded the day 1 event. Complaints of the absence of Kaskade, which was uncontrollable and almost impossible to prepare for but also complaints around the event remained. The event seemed organized but put together last minute, not a characteristic of Insomniac. The stage was a disappointment for those who are familiar with Insomniac events. There were more props than light display for the audience as well as a weaker than normal sound system for the production company. Several tweets throughout the night went to Rotella about turning up the volume with him responding through action, until it was all the way up and the complaints/requests still came in.

Maybe it was the type or style of music that was being played or maybe Insomniac was trying to throw a different type of event for the 21+ crowd but like Kaskade I like to feel it in my bones when attending an event. The event was more social and less about the music that normal but lets not discredit Insomniac and their work for it was only the first year they have done this.