By Aidan Meehan and Will Jernigan
Escape From Wonderland
October 27, 2012
NOS Event Center
San Bernardino, CA
In only its second year, Insomniac Events brought nearly 50,000 people to their Halloween-themed festival Escape From Wonderland, which has sold out both its years of occurrence. After attending, we can see why this member of the Wonderland family is by far the most popular. Electronic music enthusiasts love one thing more than dancing the night away, and that is doing so in bizarre, carefully constructed costumes. Halloween presents the ultimate opportunity for outlandish wear, and festival-goers did not disappoint at Escape, sporting the dress of historical figures, Alice and her Wonderland friends (fittingly), and cult movie icons of past and present.
Escape From Wonderland offered attendees much more than just another chance to dress up and party. State-of-the-art production, a mind-blowing line-up and revolting décor all contributed to one of the most unique and memorable Halloween experiences possible.
Upon entering through the ghastly gates of the festival, we scouted out the haunted stages, ending up at the Ghoul’s Graveyard stage, hosted by Steve Angello’s own Size Matters Records. Rising progressive house stars Third Party had just begun their set, mixing with a Dutch House style that included tracks such as Afrojack’s new anthem “Rock the House”, and even mixing in Zedd’s heavy-hitting remix of Skrillex’s “Breaking A Sweat”. Continuing into a more progressive sound later in the set, they dropped some of their own productions, playing “Feel”, their famous remix of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Otherside”, and finally put the crowd into a frenzy with their new collaboration with Steve Angello “Lights” .
After Third Party finished, we found a small window of opportunity between artists to wander the festival and check out the haunted houses. The first stop was The Looking Glass 3-D Maze, where chainsaw-toting zombies and unearthly demons were hidden among twisted neon 3D landscapes. The house’s ‘victims’ held back screams of terror as the most gruesome of wonderland’s inhabitants appeared almost out of the walls to horrify the unsuspecting. Five minutes of recovery time and we launched into the pleasantly short and quick-moving line of the next house, Alice’s House of Horror. In Alice’s House lurked insane doctors, a room of hanging clowns and pitch-black hallways that created an atmosphere all more nauseating than the previous house. After escaping the clutches of the monsters inside, we left the haunted houses thoroughly impressed with their quality and presentation.
We quickly stopped at the Chopping Block Dubstep Stage to have our eardrums pounded by Crizzly’s bass-heavy set, which featured a hype man and full-sized teddy bear bouncing around on stage. We then headed to the main stage, Slaughter House, to see the Australian twin female sensations Nervo. Miriam and Olivia came out in police uniforms, with enthusiasm double that of most DJ’s and mixed a set to remember. The sisters played many of their famous songs, including “The Way We See the World”, “You’re Gonna Love Again”, and their latest release “Reason”. Our personal favorite was Nervo’s hit “We’re All No One” sung over Hook N’ Sling’s club jam “Take You Higher”. The light show at the Slaughter House added to the already memorable set, complete with seven LED backboards that went through everything from a live fan/DJ cam to a realistic thrill ride, twin lasers, ghosts and spider webs floating from the top of the tent, smoke, strobe lights, flood lights, and confetti and streamer cannons.
Back at the Size Matters stage, progressive house legend Steve Angello stole the show with an epic hour and a half-long set full of EDM classics and freshly released hits. He opened with his #1 track “KNAS” and segued into Alesso’s track “Clash”. Frequently pausing the mix to talk to the crowd, Angello spoke about the upcoming Swedish House Mafia tour while playing the supergroup’s hits “One”, “Greyhound”, and “Leave The World Behind”. Every vocal hook of the set was sung along to and every drop evoked zeal from the crowd. Closing with the latest SHM single, “Don’t You Worry Child”, Angello left Escape From Wonderland fired up for the rest of the evening.
We hung around after Angello’s set to catch German mastermind Thomas Gold. He surprised us by entering the stage with a full 8-piece drum line of evil clowns, who stayed on stage with him throughout the first two songs, performing live percussions along with his mixing of heavy progressive house beats. He played many of his signature tracks, including “Alive”, “Eyes Wide Open”, and “Walking Alone”. From there we briefly stopped at Calvin Harris’ set, which was engaging, but quite crowded, and finally headed back to the Chopping Block Bass Stage to close out our night with the infamous dubstep heavyweight Borgore.
Borgore surprised no one with a particularly raunchy set, full of heavy, grimy bass lines, and images of scantily clad women and junk food (comical floating ice cream cones and cakes). He pleased the crowd with Flux Pavilion’s well-known “I Can’t Stop”, and surprised us with a bit of Knife Party’s new track “Centipede”. He also played many of his own famous songs, including “Ice Cream”, “Love”, and ended the night with his latest major release, “Decisions”. During the final track, hundreds of girls flooded the stage and danced along with him, with security being unable to hold back the onslaught. Borgore’s set was a powerful and unique experience, and a great way to end the night at Escape from Wonderland.
In conclusion, the Wonderland series of events is continuously impressive. Both Nocturnal and Escape From Wonderland have offered incredible experiences in a relatively small and safe festival setting. Insomniac continues to deliver musically and logistically, setting the standard for music festivals across the country. I highly recommend trying out one of the Insomniac festivals in the near future, either this New Year’s at White Wonderland or at any of the Electric Daisy Carnival events. Escape From Wonderland’s haunting melodies and brutal drops brought out Alice’s evil side, even if just for one frightening night.
5:30-6:30 Third Party
6:30-7 Explore and Stuff
9-9:30 Haunted House
9:30-10:45 Steven Angello
10:45-11:15 Armin van Buuren
11:15-12:15 Thomas Gold
12:15-12:40 Laidback Luke
12:40-1 Calvin Harris