(Photo by aLIVE Coverage of Insomniac Events)
If you’ve ever been to an Insomniac event like EDC, Escape, Nocturnal, then you know that there is no official headliner. Although you’re witness to artists on the scale of Martin Garrix, Calvin Harris, Armin van Buuren, and Tiesto, Insomniac goes to great lengths to remind you that the most important headliner is you! Well, this past Halloween I had the incredible experience of going from a Headliner to a Historian (Historian = the media pass) at Escape: Psycho Circus.
Although I’ve only been deeply immersed in the scene for the past year-and-a-half or so, my rave roots go way back. I went to EDC Los Angeles at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum back in 2009 and witnessed the magic of luminary acts like Fedde Le Grand, ATB, and Paul Oakenfold. I was also exposed to the ear shredding house and techno of acts like Boys Noize, Shinichi Osawa, and Fake Blood.
Fast forward six years and it’s a much different scene. While I’ve attended Insomniac events before as a Headliner, this year I had the unique opportunity to experience an Insomniac festival as a Historian. I was able to cover Escape: Psycho Circus 2015 at NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA. It was a historic weekend indeed. Not only did I have access to the artists and their crews backstage, I was able to enjoy the incredible production and performances of Escape from a much more intimate vantage point. Simply put, it was a wonderful festival experience.
(Photo By: Insomniac Events)
As anybody who has been to a festival knows, there’s nothing that compares to being in the middle of the madness of a wild set. I made sure to go out there and experience a bit of that for myself at Escape. On Friday night, I met up with a couple of friends of mine who were Headliners for the evening.
We caught some of Loco Dice’s hot set inside the Cannibal’s Tea Party. Before parting ways for a little while, I caught Dash Berlin at the mainstage and went backstage for some interviews. We rendezvoused afterwards to accomplish our main goal for the night – watch Eric Prydz together. And we witnessed the Swedish master throw down a dark and sleek set that he opened up with some Cirez D before segueing into new Prydz hits like “Opus” and “Moln”.
I rushed us over to catch some of Blasterjaxx’s set at Ghouls’ Graveyard, where I’d spent most of my time in VIP earlier in the day. My friends took a break by the food trucks while I slid in through the side entrance to the tent. I rocked out while frequently checking in with my compatriots, beckoning them to come in, which they eventually did for Firebeatz’ floor shattering set. The Ghouls’ Graveyard production was in full effect as the Dutch boys dropped banger after banger including “Go”, “Sky High”, and “Helicopter”.
My fellow Headliners and I wanted to end the night at the Chopping Block with Flux Pavilion, but the NOS Events Center was getting awfully crowded and we deemed it too difficult to make it in. We caught a bit of Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike’s closing set at the mainstage and, feeling satisfied, we called it a night.
I embarked back upon the NOS Events Center the next day for what was sure to be a wicked experience on Halloween night. While there were of course plenty of costumes on Day 1, there weren’t as many as I thought. I would say it was about a 50/50 ratio between Halloween costumes and street clothes/standard rave attire. Not so on Day 2; all of the headliners were dressed to the nines, and I saw some incredible costumes. Two of my favorites were a couple I saw in VIP dressed as Neo & Trinity from The Matrix, with full black leather trench coats, boots, glasses, and hair. Another Headliner I saw bouncing the night away wearing a full plush Ted suit. He looked like he was having a lot of fun.
(Photo By: Insomniac Events)
I could tell the minute I entered the venue on Halloween that it was going to be a pretty wild night. I made my way over to the Chopping Block where I caught some Brennen Grey. More than anything, I kind of just marveled at the visuals as I took a nice spot along the front rail before the building got too crowded. Grey was cool, but when it’s 90 degrees and sunny out like it was on Halloween, I’m just not quite in the mood for industrial techno.
Without any artists I was dying to see…I started to head back over towards the mainstage and Ghouls’ Graveyard. I was about to go to Ghouls’ Graveyard when I heard the serenading sounds of 2Chainz coming from the Slaughterhouse. I’m glad I went over because I caught the second half of Aryay’s banging trap set. It was the perfect thing to get the crowd fired up. I saw headliners sprinting, shuffling, and bouncing in droves, and everyone was happy. It was an awesome time.
Again, without any pressing acts to see, I decided I had to see Black Tiger Sex Machine at the Chopping Block. The name is irresistible, and I’d seen the pictures of Canadian trio performing with their trademark Tiger helmets. Their Facebook page lists their genre as “Futuristic Thriller” and I’d say that’s appropriate. Their beats were heavy, but up-tempo, and with the sun setting outside, the Chopping Block’s production was on full display. I thoroughly enjoyed the BTSM experience. However, I had to make my way over to another Canadian act.
I returned to the Ghouls’ Graveyard to check out Shaun Frank’s set before I went backstage to interview him. Shaun brought the roof down showing everyone just how groovy and uplifting future house can be. Delaney Jane joined him at the end of the set to do their smash hit “Shades of Grey” and they closed the set with a medley of Jack Ü & Justin Bieber’s “Where R Ü Now” and Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” I was mesmerized.
I had to go from Headliner to Historian real quick and run backstage to interview Shaun. I was blown away by what a humble and down to earth guy he was. It was a joy chatting with him, and sharing inspiring stories. This is why I love getting to talk to these artists on a more personal level. We talked, Delaney Jane came backstage too, we took some selfies, and it was back to the Headliner life for me. I headed back over to the mainstage to catch some of Seven Lions’ set. He’s always a pleasure, and although he’s not my personal favorite, he genuinely uplifts a crowd. There were incredible vibes amongst the headliners inside the Slaughterhouse.
Whilst I was walking over there prior to the set, I noticed the venue was starting to get packed. The only set I caught in VIP at the Slaughterhouse on night one was Dash Berlin. I decided that for night two, I was planting myself firmly along the railing in VIP for the latter part of the evening.
That was of course, after I went to go see Party Favor at the Chopping Block. Boy, oh boy, did Party Favor go in. He dropped juicy bangers that had the indoor stage going completely berserk. I found myself on a platform near one of the side entrances bouncing furiously up and down with several other headliners; it was nuts. Then a staffer kicked everyone off the platform and I headed back to the Slaughterhouse.
I got my full dose of bass music on Halloween. After Party Favor, I witnessed the debut performance of Ephwurd – the collaboration between Datsik and Bais Haus. They dropped their smash hit banger and continued to “Rock the Party” for the rest of their set. As I got my drink at the VIP bar before their set, a fellow headliner asked me who was on stage and I told him Ephwurd. He simply said, “Fuck yeah!” and walked off in amazement. I love those moments.
(Photo By: Teaghan McGinnis)
With Showtek running a little late, the crowd was treated to an impromptu JACKAL B2B Dr. Fresch set, and the two were dropping bombs. Then Showtek took the stage and barraged the crowd with lasers, confetti, the Janssen brothers’ unmatched energy, and tons of Showtek hits like “We Like to Party”, “Booyah”, “Bad”, and “Sun Goes Down”. I’ve seen Showtek before, but this may have been my favorite set of theirs. Quite simply, they were on point.
Markus Schulz took the stage next and I was excited to see him after having just interviewed him backstage. Throughout an amazing weekend of partying, one incredible moment was when I went backstage to meet Markus. I knocked on his trailer door and the trance legend was quietly busy on his laptop. He greeted me by saying, “Oh, hey, I’m just doing some work.”
It was a side of things you rarely see. Lest we forget folks, this stuff is hard work, and Markus Schulz has been putting in that work for 20 years! I was blown away by his work ethic and professionalism. He knows what’s up with his music, his fans, the scene, everything. That’s one thing I’ve gotten to see as a Historian. As fans we think it’s all fun and games, but it’s not. There’s so much hard work that goes into being a successful artist. I see these guys, and I realize…I’m not working hard enough!
Back to the Headliner life, though. Although trance is not really my thing, I was thoroughly impressed by Markus Schulz. He told me he wants to take the fans with him on a journey, and it felt just like that. Sure enough I saw a Trance Family flag waving high near the front of the stage in the middle of the crowd. Thank you, Markus for showing me just how much fun a trance set can be!
(Photo By: Marc van der Aa of Insomniac Events)
After Markus though, it was time for business. Martin Garrix was closing out the night. I’ve seen Martin before, but never this close up, and he peppered in so many surprises. Maybe because it was Halloween and it was the culmination of the weekend, but the crowd was going absolutely wild inside the Slaughterhouse. I don’t think Team Garrix is known as the rowdiest bunch, but it was a madhouse on Halloween night. Martin opened up his set with his VIP Piano remix of his classic “Animals” followed by his newest anthem “Poison.” It was a perfect mix of new and old as Martin dropped classics like “Wizard” and “Tremor” alongside newer jams like “Break Through the Silence” and his epic remix of The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face”. I’m still floored.
And just like that, Halloween and my incredible experience as an Insomniac Historian were over. Like any festival, it was an experience I’ll never forget. However, this one was truly unique. I’d never experienced a festival from the friendly confines of VIP, and I have to express my eternal gratitude to Insomniac for giving me such generous treatment. The uninhibited access…I got to see so many inspirational artists…it was incredible. Escape isn’t on the same grand scale as, say EDC, but, for me, it will always hold a high spot on my personal list.
On a personal note I’m really enjoying this role I’ve settled into as a sort of, I don’t know, an EDM reporter/interviewer, and Escape was a very satisfying experience on that level. Nothing’s cooler than when I’m talking with fellow Headliners and I tell them I’m a writer for Your EDM. People’s eyes light up, especially when I tell them whom I’m there to interview. It’s a great feeling when fellow headliners recognize you’re trying to shine a positive light on them and our scene.
At the very least, I hope I’m giving the fans an accurate and compelling view of the artists that we all love, that they might never have thought of before. I’ve met some really incredible people backstage, and I’m thankful for that. I’ve gotten to go places a lot of fans wish they could. It’s truly an honor, and I hope to continue to tell the stories of all the inspiring men and women in the music industry. It’s a great scene to be a part of, and I look forward to seeing my fellow Headliners at the next great event so I can tell their stories too!
Check out my video of Showtek rocking the main stage!