It was an absolutely wild weekend in San Bernardino, as headliners packed the NOS Events Center for the biggest Beyond Wonderland to date. Insomniac delivered for the ninth edition of the Southern California festival as headliners were treated to four stages of some of the biggest names in music. There was something to please fans of all genres of dance music as Bassrush, Basscon, Dreamstate, and more were all represented over the course of the weekend. Headliners were treated to world class production and performances from some of dance music’s best including deadmau5, Armin van Buuren, Seven Lions, Rezz, Flux Pavilion, Don Diablo, and so many more. This was my third consecutive Beyond, and I’ve always kind of thought of it as being a west coast version of Ultra Miami. It signals the beginning of spring and festival season; days are longer, heavy coats aren’t needed anymore.
However, I’ve also always kind of felt that Beyond is the forgotten Insomniac festival. EDC Las Vegas is the flagship, Escape is the Halloween rave, and Nocturnal has its long history and camping tradition. No one forgot about Beyond this year, as this was a sold out event and you could feel the size of the crowd walking around the festival grounds. As always, Insomniac did an incredible job with logistics and making sure headliners were safe, healthy, and happy. Since this was my third Beyond, instead of a narrative review, let’s try and find out what made this the biggest Beyond to date.
As I mentioned before, this lineup had something for everyone. However, it wasn’t just the variety, but that most of the DJs on the bill also have passionate fans that they strike a chord with. Armin van Buuren is a legendary and beloved DJ with more than two decades in the game. While maybe not as beloved, deadmau5 is also a legend, and one who does not tour the festival circuit as extensively as the aforementioned Dutchman. I was also surprised at how many people I saw flocking to the Queen’s Domain stage for Salvatore Ganacci on Friday night. The only person who can give Dillon Francis a run for his money as EDM’s class clown, Salvatore had a large crowd for the 7:30 time slot. Even after that Timmy Trumpet drew an even bigger crowd, people clearly love hardstyle and psy-trance, and Timmy delivered just that.
The vibes were even greater on Saturday night, I started out at the Basscon stage, and the energy near the front of the stage was incredible, hardstyle has some of the most loyal fans around. Maybe not loyal, but curious and ecstatic was the way the describe the crowd at Zhu. Zhu is so much more than dance music and his live guitar player and sax player were PERFECT against the incredible backdrop of the Mad Hatter’s Castle Stage. Seven Lions has been at the forefront of melodic bass and psy-trance for a while and he’s an artist whose fans also have that emotional connection to him. Deorro is also a rave legend, he’s probably played the most Insomniac festivals of any artist on the bill other than Armin. Deorro also has his roots here in Southern California and connects with the large Hispanic crowd here as well.
If It’s Not Broken, Don’t Fix It
Beyond Wonderland’s aesthetic is based on Alice in Wonderland and “going down the rabbit hole.” This year, Insomniac totally doubled down on that theme, inviting attendees to go further down the rabbit hole and discover more. This year there was a huge entry arch with checkerboard background, a massive chess piece for a photo op, even more themed bars, and an actual Rabbit Hole, where headliners were taken to a secret art car. If you were lucky, you might have caught Kaskade’s secret drum & bass set on Friday night. Carnage also played a house set. I went there on Saturday and YehMe2 was there, however, he was playing hip-hop, so nothing out of the ordinary for him. Beyond really forced you explore the festival grounds and find the little hidden gems it had to offer. As evidenced by the Kaskade set, you were not let down for your curiosity.
Did I mention that people loved the Alice in Wonderland motif. People stepped up in terms of their costumes and dressing up. I forgot how colorful and vibrant this festival is and people were eager to get out and rave in their weekend best. I was actually reminded of this by Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella’s quote in the festival guidebook about Beyond
“This festival is a celebration of color and imagination — a journey into the unknown guided by our own cast of curious characters.”
Clearly, the godfather of the rave knows what he’s talking about.
Word of Mouth/Ease of Access
Insomniac is the best in the business when it comes to putting on festivals, even if you’re only a casual fan, you’ve heard of how amazing an Insomniac festival can be. I feel like Beyond was the perfect opportunity for more casual fans to snag a one-day ticket and see what the hype is about. You don’t have to commit to a full three days like Coachella or EDC and it’s much less travel. Although, Insomniac festival regulars can tell you the trip from LA to San Bernardino on a Friday afternoon is pretty brutal. It’s also a nice time of year, when a lot of people have spring break. That being said, it definitely felt like there were more veteran ravers at this year’s Beyond, but it earns high marks for accessibility.
I cannot stress how great of a time I had at Beyond Wonderland 2019, this may have been the craziest weekend I’ve ever experienced at NOS Events Center. The music, the production, the crowd, the vibe, everything was on point. Next year will be the 10th edition of Beyond, I can only imagine what Insomniac has in store for Beyond 2020. The next Insomniac festival is EDC Las Vegas…are you ready?