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By: Jeremy Maher

What a weekend for festivals out West! With Epicenter, X-Fest, Indie Jam, iHeartRadio and many more taking place this past weekend, there was a choice for every music lover! I chose to crawl down the rabbit hole and experience Nocturnal Wonderland.

We pulled in to camp Saturday afternoon expecting truth in rumors that the search would take hours and be rather thorough. It was actually quite the breeze. They checked over all of the important spaces, but there was nothing TSA-style about it. Security was busy identifying the dust left in an unmarked container in the car of the attendees a lane or two over. We were quickly in the venue ready to start our adventure!

Finding the next traffic director was a bit of a struggle, but he came out from hiding and ushered us on our way. As soon as we parked we were met by several groups of friendly campers. We all offered to help each other and our camps were up in no time!

Soon it was time to break out the alcohol for a bit of relaxing before entering another world. We posted up in our chairs, had a couple of drinks and our friends from a SoCal EDM meet-up group started stopping in. One member of our group had prepared several pieces of girl and boy ‘candy’ (the bracelets traded at these types of events). They were passed out and a few of the girls took advantage of the extra time by painting their bodies with hearts, feathers and the like.

Soon enough, everyone was ready and we made the trek to the festival gates. Walking into Nocturnal Wonderland was literally walking into another world – just as it should be. No corners were cut in putting together this Wonderland (If you have not been to one of these in a while – like me – it’s well worth it, Pasquale’s vision is really coming to life!). Rainbow lanterns hung high, the music was blaring, and you couldn’t walk ten steps without seeing the smile of several other attendees.
We headed to our locker first to put away our nightclothes – then we were off to see Firebeatz. As EDM artists during the day goes, they were phenomenal – I couldn’t stop dancing no matter how much I wanted to save my energy for the likes of Benny Benassi, Sander Van Doorn and Fatboy Slim. I went to Firebeatz based on the recommendation of a friend and it was definitely my favorite discovery of the festival! I absolutely recommend checking them out if you get the chance.

The rest of the night was a race between the Sunken Garden and the Labyrinth stages, splitting every set we could. We ended up making a couple stops in between at Alice’s House to check out the Martinez Brothers, Damian Lazarus, and a few others. Nothing compared to Firebeatz as far as first-time discoveries are concerned, but no one in that tent disappointed.

Many of the Djs played similar sounds and songs like we’ve come to expect at EDM festivals (of course, each had their own spin on things). Luckily, every time I noticed a DJs set getting repetitive, it was time to move on to the next artist – splitting every set is definitely the way to go. However, there were a few that really separated themselves from the rest. Among them were Krewella, Fatboy Slim, Markus Schulz and Sander Van Doorn. Hands down the most entertaining and energetic set we saw came from Porter Robinson. It was a set not to be missed if you attended, and definitely not one to miss if you have the opportunity in the future.

Insomniac did an amazing job of making this just as much about the experience as the music. The design of the grounds and placement of the acts kept us on our feet all night and the sight of the whole event from the top of the hill was mind-altering on its own. From the Zen Owl to the talking, gazing tree on the main stage, to the LEDs everywhere, the PLURring of candy between patrons, the lanterns and the art installations throughout, Nocturnal really was a festival in Wonderland.