Halloween weekend 2011, Insomniac held Escape From Wonderland - its first ever Halloween inspired event at their famous playgrounds the NOS Event Center in San Bernadino. With the falling apart of the competing Monster Massive, tickets to Escape were sold out weeks prior to the event. Insomniac was amazing and kind enough to hook Death by Electro up with a couple media passes as myself and compadre Jordan ventured off into the rabbit hole for what was one hell of a night...
After retrieving our passes from an off site location, the two of us pulled into the lot just as the sun was setting and the lights were slowly flickering on. The plan was to enter with enough time a couple of the earlier sets, but with confusion of where to enter and multiple walks around the event center (only negative part of the night), we got in right around 7 pm and headed directly over to the "Ghoul's Graveyard" to catch the set of the legend Andre Tanneberger, better known as ATB hearing just a glimpse of Thomas Gold's massive set from the "Slaughter House" along the way.
Before even going into the music, the tent itself was absolutely insane. Insomniac really did an awesome job with decorating even the inside of the stages, as there were ghosts and other ghouls hanging from the ceiling. The set itself was also quite the spectacle. Dropping his classics early in the set, most notably the ever-famous "Ecstasy" as his second track and then into new classics such as Arty and Mat Zo's "Rebound" ultimately ending with a live singing performance of "What About Us," Andre's set in my opinion, was one for the ages. One of the things I gotta say about ATB is that he really seems to have his audiences feeding off his energy as with every track and every drop, he'd be jumping and on the mic getting everybody fired up.
Before jumping back up to hear his closing, Jordan and I ventured back behind the graveyard tent in anticipation for the Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike who were about to take the stage next. We actually got a chance to catch up with the Thivaois brothers, chatting some about their tour and what we should expect with their set. But lemme tell you... there was nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, they could have been said that would have prepared anyone for the epicness that ensued. With only a 45 minute set, one would think that their options would have been at least slightly limited with what they could get done in such a short period of time but this could not have been any more wrong. The Belgian duo threw down what was by far my favorite set of the night, opening it up with Jacob Van Hage's "Convoi," then transitioning and mixing flawlessly from banger to banger with the crowd going absolutely ape shit. One attendee close up to the stage was awesome enough to record the first part of their set, so we can all relive the amazingness even if we we didn't catch it live.
After finally leaving the "Ghoul's Graveyard" for the first time the entire night, we took a little tour of the grounds and, as I mentioned before, Insomniac really did go above and beyond (if only that could've been a relatable pun...) in creating a design, atmosphere, and overall feeling of a Halloween-inspired event. The "Breakabout Woods" where people could sit and gaze at various statues, the lake in the middle being covered in fog, and even the haunted mansion that was quite the maze to get through all came together in the best kind of way so that no matter where you were within NOS, you were constantly stuck far deep down the rabbit hole.
Cruising around from stage to stage, caught a little bit Sub Focus' set until ending up at "Mad Hatter's Hospital," where we ended up sticking around for most of Moguai's set. Gotta say, one of the highlights of my night personally was hearing him drop Thomas Gold's remix of his own "We Want Your Soul" which has become one of the most recognizable songs out there (even if most people don't actually know the name of the track).
As the Moguai set progressed, you could feel the crowd growing larger and louder in what was anticipation for the every popular Dash Berlin. Before he even took the stage, the crowd went absolutely NUTS with their "Dash Berlin, Dash Berlin" lo and behold the man did not disappoint. Mixing in some of the newer, less trancy tracks to begin, he got the crowd going only to eventually unleash the ever famous Dash originals and remixes that EDM fans around the world have fallen in love with. One thing I've always been impressed by with Dash (this being my 5th time seeing him), is that he's always very interactive with the crowd -- whether it be with his iPad sending messages or even walking across the stage tossing out t-shirts and signed memorabilia, he truly seems to be having just as much fun on stage as those in the crowd did witnessing his prowess.
As much fun and excitement as we were having with all those tronces, we realized the clock was about to strike midnight and almost completely forgot about Le Italiano Benny Benassi who had been rocking the "Size Matters Slaughter House" since 10 pm. Booked it over there as quick as the crowd would let us and couldn't have arrived at a better time. First off, props to Benny for being probably the only performer sporting a Halloween costume as he rocked the Superman fit and cape. Just as we arrived before the closing of his set, we were lucky enough to witness this...
He had the crowd going absolutely INSANE as he dropped the crowd favorite Skrillex remix of "Cinema." When walking out from the madhouse Slaughter House, we could hear him closing out his set with another crowd favorite -- J. Rabbit's dubstep remix of "Satisfaction."
With dubstep fresh in our minds, we decided to head over to one of the last 2 stages we had yet to visit -- "The Chopping Block." Got there about half way through Pendulum's set and even with a DJ set, those guys still know how to tear the roof of a place. The bass was so loud you could almost feel the rafters about ready to fall to the ground as they went from banger to banger, nonstop energy flowing through the entire crowd. Now that they've branched off, I gotta say one of the acts I'm most excited of catching in the near future is that of Knife Party, the side project of 2 members of Pendulum. (If you haven't heard the song "Internet Friends," you should probably put this reading on pause and peep this). Right afterwards, one of the biggest names in the dubstep business stepped up to the stage -- Borgore. Right from the start, he had everyone doing their own version of that dance people call dubstep and even as we were leaving, caught a hint of him dropping the Knife Party remix of "Crush On You."
As most rave-goers do, we ended up heading back over to the Slaughter House to catch Mr. Steve Angello but not before making a quick stop for a little leftover tronce as Markus Schulz had Ghoul's Graveyard packed from front to back. 'Twas really interesting to see the difference in both the crowd and atmosphere from the beginning of the night as the Graveyard shifted from a more electro scene into the melodic, euphoric trance beats.
Finally arriving at Angello's set, you could just tell how amazing his set was -- every person in the crowd either had their hands up, over their hands, or all over someone else (in a good way, of course). The Swede did an awesome job playing the Swedish House Mafia classics as always, but also mixing and mashing in a variety of songs with those that we've becoming accustomed to hearing. The set all culminated in 4 of the most favorite and best songs of 2011 as he went from the mashup of Alesso's "Pressure" and Coldplay's "Fix You," into Dirty South's "Walking Alone," followed by both the original and Knife Party remix of "Save The World," and finally into a bootleg of "Fade Into Darkness" with "You've Got The Love." Not quite sure how to put it into words, but it kinda looked like this...
All in all, Escape was hands down one of the best events I've ever attended, especially of the Halloween variety. The lines getting in weren't too hectic, there was plenty of room for people to dance and/or sit, and the overall decor and atmosphere of the NOS Event Center was like I had never witnessed before. A really really huge big ups to Insomniac for proving why they are the best in the business with yet another amazing and successful event!
The scene at the end with all the cars leaving was in and of itself quite the experience, as fans of every EDM genre blasted their favorite tunes in one big collaboration as the cars slowly filed out.
In case you missed out on the Spooky madness, or even if you just wanna relive your favorite sets, here are the ones we were able to get a hold of from the night: