Beyond Wonderland: The Endless Sea Festival Review: Setting the Bar High for Festival Season
Beyond Wonderland: The Endless Sea was the first time Insomniac changed up the concept from its usual Alice in Wonderland-themed SoCal festivals. Although the venue switch from San Manuel Amphitheater to the National Orange Show Events Center had a few people feeling skeptical about how this year’s event could live up to the ones of past years, many were pleasantly surprised to see the weekend go smoothly and effortlessly. The smooth operation and overall good vibes at Beyond this year was the kind of experience you aim to have at every festival.
2017 marked Beyond Wonderland’s 7th year in Southern California, as well as the festival’s first time at the NOS Event Center since 2012. The event, which took place on March 24 and March 25, played host to about 78,000 attendees dressed up as everything from mermaids to aquatic animals to my personal favorite of the weekend, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.
Insomniac went all-out for this year’s marine theme, and it definitely showed. Costumed performers pranced around the festival grounds as fish, sirens and pink flamingos. Over at the lake by the entrance, colorful sea horse statues made their home in the waters while festivalgoers on the grass nearby played with a 20-foot wide interactive steel squid structure. Every year I am stunned at the lengths Pasquale Rotella and his team go to provide such a great experience for the people that go to these events – but you could say that the work they did this year blew me out of the water (terrible pun intended).
This year, the six stages in particular left a lasting impression. The Queen’s Domain, Beyond Wonderland’s iconic main stage, was a massive structure measuring 200-feet tall and 400-feet wide. The addition of new cloud-like visuals along the tent ceiling gave everyone a great view, no matter how far you were from the stage. Fan favorites like Diplo, Yellow Claw, GTA and Audien played memorable sets that had people hyped long after the festival ended.
Meanwhile the stage production over at the Outer Realm stage, Beyond Wonderland’s dedicated bass music stage hosted by Bassrush, gave Queen’s Domain a run for its money. The LED video tile arches and intricate lasers – along with neck-breaking performances from artists like Ekali, Netsky, Alison Wonderland and Snails – drew the second biggest crowd that weekend. The Cheshire Cove was home to Dreamstate at Beyond this year, and although it was one of the smaller stages, trance fans congregated here to go on an emotional journey with performances from Vini Vici, Astrix, Paul van Dyk and Markus Schulz.
One of the few difficulties of the weekend was how hard it was to get into The Aquarium stage, located inside one of the buildings at the NOS Center. And with a stage lineup with the likes of Rezz, Shiba San, AC Slater, and MK it’s easy to see why. Security guards regulated the amount of people that were allowed in, which severely held up the crowd surrounding the stage entrance. But, once you were in, everything else seemed a world away. Because the stage was indoors, the experience felt more intimate and the overall vibe was drastically different from the one outside.
But aside from the Aquarium and the struggle it took to get inside, I was amazed at the whole layout and the flow of the festival grounds. The lack of crowds wandering around from stage to stage made it that much easier to get where you wanted to be – and of course, that meant more time seeing your favorite artists perform. Booths for water, alcohol, food and festival merchandise were found all around the event, so getting what you needed while at the festival was almost effortless.
The thought that Insomniac put into creating and planning Beyond Wonderland: The Endless Sea made for a great experience, and a memorable spring break for festivalgoers. Everything from the diverse music selection to the stage design and rearrangement of the grounds to the new and improved Wonderland vibe proved why Insomniac events are the places to be at once festival season kicks in.
Featured image photo credit: The Holy Mountain
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