Beyond Wonderland brought an electro-heaven to Earth

And we have the photos to prove it

I had the pleasure of going out to San Bernardino for Insomniac’s seventh annual Beyond Wonderland, which took place over two breathtaking nights at the NOS Events Center last weekend. The first day’s walk up to the festival entrance gave me goose bumps, as a nearly tangible rush of anticipation swept through everyone waiting to enter the grounds. Right at that moment, before even entering the festival, I knew that Beyond Wonderland would be special, and that I was in for a magical weekend. And boy, was that gut feeling right.

I didn’t know where to look when I rounded the corner of the entrance and set eyes on the festival grounds for the first time. Every inch, every object, every prop was the stuff of dreams. I was immersed in the festival’s theme, “The Endless Sea;” a reimagined and wondrous underwater realm. Twinkling starfish lanterns swayed gently in billowing trees, reflecting a shimmering rainbow across the surface of a pond opposite the festival entrance. Neon seahorses guarded the fountain in the center of the pond, rotating and changing colors as jets of water gushed twenty feet into the air. Interactive art installations, such as a colossal twenty-foot wide steel squid and a tiny coral house composed of steel prisms, were scattered along the outskirts of the pond. Beautifully costumed mermaids, sea foam-colored sirens, and fish on stilts strolled through the grounds, taking selfies with wide-eyed guests. Artificial trees placed around the festival’s six stages looked shockingly realistic except for the fact that each leaf was actually a delicate LED light that slowly changed color.

The sensory overload didn’t stop at the decorations. Beyond Wonderland hosted six unique stages, each centering around a different sound and atmosphere. The Beyond Wench stage, a towering 40-foot long bronze ship, was adorned with chandeliers, gold detailing, and a propeller. It featured DJs from Cats & Boots Records, and created a bass-heavy, funky atmosphere. The Aquarium, a spacious hall shaped like a fish tank, was home to house music. Aerialists and costumed creatures danced on The Aquarium’s stage, and notable DJs like Shiba San and REZZ drove fans wild with their pulsating, upbeat performances. The Upside Down House looked just as electric as the sounds its DJs produced; the stage was a neon, cartoonish masterpiece formed to its namesake. Cheshire Cove held down the north corner of the grounds, and was almost hidden amidst dangling lights and a cocktail lounge.

A stream of rainbow lasers flooded the Outer Realm Stage. The enormous tent, which hosted Alison Wonderland, Snails, and other heavy-hitting acts over the weekend, contained over 1,200 towering video tiles, which projected each artist’s visuals and formed a multicolored halo around the stage. I often trekked in between the Outer Realm stage and the main stage, called the Queen’s Domain. It was an iconic landmark, drawing in festival goers like the Sirens to Odysseus. The stage rested under a staggering 200-feet tall by 400-feet long tent, and emitted cloud-like visuals perched above the legendary DJs it hosted. Diplo, Hardwell, NGHTMRE, and Yellow Claw all had impressive acts under the Queen’s Domain, and were surrounded by mermaid aerialists and a bewitching Queen of Hearts.

The level of production presented at Beyond Wonderland was astounding. From the kandi bracelet-making station to each set’s mesmerizing visuals, guests were given nothing but the best, and a place for an audience of 78,000 to truly call home for the weekend. The  energy was electric and captivating, to the extent that it wasn’t until the event was over that I realized I didn’t sit down the entire weekend. Although I began my journey covering Beyond Wonderland as an unsuspecting member of the press, the intensity of my two day experience marked me with an indescribable feeling of peace, love, unity, and respect for the people and art I was so fully engulfed in. It was a vibe that needs to be experienced in person, and I’ll tell you one thing for certain — I’ll see you there next year.

University of Southern California