The 21st Annual Nocturnal Wonderland Delivers Big

Marc van der Aa for Insomniac

Wrapping up the final weekend of summer 2016, the 21st anniversary of North America’s longest-running dance music festival, Nocturnal Wonderland, has come to a safe and successful close. Thousands of Headliners came together this Labor Day Weekend at San Manuel Amphitheater & Grounds for an epic three-day, immersive music and camping adventure filled with black lit décor, eccentric costumed characters, never before seen art installations, and a soundtrack from over 100 groundbreaking dance music artists.

As the sun set each night, Insomniac transformed the scenic San Manuel Amphitheater & Grounds into a vibrant world of imaginative sights and sounds. For the first time ever, all five themed stages, interactive art pieces and roaming cars, captivating performers and even fans themselves were illuminated in a spectrum of effervescent color under the Nocturnal sky.

Five unforgettable, innovative stages captivated Headliners with state-of-the-art production and mind-blowing special effects. Modeled after EDC Las Vegas 2016’s bamboo Sky Bridge art installation, the brand new Labyrinth stage welcomed Nocturnal Wonderland fans into an open, 360-degree environment for the first time ever. Headliners were immersed in an outdoor oasis, surrounded by temple-like pillars which were connected by jungle bridges, illuminated in black light at night. Spanning 250-feet in diameter, the design meticulously melded real bamboo materials and handmade rope, enveloping fans in an organically beautiful setting filled with lush plants and trees, mesmerizing aerialists, a spectacular video centerpiece, and stunning pyro blasts. This year, Insomniac brought more live electronic acts to the festival stage than ever before, delighting festivalgoers with dynamic performances from the likes of Chromeo, Odesza, Keys N Krates, Hermitude, Gryffin, and more.

Headliners were treated to a special, debut b2b set from 3LAU and Audien at the Wolves’ Den stage on Friday, which was met with a permeating roar of excitement from fans across the hillside. Above & Beyond’s Anjunadeep record label took over the Sunken Garden stage on Saturday, and on Sunday, Hot Since 82’s Knee Deep in Sound label presented Knee Deep in SoCal, with the highly-anticipated U.S. debut of Cristoph, as well as an incredible b2b set from Eats Everything and Skream. Insomniac’s iconic hard style brand, Basscon, hosted the Temple Noctem stage, returning with the fan-favorite Wasteland gas mask design for a two-day, heavy-hitting experience featuring Coone, Atmozfears, LNY TNZ and more.

After having visited New York and Las Vegas for Electric Daisy Carnival in 2016, Jejunum, a 46 ft. long steel portal, made its SoCal debut with a black light interior transformation and flexible ribs that illuminated as fans climbed through. In the spirit of Nocturnal’s creative atmosphere, eight fully interactive, 40 ft. long black light tunnels were sprawled across the festival grounds. Guests stepped inside the alluring tunnels to brighten the darkness with their own colorful neon-lit works of art. Headliners were also able to embellish their festival attire with black light DIY face painting and Nocturnal-themed airbrush designs.

The expansive, Nocturnal Wonderland campgrounds offered fans an exceptional weekend escape and exclusive access to indulge in a variety of activities, including the refreshing Wonderland waterpark, rejuvenating yoga classes, assorted arts and crafts, environmentally conscious native planting, and stargazing under the Nocturnal sky. Each night of camping, fans danced until dawn at the after-hours Silent Disco, featuring performances by Gladiator, Sir Roscoe, Sweet & Low and more.

Atop the Wolves’ Den VIP deck, guests were able to unwind, relax and recharge throughout the weekend at the brand new Dark Faerie Forest. Headliners took a break from the dancefloor to nestle into comfy seating, sip on steaming drinks from the complimentary coffee bar, connect with fellow festivalgoers to snap memories in the animated photo booth, play life-size games, and personalize accessories at the kandi bracelet-making station.

In addition to the many chill zones and shaded areas scattered across the festival grounds, the Insomniac Consciousness Group provided a sober sanctuary for fans to come together for positivity, support and discussion.  Insomniac also partnered with the charity To Write Love On Her Arms for the second year at Nocturnal. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing hope and help for young people struggling with issues of depression, self-injury, addiction and suicide while also investing directly in treatment and recovery. Their activation titled, “And So I Kept Living,” invited fans to openly divulge their inspiration for waking up every day and living, via hand-written notes hung along a black-lit wall.

FestPop Sr. Staff Writer Sheila Shawndel
FestPop Sr. Staff Writer Sheila Shawndell
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