Review: Insomniac’s Escape to Celebrate Halloween

Alex Estrada

This past weekend Insomniac threw the world’s number one Halloween celebration, Escape Psycho Circus. With four brand-new, massive stages and numerable circus attractions, this huge Halloween dance music festival was an absolutely unforgettable event.

Escape Through A Haunted Portal

Alex Estrada

Over the weekend, the 9th annual Escape Psycho Circus took over the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, California. With a sold out attendance of 135,000 individuals, this event was massive. Unforgettable sets from over 70 artists were spread across four stages. Check out the lineup here! In addition, costumed performers and circus events were spread across the festival grounds.

There was something utterly surreal walking through Escape’s new entrance. From a distance the towering welcome sign looked like a portal to an alternate universe. Peaking through the half moon you could see costumed performers prancing through the crowds and decorative rides spinning in glory. Stepping through the portal from the drab neighborhoods of San Bernardino into the overwhelming land of Escape Psycho Circus felt unreal.

Stage Debuts

The Grimm

Keiki-Lani Knudsen

The largest and most decorative of the four new stages this year was The Grimm. As the largest mega-structure built in Insomniac’s history, this stage housed over 328 video panels, 550 lights, and 32 lasers. Towering above the stage was an enormous, captivating skeleton. Each DJ performed nestled in her rib cage, looking like a mere ant compared to her stature. And it gets even crazier. She naturally rested hunched over the DJ with her hands hovering on two orbs, ready to conjure up something wild. But sporadically, her hands would fly overhead where she looked ready to pounce. As you got closer to her in the crowd, it became apparent that she gently moved to the music even in her resting position, as if she was breathing. Deadmau5, Dillion Francis, RL Grime, and all additional performers at the Grimm were truly captivating merely because of her presence.

Psycho Circus

Taylor Wallace

On the far side of the festival grounds sat Psycho Circus, the most colorful stage of the festival. With eight individual projection boards scattered throughout the audience, peculiar stock videos of video-game-esk women dancing played most of the festival. Bassrush Massive brought the bass to Psycho Circus on Friday with Excision, Bear Grillz, and many more. On Saturday, this stage hosted some of the hottest house artists today including Chris Lake and Claptone.


Alex Estrada

In the center of the festival, Sanitarium hosted the most diverse lineup of all the stages. Only fog machines and lasers decked this stage, making it all about the artists. With incredibly special guests including What So Not, Valentino Khan, Metro Boomin, Sub Zero Project (live), and Headhunterz it would have been easy to spend the whole festival here!

Sewer District

Taylor Wallace

Last, but not least, Factory 93’s Sewer District brought breathtaking underground, minimal sounds to Escape with artists including Stephan Bodzin (Live) and Chris Liebing b2b Charlotte De Witte. The stage set up matched the sounds exactly: beautiful and minimal.

Why Escape Is So Special

The options for festivals to attend these days feels limitless. Locations vary, quantities of genres are different, and you can even disappear into a music festival for over a week or less than a day. Sometimes some of the best musical lineups can end up being some of your worst music festival experiences and visa versa. For me, what makes a music festival unforgettable is the experiences it has to offer beyond just the artists performing.

Insomniac’s Escape is so special because the opportunities for exploration and discovery are boundless. This festival goes far beyond the music lineup it shares in promotion for the event. As you wander around the festival grounds, your eye catches on something new and exciting everywhere you glance. Contortionists, fortune tellers, magicians, burlesque performances, and so many more played for the wanders’ pleasure day-in and day-out.

Opportunities for Adventure

Walking along Haunted Hay Road you couldn’t help but be captivated by Crazy Town. A huge fountain sat in the middle, surrounded by endless entertainment. You could walk through The Butcher where frightening hunks of meat swung from the ceiling and a hidden DJ played an intimate set. Or take a pair of 3D glasses from a couple scary looking dolls and enter Poison Ivy, a craft cocktail bar unlike any bar I’ve ever been in. Stand beside the fountain and watch (and feel) the Fire Kethedral shoot flames in every which direction while live bands and performers put on a show. Or even grab a pair of headphones and head into the Danse Macabre for silent disco performances from artists including Kendoll.

Walking along Inferno Avenue or the Boulevard of Broken Bones, just as many fun forms of entertainment popped out of every corner. Try your luck at the strength tester, take a ride on one of the many fair rides, or watch the metal octopus shoot fire from its tentacles to the beat of its music. Maybe just take a break and watch one of the many performers from the comfort of a bench. Whatever you may choose to do, there will always be more surprises around the next corner.

Tips & Tricks

If you are considering attending Insomniac’s Escape yourself, check out these tips and tricks to make your experience run even smoother!

  • Consider purchasing an Insomniac Escape shuttle ticket and staying in a hotel in Ontario. I do this for all NOS events and it definitely is the best option.
  • Leave much earlier than you planned to on Friday. Traffic is horrible!
  • When going between stages, go around the back of the stage not the front. You will prevent getting trapped in massive crowds.
  • Put aside some time just for wandering! There is so much to see and enjoy outside of the artists playing.
  • Have an open mind and attitude to let Escape take you where it will. You will have the best experiences this way!

Artists to Explore

Taylor Wallace

The best part of attending music festivals, in my opinion, is seeing incredibly memorable sets by artists that you may have only been slightly (or not at all) familiar with. The highlight artists to my Escape Psycho Circus 2019 experience were Claptone and Chris Lake. Let me know your thoughts on my favorite artist and which ones you enjoyed the most if you attended in the comment section!

What’s Next For Insomniac

In the post festival slump after attending Insomniac’s Escape Psycho Circus? Insomniac’s final Halloween celebration Day of the Dead is happening this Saturday, November 2 at the Los Angeles State Historic Park. Get your tickets here! Need help getting there? Festpop can save you money on your travel needs to help you get to the festival of your dreams. Visit our site for discountson rental cars, flights, and hotels! And don’t forget to use #PoweredByFestpop on your photos for a chance to be featured and win some awesome prizes.

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FestPop Staff Writer, Julia Osteen

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