Nocturnal Wonderland 2011: What worked, what didn’t, and how to improve for next year
The dust has settled, the glowsticks have gone dark, and thousands of EDM fans across Southern California have been forced to accept the fact that Nocturnal Wonderland is officially over. Over the next week, we’ll be ignoring the ringing in our ears to bring you full coverage of the festival, including the standout performances and the tracks you need to know about.
Our colleagues at digi10ve recently ranked Insomniac Events’ founder and CEO Pasquale Rotella 4th on their list of the 15 most influential people in the EDM industry. However, particularly here on the West Coast of the United States, we’d have to put the Insomniac boss at #1. Insomniac sets the standard for event production this side of Ultra, and the company has almost single-handedly brought EDM to the masses. But that doesn’t mean they’re perfect — though they do have a pretty stellar track record. Read on to hear what worked and what didn’t at this year’s Nocturnal Wonderland.
1. Visual Production
The lighting design at NW’s main stage, Alice’s House, was the most spectacular we’ve ever seen. The production team clearly drew inspiration from Coachella’s Sahara Tent, in which an LED display on the tent’s ceiling ran all the way from the stage to the back of the tent. At Nocturnal, a plethora of lasers and LCD displays mounted to the ceiling created an unbelievably immersive visual experience. It looked just as amazing from the press area next to the stage as it did from the back row. While the main stage was outstanding, every single one of the festival’s five venues had extraordinary visuals that made each one a distinctly unique experience.
2. The Lineup
Insomniac’s choice of performers was perfect. Each stage featured a distinct sub-genre of EDM, attracting a devoted crowd to that venue. At the main stage, Alice’s House, a packed house saw progressive heavy-hitters like Dirty South, Avicii, Fedde le Grand, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Kaskade do their thing. The second stage, Labyrinth, was a sublime collection of trance and progressive trance talent, including Arty, Gareth Emery, and Cosmic Gate. The dubstep and D&B tent, Sunken Garden, featured the likes of 12th Planet and Breakage. The fourth stage, Queen’s Grounds, saw Bassjackers and Angger Dimas literally shake the ground with bass. Our personal favorite was the festival’s smallest venue, Upside Down Room, where legends like Mark Knight and Green Velvet spun unforgettable house and minimal sets for an intimate, appreciative crowd.
3. Free Water
Hydration is always at a problem at events of this size, but Insomniac and Event Water Solutions did all they could to ensure that every attendee had access to water. Over the two days, free water stations poured enough water to fill over 100,000 plastic bottles, ensuring that anyone who was thirsty had somewhere to go. The stations were also sensibly located far away from the bigger stages. This may have seemed inconvenient to some fans, but it prevented a huge logjam of sweaty ravers around the larger, more crowded stages.
4. Cell Phone Reception
Cell phone coverage can be an absolute nightmare at massive festivals — and if you’ve ever gone to one, you can sympathize with us on this. We all know how infuriating it is to be unable to communicate with friends during the show, only to receive a barrage of texts on the way home. While turning 3G off on smartphones can sometimes help with reception and battery life, we’ve come to accept that cell phones simply do not work at big events. But they did at Nocturnal. We’re not sure whether Insomniac had anything at all to do with this or if there were special towers brought in to help capacity, but we’re incredibly grateful nonetheless.
5. Art and Rides
Outside the stages themselves, the NOS event center was transformed into a wonderland of visual art displays and carnival rides. Thousands of attendees who were unwilling to brave the cramped space and heat of the main stage opted to simply wander the festival, listening to the music from far away while looking at the art, relaxing in the grass, or scaring themselves to death on terrifying rides that had been constructed the day before (something we opted not to do).
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Crowd Control at the Main Stage
On Friday, this wasn’t a problem. But on Saturday, there were way, way too many people cramped into a confined space at Alice’s House. We understand that everyone wants to be as close to the stage — and each other — as possible, but by the time Sebastian Ingrosso appeared, there was barely enough room to even turn around anywhere in the tent. We’re not talking just front row. We’re talking front to back, side to side; there was no room anywhere. The reason that people come to EDM events is presumably to dance, but actual dancing was impossible with that many people crammed in. The ordeal gave us flashbacks to Skrillex’s shut down performance at EDC Dallas, but thankfully it didn’t bring the stage to its knees.
HOW TO FIX IT
Divide the Dance Floor into Sections
The people who show up early deserve to be closer to the stage. In order to reward them, perhaps the dance floor could be divided into three or four sections, each with a maximum capacity, and each with a dedicated security team. While we hate to put restraints on when and where fans can move, this would restrict people who show up late from shoving their way to the front — which creates an unpleasant experience for everyone. Each section would also have its own specific line to enter and exit, and fans in that line would be allowed to enter if anyone exited that specific section. So, if you arrive a little late and want to be near the front, you can wait in line to see if anyone in the front section leaves.
So what did you all think? What worked at Nocturnal Wonderland, and what didn’t? What would you like to see at future events? Let us know in the comments.
Photos by Cameron Nehrer
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