Amid all the uncertainty, sadness, and panic happening in the world, Pasquale Rotella of Insomniac Events managed to put together a beacon of hope and togetherness for our rave community with their Beyond Wonderland Virtual Rave-a-Thon. The team managed to transform the Insomniac HQ lobby into a small slice of Wonderland, complete with lasers, lights, and massive mushrooms! If you’ve ever attended an Insomniac produced event you know they don’t half-ass anything and their virtual experience was no exception. Over the course of the two-day live stream event, over 3.5 million viewers tuned in worldwide from over 100 countries! This was an impressive show of the strength and unity that comes from our community. Many of us festival-goers utilized this as an opportunity to introduce our young kiddos, cousins, and siblings to what the rave world is all about! Kayla Daisy Morris of Phoenix, Arizona got her young cousins dressed up in true festie style with pashminas, dust masks, face glitter, and goggles and turned up in the living room! I am beyond inspired to get my own kiddo set up with her own festival kit as we prepare for a season of live streams!
The Insomniac team kept things lighthearted but informed. They had a few pop-up announcements reminding everyone to put their “sanitized hands up” in the air as well as “stay home, stay safe, stay positive”. With so many festivals succumbing to the COVID-19 pandemic, our community has been left without the escape we so desperately rely on. Many in the rave community view the festival world as their emotional, mental, and physical outlet that makes daily stresses manageable. I know I was personally crushed when Beyond Wonderland was canceled as I was looking forward to seeing some of my friends at the festival and dance out life’s stresses. This Virtual Rave-a-Thon took place on the same dates when Beyond Wonderland was set to happen in Southern California.
While I wish I could provide you a play by play of each set by each artist, we would be here for ages because it was banger after banger from start to end both days. Thankfully Insomniac continues to be the true homies and they have made all 17 sets available via their YouTube page! The first artist of the night to live stream straight into our livingrooms was Wax Motif and he delivered some jumpin’ vibes that got me right off my couch immediately. In true House fashion, he delivered a voice clip that urged us to “Stay inside, keep raving” and built out it out to a wonky drop. He was the first of many DJs of the weekend to play off the current COVID-19 situation in their sets.
Mija took over the decks next for our Virtual Rave-a-Thon and shared a gentle reminder that social distancing “is not even about us, it’s about the collective, so we have to think about that.” Following her was Jack Beats who commented on the silver lining he has been finding in this whole mess of being able to hunker down in the studio and create new music, without the pressure of preparing for the next show or festival performance. He and Pasquale reflected on how much amazing new music we will be treated to when all of this is over. After laying down an incredible 20 minute set Jack Beats closed out with the same sound byte “stay inside, keep raving” further driving home the need for social distancing with a tasty backbeat.
After the first few sets, Pasquale did a quick check-in letting us know there were over one million viewers across their various streaming platforms. I was personally in contact with festival friends in Houston, New York, San Francisco, Florida, and Denver over the course of the live stream weekend. I felt strangely connected to the rave community even though I was stuck at home, hundreds of miles away from so many beautiful people I had hoped to dance with over these coming months of festival season.
Following Jack Beats was Audien who brought some delicious tunes for us to chill out to. Party Favor took to the decks next and he was playing like he had a million people in front of him! He was there having a hell of a time getting down to his own beats. You could tell the energy he delivers in his live performances comes naturally to him as he oozed hype. He threw in some DnB and it was hitting just right. My favorite set of night one was hands down 4B. He went ALL IN with the Coronavirus theme by kicking it off with a remix of the CardiB Coronavirus clip that has taken the internet by storm. He featured a surprising remix of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” that led into an EDM classic, “In My Mind” by Ivan Gough & Feenixpawl ft. Georgi Kay. Absolutely check out his set because it is Coronavirus Mix through and through!
Kill The Noise came in hot with his set with a bunch of new stuff! He started with a brand new track and didn’t slow down for his entire timeslot, pumping out heavy Dubstep sounds. He had me on the ground laughing my ass off when he hit us with a classic sound byte in the festival community with a Coronavirus twist, “STOP ACTING LIKE A B*TCH, Wash your hands brah!” Night one rounded out with a stellar set by SAYMYNAME. He was all over the place but in the best way possible. He dropped a little something in there for everyone. My personal highlight from SAYMYNAME’s set was when he played his version of “Get Your Wish” by Porter Robinson. We were lucky enough to be blessed with an encore to his scheduled timeslot. He started his encore slot with “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child and Pasquale went wild as he had previously asked SAYMYNAME about the origin of his performance name.
Between each DJ we had a special guest come up to the decks, Disinfecto! One of the Insomniac HQ employees was tasked with disinfecting all the DJ equipment for the next artist. By the time day two rolled around they showed up with an entire harness stocked with hand sanitizer, Lysol, and Clorox wipes! It was beyond appropriate that the opening act for day two was Dr. Fresch who came with a prescription for firey hot House beats and he was ready to fill it. The dude was funny as hell through the entire set and brought in some real energy as he danced behind the decks. Following him was Drezo and his set was positively dripping in those distinct sounds you associate with Drezo. He kept the Dubstep flowing so if that’s your flavor, take a peek at his Virtual Rave-a-Thon set below! He wrapped up his set with two new tracks so it’s worth a listen!
My surprise discovery of the weekend was Schade who was up to the decks next. His set was jam-packed with a ton of fun and he even brought in a little Latin spice with an excellent remix of “Suavamente” which he carried into a few more songs featuring Spanish vocals. Loud and Luxury were next to deliver the rave community a little bit of musical escape during these stressful times. While I can’t say they were my personal favorite, I was still dancing along in my living room through their whole set! Elephante was next and he blew me away! I had seen his name on lineups here and there but I had never taken the time to explore what he had to offer. He was so unique in the fact that he sang his own vocals live while mixing. He has a beautiful voice and it pairs wonderfully with the sound he mixes. The vibe he was delivering was so light and relaxing, just what we all need right now.
JSTJR dropped a dynamic set that was bursting with EDM staples! Towards the beginning of his time, he gave us a little sample of Alice DJ’s “Better Off Alone” and moved on to “Everytime We Touch” by Cascada later on. For the headbangers tuning in he worked in “Throwin’ Elbows” by Excision & Space Laces to build up that much needed Dubstep energy! When he started winding down his set I was losing my mind. He treated us to the ultimate classic, “Boom Boom Boom” by The Venga Boys and I sang my heart out to every single word! JSTJR then moved flawlessly into a Dubstep version of “Heads will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Keeping with his theme of EDM classics he dropped in a glitchy remix of “One More Time” by Daft Punk. He brought so much fun into his set that I felt like I was at a festival and made a notable impression on me!
MONXX brought in those Riddim beats and got as wonky as he possibly could! I’ve gotta be honest, Riddim is not my cup of tea but I still found myself getting down during MONXX’s timeslot! Next up was Svdenn Death who came in and dropped some deep and heavy Dubstep beats. True to his moshing core, he urged us at home to open up the pit while he got down and dirty on the decks! He went on to suggest we start fights with random objects haha! What I really loved about his set what the fact he had a great balance between deep bass and interesting chord progressions. Pasquale was getting the hell down in his one-man rave crowd as Svdenn Death laid it down.
The true crown jewel of the entire Rave-A-Thon was the hour-long set we closed out the weekend with. I’ve seen JOYRYDE a few times live and he brings so much explosive energy. This was absolutely true of his live-stream set as well! I really can’t summarize all the epicness he packed into his hour of music. After going absolutely wild for about thirty minutes his scheduled set came to an end. Thankfully, all of us viewers in the live chat were begging for an encore! JOYRYDE decided to make this even more special by sampling some music from the album he is wrapping up currently. Absolutely find some time to listen through what JOYRYDE has to offer and keep your eyes out for his album in April!
I’d like to wrap this up by sending off a huge thank you to Pasquale Rotella, all the artists that performed and the entire Insomniac team for making this a reality. This was a unique experience that I am beyond glad to have participated in. I’m really looking forward to what other virtual festival experiences Pasquale and the team have in the works! Keep an eye on the Insomniac socials as they announce more to come!
*Featured Image via Insomniac Events*