Having never been to Dreamstate SoCal, I didn’t really know what to expect other than all trance everything. So when I found out my long-time Seattle buddies were going to Trancegiving, and it’s their yearly tradition, I was ecstatic! Although we’ve been going to shows for 13 years, this would be the first massive event I’ve traveled to and attended with them. There is truly nothing better than rolling into a show with all your friends. And every time you feel a huge moment of joy, looking around and seeing the faces of a dozen people you love.
And my GOD, the lineup!!! There were so many conflicting artists playing at the same time, picking who to see was difficult at best. But since I’ve been going to shows since 2000, my choices tend to be different from most. I happily give up seeing big names I’ve seen before for lesser known artists I’ve never seen. So here’s my highlight reel…
Estiva can always be counted on for a well thought out set that goes from smooth to bumping in minutes without ever feeling jarring. One of my favorite things about great trance artists is their ability to use music to elicit so many emotions in a single hour. Estiva brought all the highs and lows, and rather than concentrating on individual tracks, I just let the music and lights wash over me and simply absorbed the atmosphere in its entirety. Insomniac’s visuals were absolutely stunning. They moved with the tunes from starry nights to consoles, then purple skies streaming up towards the ceiling. Amazingly, there was still room to dance up front center stage so I let myself move and groove to the music with no concern of bumping into anyone.
One of my girlfriends absolutely LOVES Giuseppe Ottaviani and I’ve been dying to see him, so I stuck to the Dream stage. He immediately had me jumping up and down cheering for Eat Sleep Rave Repeat and then just kept it going with Your Mind. I looked around at that moment, and sure enough, everyone was losing it. Knowing we had hours yet to go, Giuseppe calmed it down just a wee bit and brought in more melody and vocals with a nod to two artists making appearances later in the show, Markus Schulz and Emma Hewitt. But he only gave us a small break cause he brought it back up right away. The second I heard the first Oooooohhhhh vocals I shrieked like the Anjuna fan that I am cause I instantly recognized Northern Soul. And of course, I was joined singing by every other Anjunafam of which there were A LOT. One of my FAVORITE things about electronic music is hearing an original track and then every other artist’s twist on it. Giuseppe, thank you for this hard-hitting version of an already phenomenal song! Unlike most, I almost never cry at shows cause I’m in my happy place. But Giuseppe recorded a message at the end of his set that made me tear up and was the perfect ending to a perfect set. “The reason why I’m here is actually the same reason why you are here. I finally found what I’ve been searching for. Something that can make me feel good. Something to be proud of. Something that’s able to put a smile on my face even when things go wrong. If you hear this message it’s because you’ve finally made it. If you’re here now it’s cause we walk the same way. My name is Giuseppe Ottaviani and I’m a music lover.”
It was finally time to journey to the Vision stage for Solarstone, another trance legend I’ve never gotten to see. By the time I found my perfect spot, he’d already started and was dropping from some heavy beats down to lingering chords, just in time for the lights to go dark. An instant later, the lights exploded on from behind, like the iris of an eye. I wasn’t kidding when I said Insomniac’s visuals were stunning! Solarstone was absolute perfection in his Purified shirt as I always tell my friends I’m not a trance snob, I’m a purist. And then, bless his heart, he played Solarcoaster, although I didn’t hear my favorite part with Patricia Arquette saying “You’re so cool, you’re so cool, you’re so cool.” The Seattle Trance Fam flag began waving as the words Vive La Trance rang out. His set was far more progressive than the others I’d seen so far and much smoother, which lent to a calmer crowd taken over by the beauty of his set. Finally. Finally! I got to see Solarstone, and he did NOT disappoint.
Having recently gotten into psytrance (I know, I know, I’ve always been a late bloomer), I felt like a kid on Christmas day and Vini Vici did NOT disappoint. I lost it from the moment they dropped Armin van Buuren’s Great Spirit, a track that always makes me feel like I’m dancing around a fire like the wilderness girl I am. And it didn’t stop cause they went straight into Free Tibet and Chakra, tracks I’ve been doing my morning runs to cause it’s hard not to keep moving when there’s psytrance on. Somewhere in there, they threw in a crazy psy mix of Ferry Corsten’s Rock Your Body Rock and then moved right into Chakra. There’s a guitar-like sample in it that reminds me of the dramatic duels in old cowboy movies. In front of me, I was seeing people’s totems and light up balloons dancing up and down with the beats. They just kept bringing the fire and hit us with even more of my favorite tracks. Astrix’s Adhana followed by a remix of Insomnia, a track that reminds me of high school when I first fell in love with Faithless. And they kept that train of thought going with a Zombie mashup, in tribute to the passing of Dolores O’Riordan in January. Now, I fucking HATE when DJs talk on the mic, but they asked “Are you ready to join The Tribe?” right before the vocals hit and I cheered along with the crowd. Then they blew my mind with a remix of Dash Berlin, Cerf, Mitiska & Jaren’s Man On the Run, which is one of my favorite tracks of 2017. I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Mitiska drop it in Seattle earlier in the year. Tying everything back into the beginning of their set, I sang along to Great Spirit and didn’t think I could possibly smile any bigger. But HOT DAMN!!! I couldn’t believe I was hearing the ephemeral violin strings of Bittersweet Symphony laid over the chanting. Vini Vici kept me solidly in the present while reminding me of some of my best high school memories.
Knowing all of my friends would be back at the mainstage for Markus Schulz, I skedaddled back. And was met with what I always associate with his sets; big drop after big drop with very little mixing and lots of yelling on the mic. But his track selections are always crowd pleasers. An Anjuna mashup, followed by the beautiful voice of Sarah McLachlan singing Silence, and the ever-popular Pryda Stay With Me. Markus was up behind the decks waving his arms around like a conductor at the crowd and they were loving it. Me, not so much. Like I said earlier, I’m a purist. I started in the scene when everything was vinyl, DJs didn’t talk on mics, and the music never stopped because the next DJ had to mix into the last record of the previous DJ’s set. I’ve been told that my tagline is “You do you” cause I’ve been caught saying it so often, and they’re words I live by. So to each their own! Every time I see Markus, I keep my fingers crossed he’ll play Destiny, cause it’s my favorite track of his. I believe in reincarnation and having lost many people in my life, I know I’ll see them in another life, so this song speaks to an integral part of me. So it was a beautiful end to my inaugural day at Dreamstate SoCal!
Rolling back in on the second day we were all a bit tired due to an after-party that included an impromptu sunrise hot tub session, but we rallied and were ready to rock it! We got situated at the mainstage and as I was about to leave, Verhuzka came back with a handful of the light up balloons I saw the day before and hands one to each of the girls. My not so inner child jumped up and down with joy and I instantly attached it to my belt so I could have my hands free. From there I decided to go where the wind blew me and eventually found myself at the Vision stage with Chris Schweizer vs Heatbeat. Since I don’t know them very well I just let their music come at me without concentrating on the nuances. I didn’t recognize many of the tracks, but damn they brought the fire, and the audience was amped! They kept everyone going with some hard hitters that had everyone jumping. And I can get down to some metal rock, so when they hit us with some electric guitar riffs, it was like they were uniting genres that just don’t seem to belong together. I LOVED IT!
From there I checked back in with the peeps at mainstage where System F was starting up, and DAMN that was a hard act to leave. Though I’ve never seen System F, I’ve seen Ferry Corsten at least 5 times and I wasn’t about to miss Ace Ventura. I’d never seen him before and every video I’ve seen of his sets, he gets just as into it as the crowd, and that’s something I’ll always adore about DJs. Though I have no problem flying solo at shows and have done it plenty, it’s always preferable to have your peeps with you. So I was overjoyed Sacha and Liz decided to come along. The Sequence stage was packed! Everyone seemed to have the same plan we did, and understandably so. From the moment I got there I was jumping and dancing and that’s when the beautiful fucking balloon went from a boon to a curse. It was bopping me in the face, and whenever I’d spin, it’d wrap around me so I moved it from my back to my sides and nothing helped. Ugh! And then I heard it… That drawn-out Blaaze the Fiiiiire. Not only the first track I recognized in his set, but one of my hands down psytrance favorites. I’m sure it has something to do with the 21 years I lived in Hawaii and was unwillingly force fed reggae on an almost daily basis. But the thing was, Ace Ventura started mixing it in about two minutes before he fully faded it in, so there I was shrieking “I love this track!!!” as people looked at me a bit weird. Liz took one for the team and held my balloon while I danced up a storm. And to be there with my girls, all of us getting down to the psytrance, it was definitely one of my favorite moments of the Dreamstate weekend!
We headed back to the mainstage right before Ace Ventura ended cause we knew it’d be packed for Laserface. When we found our group again, we had about 12 minutes remaining before the lasers were all set up. Verhuzka found me and said she was dying laughing watching me walk through the crowd when I’d first left the group. I walk quickly and apparently people were ducking and dodging and getting hit in the face by my balloon, completely unbeknownst to me. I cracked up with her just thinking about the image, especially considering I’d just experienced getting bopped in the face by my own balloon while dancing. OOPSIES!
Finally, the countdown ended and we heard “Prepare yourself for Laserface.” Well, I was READY! After all the videos I’d watched of the Laserface shows, I was prepared to have my mind blown. But I was apprehensive cause it was Gareth Emery who panders to the masses, and I was right to be so. He threw down a lot of hard-hitting beats and kept the excitement up, but as I already knew, no visual spectacle will ever make up for a shitty set. In my opinion, mashups can be really fun if done well and mixed appropriately, but Gareth Emery just dropped them in one after the other with no apparent flow. Daft Punk vs Rage Against The Machine to a Killers mashup to an Arctic Monkeys mashup. Where the rest of the night had just flowed smoothly, the Laserface set made me feel like a marionette being jerked around by a psychotic puppeteer. Did the majority of the crowd love it? YES. And Emma Hewitt performing live was pretty incredible. Her vocals were on point! However, I’ll never attend another Laserface show. It’s just not for me. But if you love it, YOU DO YOU!
What I loved most about Dreamstate SoCal was that despite it being an all trance event, I felt like I got amazing variety skipping between the different stages. And Insomniac really wasn’t kidding when they said the most important headliner of all is YOU. All of the staff were fun and courteous. I even caught a bunch of them dancing! So it looks like I’ll be making it an annual tradition, along with my oh so fabulous Seattle friends. Until next year Dreamstate SoCal! Thanks for an unforgettable first Trancegiving!