This year Nocturnal Wonderland fell on the night of a full moon, which completely dictated the vibe of the event. The spirits were high as everyone was ready to send off the Glen Helen Regional Park with one last party. The weekend started with a wild welcome bash at the campsite on Friday night. Unfortunately, I missed the party and didn’t arrive until 2 am because of travel times but, I received so many messages telling me how insanely lit the performances were. Since I missed the party I decided it was in my best interest to visit with friends and catch the sunrise alongside the lake after I set up my tent. Boy, oh boy I was wrong- that was a terrible idea. Visiting with friends and fam was amazing but, the minute the sun rose, the heat came with it and the tiny tent I was laying in turned into a human microwave. Rather than just sit and bake in the blistering heat, I chose to rinse off with a shower. Since it was around 630 AM at the time, there was virtually no line for the shower. However, when I passed by later in the day it looked to be an hour and a half wait. The showers were clean and safe, in addition, the water was nice and warm. I took it upon myself to adventure and get the lay of the land after I got a casual outfit on. I found the placement of the vendors, restrooms, and showers to be evenly dispersed between tent camping, car camping, lakeside, and waterfront camping.
Day one of this highly anticipated event had finally arrived! Although the festival started at 3 PM that day, I didn’t make it into until around 4 PM because I was fully absorbing the camp life and vibes that came along with it. This happened to be my first camping festival experience and wanted to take in as much as I could. The walk from camp to the event wasn’t too long and led you right to the main stage on the left and the Parliament Art Car to the right. My first stop was Rad Cat who hosted the Parliament Art Car, for its first time on the West Coast. If you do not know who he is, go listen to him on Spotify now. This upcoming artist is making a name for himself rapidly. His set was full of multiple genres that kept my feet moving the entire time. I had the greatest pleasure of catching up with him for an interview shortly after he finished playing! (Stay tuned, Freaks) Afterward, I stuck around to watch another upcoming artist, Kayoh. These two guys seriously brought the talent! I was highly impressed and I am looking forward to their next live performances.
Once I finished my amazing conversation with Rad Cat I went back to camp, simply because I could, and chose once again to relax with the Fam. Before I set out on my exploration adventure I wanted to rest up and switch into a different outfit. I became so comfortable that I even questioned returning to the festival. I looked to a friend and asked who was even playing at that moment; I kid you not, her words came out in slow motion as she said, Ganja White Night. I swear I jumped up so high you would have thought someone scared me. I bolted straight for the top tier stage, The Labyrinth only stopping for a few quick hellos and brief conversations. I will dive into this later but, I chose to be selfish that night- It was the best decision of the weekend. If you are unaware, Ganja White Night has taken my soul at multiple festivals this year and is my favorite artist of 2019. Their music fully captures my mind and transforms me into another planet. Every ounce of goo and slime they throw down matches extraordinarily with their captivating, vivid visuals. The duo that hails from Belgium recently released tour dates; I highly recommend catching them in a city near you. The Labyrinth was by far my favorite stage because it sat atop the entire festival on a hill. I positioned myself dead center for their set and allowed my mind to unwind into their control. Once they were thru with me, I made my way back towards the exit in the hopes of avoiding the massive crowd of human traffic. At that time there was only one more hour left because of the sound ordinance forcing music to shut off exactly at midnight. I decided to stop at the main stage to catch Jauz tearing it up. His Nocturnal Wonderland set was not a favorite of mine however he has a special place in my heart. In 2017 Jauz attended HARD Summer as just another raver telling himself he would make it onto those stages one day. Just one year later at HARD Summer 2018, he performed on the main stage. I value artists that remind us that hard work and determination really do make dreams come true. With that thought fresh in my mind, I spun around in circles of happiness as day one concluded. I stood under the vibrant neon, glow-in-the-dark decorations surrounded by a sea of happy faces remembering I was home.
Pasquale Rotella always has tricks up his sleeve. Due to the sound ordinance shutting the music off early, Pasquale knew we wouldn’t want the party to end just yet. He chose to implement a silent disco on both Saturday and Sunday night from 12 AM-6 AM inside the campgrounds. Just like camping, this was a completely new experience for me, and an odd one at that. Over the weeks approaching the event, I heard mixed reviews about the silent discos. Some said they loved it, some hated it leaving me eager to find out for myself. Each night there were two different stage areas with two music channels to choose from: Sleepless Safari, in the middle of the camp, and Racoon Lagoon, which ran alongside the lake. You had the option of choosing a house/techno station or a bass/DNB station. Both had their own color-coding that lit up the outside of the headphones. I thought it was so cool to see what others were grooving to. I found myself switching back and forth between the different musical styles just because I could. However, it was so annoying attempting to socialize with friends and having to either have the headphones half on or taking them on and off. Eventually, as I did with Ganja White Night, I chose to do my own thing and get lost in the music. I never did pay much attention to who was playing, frankly, I did not care, it was all so great. On night one I lasted until about 5 AM when I remembered the blistering heat of sunrise and realized my body was exhausted with my knees feeling like they were about to buckle beneath me from all the dancing. I finally made my way to the other side of the grounds and crawled into my dirty tent and plopped onto my nearly deflated air mattress. My heated alarm clock woke me once again, as I had anticipated which left me with a lack of sleep.
As I laid there questioning why I had done this to myself, I remembered there was a pool on-site. I was so excited I forgot to even bring my towel with me. The 45-minute wait to get into the pool area was well worth it. At first touch, the water was painfully cold but once the sun became stronger it slowly became my favorite moment of the weekend. There are many types of people that attend festivals. I will never forget the generous girl that allowed my friend and I to lay on her floaty for close to 2 hours baking in the heat, finally receiving the dark summer tan I wanted all season. After awhile hunger was calling again and it was time to retrieve another shitty $9 slice of pizza. I felt so relaxed that I was not ready to rave so, we grabbed a huge blanket, found a large tree providing ample shade and just hung out while hula hoop lessons, art class, and slacklining were going on in the common areas. I never made it to the yoga classes like I wanted to but, maybe next time. I also never did make it to day two which leads me to the lessons I learned this time around.
Overall, Nocturnal Wonderland was one for the books and an experience I will cherish forever. The music took my soul, and the lessons learned will change the way I attend festivals from here on out.
- Do not overpack:
- I wore pasties and bottoms the entire time. I brought enough clothes for a four-day, multi-outfit vacation. I also had to lug that overweight bag almost a mile and a half to my campsite and back, in addition, I carried it on the train from Ventura to Los Angeles. Mark my word- the next festival I attend I am bringing just a backpack.
- There is free water everywhere:
- The first aid tents at camp insisted that we take ice-cold water bottles from them daily. Why did I drag 3 gallons of water with me?
- Bring energy and snacks:
- I decided not to bring food to cook because I did not want to be bothered with it. However, I should have brought easy access energy and protein snacks that would benefit me. The $9 shitty slice of cheese pizza or lackluster chicken tenders didn’t cut it for me. I don’t know about you but, I barely eat as it is at events. Little snacks would have changed the game.
- Take disposal cameras:
- I hardly took any pictures because I was so worried I would drain my battery. I did have a heavy-duty charger with me but, I also didn’t want to be absorbed in my phone like a typical millennial. Disposal cameras are a fun way to capture candid moments.
- Bring a flashlight:
- There is nothing more frightening than heading into the porta-potty at the end of the night when the lights are dim and you are in a capsule of unknown filth. I will never understand how they become so rancid and sometimes ignorance is bliss but the option to check it out before heading in was appreciated.
- Most importantly, be careful who you chose to share your festival experience with.
- There is no doubt from this festival forward, I will generally be going alone. Always make sure you have a secure ride there and back and have enough funds to feed yourself. In addition, have enough respect for yourself to know when negative energy is taking from your happiness. These events are meant to broaden your horizons, meet new people, hear old & new music that touches you. Do not forget that.
It was hard to say goodbye to Glen Helen knowing all the amazing memories that were created and cherished there. The future location of Nocturnal Wonderland is still up in the air. Some of us still hope that the 25th anniversary will return to its home and implement the silent disco again. Some of us are hoping the next venue is even better than we can picture. However, we all have faith that Pasquale Rotella will not let us down, he has our back for better or for worse.
Next up on the list of Insomniac festivals is the coveted, and personal favorite Escape: Psycho Circus. Per the usual, it is highly suggested to purchase tickets earlier than later. This two-day event is filled with top-notch artists that are sure to blow your mind.
*Featured Image via Juliana Bernstein for Insomniac Events*