This past weekend in Southern California felt like a holiday. It may not have been Memorial Day as that’s this upcoming weekend, but Insomniac hosted their annual We are NRG Festival in San Bernardino, California at the NOS Event Center and it felt like we were all on vacation in music heaven. For two straight days, from 7pm to 3am, ravers from all around SoCal gathered to hear the sounds of their favorite DJs, dance the night away with their neon light-up shoes, and throw the biggest pre-game party for EDC Las Vegas possible. Here’s how the weekend went down.
The NOS Center, along with the Glen Helen Amphitheater, has been Insomniac’s go to venue for the last few years in SoCal. They’ve hosted countless events there including Escape, Dreamstate, Countdown, and the soon to be Project Z in July. I love this venue due to its openness and indoor stages, I just wish it was a little closer to where I live. Driving an hour and a half home at 3 in the morning isn’t always how I want to end a weekend. That being said, the Damus Building looked great, and Insomniac even added a little flair to the grounds to increase the lively atmosphere. There were lights strung outside, food trucks, bars, and for the first time at a small event, they even had carnival games to play! They weren’t free, but at least it was something to do if you got hot and wanted to have some fun outside. For the life of me, I couldn’t land any shots at ring toss.
The music was arguably the best part of the weekend, and the lineup was stacked, leading to a sold out show on Saturday night. Friday is always hard to sell out as people still work that day. Friday was ushered in by the fresh new talents of No Mana, Throttle, and Pierce Fulton, which was essentially a EDC warmup for Throttle and Fulton, as they both will be gracing Stage 7 at the Las Vegas Speedway next month. These wonderfully devilish house sets got everyone dancing and set wonderful precedents for the rest of the weekend. Firebeatz was perhaps my favorite set of the weekend, as they really know how to get a party going. I only saw half of their set last year at EDC, and was determined to witness the whole thing this time. Dat Disco Swindle, one of their new tracks, hit the hardest, and closing with “Lullaby” was a perfect ending. Bassjackers was great, as was the man himself, Sander van Doorn, but after talking with people in the parking lot after the show, best set of Friday goes to the kings of the bootleg, W&W. Unless you have seen them live, and now you get a chance to at EDC, you cannot comprehend how insane they make the crowd. We aren’t even really dancing at that point, we’re just jumping up and down in unison, which is perfectly fine by me. A highlight was when they played their remix of Adele’s Hello and everyone put up their cell phones and lighters. Truly magical it was. And I was honestly surprised to see how much energy the crowd still had for Ummet Ozcan afterwards at 2am. Typically that late, SoCal crowds tend to die off, but not We are NRG. They kept the energy going for sure.
Saturday’s sets were just as amazing as Friday’s, and I can’t think of another time I’ve seen that much good music, in two days, short of a larger-scale festival like Escape or Beyond. I arrived a little later on Saturday, but just in time to catch the beginning of the funkiest set of the weekend, which belonged to the guys from Chocolate Puma. At 10pm, the crowd typically has the most energy, and they turned the Damus Building into a 90’s house party. Dropping tracks like “I Can’t Understand” with Firebeatz, and “Space Sheep” with Oliver Heldens, they started the evening off right. Following them, was the mustache man himself, Valentino Khan, who brought the hard trap beats to NRG. Right in the middle of the pit, the crowd went crazy for his screeching bass lines and Khan even brought out Getter to pump up the crowd. My group and I then moved to the side of the crowd so we had more room to dance when Datsik and his bass house alter ego Ephwurd hit the decks. This set was like none I had ever seen. I went to Hard Day of the Dead in October last year, so I missed their main stage debut at Escape, but after seeing them last weekend, you can bet I’ll be there at Cosmic Meadow at EDC Las Vegas to see them shake, rattle, and roll, our hearts to the groovy, dirty, bass house beats. Laidback Luke, probably the most experienced DJ on the billing for the weekend, followed them, and he never disappoints. He dropped his new track with Afrojack called “Move to the Sound” and people went nuts. I heard it during his Ultra set in March, but hearing it live, I almost cried of joy. The guys from G.T.A. closed the night right and got everyone in the crowd to “Party Up”, all the way until 3 in the morning.
Overall, everything about We Are NRG was on point. Insomniac has mastered how to throw the small-scale 2-day event, and I couldn’t be more excited for events at NOS like Project Z in July that I mentioned earlier. The security line was a breeze, the bathrooms were relatively clean, and I didn’t really see any fights or people throwing up, which are most of the time givens at big parties like this. What I do want to note is my surprise at the amount of energy people had throughout the weekend. I’ve been to too many events where people, for one reason or another, are basically done by 1am or 2am. I went to Insomniac’s Valentine’s Day Rave Crush, for example, and the crowd was dead by the time the closer came on at 2am and there was nothing they could do to bring them back to life. This past weekend however, I saw people jumping up and down and dancing unti they kicked us out of the venue. I’m sure Ummet Ozcan and G.T.A very much appreciated that. I saw some wonderful totems that were ridiculously hilarious, and met a bunch of people from out of town that I hope to see again at EDC. That was what most conversations outside were hinging on too. The EDC LV lineup came out on Night Owl Radio Friday night, so everyone was naturally discussing who was and who wasn’t playing. It was a great way to meet people, and when someone next to me said that Gaia was once again playing the Circuit Grounds, I actually wept with joy. It was a good thing I had my bandanna with me.
9/10 – The event itself was great and I had absolutely no qualms about the music or the people. I just wish it was a little closer to Los Angeles. It was the perfect pre-party for those going to EDC LV and for those who aren’t, it was a wonderful substitute. I sincerely hope this continues to be a regular event for Insomniac, as I will surely be going every year they have it.