Dancing Under The Full Moon; Nocturnal Wonderland Festival Review

Nocturnal Wonderland 2021
Nocturnal Wonderland 2021 by Insomniac

It’s been a week since headliners gathered to celebrate Nocturnal Wonderland’s 25th edition under the full moon at Glen Helen Regional Park in San Bernardino, California. With two days of music and three nights of camping, headliners were blessed this year with incredible production and a large venue full of immersive art and music. This review is written from the perspective of someone’s third time attending Nocturnal in a row (minus the 2020 hiatus), so some comparisons to previous years will be made. 

The drive to Glen Helen is always hit-or-miss with traffic, and luckily we got there early because there was an accident on the one road into the venue on Saturday. Once parked, there was a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the venue. Dust was one of the only complaints we had, but this was really out of Insomniac’s control as this year was one of the driest in California’s history. There was also a nearby wildfire recently which may have added to the dust.

Seeing the lights, flags and music in the background filled us with excitement and eagerness to get in and start dancing. We’re very glad we wore comfortable walking shoes to this event as it can be long and uphill at times. It was fairly easy to walk from stage to stage inside the venue, although it felt slightly crowded this year due to people spreading themselves out more for space. 

Camping this year was a huge plus, as entering and leaving the venue both days can take a while and the campgrounds had plenty to offer. Meeting and hanging out with our camping neighbors was a highlight of the weekend. The pre-party, campground day party and silent disco were all incredibly fun and great ways to spend time with fellow campers. The silent disco moved to a bigger area this year, and we appreciated the extra dancing room. 

Once at the gate, the lines moved quickly to get in (we didn’t have to wait at all). This year, a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination was required to enter the festival. We noticed several people were denied entry due to this. Upon entering, we were greeted with familiar beautiful sights and sounds, performers, water misters and larger-than-life art installations. 

Sprawled across the festival grounds were four large, incredibly unique stages, over six art installations including a black light tunnel, photo-ops and a vendor village. Being the longest-running Insomniac event, Nocturnal was jam-packed with lights, lasers, pyrotechnics and excited guests. There were plenty of food and drink options this year, and we loved the CASA BACARDI lounge, which had a speakeasy bar and specialty cocktails. 

The main stage, Wolves Den, was situated in the heart of the festival and boasted incredible sets from 3LAU, Seven Lions, Habstrakt, Matroda, deadmau5 and many others. 4B and NGHTMRE also threw down with incredibly high-energy sets. Seven Lions closed out the main stage on Sunday night with an electrifying set we will truly never forget. The stage design for Wolves Den was awesome this year, with a huge horizontal LED screen on top. It felt like a combination of 2018’s main stage circular design, 2019’s vertical panels and moving ‘Nocturnal Wonderland’ logo. 

Nocturnal’s second largest stage, Labyrinth, hosted a Bassrush takeover on Saturday with amazing bass-heavy performances by 12th Planet, Dion Timmer, Flosstradamus, Modestep B2B Downlink (drum and bass set) to name a few. On Sunday, house legends took over the Labyrinth with sets from Malaa, AC Slater, Dr. Fresch and others. Sitting on the grassy hill overlooking the sunset next to Labyrinth was a major highlight of the weekend, and we appreciated the grass (although it was longer this year; we saw several people trip on it). 

Sunken Garden, the previously known ‘Lighthouse stage’ had a new design this year, and consisted of a diverse lineup of house artists on Saturday and Seven Lions’ Ophelia Records takeover on Sunday. Claptone, A-Trak, Sacha Robotti, Sub Focus and Wooli were some favorites. 

A brand-new stage, Owloch Grove debuted this year to the left of the Wolves Den and was fully-immersive with a giant owl in the center. Although there was some sound overlap from the main stage, the vibes were incredible and everyone was grooving. Sian performed a techno classics set here which was a highlight. Other sets we loved were Bunny From Rabbit In The Moon, Spencer Brown, and Eli & Fur.

Overall, Nocturnal felt immersive and lively this year and the festival was beautiful and decorative as always. Only one Insomniac event is held at Glen Helen each year making it a very special experience. Nocturnal as a whole brings a very welcoming and fun crowd. The lineup boasted a wide range of dance music genres so there was something for everyone. 

This festival is full of EDM history, and really brings to life the best of the rave culture. We hope to see future improvements with the way camping was organized, and more shuttles would be awesome. There were many reports of phones being stolen this year, so we recommend storing your valuables in a locker at the festival or using an anti-theft backpack. It would also be great to see Nocturnal return to three days of music instead of two; it felt like the weekend went by way too fast. A huge thank you to Pasquale Rotella for bringing this event to life every year; we are blessed to have this event in such a magical place. 

Feature Photo/Nocturnal Wonderland Facebook

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