Those who attend any Insomniac event are not fooled by the label ‘music festival’. True devotees of EDC, Audiotistic or this past weekend’s Nocturnal Wonderland know that this moniker merely masks these events’ ‘TRUE RAVE’ status.
Nocturnal Wonderland proved to be a night of pandemonium and these festival go-ers expect no less! With lasers, beads and confetti in equal supply as water every ticket holder was sure to find their party monster thoroughly quenched upon the night’s close. Relief from burnt corneas and face melting bass was hard to come by but for those willing to adventure into the outskirts of the festival’s more eclectic side, there was ample opportunity to discover something slightly less in-your-face, but nonetheless exciting.
Whether you happened there by chance or the Wonderland spirits worked their magic on your wandering soul, chances are you were caught off guard by the odd, slightly out of place sounds, emanating from the Queen’s Ground stage. Instant validation that this stage was looking to separate itself from the Nocturnal-norm was the awkward placement of NEON INDIAN’s live set between traditional DJ sets. I applaud the non-conformist effort that seemed to resonate from this stage’s rebellious line-up and make the bold prediction that this hints at this rave’s shift towards more varied line-ups in the future.
Playing immediately after Neon Indian, after the stage had been comfortably converted back to accommodate strictly machines, were the techno godfathers, ORBITAL. After a retirement fake-out, the duo reformed in 2009 and proved that their skill has not waned. I give them some serious PLUR for their ability to run (perhaps outrun) electronic music’s young guns. They may be considered past their prime to the new age raver but these guys have been making electronic music before computers could essentially do it on their own!
They teased the crowd and challenged common expectations with beats that cut the silence in the most shocking fashion. Their set utilized mind-breaking suspense to teeter the crowd on the edge of release, before reining them in with infectious grooves. Effortlessly transitioning from ambient, electronica to snare heavy drum and bass, they kept the crowd on their feet and guessing, up until the end when it seemed as though the sustained silence would transform into music once more.
After taking a break from the indoor humidity of hundreds of dancing bodies to see Pretty Lights’ down-tempo madness, I found myself heading back towards the Queen’s Ground. While crowds siphoned towards what would undoubtedly be an electrified set from Sebastian Ingrosso, I swam up stream to catch the Swedish Mafia’s Norwegian neighbors, Royksopp take the stage.
Sauntering out wearing – what I can only describe as crocheted sweatpants and masks torn straight from Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” - the two Norwegians went on to play one of the most mind blowing sets I have ever seen.
Their sound is whimsically dark, complementing multiple costume changes and creating a different kind of production value, minus lasers and fog machines. They performed in front of a chilling, distorted screen of Karin Dreijer Andersson, better known as the lead singer of Fever Ray and The Knife.
Not to be confused with DJ’s, these producers are masters of multitasking and create a new standard for any who claim to perform a ‘Live Set.’ Surrounded on all sides by synths, drum machines, mics, and a high hat, it was hard not to feel a little anxious when the two switched from instrument-to-instrument. Fluid layers that overlapped, twisted and phased in-and-out of one another made it impossible to understand how only two people could be creating such a rich soundscape.
Despite albums released as mainly electronica and down-tempo, their set was an energetic force to be reckoned with. A surprising abundance of bass heavy drops made the crowd respond in audible unison which made for some awe-inspiring moments. I do not doubt that those who chose to close their night with Dash Berlin or Ingrosso had the experience of a lifetime, but to have missed the rare Royksopp performance seems nothing short of sin!
Nevertheless, the Insomniac crew outdid themselves again to create not just another music festival but, as they like to describe it, an EXPERIENCE. With so many memorable performances it is one experience that I will not soon forget.
BY: Shea Kopp
Photo via Oliver Scherillo / OC Weekly