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Beyond Wonderland 2012 Review


Festival season is officially here and to prove it, Insomniac events hosted its third annual Beyond Wonderland this past Saturday, March 17th. Complete with avante-grade art installations, theatrical dancers, pyrotechnics and the industry’s leading sound and lighting, Insomniac, in its 19th year, once again turned Southern California’s NOS Event Center into Alice’s Wonderland playground. And what would any music festival be without its line-up? With more then forty of the world’s most sought-after DJ’s and producers, including main-stage headliner, Armin Van Buuren, Beyond Wonderland made sure that this years journey down the rabbit hole was one for the ages!

Armin Van Buuren

In true Insomniac fashion, Beyond Wonderland exceeded expectations with an ambitious attempt at an interactive experience for all festivalgoers. Never before scene art installations made their appearance, like “Homouroboros Monkeys,” where raucous EDM lovers could bang away on electronic drum pads that sped up a swing of dangling monkeys the faster the pads were played; the “Spire of Fire” showcased the mastery of controlled pyrotechnics with a giant spire that shot out flames at each of its six levels; and the “Wide Awake Car” reprised its role as one of the most laudable stage designs ever, complete with movable carriage wheels and a Funktion One sound system. To top it all off, authentic Alice in Wonderland stage decor blanketed the entire festival grounds making for a truly immersive experience and left attendees wondering just how alternate their reality was. And have I mentioned the relentless line-up of the industries leading DJ’s and newcomers?

It is hard to summarize the multitude of global talent this event was packed with, for it felt as though every artist was a must see, but here goes anyways . . .

The “Cheshire Woods” stage hosted some of EDM’s true pioneers in Green Velvet, Chris Liebing, Adam Beyer, Dubfire, and John Digweed. With an eclectic mix of house and trance, and headlined by England’s very own John Digweed, this stage gave you a taste of the origins of EDM as well as its evolution over the last two decades.


The “Caterpillar’s Village” was the place to be for house enthusiasts and it started the party off with an early set from industry favorite, Moguai. With the recent release of his album “Mpire” and coming off one of the most successful years of any DJ/producer, Moguai set the bar for a high-energy night of EDM. Other favorites like Sidney Samson, AutoErotique, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike and Felix Cartel followed, and didn’t fail to impress. Nervo, the twin sister tandem of producers, DJ’s, and songwriters, stole the show with their vocal mixes and relentless energy and headliner, Steve Aoki, showed why he is still one of the top showman in the industry. Complete with “AOKI” LED letters, blow-up rafts to crowd-surf on, champagne to shower the crowd with and banger after banger, Steve Aoki kept the crowd participating and always on their feet.

Steve Aoki

The “Chess Village” hosted top-notch talent in the bass world from drum and bass specialist, Andy C to dubstep trio, Magnetic Man. The youthful newcomer, Netsky, a soon-to-be drum and bass household name (if not already it should be), headlined the stage and showed off his rhythmic D&B beats and heavy bass drops. If you haven’t heard him, check out his remix of Rusko’s “Everyday.”



The “Madhatter’s Castle” featured some of the heaviest big-room house drops all night by Swedish duo AN21 and Max Vangeli, Dirty South, EDX and ATB. But the most notable performance? Hardwell . . .without a doubt! With over nine years experience, and still only 23, Hardwell showed why Dutch beats are going to be around for a long time. With an assault of heavy-hitting, Dutch-born house tracks like “Spaceman,” “Zero 76,” “Cobra” and his latest collaboration with Dannic, “Kontiki,” its easy to see why Hardwell’s set was unrelenting and full of energy. If you missed it, I’m sorry, but go download it ASAP!

If I had to choose only one stage to watch the whole night, it would without a doubt be the “Queen’s Domain.” Shogun set the bar high with his hard-trance tracks and John O’Callaghan proved why he is worthy of being included in the conversation of best trance DJ’s worldwide. Aly and Fila also joined the list of Armada Records talent and made a strong showing for the next generation of EDM artists. As always, Gareth Emery lived up to the hype with his scintillating vocal tracks and got the crowd ready for headliner. The world’s top-three ranked DJ for the last eight years running, Armin Van Buuren, headlined the “Queen’s Domain” and showed everyone, DJ’s and fans alike, why he received the coveted best DJ in the world title four years in a row. It’s hard to put into words a set of this magnitude, from start to finish, but one thing is certain, there may be no DJ in the world better than Armin at reading a crowd and keeping the crowd satisfied. Let’s just say whether or not you are a trance, dubstep, D&B, or house music fan, if you stumbled upon Armin’s set, you weren’t leaving . . .

Armin Van Buuren

So, the festival was a giant success . . .surprised? Didn’t think so. Because Beyond Wonderland is just one of three festivals in the Wonderland franchise, Insomniac proved that its longevity and success as a festival production company is owed not just to imagination, but to re-imagination; the ability to constantly reinvent itself and interpret its progressive imagination in new ways.




festivalZOO had a chance to sit down with a few artists while at this event. Keep checking back, these exclusive interviews should be posted very soon.

Related posts:

  1. Top Five DJs / Record Executives at Beyond Wonderland 2012
  2. Featured Festival: Beyond Wonderland 2012 - SoCal / San Bernardino
  3. Nocturnal Wonderland 2011 Review
  4. Escape From Wonderland Schedule released!
  5. Beyond Wonderland Artists’ Schedule Posted


  1. CRASHL says:

    Gotta say, quite the lineup. Very sad I had to miss, but it looks like it really had something for everyone, between Digweed, Jamie Jones, Arty, Magentic Man, and An21/Max Vangeli. Dope output for an early festival! Hopefully EDC can match, for each day…

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