Showing posts with label nocturnal wonderland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nocturnal wonderland. Show all posts

nocturnal wonderland 2015

I took very few photos at Nocturnal, but that wasn't because it isn't an exceptionally photogenic festival. It is. In fact it is much prettier than I thought it would be, since when I heard "San Manuel Amphitheater" I pictured dull, paved fairgrounds. Nope. We're talking full-on The Sound of Music style hills, gorgeous mountain sunsets, and grasssss.

Other than local nightclub shows, this was the first Insomniac event I'd ever been to. I knew to expect big, bold, and beautiful, and truly, they delivered. Spectacular lights and decorative displays, and the most jaw dropping stages - and captivating onstage visuals - imaginable.

I went a little crazy with the outfit, but it was worth it. Got lots of compliments, the fur kept me warm on the first two very chilly nights, and the leg wraps were just a blast to wear.

I actually had a second outfit which I didn't get photos of, since I wanted one day to be completely, 100% picture-free. But it was another fur situation, a head-to-toe husky outfit that Terence wore the hood and tail of so we'd match.

Seriously high production value, exceptionally cool stage design, and always something interesting to look at. And which you can see, even if you're at the waaaaaay back of the crowd.

Could not even deal with his giraffe ears and purple lens sunglasses.

Those pink leopard wraps I layered on top of the black wraps were UV-reactive, which was fun. You can see the full, frontal ridiculousness of my ensemble in the video at the bottom.

By far my favorite thing about Nocturnal, and the reason I will definitely return, is how spacious the grounds are. Look at all that land to spread out on! HardSummer events, in my experience, tend to be oversold and uncomfortably jam-packed. So this was heaven as far I'm concerned. Even the most crowded tents weren't that bad, and still had plenty of breathing room. In fact you can see in the video that I'm dancing with lots of space around me, even at the busiest time of the night.

The sound was phenomenal, even this far back. Well done, Insomniac.


There are costumed performers walking around all evening, interacting with the crowd and creating vignettes. Burlesque dancers, stilt walkers, clowns, etc. Insomniac does a great job of bringing the masquerade theme to life, which makes attendees feel welcome to dress ridiculously themselves. We saw so much spirit, I loved it. Really, I was massively impressed with the crowd in general. This was the first festival ever where I experienced no pushing, no shoving, no rudeness whatsoever.

Kandi bar!

We opted for VIP because the older I get, the more of a baby I am about PortaPotties (and waiting in long lines for them). VIP festival restrooms tend to be the larger, cleaner trailer restrooms. (Which these were.) Other perks of VIP: no waiting to get in every day, you just breeze right through security, plus Nocturnal had a smallish, cordoned off VIP section to the left of the Labyrinth stage which was kinda nice. Yet another perk of VIP? That's where all the other olds hang out.

The crowd was wonderfully chill and friendly. Similar to Bonnaroo, but even better, more social energy. And really respectful of one another. Several people approached me to ask about where I'd gotten my hood and gloves, to dance, or to just trade kandi. I loved this whole back section behind the Labyrinth stage where people spread out under the electric trees to watch and talk and dance. You can see how much room there was to move around.

Best sets: Lane 8, Sasha, Booka Shade, Kaskade, Sander Van Doorn, Armin Van Buren, Slander, Sylence, Orjan Nilsen, Ummet Ozcan, Bingo Players, Nicole Moudaber, Tensnake, Audien. My only disappointments were Donald Glaude (who kept obnoxiously killing the sound to rally the crowd like a bat mitvah DJ) and Pretty Lights, who did a much, much more mellow set than I've ever seen him do before.

Between us we got a decent amount of video, but I only threw together a little bit of it. There's a few clips of me dancing, because fun/ridiculous, there's the glove/light show kid I referenced in my previous post, and finally there's some Lane 8, who I shared recently in a Fri-Ni Jamz post and who absolutely, without question, was our favorite set of the weekend. What a talent, and what a cool, humble guy. I hope he keeps rocketing to stardom, I really do.

just the tip

He's cornfed. Clean-cut. Built like a bro with the tank top to match, but a gentleness that doesn't. Matt Damon lite. Head tilted down to hear what his more diminutive friend is saying. The hobbit-like one, with the wavy, straw-colored hair, flower headband, long nose, and skinny frame. Hobbit friend is holding my phone and explaining what I've just done. She got this awesome video of me gloving. She showed me so I can send it to myself. It's exactly what I wanted, man. Check this out.

After a few moments of looking at the phone screen, seeing how well the clip came out, Cornfed grins broadly at me, and the smile says Nice job, lady! He holds up two fingers in a peace sign, and this time I know exactly what to do. Well, almost. I press my own peace sign against his and immediately his fingers bend to form one side of a heart. When I'm slower to make the shift he notices and pauses, smiling at me curiously. He moves through the rest of the exchange carefully, waiting for me to make each symbol correctly before moving on. Then he pulls a simple blue and green beaded kandi from the middle of his wrist and tugs it over my own, up to my elbow. When he lets go, we both see the bracelet's elastic is stretched out and nearly broken. He shakes his head. Aw, let me give you a different one.

Nah, I can fix it. I'll restring it at home. It's great.

Are you sure?

Yeah, no worries. Thank you.

I don't even think about which kandi of mine to give in return. It's one of the few I made that a guy would appreciate - I think. As I slide it over to him I keep the letters turned away, hoping he won't read the phrase until later. He brings his head closer so I'll hear him over the music. You're kinda new to raving, aren't you?

Well, this part of it, yeah. Pulls back his head to glance at my face again.

I know it isn't cool to ask someone this but, but I'm thirty and... Trails off.

I nod, understanding. I'm forty. Pulls his head back sharply this time. I laugh at the look on his face.

I'm Jon. Shakes my hand.


Yeah, Jon. J-O-N.

Hi Jon, I'm Ellie.

He says it slowly, enunciating: You're so beautiful. Terence is inches behind me, witnessing this entire scene. I doubt he can hear what we're saying but the read I get from this kid isn't aggressive or disrespectful anyway. Just genuinely surprised and kind.

Thank you. I put as much warmth in the words as I can. That's really sweet.

He leans back over to his friend, and I catch on that my age is being shared. Friend takes it in but doesn't seem overly impressed or know what he's supposed to say about it. Cornfed turns back to me.

What's your rave name? The question has the weight of expectation, and I'm disappointed I can't justify it.

I don't have one. I don't tell him the one I gave myself, because I know it doesn't count. A look comes over his face, and I realize that he intends to fix this right now. Indeed, he confers with the friend once again, announcing the news as if they've been entrusted with some great responsibility: Ellie doesn't have a rave name. This time, the friend's face shows interest.

To me: What do you do?

Out of the corner of my eye I see Terence smiling. This is cracking him up. Knowing my answer will influence their choice, I decide to keep it simple and lie. I'm a writer.

To friend: Ellie, and she's a writer. Crosses his arms and looks at me, considering. I laugh and wait dutifully, ready to accept whatever is decided. A sideways glance at Terence tells me he's only partly following what's happening, but he's laughing, too. I know I will forever think of this moment whenever I hear the phrase "good vibes."

And then something changes. Our party grows by two x chromosomes. A girlfriend joins us. Introductions, explanations, bringing her up to speed on the naming ceremony but perhaps unsurprisingly, girlfriend is less than keen to participate. The scene unravels and we start to politely disengage. Cornfed wants to know if I have an Instagram account, and I lie again: I don't. Terence, ever my biggest fan and cheerleader, nudges me. Tell him about your blog! he whispers. I shake my head. No way.

That's my girlfriend. We're gonna go check out the main stage...

Madeon, right?


Awesome. He was voted best electronic act of Coachella. We'll probably catch some of him, too.

Great job on that video, he loves it.

Of course! Waving goodbye. And then seamlessly, without discussion, Terence and I drift back into the thick of it - the sound and scene and loveliness of it all.

go ask alice

She stalks through the automatic doors of the hotel lobby aggressively, her head tipped back so her jaw juts out like a dare. Daring us to stare, daring us to judge. She wears a black peaked policeman's cap, black sunglasses with huge circular lenses that dwarf her porcelain doll face, black knee highs above black Converse, and black dance shorts. Criss-crossed with perfect symmetry across each nipple is a black adhesive 'X'. I know they're pasties, I know she must have bought them, but their width and vinyl smoothness matches that of electrical tape so completely I have a brief vision of her throwing a roll of it, pilfered from her dad's garage, into her suitcase along with the rest of her getup. She'd be 85 pounds, soaking wet. If she's over nineteen I'd eat my hood.

Speaking of my hood, she's speaking of my hood. "Oh my gosh, you're so furry, I love it," she says without any intonation to warn me whether she's being sincere or catty. I'm dressed pretty provocatively myself, so my bitchiness radar is set to high sensitivity. So far this weekend no one's been anything but complimentary of my outfit, but I'm a middle-aged woman in footless fishnets and I'm decidedly on guard. And since the oversized frames hide her eyes, at first I'm not even sure that she's talking to me. "All pink and furry. I just want to rub you." Yep, she's talking to me.

"Go ahead." I smile at her, realizing that nineteen is probably pushing it. She's like a much younger, much frailer Juliette Lewis. But by now our group, which has been waiting in the hotel carport for our ride to the festival, is climbing into the van that's just pulled up. I get in ahead of Terence and for the half-second it seems like she might sit directly beside him my stomach clenches ever so slightly...but then she announces her intention to take the back row instead. "Like the bad kids," she cracks, and everyone laughs louder than necessary. Than they would, I suspect, if the person making the joke wasn't a topless teenaged girl.

Her companion is a slight, sweet-faced kid in a homemade Pinocchio costume, with massive dark eyes that dart about excitedly, taking everything in. This is their first festival. She is clearly the alpha, he the adoring sidekick. I ooh and ahh over his every button and ribbon as he twists around to show them off. Meanwhile the girl stretches her arms out across the seat back, wondering aloud how many Alice in Wonderland costumes they'll see at the festival. Her body language is calculated to declare casual self-confidence but the stiffness of her shoulders, slouched slightly forward, betrays a touch of self-consciousness. I want to tell her it doesn't get any easier with age. But that if she's so comfortable with her body already, she might just get through it better than most. Instead Terence and I advise her and her friend on what sets to catch. Neither of them know any of the performers.

"I like shit like this," she explains, pointing at the van's ceiling to indicate the music playing. "That dirty, ratchet shit." I twist my lips, pretending to think. I hate trap and have no idea what to tell her, but Terence chimes in with suggestions. When he's done, a wave of warmth comes over me. "You don't have any kandi!" I say, as if only now noticing her bare forearms, snow white and thin as reeds.

"I knowww!" she says, with exaggerated mournfulness.

"Okay well I'm giving you this." I separate an elastic bracelet of pony beads from the cluster on my left wrist and carefully pull it over the others towards my left hand. The beads are red, black, white, and light blue - the colors of the classic Disney character's frock. In the center of the kandi are spaced three short words. I doubt she'll get the secondary or tertiary references but considering her earlier comment I can't resist. It's just too perfect. Also, it's the tightest kandi I made and wouldn't fit a wrist much bigger than hers or mine. She lowers her sunglasses for the first time and the youthfulness of her saucer-sized eyes makes my heart thud. The intelligence, too. Ratchet shit, my ass. This girl is playing a part. There's more underneath the rebellious-Hot Topic-model-hoping-to-scandalize-everyone-with-bare-breasts act, I can tell.

I confess that I don't know the exchange ritual very well, and she perks up. "Oooh now I feel like less of a festival noob, teaching a veteran something." I laugh, but what I'm laughing at is the idea of being any kind of veteran to EDM. Since we're sitting in different rows we can't do the "respect" part of the PLUR exchange, but that's okay. She's lit up by the gift I've given her, which she fingers lightly as she reads out the words I strung on it, squinting with 3:00 a.m. post-packing exhaustion, doubting the phrases I'd come up with for my kandi were clever enough for the whippersnappers I might be giving them to. "'GO ASK ALICE'. Oh yay! That's perfect. Haha, I love it. Right on!"

Terence squeezes my thigh and gives me a side smile as the van pulls into the drop-off zone. All dozen of us debouch into a dusty parking lot, putting on our game faces and our sunglasses, adjusting nylon and spandex and fur, tugging our few clothes into place and wearing less - or more - than we'd planned to that day.