“Beyond Wonderland,” Beyond Reality
During spring break’s opening weekend, far from the quiet streets of Irvine, over 25,000 ravers packed the San Manuel Amphitheater for 2016’s Beyond Wonderland.
Beyond, as it’s more colloquially known, is a massive two-day electronic dance festival hosted by EDM mega-promoter Insomniac. Over fifty DJs spanning the genre’s varied palate performed throughout the two nights.
Trance artists like Galantis and Gouryella dominated the outdoor Dreamstate stage on day one. Geysers of fire and water with hundreds of flashing neon lasers and countless LED lights bathed the crowds of clustered, warm bodies in luminous patches of vibrant, lush light. Delirious dancers and old-school shufflers reveled in the melodic pulsing sound blaring from massive speakers scattered around the stage.
Day two was meant for the bass-happy fans. The outdoor Bassrush stage featured heavy-hitting trap-oriented DJs like Bro Safari and Dat Sick. Unmistakably, this night was all about the drop.
The drop, as ravers call it, is the point in an EDM song when the music reaches a point of tension preceding the most profound and moving beat in the track. The speed modulates, volume rises or falls, and then — silence. The sound returns furiously with tangible force and energy, and it animates the faces staring blankly at the pretty lights.
In every direction, people wandered about in surreal wonder. Sheepish grins and clenched jaws adorned the faces of those meandering about, off-balance and seemingly with the vaguest sense of direction.
One could argue that the crowd is here for the drugs and the MDMA-induced camaraderie as much as they’ve come for the music. The physical boundaries that seem to dictate society are nonexistent, and glazed eyes sufficiently convey an unspoken bond of mutual narcotic pleasure.
While rave-goers reveled away in foggy bliss, 244 people were arrested for a range of activities including trespassing, public intoxication and selling ecstasy. The San Manuel Amphitheater is surrounded on nearly all sides by mountainous terrain, presenting a tempting back door for would-be (i.e., without a ticket) ravers to sneak through under the cover of night. After a tough hike through the mountainside, security guards awaited the opportunistic ravers. Lining the perimeter, few (if any) were able to sneak past the guards, and the not-so-lucky were arrested for trespassing.
Fortunately, no deaths were reported on either night. Concern over drug-related deaths at EDM massives have grown since the death of two women at HARD Summer 2015. With no deaths and two sold-out nights, Beyond 2016 was arguably a hit.