Halloween for Days...
So many Halloween parties, so little time. What is a raver to do? Try to do everything, of course! West Coast EDM fans were torn this year because in addition to the plethora of nightclub events, Insomniac Events’ All Hallow’s Eve on October 31 and November 1 overlapped with the first day of HARD Day of the Dead (November 1 and 2). Did one have a better lineup? Who had the most badass setup? And what was the best experience? Here’s a rundown on where each massive hit the mark.
(Photo by Curious Josh)
- Slide 1 of 5
The NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA has always been my favorite festival destination and a home to multiple Insomniac Events for years. A lake welcomes you upon entry (complete with a cute little bridge and trees), there’s already a few existing structures and moving from stage to stage is relatively easy (albeit claustrophobic at times). Parking lot congestion and finding an available nearby hotel can be a bit of an issue, especially with the downpour Friday night walking back to the car (though most of the stages were indoors or covered, so the rain wasn’t really an issue until that time).
HARD Day of the Dead spread out for the first time at the Pomona Fairplex, a massive sprawling complex with plenty of elbow room and space to roam. The airport hanger-esque building were perfect for a massive, and the open-air outdoor stages allowed for the crowds to grow exponentially (they dodged the rain bullet on Saturday and Sunday). Maybe too much space, though, as my pedometer clocked almost 12 miles walked in one day migrating between stages.
Winner? It’s a tie. Both have pros and cons, but equally awesome for throwing a MASSIVE massive.
(Photo by Alex Perez)
- Slide 2 of 5
Friday at Escape was perfection. Everyone from an EDM n00b to the most discerning techno enthusiast found numerous artists to groove to, with a thoroughly well-rounded electronic spectrum covered. If it started with a “T,” I was there, i.e. tech house, trance and techno. I finally crossed Hot Since 82 off my DJ set bucket list (he delivered some on-point sounds as expected. Paul van Dyk worked the #TranceFamily into a frenzy — thanks for playing “Home” and “I Don’t Deserve You,” Paul!). And then there was the techno god Richie Hawtin, who has yet to disappoint me. The Enter.LA stage lineup alone was enough to lure me back for Saturday, but…
Saturday at HARD was a difficult decision. This was mostly due to Mau5-ville, i.e. Eric Prydz and Deadmau5 playing together. My curiosity got the best of me (with a little help from Pretty Lights with a live band also on Saturday). I am bummed I missed Tiga and Breach at Escape though, I just couldn’t logistically figure out how to be in two places at once. But it isn’t often (or ever really) I get to see two producers I have mad musical respect for come together live. What would that sounds like? I’ll tell you it was worth it as they artfully weaved their styles back and forth (including Prydz aliases Cirez D and Pryda thrown into the mix, plus a DOTD/Halloween nod with a “Thriller” cut).
Sunday at HARD was a fun one for exploring some deeper sounds. All things Dirtybird BBQ were dope, particularly Cajmere, Eats Everything, Justin Martin and Claude Von Stroke. Booka Shade live was fantastic and it’s always impressive to see producers bringing in live instrumentation to their sets. The set that shined the most though, out of the ENTIRE weekend? Audion. Pure techno genius. ‘Nuff said.
The winner? It was almost Insomniac by the seat of their trance pants, but again, it’s a tie. Attendees at both shouldn’t suffer from DJ FOMO if they missed one event or the other.
- Slide 3 of 5
The Production and Experience
Halloween + Insomniac = Epic. It doesn’t even need to be Halloween for Insomniac to deliver, but they up the ante every time on the production and experience part. From the main stage evil clown madhouse to a bayou voodoo mansion, haunted mazes, top-of-the-line lighting and visuals and excellent sound–if there were flaws, I can’t find them.
HARD was a bit more a collection of stages in the same area, but without a cohesive prevailing Day of the Dead theme, save some printed triangles and occasional visuals on the Dirtybird stages (though negative points for the jack-o-lantern loop). However, V Squared Labs, who’s also been working with Insomniac on visuals for years, brought the intriguing at the 7-Up/Green stage with projection mapping.
The Winner? Escape, hands down. It’s Halloween/Day of the Dead, we want spooky stuff.
(Photo by Alex Perez)
- Slide 4 of 5
The Fans and Vibe
I may have been one of a dozen chicks who actually checked the temperature before getting dressed, because nerely-nude shivering popsicles abounded at both events. Score points for the festival merch booths as branded hoodies became a uniform for the uninformed. Though it did look like everyone was part of one, big posse, so that was kind of fun.
Insomniac has always encourages costumes, creativity, and craftiness. Hey, they even let Deadmau5 fans wear mau5heads at all the events even though he isn’t playing at them (Deadmau5 didn’t wear his own head in protest at HARD since they wouldn’t let fans in wearing helmuts, but a lucky person in the front did get one in and Joel wore it for a minute, probably making that fan’s life). The whole kandi ban also rubs me the wrong way and the argument that it promotes the drug culture is flawed because I saw numerous drug-reference shirts and hats at HARD.
The winner? Escape. Let the kids wear their mau5heads and trade kandi, it isn’t hurting anyone and a great way to meet new festie besties.
- Slide 5 of 5
And the winner is… YOU!
Sure, if you were doing the math, technically Escape won more categories. But no matter which event you ended up at, Escape All Hallow’s Eve and HARD Day of the Dead can both be considered a success and neither seemed to suffer from going up against each other (though a few wallets may have, especially if you went to both). It’s just a matter of personal preference in what you’re hoping to get out of your festival experience. If Escape and HARD fall on the same weekend again next year, I’ll figure out how to teleport back and forth…
(Photo by Marc van der Aa)
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