Trance family from all corners of the globe reunited at Dreamstate SoCal the weekend of November 25th, 2016. Just like the year before, the all-trance festival organized by Insomniac Events made for something of a phenomenon – albeit for somewhat different reasons this time around.
That’s not to say any of the core components were missing. All of the hallmarks established in the greater Dreamstate brand’s inauguration last year returned, from both editions’ borderline utopian crowd energy to their expertly curated entertainment rosters. In recent years, the SoCal trance scene had practically been sentenced to obscurity while other subsets of the electronic music industry reached unprecedented peaks, but the second installment of Dreamstate’s flagship event once again provided just the experience the genre’s more tenured enthusiasts have longed for.
If this year was any indicator, though, the trance family’s youngest generation may be turning to the dark side.
The festival succeeded in many regards. Most significantly, it came much closer to creating an a full-scale “trance destination” like the one depicted in its flyers, social media posts, and even its beautifully rendered CG trailer.
Where the first edition’s performing artists occupied a single stage in the Damus building of the National Orange Show (NOS) Events Center in San Bernardino, Dreamstate SoCal 2016 consisted of four stages spread out across the grounds. Ornate installations endowed a futuristic chic in the walkways between each structure, and their distorted reflections danced in a pond between the entrance and the stages for the viewing pleasure of anyone seeking respite from the sometimes overwhelming production values.
As with last year, an overwhelming number of revelers unquestioningly got onboard with the vision. As outspoken a cynic as I’m known to be, even I can’t deny that I find myself compelled to behave more compassionately upon entering Dreamstate. By what I’ve noticed from how the audience members have interacted with one another this year and last, I don’t think I’m alone in that regard, either.
This year, in any case, it was near impossible not to find yourself captivated. A colossal, nearly 50,000 square-foot megastructure fitted with innumerable lighting fixtures billed The Dream saw such mainstagers as Gareth Emery and Andrew Rayel do their absolute best to deliver performances that would be received well by the hordes of trance purists in attendance – in addition to more seminal trance icons like Paul Oakenfold and Ferry Corsten (the latter of whom performed a set under his recently revived Gouryella moniker). Beyond that, the festival’s talent buyers spared no means in making sure that every shade of trance’s vibrant spectrum received ample representation across the time slots assigned to that stage as well as three others named Timeless, The Vision and The Sequence.
Not surprisingly, the defining moment of Dreamstate SoCal 2016 was easily the performance delivered on the second evening by Paul van Dyk. As I’ve been fortunate enough to learn firsthand, the global icon approaches electronic music with a rare sort of integrity that can be heard in every nuance of his creative process.
Of course, this year’s edition of the festival was not without its failings – most of which can be chalked up to growing pains that the Dreamstate brand was bound to have.
Tickets to the inaugural edition of Dreamstate SoCal had sold out within hours of going on sale last year – but in addition to proliferating the brand in a number of other countries in 2016, expanding the flagship festival into a four-stage mini massive may have ultimately overshot the demand of the event. The crowd appeared quite thin on the first night, and sources on the production side speculated that attendance may not have exceeded 15,000. While the second night’s figures nearly doubled those of the first, it’s safe to say that if Insomniac did somehow break even on this event it was by a narrow margin indeed.
Then again, given the intel at their disposal you have to wonder if Insomniac planned it this way. The organizers were surely aware that introducing alternative Dreamstate events in San Francisco, Melbourne and Mexico City would saturate the worldwide market (especially considering that the latter event took place this last weekend, only a week after this year’s edition of the SoCal event). Given the overnight success of the brand, it’s plausible to presume that they wanted to ensure that its flagship mini massive stood as monument to trance’s relevance in a post-EDM musical landscape no matter the losses incurred.