Insomniac Finally Gets Some Sleep: Dreamstate Festival’s Freshman Debut

Sometimes we feel like the amount of fun we get to have as EDM fans is just unfair. Another month, another awesome festival — let’s talk about the most recent creation from Insomniac Events: Dreamstate.

Insomniac Events is becoming more than just a household name in the electronic music scene. The storied production company is now creating (or maybe recreating) scenes themselves. If you’ve been to EDC’s Bassrush or Basscon stage or their equivalent separate-event "massives," you’ll know what we're talking about. And the newest scene Insomniac has turned to is a subgenre that is a veritable pillar of EDM, which arguably birthed the entire mega-genre back in the 90s - TRANCE.

That’s right, Dreamstate LA — which actually went down a bit outside of LA in San Bernardino, CA while you were recovering from your Thanksgiving dinners on Nov. 27-28 — was the first ever Insomniac festival to be solely dedicated to Trance. And not the “Trouse” version of Trance that has been flooding the mainstream recently, but classic, dramatic, beautiful, pure Trance that’s had die-hard fans since before some of us were even born.

Dreamstate LA’s lineup boasted such Trance gods as Paul van Dyk, Aly & Fila, Astrix, John O’Callaghan, Ace Ventura, and Paul Oakenfold... and we could go on with that list through basically the whole lineup. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the festival sold out at the speed of a 138 BPM bassline.

Here is our run down of the frosh festival’s pros and cons:


(1) Who Do We Have to Thank For Those Epic LASERS?

The music at Dreamstate LA was really second to none as far as classic Trance goes, and should at least share the #1 spot on the list, but seriously the light show from the stage was of the gods (the…Trance gods?). Such epic fucking lasers that words cannot describe them accurately - so here are some pictures:

Yep - fucking epic. The graphics were also so damn good that they felt hard to look at directly sometimes (fuck yeah), and they definitely helped in taking the crowd into another dimension (a… Dreamstate, perhaps? Okay, sorry we’ll stop). Maybe a consequence of there only being one stage, it seemed like Insomniac pulled out all of the stops on the stage visuals and production, which combined to fill the warehouse venue — and our hearts/minds — and never quit just like the amazing music.

(2) Day 1 and Day 2 Showcased Different Subgenres

While both days were filled with solid, old-school, crazy-high BPM Trance (+ a motherfucking wild laser voyage), there seemed to be a definite divide between the festival’s two days. Day 1 leaned toward darker, heavier Progessive-Trance-esque sounds and tracks. Day 2 took us more into bright, happy, Uplifting Trance land (with, of course, a little sprinkling of every sort of classic Trance throughout each day - I mean, I didn’t call these guys Trance gods for nothing. They know how to mix). This sort of made it feel like we got two festivals in one, and created a cool, festival-spanning emotional journey that was like a macrocosm of a Trance track starting with a dark bassline and then slowly morphing before your ears to build and build to an heavenly, euphoric peak leaving you with that otherworldly feeling that truly embodies a state. Of. Trance. Or maybe that was just us.

(3) Trance Fans Love Eachother and Never Stop the Party

Maybe it really is just us, but we definitely think that the #TranceFamily moniker is a true representation of the Trance scene. Everyone at the show was part of the family. There was no pushing, fighting, or aggression like you (sadly) see at some shows these days. People were giving each other high fives and cheering on dance-offs in the crowd, and everyone seemed to be keeping up with the million-mile-per-hour beats, vibing with the melodies, and just generally having a good time. We don’t know if its the emotional nature of the music or something the subgenre’s scene has cultivated separately, but it seems like Trance crowds really know the meaning of PLUR. Oh, and — Trance fan or not — if you can dance to 138 BPM for essentially two days straight, then you clearly know how to keep the party going.

(4) Only One Stage

Now, initially, we thought this might be a Con. We like being able to explore the festival grounds, check out artwork, etc., and run into old friends or make new ones on the way. However, after taking some time to reflect, there is something so special and "rave-y” about having just the one stage in an off-the-beaten-path warehouse, like underground raves used to be when Trance was king and “Trouse” was a misspelling of trouser. 

Our final conclusion on the matter is that keeping it simple with one stage was a legit af move by Insomniac. It allowed them to give us the most fantastic laser show of all time ever, avoided the inevitable time sink of getting from stage to stage, and left the event feeling intimate despite being a massive. Also, they smartly put the bars and bathrooms outside, which kept us moving around enough to keep things interesting and still left room to explore the festival more than you could a one-stage club.

(5) Good Crowd Flow/Control

Crowd flow is something that might go unnoticed at most festivals (unless they are poorly planned), but we really appreciated the entrance-only, exit-only format of the venue on that front. When you have tons of people fighting past each other in two directions through small doorways, things can get uncomfortable and crazy real quick. Dreamstate didn’t need a botched trial run to figure that out, and from its first year appeared to have mastered the fact that having one-way entrance/exits makes for good crowd flow and happy ravers (maybe Insomniac learned its lesson from the Coliseum hallways circa EDC 2009). Might seem simple in hindsight, but its something we’ve seen screwed up all too many times.


(1) Lack of Typical Insomniac Bells and Whistles

Now, this is really only a semi-Con because like I said above, we ended up appreciating the classic underground warehouse rave vibe that they managed to create even at such a huge festival, but we’ve been to some pretty tiny underground raves with better art installations and side-activities than we saw at Dreamstate. There was one sort of thrown together piece of art outside the bathrooms that was kind of cool, but otherwise the grounds were pretty bare except for the bars and the merchandise tent. We usually love Insomniac because of the fun extras and special touches that they add when designing a festival and choosing booths, etc. There wasn’t really any of that here, which though like we said maybe was part of the design, was somehow still a bit disappointing.

(2) Dear Dreamstate, Have You Ever Heard of Toilet Paper?

Enough said, really. Total amateur hour w/r/t the bathroom situation, Dreamstate. In both GA and VIP. Still love you though. Xoxo.

(3) It Was Fucking Freezing

Not Insomniac’s fault, not the Trance gods’ fault, but we had to list this because holy shit was it cold, and we were in SoCal so it was clear that no one was really prepared for that. Dreamstate had to put out a notice before the second day warning people to bundle up more for Day 2 (thanks, Momstate) since the temperature was somehow going to be even LOWER that night. Sheesh. Luckily, they had heat lamps outside at the tables near the bars, and the bathrooms weren’t too far from the warmth of the warehouse. If the show had been outside though, that would’ve been a nightmare. Perhaps a semi-Pro here because it shows another instance of good planning on the part of Insomniac.

So, as you can see, Dreamstate LA's Cons are fewer and way less material than the festival’s many Pros, and that reflects the amazing time we had and how impressed we were by this festival’s freshman debut. If you don’t already know, there is ANOTHER Dreamstate coming up in SF on January 16th and 17th of 2016, at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. We hadn’t planned on going to that, but after having such a blast at Dreamstate LA, our whole group is going to be doubling down on the Dream and raging at the SF debut. If you aren’t afraid of 138 BPM and want to be taken on a Trace journey (and have your mind blown out of your skull by lasers), we’d suggest you join us! Bring your own toilet paper.