Ok, so I like electronic dance music, more specifically Trance. When I started in the 1990's, the US was a bit behind in that department.
Still, with San Francisco and San Jose nearby, I've had some opportunities to see some great EDM/Trance DJs. Back in the early 2000's, they sadly played club music in the US that was nowhere close to the hits they had composed and were known for, but over the years, as Trance started becoming more popular, those DJs finally started playing their good tunes in the US too, and maybe from 2004 on, it's only been getting better. Popsicle Halloween 2004 was really the beginning of great music parties in the San Francisco Area, and thankfully things have gotten even better since then
As a matter of fact, after another 10 years (2015 and beyond) the good news is that Trance has grown quite a following in the US, and places like the SF Bay Area, and while Trance has been declared dead a few times in the last 10 years, it's still going strong here.
Trance Family SF is definitely strong in the area, we've been getting more big trance parties every year, including many top DJs that come visit us what feels like every other week now (as of 2018-2019), and through those events, I made many friends in Trance Family SF. Thanks to you all.
Over those years, I got the chance to meet a few of my favourite DJs, including Armin more than once, and my last hobby has been to work on lights for my shirt and pants (version 3) and (version 4)
Ok, so for the first time readers who haven't been to previous dreamstate socals, please go read this Dreamstate Socal 2022 in another tab to compare and contrast. Then what's below will make a lot more sense.
Giving feedback/your own opinion/thoughts: please answer on:
So, the new Venue. Why the move from NOS to QM? Better or Not?
I didn't expect that this topic would be so divisive, so it was very interesting to read everyone's feedback over multiple forums. While I know some people at Insomniac and they've also been super nice to me, for which I am ever thankful, I do not work there or have any inside knowledge on what drove the move, the decision for this year, and the apparent decision to stay there next year that was made before people were able to send their feedback for this year.
So, I'm left to speculate and guess, like everyone, which I guess makes this a bit more fun :)
Let's start with the obvious reason:
"I'm on a boat, I'm on a boat, everyone look at me, I'm on an motherf'ing boat :)", SNL for the win :)
Haha, so now that we have this out of the way :)
(+3) LA people prefer going to Long Beach than San Bernardino traffic-wise. For people flying in, it didn't matter unless you're flying in to LAX internationally in which case the drive from LAX is shorter to LB/QM. I just changed this from +1 to +3 to account for the fact that traffic from LAX to SB did really suck on fridays, even if it did not affect non locals that flew in directly to Ontario or SB (see below)
(+2) Some people said they were getting tired of NOS and liked the new location just because it was new. I personally liked stages and decors they did at NOS so much, and those did change yearly, that I honestly didn't mind going back to NOS, it felt like a very happy home despite the ghetto-ish looking area outside, but I'l try and be fair and still give it a +2 in favor of QM as well as credit the insomniac folks for trying something new.
( 0) For people flying in, flying to Ontario or even a few direct flights to San Bernardino were about as good as flying to Long Beach
(+1) Overall people said SB was kind of a ghetto and felt unsafe. I feel that was over harsh, it doesn't look great, but I've walked back to hotels at night and never felt unsafe, never heard any gunshots, and honestly it felt safer than South Central LA that surrounds Banc of California. But most people disagreed with me, so LB wins this one
(-1): 02:00 curfew at NOS, 01:00 soft curfew at QM (it was really around 01:15 or so). People who pay attention will have noted that things started 1H earlier, and it was still dark enough to be fun for people like me, so we got the same amount of music at the main party, but especially on friday not everyone could get there as early at 15:00 to park, long walk or shuttle and get to the venue at 16:00 when it opened.
(-1) Hotels around the venue were not Cheaper in LB, probably more expensive overall. SB is not at nice and and more cheaper hotel options. LB has nicer hotels nearby, but they wre in the $300+/night range, which really adds up for people who aren't full of money.
(-1) People said it was far to parking lots/shuttles, SB was not much better. NOS has very closeby nearby premium parking, QM has none because the event took over the entire parking lot.
(+1): LB/QM has 2 good hotels that were walking distance in addition to the boat itself. SB/NOS had 3 hotels walking distance too, but they were very poor motels that are pretty ghetto, so LB/QM wins.
(-1) Staying on the boat is cool for those who were able to get room, but you couldn't park any closer than 2 miles away and had to take a shuttle to get to/from your car
(-1) Some people staying on the boat complained of non stop noise depending on their room location, since indeed the boat had 24 hours of music
(+2) for people on the boat, they were right onsite and could get in and out to their room during the event and after parties. I mean this is really a +100, but only for the few who could benefit from it, and iwth the caveats that in return they got noise when trying to sleep, had to park far away, and their luggage was subject to search before they could go to their room (long list of prohibited items, including not allowed to have certain foods or any alcohol in your room, which many cared about).
(-3) NOS in SB is just much bigger and has plenty of room for 7 stages or more as has been done during Beyond Wonderland. 4 Stages at QM really didn't fit well, the bridge to get to void was inconvenient and hard for people who can't do stairs easily, and the mandatory walk all the way around from void to dream was close to 15 minutes.
(-1): Due to the bridge to void, or the long long way around, LB/QM was less ADA friendly, unless there was some special ADA bypass in and out the event to get the short way across, but I didn't see one (actually I was told there was one, getting in and out of the event somehow, crossing the street in the middle, so I guess that's better than nothing, but the rest of us could not use that).
(+1) Having the real water in the background of the venue and the boat, even if it's ultimately an old tired boat, was still a better view than SB/NOS. At the same time I'm only putting +1 because the Insomniac crew can and does turn any venue into a magical place, so NOS really looks spectacular when they were done with it.
( 0): Safety inside the event was similar at both venues. It felt safe in both places, except for the unfortunate phone thefts at both venues. Everyone really should use phone tethers now. I hope insomniac finds way to put traps for those assholes that ruin the nights of people who get pick pocketed.
( 0): Temperature and Rain. Sure NOS was colder last year, but I looked up average temps for november in both venues, and they were mostly equal. I was also convinced that QM was more at risk of rain than SB, but I was wrong, for that time of the year, they are also mostly equal. The rain this year did suck though, especially in sequence that got deep puddles that swallowed my entire LED shoes, shorted them, and got my socks wet :-( It wasn't raining at SB when it was raining hard at QM this year, but apparently that was just luck or lack thereof and the tables could have been turned
(-1): Cell phone service: yes, different with different providers, but my own experience and anecdotal experience was that it was worse at QM. I do remember using group chats to sync and find people at NOS without issue several years back. Insomniac did offer wifi at some locations for VIP and Passport, but that coverage was limited.
(-2): NOS has at least 2 big indoor rooms (one was vision and another one I only saw used during beyond wonderland for a techno stage) that can be used for after parties. Those rooms are much bigger and better than the smallish rooms on the boat that were also quite hot and uncomfortable in m opinion.
(-1): Ghost stories about Queen Mary. It's not an issue for me, but some expressed concern about it, some think it's actually cool, and one person told me they had a not great experience in the boat related to that. That's all I'm going to say on the topic, but I guess I have to mention it for completeness
(-2): I'm sorry to have to say this, and I also know not everyone shares that opinion, so feel free to discard this point if you disagree: I really really liked the megastructure feel of dream and sequence at NOS. I don't have clear words to describe it, but that semi enclosed space with the lasers flying on to pf your head, and the sea of lights, pepole, dreamstate balllons and whatnot is such a magical feeling that I really missed this year. It could be brought back to QM in some way, but it won't fit as well as it did at NOS in my opinion, although I'll be delighted to be proven wrong. I'll also add that those exact words were given to me by multiple people, including DJs I asked, without my feeding them that answer.
(-1) I also missed the LED guys jumping on trampolines, it's an awesome show each time that we loved having at the end of the Dream megastructure
( 0): Not venue related, but yes there was a lot more techno and hardstyle this year. I'm not going to say I'm a huge fan of either, but if they are weaved in and out of trance that I do like, I can be ok with them. And according to ASOT and Armin, techno is apparently the new trance, right? :)
Is it ok to say that I missed this?
Winner? If you add my made up points, SB/NOS wins by 5 points. Yes, it's a biased and joke comparison, but I guess I was trying to show and pros and cons I found and heard. I understand that not everyone will agree depending on what they value.
I personally really preferred NOS because it's much larger, I loved the megastructures, the shorter walk between stages, and it has 2 much better indoor rooms that can be used for afterparties. This seems irrelevant to write though since DS has already been confirmed to be in Long Beach next year, and there may very well be other reasons that made NOS unsuitable that we're not aware of. The new venue can work better for next year and be improved, especially if it's taken down to 3 stages for 3 days as I explain in the conclusion at the bottom of this report.
I also need to be fair and point out that the Insomniac crew knows how to turn any space into something pretty. If it hadn't been for those leftover chargepoint chargers, it was hard to tell that you were in a big parking lot:
Even the bridge to void which kind of sucked and was only one way, they made it pretty and really cool. Actually I really want to make a point here, many of you know me as my IG tranceledguy, so yes I know about LEDs, I know how those things are programmed since I built in my own from scratch, and I know that some engineer or engineers spent a significant amount of time decking out that bridge and making custom videos and patterns to scroll on it. This is where the insonniac crews really go above and beyond, they really f'ing care and have a bunch of overachievers :)
For comparison, NOS may not be as pretty by default, but after the insomniac crew was done decking it out, it still looked stellar to me:
New Grounds: Long Beach by Queen Mary
Anyway, let's go back to the actual report.
Main Festival Feedback
New location, new backgrounds:
While the venue was well decorated from an otherwise boring parking lot, and it was nice to have some pieces of burning man art:
Burning Man people will recognize this awesome piece of art, great to have it
let's note that those vendors were on the void side which felt so far that they didn't feel worth walking back to unless you really wanted to go to void
And yeah, the walk back from void to dream really sucked, including this tunnel that was crowded at times, and where people go their phones stolen :(
VIP was nice too, and had some of the sparse seating people said was missing elsewhere:
It was a bit weird due to the venue, you could enter two different ways, towards the main venue, or towards the void. Once you were in, you couldn't take the short away across due to no in and outs. This really felt unfortunate.
Another point to note is that anyone staying on the boat did not have to go through security to enter the event. It was great for them, but that meant it relied on the boat to enforce festival level security, which was a bit weird (people staying there were rightfully upset they were not allowed to have alcohol or some other festival prohibited items in their rooms). I'm not sure what the right answer is on this front.
Queen Mary and After Parties Feedback
Queen Mary is realistically an old retired cruiseship, but it makes for nice pictures:
Insomniac did their best to help people figure the place out, it was not very obvious:
the map was needed, getting from Grand to/from Britannia was a long walk with many stairs
Nice views outside:
There were limited food options on the boat, no alcohol at night due to lack of liquor license after hours, but insomniac made sure that people at least got water, which was nice:
Bathrooms were more of a problem, in the worst case scenario (britanica), you had to go 1 floor up, across the entire boat, and then 2 floors down, and all the way back. That's over 10 minutes and a lot of stairs for tired people and some who had issues with so many stairs but didn't have an ADA wristband that would have allowed them to take an elevator. Something to improve for sure.
But yes, it did look cool at night from Dream:
Yes it rain, drizzle on day 1, then it poured in the middle of the night during after party, so much the the place was still wet and muddy, especially in sequence on day 2.
Day 2 was ok-ish until the last hour when it rained fairly hard, not really fun for most, but at least my outfit didn't short or catch fire :)
I'll just state here for the people who didn't like NOS and SB, that it did not rain there while it was raining in Long Beach
Of course, a big part of what makes Us insomniac events so much fun is the people who are part of the party.
It's also a good excuse to take Trancefamily pictures:
Great to see my usual 4 dreamstate GFs :)
So many DJs, thanks for taking pictures with me
very cool chat with Boris from Electric Universe about his laser harp show
The truth is that Dreamstate is about the people, all of you! We would probably still have lots of fun in a safeway parking lot :)
Anyway, this brings us to the Festival. Day 1 started bright and early with Miyuki at 16:00 and many of her fans made it to represent. It was impressive.
Miyuki had lots of fans
Day 1 Summary Video:
Day 1: Queen Mary Afterparty
it was awesome to see Blastoyz again, but sad that he had to play as 'secret guest'
Day 1 Afterparty Summary Video:
After getting to bed after sunrise and having hotel breakfast as late dinner, plus repairs on my LED outfit that broke on day 1, arriving on time for day2 was more challengings and I totally missed the day parties. So, I started Day #2 with Somna, lovely set:
Richard Durand at Vision was loads of fun even it meant I missed Craig vs FactorB:
More psytrance at Sequence with Reality Test:
Then the laser harp show from Electric Universe was very cool, especially for those who knew the origins from Jean-Michel Jarre:
For comparison, that was Jean-Michel Jarre in 2017 at Berkeley with is laser harp dating from the 1980's:
Fun fact about the Laser Harp, Jean-Michel Jarre's version is different and older technology he has used since the 1980's, and the internet says "t was patented in 1982 by the French composer Bernard Szajner, but the Australian Geoffrey Rose claims it was his invention and that he had taken out a provisional patent in 1975-1976".
After that, it was time to see the end of Armin's set at Dream:
By 01:00 and change, the actual dreamstate was over, and for the lucky ones who were able to secure after party tickets, it continued on the boat until 08:00:
Day 2 Summary Video:
Day 2: Queen Mary Afterparty
it was starting to get late in the night, but great to see more from FactorB
Day 2 Afterparty Summary Video:
After almost 40 hours, it was nice to see the sun come up a 2nd time, and walk back to the room for some much needed sleep:
Aftermath and Conclusion: Should this not be 3 days and with a bit more sleep?
For all the diverging opinions on the new venue, I think everyone will agree this event was unique:
Points to Insomniac for trying something new, whether it was required or not, and honestly a lot more things went right than what went wrong given how different it was for them, so thumbs up on the end result!
The lineup for what was supposed to be a 2 day festival, was absolutely insane
The after parties lineup alone was bigger than many main festivals
If you want to be technical, this Dreamstate was not a 2 day festival, but literally 40 hours long, non stop. It started Saturday at 16:00, ran until 01:00, after parties until 08:00, saturday day party until 16:00, main festival day 2 until 01:00, and more after parties until 08:00. 40 hours total with 3 to 4 stages during 32 hours out of those 40 hours, woot!
So yeah, people got tired, multiple complained about the lack of seating at the main festival, although it was easier to rest on the boat:
poor technicians got close to 0 sleep
I smiled shen I saw some FB posts and comment of people complaining they were already 30, so they were not that young anymore, and needed more places to sit/rest :) Let's not talk about the OG Trance Ravers who are closer to 50, including many of our favorite DJs :)
My personal opinion is that it was too much in too little time. I realize that extreme FOMO due to all the great sets you are missing every hour while being there and trying to see it all, is probably meant to be part of the event, but I'll also say that in my opinion it's too much and not necessary to that level. 3 days would make it better.
Sure, the after parties allowed me to see some of the DJs I missed main sets on, at the expense of even less sleep, and that only worked for those who were able to get the limited after party tickets, and let's be honest again that the after party rooms were not great (hot and stuffy, inconvenient to get to, and with limited facilities)
So I'm going to ask questions that are at the same time suggestions:
If Dreamstate is going to stay at Queen Mary where the 4th stage (Void) really didn't fit with the bridges and long way around, and just added more conflicts, why not have it 3 days and 3 stages only?
For anyone thinking I'm crazy for asking for only 3 stages if we're stuck at QM and its smaller footprint, I'd like to point out that Dreamstate Harbor only had 2 stages, they were 3mn walk apart and I loved it. I had so much less FOMO, felt I was able to see a lot more, and the main issue was the midnight curfew and lack of afterparties. Having only 2 stages that were both so good that I still had a hard time picking between them, was more than plenty. Tell me if I'm crazy, but hopefully in that context, my 3 stages 3 day proposal is not that crazy.
I know you guys are all overachievers and always trying to do better, we love you for that, but I don't think we need to many artists conflicts and so many hours with so little sleep. My friend Niko started the day party on saturday at 08:00. I'm told he had 5 people attend his set. It's both sad and understandable.
Can we bring back at least 2 megastructures (sequence and dream), and it's ok if we leave vision as is, or if it becomes the new void and vision gets dropped?
Bonus points with megastructures, you can put some mesh that will let some wind through but block at least part of the rain
More lasers please. Everything is always more better with more lasers :)
Find a way to nail the pickpockets, please.
Can the cruiseship terminal structure be used as an indoor stage for afterparties?
If we have to use the Queer Mary for afterparties again:
bathrooms on all floors
more ventilation/temperature controls in the rooms. We were dressed for cold weather outdoors and got into stuffy and sweaty rooms
more food options, they were very limited
all elevators for all, please.
I'm not an alcohol person, but people who were were disappointed to have none due to liquor license on the boat. There may not be a fix to that.
The lighting and general production quality inside the Queen Mary felt poor on multiple levels. I'm not sure how much it's fixable but also a point that this boat is not really a great party boat, it's really an old and tired cruiseship, sorry if I have to state that. I also remember lighting in those rooms that was basically flashing spotlights into the crowd and blinding people dancing. Not sure if that's the best way to do it :)
Should you go? Would I go Back?
Despite the challenges with the new venue, the event still went really well overall and was a lot of fun. There are so many great things about DS and all of you coming and making it what it is, that it's hard not to have a great time. So it's another "hell yes"
I'll repeat again and again that all the staff truly cares and goes all out. It wasn't perfect but it went quite well considering, and again stuff like the LED bridge was far out. The getting around to void was a mess, and they made the back path 2 way half way through the festival, which was still a real time improvement.
Security was definitely nice overall, hopefully the event is still secure enough.
It was an insane event like I wrote already, it may not need to be that insane, I think 3 stages over 3 days would be better if we have to keep using that venue, but either way it was awesome again.
I'll give the same answer to "Is it worth flying across the world for?" If you like trance and you want a better production value than many european shows (not counting Tomorrowland and arguably untold), yes, it is worth going to. Only 2 days, but it's really good and the night decors and costumes are much better than what you'll find in Europe.
Yes, night and lights and costumes make festivals way more fun, if you disagree, I'm sorry :)