Article By: Chris Savoie
Nocturnal Wonderland returned to California’s Glen Helen Park in 2022 for its 27th year, making it the longest-running festival in North America. This year had a stacked lineup featuring names like Illenium, Rezz, Adventure Club, Liquid Stranger, and DJ Hanzel — there was something for everyone’s music taste. With two days of music, three days of camping with after parties, three main stages, a hidden stage and great vibes, it was another wildly successful festival for ravers. Based on my personal experience, below are scores for the production, music, and venue, plus an overall grade with a brief reasoning for the scores.
The Production: 7 out of 10
With every Insomniac event, the production level is going to be high. Each stage — Wolves’ Den, Labyrinth, and Sunken Garden — all had great visuals, fireworks, and pyrotechnics. However, there was significant sound bleed between all the stages. If you weren’t in the middle of the crowd, you were getting sound from each of the other stages which isn’t typical.
The main stage, Wolves’ Den, was closed out by Illenium on Day 1 and Rezz on Day 2. The production at this stage was next level. The visuals were crisp and spectacular, the lasers were plentiful, the pyrotechnics and fireworks lit the stage up, adding hype throughout the sets. Hosting some of the biggest names of the weekend, it did not feel like it was too crowded. Other than the sound bleeding from the Cave of Raves and Sunken Garden, it was amazing.
Labyrinth was home to the bassheads for the festival with acts like SAYMYNAME and Ganja White Night. This stage sat on top of a hill and had a plethora of lasers, fireworks, and pyrotechnics to keep people headbanging from 3pm to midnight. It did, however, seem to either have sound issues or restrictions on loudness. Unless you were directly in the middle of the stage, the sound seemed to be low. Being the bass stage, one would expect it to be bumping and, as a basshead, want to feel that bass from all angles of the stage, not just the middle of the stage.
The Sunken Garden was where attendees went to get groovy to many of the house artists on the weekend. Featuring sets from Lee Foss and Volac, the crowd was dancing and shuffling like crazy. The design of this stage was probably my favorite and was the most unique of the three. It had me shuffling as I was walking to break my neck at the bass stage. Unlike Labyrinth, there were no sound issues in terms of loudness, however, there was still sound bleeding from Wolves’ Den and Labyrinth on either side of this stage.
Tucked away in the back of the venue was the Cave of Rave. This awesome hidden gem of the festival was bumping music all day long for those lucky enough to find it. It was jungle-themed with a DJ in the back and a 3D art room with 3D glasses to wear to enjoy your trip to the Cave. Then in the room across, ravers could watch videos from past Nocturnal festivals and pose in front of an old-school camera. This was one of the coolest parts of the festival venue and had everyone smiling and dancing as they came and went.
Music: 8 out of 10
As I mentioned, this year’s Nocturnal was stacked with talent. There was something for the bassheads like myself, house heads and everyone in between. Both days had a slew of must-see acts, and from 3pm to midnight it was hard to find time to sit down and eat without missing a set. It is hard for me to give a perfect score, but Nocturnal earns an 8 out of 10 for being loaded with talent from multiple different genres.
Venue: 6 out of 10
I personally love Glen Helen Regional Park, it is one of my favorites in Southern California. It has beautiful scenery, the venue itself is easy to navigate, and it’s comfy to sit when needed. From what I saw, camping also looked lit and I didn’t hear anything negative coming from the campers. Parking was a bit of a mission because it was just about a mile away from the venue.
Walking into the venue was easy, but walking out of the venue was difficult since it was congested due to everyone leaving at the same time. From the exit all the way to the parking lot, the crowds made the walk seem like an eternity. The worst part, however, was trying to leave — Day 1 it took me two hours to leave the parking lot. I even saw people napping in their cars waiting for the traffic to die down before trying to leave. Due to the parking situation and the sound bleeding, the venue gets only 6 out of 10.
Overall Grade: 7 out of 10
Despite some of the challenges, vibes were at an all-time high this year at Nocturnal. As a ravers favorite, and the longest-run festival in North America, this festival rarely disappoints, and this year was no different. With top talent at every stage, top-of-the-line stage design, and one of the best venues in SoCal, it is hard to go wrong. Nocturnal is an event that I and my fellow ravers look forward to every year. I am already looking forward to the 28th edition of Nocturnal next year to see what Insomniac has in store for us. See you there!