Setting up only a few feet from where I camped my first year at Nocturnal Wonderland was very nostalgic…
My half day of work flew by and before I knew it I was on the road to Nocturnal Wonderland for my third year. Packing everything into Dylan’s truck was like playing Tetris and at the end we still had to throw rope over everything. Our last pit stop was Costco before heading to the camp grounds Thursday evening. As with every adventure where you’re coordinating 8 people, we showed up much later than we had originally planned. It was close to 8PM when we made it into the line to get into the campgrounds. Hours would crawl by before we even got close to getting in, by the time security was actually checking our car it was a few minutes past 10PM. Finally, both our cars made it to our spots and setup began. Neighbors all around us were carefully setting up tents and EZ-UPs. It was now dark and while the multi-colored lights above us provided some light, a lamp or flashlight was still necessary. You could hear music coming from all over the campground – every genre of EDM was being represented.
Now that everything was setup, it was time to eat and enjoy the Silent Disco.
We wandered down the hill toward the glowing mushrooms and where the not-so-silent disco was taking place. With headphones on our heads, we went into the tent to get down with Gladiator. The temperature was perfect as we danced into the night with incredibly friendly people. “Slap the Bag” was being played periodically throughout the dance floor. By the time we decided to head back to camp our bodies were heated and the cool night air was refreshing. We decided the night was still young at 2AM and that we should eat and drink a little bit longer.
Our first neighbors brought gifts and stories.
A pair of strangers wandered between our tents and into our campsite, they had clearly already been drinking but had brought alcohol to share with us. They started by introducing themselves and sharing what they had. They explained that last year they had come so entirely unprepared and that their neighbors had helped them with everything including food. This was the year they were determined to pay back that kindness and offered up anything they had, including a box of bear claws. Shortly after 4AM we all decided it was maybe time to get some shut-eye and we retreated to our tents. The festival had barely started but I could already tell this was going to be a great experience.
Not everyone has great neighbors though…
I’m always the first one awake when it comes to camping. I think it’s just my response to seeing the sun. I stood outside of my tent and saw my neighbors on the other side for the first time. Our conversation started because they had a Huntington Beach sticker on the back of their car. They explained that they had gotten into a fight with their neighbors last night over their loud music. Apparently the neighbors next to them thought that a music festival demanded music to be played 24/7. I assured them we would not be fighting this weekend and offered them some of our fruit platters we had. Around this time, Adri and Andrew came to visit. They had gotten to the campground early and were very close to the entrance of the venue. Apparently their neighbors believed that EDM should only include hardstyle and not only ended the night with it, but started at 6AM with it. They also told them that if they needed to find them they would simply be at the hardstyle stage all day.
Our rave families were both born here.
Beyond Wonderland was the first time it had happened. I was sitting on the hill when suddenly a bunch of deadmau5 heads began to converge for a photo. It was so strange, but I loved it, so I took a picture. Then as I was walking up the hill at Nocturnal Wonderland in years prior it happened again. They all appeared out of nowhere and so I took another picture. I was trying to rejoin my group when I noticed all the deadmau5 heads on the ground. That was it, the final straw, this had to be a sign. I needed to talk to someone about it. I found a girl standing next to the heads and started the conversation. I asked her about what was happening here and she explained that Team Mau5 was her rave family.
They actually had met online and solidified their bond at Nocturnal Wonderland some years ago. She continued saying that this was the year she didn’t think everyone would make it and in fact, Saturday was the day that the most would be there. It was incredible because my rave family had been born last year at Nocturnal. I needed to give her a piece of kandi. My very first Nocturnal Wonderland was in 2014 and I learned the true meaning of PLUR at that event. A girl, dressed as Alice in Wonderland was wearing an umbrella as a skirt and I complimented her outfit. She ran up to me and gave me a piece of kandi, it was the first time someone had given me something without expecting anything in return. The kandi was a purple and white piece with whales on it. Normally it is always on my left wrist so that I don’t trade it but for some reason tonight it was on my right. What better piece of kandi to give than my first piece in the place where both our rave families were born? “Holy shit it’s a whale!” I was startled by the reaction. She quickly told me that at her first Nocturnal Wonderland, she brought a girlfriend who dressed as Alice in Wonderland and that year she only made kandi with whales on it. The coincidence was mind-blowing. Could it have been her friend who gave me my first kandi? The answer isn’t as important as the fact that this trade suddenly had incredible meaning for both of us. A memory I will not soon forget.
These gloves were meant for you.
At some point during the night our friends Alle and Jasmine had met Daniel. He was at Nocturnal Wonderland for the first time and he had come alone. We invited him to hang with us. “Would that be okay?” He asked the question as if we hadn’t really meant to invite him. Our response in unison was “Of course, join us for as long as you want!” We headed from TJR toward the Labyrinth to get a good spot for Sub Focus. We stood toward the back on the right side of the stage and our group immediately dispersed to get water, drinks, or go to the restroom. While we waited Daniel made friends with two guys sitting down. One of them was a glover and handed Daniel his gloves. No sooner had he started gloving than security suddenly appeared. They walked up and told him they had to confiscate the gloves. Daniel immediately tried to explain to them that they weren’t his, that he was just borrowing them. He even promised to never turn them on again, but to no avail. As quickly as they had appeared they had disappeared into the night with the gloves of the guy sitting down. Daniel felt awful you could see it on his face and shortly thereafter tears began streaming. He was apologizing profusely, he couldn’t believe what had just happened.
A few months ago when our rave family was at EDC our friend Sid left his gloves at the house we had rented. He had told us to just keep them because he another pair, but we didn’t have any other glovers in our group. What’s strange is that normally they would have just been at home since there was no real reason to bring them, but strangely the gloves had been in our kandi supply bag. I’m a huge believer in things happening for a reason and no sooner had I witnessed what happened, I knew exactly what those gloves were meant for, they were meant for this very moment. Our group was moving on quickly to see Lane 8, so I quickly exchange contact information with Carl and briefly explained that I had gloves for his friend. As soon as I turned around there was an arm being presented to me. At first I didn’t understand what was happening, but his name was Drew and he had a tattoo of Majora’s mask covering his forearm, the same design I was wearing on my shirt. Everything happened so fast that I had barely hugged him and exchanged numbers before they were fleeting moments of the past. The next day I would see both of them again one to deliver gloves and the other to simply enjoy a set with a fellow Zelda fan.
An act of kindness with deeper meaning…
The beats of Lane 8 were incredible. The giant disco ball was bright and when the lasers hit it the room filled with precision lighting. After a while my friend Dylan needed to sit down, drink some water, and rest. I sat behind him so he could lean back. Suddenly a light was softly glowing next to me. It was from Ania and her spirit hood. She sat down next to me and started to fan Dylan and myself. Her spirit hood immediately garnered my attention, as it was covered in butterflies. I had heard of this kind of hood before. A year ago my roommate had told me about it, but this was the first time I was seeing it up close. We talked about where she was from and that she had lost her husband somewhere in the crowd, but that she wasn’t worried. We talked about other festivals and what the music meant to us. “This is exactly what I came for, for this genuine connection. Which butterfly do you like the most?” She asked. The butterflies were all pinned on the hood, and the goal of the hood is give them away when you find connections. She said she needed a drink and we would be heading to Odesza soon, so I told my group I would meet them there and we stood up. A girl came up to Ania and asked if she could have a butterfly and she of course obliged. As this girl carefully chose a butterfly, the boy that was with her, Ian, carefully inspected his wrist. He began the raver handshake with me and gave me one. I looked down to see a yellow band with a single charm: a turtle. I couldn’t believe it. A year ago I had met a girl whose nickname was Turtle and in fact, every festival since then I make a turtle kandi for good luck. This was the first festival that I just hadn’t had time to make one, and yet here it was. I hugged him before walking out into the night.
On our way to Odesza, Ania and I got distracted a number of times but when we got to the Boom Box Car she did something surprising. “This will look good on you, and keep you warm.” She said it and put her spirit hood on me faster than I could object. I thought that she would be cold, so I quickly grabbed my spirit hood out of my bag and put it on her. “Don’t worry, this was meant to be, I’ll find you later.” That was it, I wasn’t sure I was going to see her again, but I found my friends at the back of Odesza and tried to explain the crazy night I had. As the night came to a close and the last song played, Ania really did find me and we traded back our hoods and information for the next festival.
The true magic at Nocturnal Wonderland 2016 reunited me with people from my first year at the festival.
The first day, we got separated from our friends Alissa and Dylan. They had wandered into the crowd and we hadn’t seen them in quite a few hours. I figured if they were in trouble or needed to meet up they would just text us. Little did I know that their phones would have gotten stolen inside the venue and that they were wandering without a way to contact any of us. Our friends Adri and Andrew actually did find Dylan right before Above & Beyond and reunited our group for one of the most beautiful and love filled sets of the weekend.
As the first night was coming to a close, I looked up waiting for Above & Beyond to begin. I saw a totem just a few people in front of me reading S | B. My memory was jogged and I couldn’t believe it. Two years ago, I had met a guy named Spencer and he had told me his rave family was called the Struggle Bus. I ran over to the girl holding the pole and showed her the phone number I still had asking if Spencer was around. She pointed on the ground and he immediately stood up. “No, way, Carlos!” He told me that he always follows me on Snapchat. This was the most phenomenal coincidence, after talking to him we learned that we are actually camping one street over from each other. Two years later and yet it felt like no time had passed at all.
Nocturnal Wonderland was packed with incredible music and everything from the black light caves, to the interactive art were spectacular. However it was the people and the connections we made this weekend that made it truly magical. I’ll be there in 2017 and I hope I’ll see you there too!