Countdown NYE sent over 67,000 fans on a galactic quest, hosting the biggest space inspired New Year’s Eve party on the final night of the decade.
New Year’s Eve is a special time of celebration and jubilation. We reflect on the moments that defined our year and look forward to what’s next in the year ahead. On December 31 in San Bernardino, Countdown NYE allowed thousands of attendees to assemble, dance, and hear some wondrous music one final time before transitioning into the new decade.
Considering that most of the people in attendance found their love for dance music and the festival scene during the last decade, what better way to cap it off than to see some big names perform with tremendous production? I couldn’t think of a better way myself and that’s why I decided to make the trek to the NOS Events Center to dance away the final hours of the year.
Related: Return to the Countdown NYE 2019 galaxy with these livesets we’ve compiled!
Immediately after clearing security, Insomniac’s commitment to transforming the NOS Events Center into a science fiction alien fantasy was front and center.
Insomniac canvassed the venue with props, set pieces, mascots, and lighting to transform the open space into a very convincing alien invasion outpost. Past the entrance, a large twenty-foot tall arch with various alien warning signs welcomed guests into the venue. Even all the trees in the venue are basically converted into alien Christmas trees with layers of blue, green, and purple orbs hanging from the branches.
Throughout the venue, alien performers scurried around to observe their recent abductees or pose with attendees for photos. Another set of performers dressed like sci-fi space rangers showed off their acrobatic abilities on a trampoline bed just outside of the Area 51 stage.
Once passing the entrance arch, the mini-lake inside NOS transformed into the mesmeric Lazer Lagoon.
A small pillar at the north side of the lagoon shot out beams of lasers. In the middle of the lake, a sizable globe-like piece emitted more light and fog. The separate elements combined to help capture the theme of the event and serve as a stunning backdrop for photos. Beyond the decorations, Insomniac is converting this lake—which some might consider inconvenient—into its own atmosphere which adds to the ambiance.
Directly behind Lazer Lagoon, Area 151 boasted a colossal LED wall and hosted a small chill-out stage inside.
The Area 151 LED wall resembled the Pixel Forest area from this past year’s EDC Las Vegas. The gargantuan wall displayed thematic visuals and neat designs while illuminating the surrounding area. Inside Area 151 stood a small stage with a respectable LED screen and lighting structure. Fans looking for a spot to relax or get a change of pace could fall back here.
Tucked behind the Area 51 stage the Solar Flare Garden and Biosphere provided warmth and a silent disco.
The Solar Flare Garden mixed an art exhibit with practicality as large metallic prongs spewed flames. Metallic wasp sculptures did so as well. Attendees looking for warmth can find some in style.
Although the Biosphere was seen on the Countdown NYE map, this small hideout felt like a mini secret.
Inside the area, people could pick up headphones and tune in to a silent disco led by a DJ inside. Festival officials handed out 3D glasses too as the inside was full of blacklight space decorations. It’s the small things like these two exhibits that set Countdown NYE a cut above.
After spending time adventuring and discovering these gems, I set out to experience the magic of each of the four major stages of Countdown NYE.
I started with The Mothership stage, which was converted to a megastructure this year after formally being a tent structure in the years prior. The change in structure is a definite improvement for the main stage as the increased height and decks ensured more people could have a quality view of the performers and visuals.
The design of the stage was LED panel-driven with a mammoth LED situated between four vertical rectangular screens in the center. Similar sized vertical screens aligned the sides of the megastructure carrying the visuals throughout the entire area. The Mothership also contained a healthy amount of lasers and lighting fixtures to add to the production value.
Outside of the megastructure and really every stage, a jumbo LED screen streamed the performances. Overflowing crowds or people just looking for more space could still get a close-up view of the acts at work thanks to these.
Across the venue, the Nebula stage contained some true galactic elements into its overall design.
Much like The Mothership, the Nebula stage also changed structures from a megastructure to a tent. The stage consisted of a large semicircle sandwiched between two smaller semicircles, likely representing flying saucers. Throughout the pillars holding the tent structure, layers of loops climbed along the top of them which lent the stage more of a space-like feel.
In the center of the venue, Bassrush hosted the Area 51 stage and Insomniac Records hosted the Twilight Zone stage.
Area 51‘s stage featured seven vertical rectangular LED screens, each increasing in length towards the center. The main lighting structure spanned most of the length of the tent space. Area 51 served as the main joint for bass lovers as acts like Svdden Death’s VOYD, Borgore, and Gentlemen’s Club.
Just down the way from Area 51, the Twilight Zone stage was the home for all things house music. This stage held my personal favorite decoration: a swarm of disco balls surrounding one enormous one. Lights hitting the main disco ball spread the illuminations throughout the dance floor creating a retro rave effect.
To start my night, I ventured to Mothership to catch Elephante and The Chainsmokers perform their final sets of 2019.
Elephante proved to be a true renaissance talent, singing tracks and strumming monster guitar solos during his performance. Following Elephante, The Chainsmokers took the stage for their first Countdown NYE performance since 2016. Their set featured a healthy dose of hard trap and bass, with a sprinkling of originals all throughout. Drew Taggart sang crowd favorites like “Roses”, “Closer”, and “Paris” along with thousands who joined along with him.
Following The Chainsmokers, I trekked back up to the Twilight Zone stage to catch Noizu rock the house with his set.
Noizu was one of the acts I was most excited to see at this year’s edition. He blew me away as well as a packed house of fans away with his relentless house track selection. He’s a strong producer with a solid take on creating funky and danceable house tracks and finally hearing these bangers in a live setting was an absolute treat.
His set was meant for the Twilight Zone stage: non-stop house beats under a strobe-lit disco ball with masses of fans dancing their heart out. The magic of Noizu is the absence of any lulls in the action, it’s all heaters at all points in the set.
SAYMYNAME drew in so many fans the crowd extended far outside the back of the tent at Nebula.
SAYMYNAME’s forte is having a diversity of styles yet consistently bringing the heat with the more aggressive side of dance music. He dominated by serving up drops at a faster pace to keep the crowd locked in and bouncing and the set had a spot-on tracklist to boot. SAYMYNAMEmixed in a multitude of bass anthems like Riot Ten’s “Railbreaker,” Skrillex’s remix of “Cinema,” JAUZ and DJ Snake’s “Gassed Up,” and even dropped “Edge” by Rezz, garnering an enormous crowd reaction.
Following SAYMYNAME, Jai Wolf mixed a melodic set that meshed chill tracks with darker beats before diving into his catalog of classics.
Jai Wolf is known for his stunning visuals and live performances, and his efforts this time around serve as another confirmation to his skills as an artist. Early in his slot, he drew people in by dropping heaters like Illenium’s “Where’d U Go” and Louis the Child’s “Better Not,” before making the crowd move with even more amazing tunes.
The flow of the set started with darker waves and drops sprinkled between the serene choruses from tracks. The last half included more of Jai Wolf’s gallant and spiritual originals and was capped off the glorious set with his most famed track “Indian Summer.”
Porter Robinson followed next and shined bright once again, playing a radiant set and leading us to the new decade.
During the changeover between Jai Wolf and Porter Robinson, the tent space got tighter as more fans poured in to get a great spot for Porter’s set. You could feel the anticipation rise the second the changeover music stopped. His intro hadn’t even started and fans were screaming with joy. Then he took the stage and the crowd roared so loud you could hardly hear the music playing.
Porter’s set for Countdown NYE had all of the magical elements we’ve come to adore about his DJ set while still managing to switch it up this time around. The set included fun edits and a mash-up of “Divinity” and Daft Punk’s “One More Time”. On top of that, Porter threw down timeless classics like “Flicker,” “Easy,” “Fresh Static Snow,” and more.
For the actual countdown itself, Porter set up one of his most famous and recognizable tracks, “Language.” On the main LED screen, a timer began to tick and we were full steam ahead into 2020. As the seconds counted down, the voices and excitement for the new decade rose. Finally, when the timer hit zero, the song dropped, a huge ‘HAPPY NEW YEAR’ message filled the screen, and confetti took over the air.
Over at Area 51 Svdden Death shattered the floor with heavy bass tracks and VIPs for his VOYD set.
The Area 51 stage was transformed into a literal devil’s lair for Svdden Death’s VOYD appearance as the tent flooded with red lights, red LED visuals, and red lasers. Svdden Death commanded attention in his VOYD outfit and skull helmet. Each drop went harder than the last. He essentially got in all of his VOYD recent releases and specialty VIP edits of other searing bass tracks.
To end the night, I stopped by The Mothership and Area 51 one more time to get a taste of each closing act.
At The Mothership, Galantis kept the New Year’s celebratory spirits high by dropping their signature style of electro house and playing live drums throughout. Galantis threw down mostly their own tracks, including their hits “Tell Me You Love Me” and “No Money.”
Across the way at Area 51, the dubstep titan Borgore fired off some bass bombs to the sea of faithful headbangers. All in all, people were spending the first moments of a new era partaking in one of their favorite activities with attending a music festival on New Year’s Eve.
This year’s edition of Countdown NYE was all about getting 2020 started on the right foot.
This passing Countdown NYE marked my fourth time attending the festival. I’ve witnessed it continue to grow and adopt an identity, especially after the start of the alien invasion theme last year. Since the aliens landed, Insomniac has delivered a seemingly unending amount of decoration and attention-to-detail at the event.
Insomniac has near-limitless creativity with their festival set up and scheming and the inclusion of an alien invasion adds an extra dose of fun to the mix in the music festival experience. The drive to alleviate the problems of past editions is forever appreciated, in this case adding numerous heating options to help with the winter cold.
Now that we’re officially in the first days of the new decade, no one really knows what the future holds but starting it off at Countdown NYE was the best way for me. While we all still have our own stories ahead, one thing we can all say with confidence is that Insomniac is clearly intent on continuing to create memorable experiences for all who attend their shows!