Diving into Trance Heaven never felt more positive than during this year’s edition of Dreamstate SoCal at the NOS Events Center!
As we embark through the November month, we express thanks for all the good things in life – a tradition dating back to the fortunate harvest and kindness of native peoples helping early settlers in the United States. Trance fans no doubt engage in the same activity after the introduction of Dreamstate SoCal during the aptly named #Trancegiving in 2015. This year, the event celebrates its return with another edition thanks to the delays from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Trance Family from around the world yet again descended into the rabbit hole.
The format of Dreamstate SoCal remained fairly true to its original purpose this year. It cultivates the world’s leading trance and progressive artists over two days, separates artists by popularity and style, and then tosses them full force and the fans for their consumption. There are no doubt going to be set time conflicts but the trance family rejoices in this once-a-year issue as there are no wrong choices in hearing the DJs and performers they love.
With that said, let’s dig into the details and review the seven things we loved about Dreamstate SoCal 2021! If you need a soundtrack while you read along, check out the livesets post that continues to get updates as more become available on major platforms.
Seven Strong Takeaways From Dreamstate SoCal 2021
The Atmosphere and Attendees Were Electric and Uplifting
If Dreamstate is anything – it is imbued with the positive vibes of trance fandom. I know that trance fans can have their negative stereotypes on social media platforms like Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter, but stick them in their favorite environment and they are all about vibe and the energy. It is one of the few fandoms that teeters on the brink of self-destruction online but thrives when fed what it loves.
This year no one was quite sure going in who would be at the festival – would it be the lovers or the critical Trance Family? Thankfully the fans showed up as lovers! It is worth examining next year if the fans continue to be awesome-sauce or if this was a flash in the pan due to the event’s return after the pandemic.
All in all, though – the fans that attended the event this year beamed with happiness, radiated positivity, and were generally considerate of each other. I never saw groups being rude or shoving one another despite the thrills between each of the stages.
Expanding the Grounds Set Up Success
After a hiatus of festivals for yours truly at NOS Event Center, it felt very nice to return to the location of so many festival memories. As a regular of Insomniac’s festivals on the grounds for nearly a decade, there was definitely a homecoming. However, it was even greater to experience the spread-out grounds.
The biggest improvement has been the expanded Sequence grounds. No longer do psy-trance fans have to wonder if they can see their favorite acts as Insomniac and the Dreamstate team now opts for a full tent. Unlike years past – where The Sequence relied on desert-centered designs (like those of Israel’s DOOF Festival) – The Sequence took over the second major tent reserved for the secondary main-stage for most other Insomniac festivals. It made jumping in and out for fans so much easier and made enjoying the random act a breeze.
The return of STAGE FOUR!
No, I am not referring to a rocket stage, I’m referring to the introduction of The Void. Replacing the old Timeless stage, The Void brings a missing element to the festival – catering to two specific crowds during this year’s event. Day one brought Grum’s progressive-focused sound of Deep State to the event. Day two brought a horde of harder and tech-focused trance acts. This expansion actually helps all the other stages by, one, crafting a more catered sound, and two, ensuring that those who wanted a specific sound always had a spot to groove to.
The extra stage in this iteration also addresses one of the large issues I had in past editions of Dreamstate – that the lineup fails to include broader sounds for fans of up-and-coming acts. The Deep State hosted Void brought us names like Matt Fax and Dezza. The harder Day Two experience brought up GVX, Nicholson, and Renegade System. These lesser-known acts would be tossed off prior lineups due to the smaller scale of the event, so it’s amazing and a positive trend seeing them take root this year.
A VIP Experience Worth the Expense
We spoke in the past about the lackluster VIP treatment here at EDM Identity, but to rehash, Dreamstate has not had a good track record with offering amenities that warrant the extra expense of VIP tickets. In the past, there was been a simply hot cocoa stand and a couple of extra bathrooms.
I’m happy to say that is no longer the case! This year all reoccurring stages had side-viewing platforms for a good view. These coincided with a SkyView tent on The Dream and offered quick access to the Vision or The Sequence. Along with extra bathrooms, this year’s VIP service included a beauty bar, a dedicated drink and food tent with plenty of seating to rest the weary legs, and some unique art installations that were definitely in the right spot for social media posts. Drinks may still cost an arm and a leg (ah yes, festival pricing) but it definitely felt like an experience instead of an expense.
Dreamstate SoCal’s Creativity Fed the Energy
While there were plenty of sing-along moments, the vibe also catered to the creativity of the craftspeople on display. Whether it was the live acts of HALIENE or Elysian, the fun of Darude‘s “rick roll” moment at the start of his set, or even the interesting mashups from acts like Gabriel & Dresden, there was this creative energy the just permeated.
That’s not to say all was perfect – the live-act sound was not well mixed if you were in the back areas of the stage, the mixing on The Vision stage was iffy at times – to the point of making my ears feel pain with the shrill high end. Yet, the acts did not waver in their delight of giving the crowd something more unique than a typical festival set.
The Plethora of Classics and Throwback Moments
Trance acts know the genre’s history. Some of them have even created pivotal moments of joy. For all this, the acts seemed to really hone in on feel-good moments. Solarstone rocked his classics in “Jump The Next Train” and “Seven Cities” but also dropped in “Energy Flash” by Joey Beltram. There were plenty of moments I heard “Silence” by Delerium around the festival – and not just the in expected ways. Darude gave fans their “Sandstorm” moment too at the end of his set. Gabriel & Dresden poured out the emotions with classics like “Tracking Treasure Down.” Heck – even new talents like WHITENO1SE fed the nostalgia trip with a unique rework of the classic “One” by Swedish House Mafia.
All this is to say if you still look back into the roots of dance music and find the positive energy, Dreamstate brings it back in droves. If this is not your cup of tea, do not fret. All the artists still have plenty of upfront material when applicable. For example this year – I would not expect Ferry Corsten’s Gouryella set or Audien’s Hindsight set to be modern material – but you have to know that going into it. Even for the newest among us, the caretakers provide the history of the scene at Dreamstate SoCal.
The Unification of the Trance Families
It is always easy to feel like all the world’s local scenes are in competition with each other. That is true – after all, every market is hoping to catch the hottest new risers and the legends that can join the masses under one roof for one night in their region. Dreamstate SoCal, since its inception, was never about this separation. Instead, it invites everyone to unite for a few nights.
For example – the leaders of San Diego Trance Family, Trance Family Los Angeles, and Trance Family San Fransisco all met up and discussed what’s happening in their market. I saw this with international communities as well over the years – Raver’s Army, Seattle Trance Family, and so on all gathering to discuss how to grow the scene, support talent, and get more young members involved and elevated.
This is the strength of Dreamstate beyond the festival. It calls the trance families to unite, discuss, and love the music they want the world to enjoy. It beckons beyond the borders of the Southwest and brings people from China, Japan, and many of the European nations. The only other trance-centered event that does this is Luminosity Beach Festival. With Lumi, as it’s called by fans, still stuck in limbo in The Netherlands, there is no better place for all to gather and share in love and laughter.
This year’s edition of Dreamstate SoCal was indeed one for the books!
As with every year, there are plenty of minor issues to fix – some mentioned above like the inconsistent sound mixing on the first day – and some that fans will sadly always have to deal with in some manner, like the posts I saw about attempted pick-pocketing. As the scene continued to grow beyond the single warehouse to the massive stages we have today, things always get more logistically difficult.
Perhaps the biggest issue I’d like to see addressed is twofold – parking and entering the event. For those unlucky enough to park at the nearby baseball facility the walk is long and uncontrolled. The lot itself is not well patrolled and at best, moderately lit, which can make attendees ill at ease as they walk the 15-minute trek to the front entrance. The entrance also was also far from the ride-share drop-off location. It just feels like that logistical element can be greatly improved.
With the above noted, however, I do want to allude to the ease at which I made it into the festival each day. The COVID-check was extremely fast and linked to the ID verification, from there it was a short walk to the ticket verification, and then another short walk to the festival entrance. The distance to get into the event was odd from the ticket verification, but I am fairly certain they wanted to avoid issues spilling into the somewhat awkwardly located Void stage.
That said – this year, everything felt very smooth for the fan attending the event. The lineup – despite the COVID-19 restraints shuffling some talent – delivered to the highest degree. There was not a single bad set I heard of anywhere on social media, which alone is incredible. Everyone who attended the event itself seemed genuinely pleased. If you are on the fence, I suggest you book early and go. Dreamstate is always fun, entertaining, and never feels like the vibe is missing.