Insomniac’s NOVA SD opened its doors for the first time and brought RL Grime to the stage to heat things up on a chilly night in San Diego.
The nightlife scene in San Diego has been on quite the roller coaster over the past few decades. Initially sparked by the revitalization of the Gaslamp Quarter in the ’90s, the downtown area saw even more expansive growth with the construction of Petco Park in the following decade. Since then, many nightclubs have come and gone with others hanging on for the ride – and now, as the nightlife scene picks back up after dealing with the pandemic, Insomniac looked to shake things up by opening NOVA SD.
Centered in the heart of downtown San Diego, NOVA SD stands tall in the former home of OMNIA San Diego and Stingaree on the corner of 6th and Island. Those past iterations of the venue brought plenty of life to the scene in America’s Finest City. Yet, with Insomniac taking the reins this time around, something special is brewing.
Related: Check out our interview with Pasquale Rotella to learn more about the latest nightclub experience from Insomniac.
Those who have attended a show at the venue will instantly feel a sense of familiarity when walking up to NOVA SD. While the signs changed outside, the process to get in remained virtually the same with lines on Island for those with tickets and others on the guest list. The bouncers moved quickly to get attendees in when we arrived around 10:30pm that night, and upon entry, it was clear why – NOVA SD was already packed inside. It was a sold-out show, after all, and people were clearly eager to check out the latest nightlife experience downtown.
Memories of walking into the club flooded my brain as I walked through the doors to enter from nights gone by, but the changes made to the venue internally were immediately apparent. The removal of the VIP tables on the dancefloor was ultimately the most significant alteration made to the club, and it was much-needed. The floor has effectively doubled in size and was brimming with bodies moving to the beats that boomed through the venue’s high-quality sound system.
My group and I began to explore, checking out the second level that overlooks the dancefloor and grabbing a drink at the bar up there before heading up to the rooftop.
Unlike other nightclubs in San Diego and even many in Los Angeles, NOVA SD delivers with its terrace level when you want to get a breath of fresh air. The bar, VIP tables, and DJ booth remained in place, and the space heaters were a welcome addition as we hung out for a bit to catch up with friends. While it might feel like a different world than what was happening below our feet, a live stream of the stage kept everything grounded and connected for a seamless experience. Hopefully, we’ll begin to see some artists play on the terrace – or even some daytime shows up there in the future.
The night’s headliner, RL Grime, was still set to take the stage after midnight, but before he played, Rossy was on the decks. We made our way back down to check out all the action in person, and she slaughtered her set, dominating the crowd with massive tunes from a range of styles. Having never caught her before that night, Rossy left me impressed with her abilities as a tastemaker as she built the energy up for the trap god who was on his way.
That pent up energy that Rossy built exploded the moment RL Grime took the stage.
It was fitting for this new nightclub to welcome RL Grime as its first headliner, considering his album bearing the same name helped catapult him to even greater heights in the bass scene. While we began his set on the lowest level, the dancefloor spilled out from its sides as it quickly swelled with more attendees than before – you could feel the energy (and the heat) at NOVA SD as he dropped banger after banger.
My group and I escaped the madness on the floor and headed to the second level to get a bird’s eye view, which is where we stayed for the remainder of the night. As RL Grime dropped his biggest hits and stunning edits, the tightly packed crowd on the dancefloor moved in unison with each drop as lights traced the crowd and confetti flew through the air. It was quite a sight to see from the balcony, and for just a moment, it brought me back to the pre-pandemic era when there were fewer worries in the world.
As RL Grime brought his set to a close it gave me a moment to reflect on the past, but more importantly, a look at the future.
Insomniac breathed new life into the nightlife scene that had begun to stagnate in San Diego with the opening of this club. While some aspects of NOVA SD felt familiar, the changes made to the previously shuttered venue helped remind me that the future is still bright for the scene. Their commitment to bringing top-tier artists and high-quality production to the venue alone should be enough for you to consider attending a show there. That being said, it’s the attendee-first mentality with the expanded dancefloor that will keep you coming back for more.
Artists including Tiesto, JAUZ, and deadmau5 have already played NOVA SD, and there are plenty more to come with the announcement of their second phase to celebrate the club’s opening. Head over to their website to grab tickets for upcoming shows, and stay tuned for more to come from this new entertainment destination in San Diego.