Dreamstate escalated its vibe from fall to summer by bringing an electric atmosphere to Berth 46 for the debut of Dreamstate Harbor.
Fans rejoiced for the chance to experience trance in the early summer after Insomniac announced the first edition of Dreamstate Harbor. This feeling built up with a touch of concern as the event approached due to a lack of communication, but those worries fell away in the days leading up to the event.
As we get deeper, we will explore the great moments and opportunities for improvement. However, let me offer it here for those looking for a quick take. Dreamstate Harbor represents a positive growth of the brand, a great introduction to a unique festival location for the Insomniac family, and that trance is alive and strong at its core fandom in the United States.
Insomniac’s level of polish in running and executing festivals is a level all brands should aspire for, but there are growth opportunities – both in the lead-up and to the doors. With that – let’s get deeper into the beats between 124 and 142 that descended on the grounds roughly a weekend ago.
Dreamstate Harbor took advantage of an atmosphere brimmed with jubilant electricity.
For those who attended a previous edition of Dreamstate, or other worldwide trance-branded events such as A State of Trance, FSOE, or Luminosity, one knows that the atmosphere and crowd trend towards positive energy and looking out for one another. That was undoubtedly true at Dreamstate Harbor. I never saw someone unhappy at the more intimate event. The general happiness and joy of being under the Southern California sky was palpable as fans were eager to lose themselves in the moment of trance bliss after the negative energy that permeates the world so much right now.
Parking was free for this event, and the excitement was palpable as we walked down the harbor to the grounds outside Berth 46, which was a little over half a mile away. It was clear that the Trance Family was ready to rock the weekend away.
The range of progressive house, trance, and psytrance truly stepped up at Dreamstate Harbor.
The talent at the stages provided plenty of opportunities for the bright stars to rock crowds all day long. It was a beautiful time filled with positive energy throughout the festival grounds, thanks to all the attendees and the talent from around the world.
Here are a few of the memorable moments that captured our hearts throughout the weekend:
- Walking in on Saturday to hear Christina Novelli rock The Aquaria stage with a live guitarist
- Giuseppe Ottaviani filled our hearts with bootlegs and unique IDs before peaking the crowd with his beautiful “I Believe” with Lucid Blue
- John O’Callaghan dropping the forgotten beauty of Mike Foyle’s “Shipwrecked” into the anthem Plumb “I Love You“
- Infected Mushroom closing their set with a psytrance spin on the Beastie Boys classic “Sabotage“
- WHITENO1SE providing the unique energy he brings, such as that stunning rework of Tomcraft’s “Loneliness” with Reality Test
- Vangar, Adam Stark, Suzy Solar, Ganesh [Ending with this Virtual Self bootleg], and more taking center stage on the second day, showcasing the local US talent making waves in the scene
- David Rust pounding the crowd with higher BPMs and hard dance hits before the sun even set – including a remix of iiO’s classic “Rapture”
- Matt Fax weaving a sonic tapestry that may have been the best set of the weekend filled with bootleg moments, including his mashup of Cirez D’s “On Off” and Motorcycle’s “As The Rush Comes”
- Will Atkinson giving the family a stunning, almost Ibiza-esque set focused more on melody than his ripper attitude style
- Paul van Dyk wowing fans with a proper Shine Ibiza set near the water in California – a true vibe to experience
- Mark Sherry moving between banging tech sounds and euphoric vocal trance such as “Lighting Fires“
- Renegade System escalating the final hours of the festival by bringing some psytrance moods back into the day two celebrations
- Bryan Kearny delivering yet another impressive performance for the masses at Dreamstate that left the crowd stunned.
There are places for growth still as Dreamstate Harbor matures.
First, let me state this: the location is special. Berth 46 at the harbor in San Pedro provides a unique backdrop for events. For older trance fans, there is the allure of a seaside party – like those in Indonesia or the older Goa scene. Seeing Infected Mushroom here, for instance, is a blissful dream; they combined the historic moods with their extensive catalog to craft a unique atmosphere by the water.
However, this is not a beach festival – you are essentially standing in the water thanks to the pier. That means you must be prepared for cooler temperatures, especially as the sun sets. If you never experienced the beach at 9pm, you will be surprised how quickly the temperature drops. Combine that with the breezy winds (on average around 10 mph/16 kph), and you get quite the chilly effect. The breeze has nothing to buffer it, and it pulls the water temperature onto the festival grounds with ease (as a reminder – the Pacific Ocean is a cold ocean – averaging around 66F/18.9C near San Pedro this time of year.)
What can be done to counteract this? More merchandise inventory for hoodies, zip-ups, and long sleeves. Sure – this seems counter-intuitive at a summertime festival, but the merchandise essentially sold out for Dreamstate Harbor due to the breezy coolness. If you want merchandise, get in there early and secure your selections.
On the flip side, I want to thank the merchandise team for the increased size availability. I’m a bigger guy, and securing a 3X zip-up was terrific, especially considering the last time I saw any Dreamstate merchandise in that size at the festival was 2017. Insomniac – please keep increasing the large-size stock. There are bigger fans out there that want to enjoy the merchandise too!
Stage design leads to immersion, and this is something that Dreamstate Harbor lacked.
I respect that the stages are smaller budget affairs. This is not the flagship Dreamstate SoCal, nor is it a hosted stage at one of the big festivals (i.e., EDC Las Vegas), but the stages felt a bit empty of major character. They worked well, had their quirks, but lacked immersion.
The Aquaria’s use of the staggered diamond was neat, but the scaffolding extension over the crowd can be improved. For example, CRSSD Festival’s City Steps stage design could be used as an example of how to provide shade in the daytime while wrapping your elements to make the stage feel more cohesive. It is a small thing, but it helps immensely.
On the other hand, The Hydra had a wider footprint but lacked real depth. The bright LED screens were excellent during the day, but the scrim surrounding them felt disjointed. This could be a personal taste – but if some elements had been pushed out further than the screens, perhaps it would have felt more engaging.
These are minor complaints, but they do add to the whole experience. The real item that caught my eye was the lack of cryo cannons, pyrotechnics, or lasers at the show. This undoubtedly was due to two facts – winds and laws. The first was likely the reason no cryo or pyro was included – mitigating winds with compressed CO2 or fuel mixtures and maintaining a safe environment is not an easy balance.
The omission of lasers plays out down two paths. The first is that the event is literally in a working port, with everything from tiny boats to mega cargo container ships moving around. The second is the lack of crowd scanning with devices in the US. There are ways to mitigate all these, though, and I’m hoping the team comes up with solutions at the next iteration. Maybe instead of pyro or cryo cannons, we could see stages take advantage of fountains or water jets in the future.
Overall, Dreamstate Harbor solidified the brand’s beauty.
While the crowd felt older at this version of Dreamstate, it also lifted positive energy and showed that the brand’s fans are fiercely loyal. Trance Family is a worldwide collective passionate about the music and artists. That full display – from artists to fans and back to the artists – captures the beauty of the greater trance community. The energy feeds both fans to cut a groove and get entranced, while it propels the musical talents to be creative, engaging, and energized themselves.
Dreamstate Harbor brings new horizons to the brand. It continues efforts for Dreamstate to capture new opportunities, just as Dreamstate San Francisco, Dreamstate Europe, Dreamstate Melbourne, and other editions have before it. If you’re debating going to a harbor festival, I still recommend it; just come prepared with a jacket because the temperature will drop as the sun sets regardless of the daytime temperatures.