Dreamstate SoCal might’ve moved from San Bernardino to Long Beach, but the non-stop party and overall ambiance kept the vibes alive.
Since first surfacing in the scene in 2015, Dreamstate has quickly become the go-to trance brand in the US with its annual gathering in Southern California and satellite events that have taken place throughout the country. Its expansion to other reaches of the world, from Europe to Australia, helped solidify its place in the global trance community, but there’s still nothing quite like Dreamstate SoCal.
For a majority of its run, Dreamstate SoCal would see thousands of ravers flock to San Bernardino to get their fix of trance tunes, but this year saw the brand shake things up. Instead of their usual experience at the NOS Events Center, the festival would move to the Queen Mary Waterfront in Long Beach for its latest edition. Questions loomed about how the festival would find its footing at the new venue and more after the announcement this past summer. And now that the dust has settled, it’s time to dive deeply into how everything went down.
Getting to the festival and leaving each night was a bit of a mixed bag experience-wise.
I’ve attended Day Trip Festival and knew just how chaotic it might be to make it to the festival at the time I wanted to each day, especially since Friday traffic would be thrown into the mix. Arriving as early as possible was vital to avoiding peak traffic times, and because the parking lots filled up quicker than before. While we could easily get into our lot on Friday afternoon, others who had pre-paid for parking at other lots found that they were full by the time they arrived later on. Shuttle lines were practically non-existent early in the day but became lengthy later on during peak hours, with wait times exceeding 30 minutes in some cases.
Because we planned ahead, my crew and I were able to arrive at the festival grounds quickly. Others weren’t so lucky and missed out on sets. That said, it’s always tough with Friday ingress to a festival, even more so in Los Angeles, where traffic is a nightmare, so preparing is crucial for next year if they return to this venue. Lock in your weekend ahead of time and plan to take a half-day or day off entirely if you want a seamless experience.
On the flip side, leaving each night was also hit or miss. Dreamstate offered a fast pass for shuttles if you need to leave quickly, but the general lines were lengthy. Having parked at the Pike Lot, we opted to walk back each day instead, which wasn’t that bad of a trek at the end of the night. Many opted to pay for an afterparty ticket instead of the fast pass and wait for the lines to diminish that way, which is a pretty smart move in my mind.
The overall layout of Dreamstate SoCal worked well, even if it felt a bit more compact than at the NOS Events Center.
A feeling of emptiness is something that has plagued Dreamstate SoCal ever since it made the huge jump from one stage to four in 2016. While the spaciousness of NOS Events Center was great, it was always tough to make a statement that trance was thriving when vast areas were devoid of people with pockets at each stage. The skinnier yet more expansive space at the Queen Mary Waterfront resolved that issue while giving everyone plenty of room to move around and dance.
There were only a handful of issues I experienced while trying to navigate the festival grounds over the weekend. The first was the distance between the Dream and Sequence stages, which was quite far and made it difficult to hop between sets. The second was the flow of traffic getting to the Void stage on Friday. Forcing everyone from the main festival grounds to walk up steps to an overpass tunnel was a huge mess. This was fixed by the second day, with the underpass being split in half to allow for traffic both ways.
Otherwise, the venue felt like a dream. There were no sound bleed problems at any stages, the food and drink vendors never had lengthy waits, and from GA to VIP areas, everything felt like it fit properly in the allotted space. From a production perspective, it did feel a bit lackluster because the stages weren’t the larger-than-life structures they used to be, but the quality of the music more than made up for the downsize.
Music was the backbone of the Dreamstate SoCal experience this year.
The usual Dreamstate SoCal suspects threw down pure heat throughout the course of the weekend. Bryan Kearney, John O’Callaghan, Giuseppe Ottaviani, Gareth Emery, Ferry Corsten, Paul Van Dyk, Aly & Fila, Infected Mushroom, Ace Ventura, Vini Vici, and more have made frequent appearances at the festival over the years, but their sets were as incredible as ever.
For me, some of the biggest standouts at the Dream were Maddix, Matt Fax, Andrew Bayer, and the legend himself, Armin van Buuren, who closed out the festival in style as rain fell from the heavens. But there was plenty more to explore, with artists like Lane 8 and Yotto bringing progressive the main stage while The Void got darker and faster. The Void itself felt like its own festival at times, especially on the first day with hard techno artists like Fatima Hajji, Shlomo, Klangkuenstler, and Trym playing there, but it was a delight to see Dreamstate shake things up and add some subterranean sounds into the mix.
The Vision stage might’ve been the smallest of the four, but the energy was alive throughout the weekend.
Although it did feel like the Vision and Void stages were swapped in size, the former of the two packed a hearty punch with some of the best sets I saw all weekend long. Jerome Isma-ae, David Rust, and Billy Gillies were fantastic on the first night, while Paul Denton and Fleming & Lawrence absolutely won me over on the second night. If you wanted proper trance vibes with an intimate crowd, this was the stage for you.
That’s not even touching on the afterparties that went until 8am each night and the day party on Saturday from 8am to 4pm.
The lineups for these parties were just as stacked as the main festival, which is something I had honestly never seen before. So, if you were lucky to stay on the Queen Mary, you were in for a non-stop onslaught of trance, progressive, and more. While I didn’t venture to these this year, I definitely plan to check them out in the future because all I heard were great reviews for those who stuck it out.
The crowd did feel a bit different, but that was something to be expected.
When you shake something up, you can’t expect it to be the same as it was before. That’s true for Dreamstate SoCal this year, too. The ease of access of the festival moving closer to Los Angeles, paired with the inclusion of techno artists on the lineup, made the crowd feel slightly different overall.
That said, everyone I encountered was nice, had a huge smile on their face, and was clearly enjoying themselves. There were tons of excuse me’s and thank you’s just like past editions, and everyone seemed to be respecting each other’s space. Unfortunately, some phone thefts did occur, but that’s an issue that has plagued all of the festivals in Southern California for a decade now. Other than that, it seemed like everything went off without a hitch crowd-wise.
This year’s edition of Dreamstate SoCal was a blast, and I can’t wait to experience another round in 2024.
I understand that this edition of Dreamstate SoCal wasn’t the same and that change can be difficult to embrace, but my overall experience was great. I loved the sets, the stages, the unique setting, and the people I encountered. And I thought including hard techno artists was brilliant because the genres are not that far off from each other. If anything, it added another dimension to the soundscape that I appreciated.
I also don’t feel the same as others who have been vocal about the fresh faces who found their way to Dreamstate this year. Was I expecting the techno fans to magically become as PLUR as the trance family members? No. But I would rather welcome them in with open arms and try to grow the ranks of trance families near and far instead of shutting the door to that possibility simply because they’re new. I want to see this genre grow and thrive for years to come, and to do that, we must be welcoming.
Dreamstate SoCal might’ve been finding its footing at its new venue, but there’s no doubt in my mind that next year will be even more magical than this one.