After a five-year hiatus, Dreamstate brought its trance wonderland back to the San Francisco Bay Area at a new venue.
For years, we’ve watched the scene in the Bay Area change as major Insomniac festivals like Beyond Wonderland, Crush, and Dreamstate came and went. With a focus on smaller shows or more bass-laden festivals like Audiotistic, this left a hole. Other cities, especially in Southern California, were getting a slew of festival announcements, and we kind of just sat and watched as if from the outside. Sure, plenty of other events were still being held, but nothing quite like the spectacle Insomniac is known for.
That is until Dreamstate San Francisco was announced five years after its last edition. An incredible lineup lit a fire through local Trance Family and Anjunafamily groups. The announcement also revealed that celebrations would take place at the Palace of Fine Arts, a beautiful landmark in the city not known for hosting large-scale music events. We were excited and couldn’t wait for December 30 to come.
The music was top-notch from the jump, showcasing various sides of trance.
Local DJ Blurr kicked things off before rising star Miyuki took to the stage. Titans Jerome Isma-Ae and Giuseppe Ottaviani injected the crowd with pure trance magic and high energy. Then, Andrew Bayer took us on a journey with his uplifting vocal tracks and more genre-blending tracks. A highlight was when Dave Dresden of Gabriel & Dresden joined him on stage during their recent collaboration “Other Eye.” The crowd roared as both Anjunabeats‘ mainstays danced along to their song.
Then Gareth Emery brought forth his Decades set. Playing classics and deep cuts from throughout his career, he elicited waves of nostalgia. Smiles were plastered on everyone’s faces, and he shared an endearing moment on stage with his kids, who could be seen dancing behind him. The night culminated with a two-hour set from Above & Beyond. They checked every box, from sentimental singalongs to high-impact IDs and even a special push-the-button moment. The entire night was nothing but great music, surrounded by even greater friends.
Having previously been held at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the switch to the Palace of Fine Arts was an interesting one.
Don’t get us wrong, the Palace is a stunning landmark that everyone who comes to SF should visit. However, it’s definitely less accessible in terms of parking and transportation. The interior of the venue was pretty cool, with a free mini-golf area and elevated VIP viewing platforms, but with its curved layout, GA views were slightly impacted. The stage sat at the end of a slight curve with the floor space going lengthwise. Because of this and the sold-out crowd, people in the back didn’t get a straight-on view. For most, this wasn’t a huge issue as the lighting and production extended back enough, but it wasn’t ideal.
Also, throughout the night, people noticed issues with the sound system. Either the speakers weren’t loud enough, or the lows were overpowering, often to the point where vocals were being drowned out. This is a shame because so many sets featured well-loved vocal tracks. Whether the sound issues were related to noise ordinances from surrounding neighborhoods or because of the warehouse-like acoustics of the venue, who’s to know for sure, but this was a major setback in the overall experience.
Though the Palace of Fine Arts did leave some things to be desired, the return of Dreamstate to the Bay Area was still electrifying. It makes us hopeful that some other major Insomniac events will start making their way back here as well. It’s clear that there is a market and demand for it. Because of this, we can’t wait to see what 2024 has in store.