All photos from Insomniac’s website unless noted otherwise
My first Beyond Wonderland at the Gorge was nothing short of magical. The weekend was filled with non-stop incredible music, imaginative art installations, decadently dressed characters from Alice in Wonderland, epic views of the Columbia River Gorge, and tons of new memories. Insomniac never ceases to amaze patrons with their larger-than-life stage designs, an abundance of colorfully dressed performers, and a myriad of activities both in the campground and venue. Beyond Wonderland’s attention to detail was on point all weekend, from the impressive lights and lasers on stage to the amenities in the VIP Lounges to the carnival rides.
Her Majesty, Queen of Bass pulled out the big guns for her debut performance at the Gorge. It was so exciting to see her play Fractal Valley (the Main Stage) and own it. Her set started off slowly but she quickly amped up the BPM and had the entire venue raging in the rain. I don’t think I’ve ever danced as hard as I did for CloZee that night; she casually dropped my favorite song of all time, “Majesty” – CloZee Remix by Apashe and I thought I was going to have a stroke out of sheer happiness. That song reverberated throughout the gorge and around me I could hear people exclaiming in sheer disbelief. The crowd went wild for the French producer who has been steadily climbing to the top of the music scene. Even my friends who are house heads were going nuts during her set.
CloZee played crowd favorite songs “Winter is Coming”, “Overthinker”-CloZee Remix, “Us” and new single, “Back to the Top”. I honestly felt bad for whomever had to follow her on that stage as she would be a tough act to follow. She closed with her iconic song with Griz, “Color of Your Soul” and I was on Cloud 9.
Hailing from Brussels, Apashe played a truly dynamic and unique set of music that I can’t really place into a genre. Known for intertwining classical and orchestral music with bass music, Apashe brought the heat in an entirely different way. All around me in the crowd I kept hearing “what the f**k?!” from others also in shock. None of us could get over how incredible Apashe is live–his studio work does not do his live act justice. Expertly blending two types of music no one has ever mixed before with mind-bending visuals, he was hands down my favorite new act of the weekend. He’s going on a massive world tour this year and I can’t recommend seeing him enough.
I had the sheer privilege of seeing Kaskade perform the last time he played the Gorge at Paradiso 2019. Closing out Saturday night, Kaskade performed his iconic songs, such as “Eyes”, “Room For Happiness”, “Disarm You” and “Atmosphere”. He remixed and reworked these classics and all-around played a fantastic set. Best of all, he played his new banger with DeadMau5, “Escape” and it was absolutely transcendent. Kaskade always can be counted on to play a wonderful show and he did not disappoint. I’m surprised I danced as hard as I did considering I had been dancing non-stop all day, but it’s hard to resist when the King of House Music is throwing down for you. To be producing and performing for as long as he has and still be on top is the mark of a musical genius.
As a seasoned festival-goer, I’ve noted one thing that creates a special experience for attendees is attention to detail. Insomniac knows this better than anyone as no detail is too small to go unnoticed. I like to compare their events to the Disney World of electronic music. There was a full menu of activities in the campground, from yoga classes with cacao ceremonies to flamingo croquet, to a life-sized pool game, to painting and even planting a succulent garden. There was a complimentary Beauty Bar where one could get their hair cut or braided, makeup done, face painting, and even massages. A silent disco ran each night into the wee hours of the morning for those who couldn’t stop dancing.
Inside the venue, art installations centered around the Alice in Wonderland theme greeted you at every turn. A massive Cheshire Cat art installation made out of wood featured a full-blown tea party inside with mannequins dressed to impress. Larger-than-life mushrooms dotted the rear of the Cheshire Stage and enormous chess pieces really made you feel as though you had been shrunk just as Alice had been.
The main stage was also impressive given its sheer scale. Enormous LED screens dotted the display and projected artists’ visuals. They also displayed live videos of the artists themselves that were visible from high up on the hill, which is important to consider given the size of the venue. More than once we were engulfed by costumed performers who came to play in the crowd.
My first Beyond Wonderland at the Gorge was nothing short of one magical moment after the next. Each artist we saw delivered top-notch performances and my face still hurts from smiling. I’m planning on returning next year and can’t wait to see what adventures are in store. I hope to see you there!