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A Wet and Wild Countdown NYE

Note from the editor: This article is a collaborative piece between two authors Ulises and Jim who both focused on different aspects of the event.

When I first walked through the gates of Countdown New Year’s Eve on Friday night, I stood frozen. Not because of the freezing temperatures (Ok, it was about 60 degrees and drizzling, but to a So Cal native, that’s pretty cold), rather I stood frozen because I was in complete awe of what laid in front of me.

Two years ago, I attended Insomniac’s Countdown New Year’s Eve for the first time. Having attended Insomniac events in the past, I knew that the night would be unforgettable. And it was; with an impressive line-up (Porter Robinson, Laidback Luke, DJ Snake, Showtek, Bingo Players and Audien) and an even more impressive stage, I was very much happy with how my 2014 ended.


The stacked line-up for Countdown 2016, almost 5 times more artists than 2014.

 It’s only been a mere 24 months since my first Countdown experience, and it surprises me how the entire Insomniac team was able to surpass my wildest expectations in the production value, atmosphere and amenities their 2016 Countdown New Year’s Eve had in store for their headliners. 

I will admit, I was a bit skeptical when Insomniac first announced that Countdown was expanding to a two-day event instead of just New Year’s Eve. To me, it seemed a bit much. However, when the line-up and the three massive stage set ups were revealed, it made sense as to why they wanted to capitalize on this major holiday. The line-up was stacked, basically rivaling any other major music festival in the world: Zedd, Steve Aoki, Alesso, The Chainsmokers, Seven Lions, Deorro, RL Grime, Adam Auburn, Discovery Project, Diplo, Morgan Page…you get the idea. A far cry from the seven performers at Countdown 2014.


The lake at NOS Events Center surrounded by hundreds of dazzling lights.

The festival was held at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, a place that has basically become Insomniac’s home (Escape, Beyond Wonderland, Dreamstate and Crush all take place here). If you're not familiar with the layout of the venue, as you first walk through the main gates, you are greeted by a serene lake and grass area. The trees surrounding the lake are adorned with twinkling lights that create the perfect backdrop for a photo-op. For the first time that I can recall, there was an art piece in the center of the lake: a very tall, tentacle-like sculpture that had five LED spheres at its ends, with spikes on each ball. It reflected beautifully against the lake as it rotated and changed colors throughout the night.


The art installation on the center of the lake.

Another very impressive art installation were a set of leaning pyramid-shaped towers that ignited with fire at the top. These also held a different function, they kept the festival goers warm, when temperatures dipped to 50 degrees. 

Keeping in mind that Southern California temperatures aren't very warm in January, Insomniac included a very big warming tent in the center of the venue. The tent was a much needed escape from the wet weekend and seemed pretty packed both nights. It was large enough to hold a beer and cocktails bar as well as a hang-out space for guests.


The big warming tent Insomniac installed to keep guests warm and dry.

My favorite art installation, however, has to be these super-cool LED poles with white platforms (about 20 total) that formed a big square and kept guests entertained with their changing colors and light formations. These 24-foot-tall tubes drew big crowds that stood in amazement of the light show in front of them.


These 24-foot-tall poles created a dazzling LED light display.

 The main stage, Resolution, was massive. Stretching 387 feet long in a circus-style tent, this stage had, by far, the most fans under its tent. The giant, slanted LED screens behind the DJ booth had impressively clear visuals and it housed talent like Steve Aoki, Zedd and Alesso. This stage also had a VIP section, which was impressive in and of itself. The VIP section included a heated tent, hot cocoa bar, hot apple cider and sparkling champagne as well as a second-to-none close-up view of the main stage from the far lefthand side. 


A view into the Infinity stage.

The Infinity stage spanned 300 feet long and had a total of 750 video tiles that stood behind names like Diplo, RL Grime and NGHTMRE. The Quantum stage, although tucked away in the back, also held its own and hosted DJs such as Lane 8, Adam Auburn and Valentino Khan. 

Overall, Insomniac’s Countdown New Year’s Eve left me speechless, if only for the fact that in a few short years they were able to create a massive holiday celebration with all the bells and whistles you could imagine. The rain and cold weather did not dampen the spirits of what Insomniac can create, in fact, they will work with the elements and create different experiences (ie. warming tent, fire-breathing pyramids), that will allow their guests to be transported to another world.  

If you’re looking for a recap of your favorite DJs from this past weekend, have no fear, Jim is here. Jim will walk you through his two-day bass-heavy experience at Countdown…take it away, Jim!


Some of the wandering performers found throughout the venue. photo: Insomniac.

Here we are just a few days into 2017 and I am still not fully recovered from this weekend’s Countdown New Year’s Eve in San Bernardino.  Insomniac brought out its A-game this year as the 3rd Annual New Year’s Eve event kicked off. Not the cold nor the rain could dampen the spirits of the 75,000 fans who waved goodbye to 2016.  With 3 stages and over 60 acts there was more than enough bass music to span over 2 days. Here is a look at my experience ringing in 2017 with all the other Headliners. 

I walked into Countdown and went right to the rail at the Infinity stage for Rezz. My first impression with this stage was awe.  I was not expecting the stage to be so big or sound so good.  Rezz set the tone for the weekend with a truly hypnotic set. I also had the chance to dance and meet up with the Cult of Rezz, her fan group. After Rezz returned me to planet earth I made it over to The Chainsmokers, who were on The Resolution stage.  If I was in awe of the Infinity stage, I was dumbfounded when I saw the sheer size of The Resolution stage.  This beast stretched out over a staggering 387 feet long and 197 feet wide.  The Chainsmokers filled that massive tent and played all of their hits.   We then made our way back to Infinity to catch the end of A-Trak, whose raw talent was on full display.  Kill The Noise then reminded me of why I love bass music; with face melting beats, Kill the Noise’s set was the hardest I have heard him go since the Kill the Zo tour.


Steve Aoki brought big crowds to the Resolution stage. photo: @steveaoki.

It was time for me to head back to the Resolution stage for I was going to have to fight through the Steve Aoki crowd in order to meet up with The Pride, the Seven Lions fan group.  Steve Aoki really does know how to rock a crowd and I am really glad I got to see him perform.  After our group got ready we made our march to the rail to see Seven Lions perform.  The crowd at the biggest New Year’s Eve event on the West Coast was in for a treat. Seven Lions closed out day 1 with an ID riddled set that had the purest fanatic in tears, myself included.  It was the set of the weekend for sure.  


Seven Lions closed out day one at Resolution stage, our favorite set of the weekend. photo: @sevenlionsmusic.

The rain came on day 2 as well but the rave continued.  I made my way into the NOS Evens Center in time to catch Virtual Riot ramp up the crowd at the Quantum stage.  This was the perfect set up for TC to bring the house down with some relentless drum and bass.  I had to pop over the Resolution to see the great Morgan Page.  Yes he still plays In the Air, yes it still crushes when he does.  Morgan is a true professional that knows how to work a crowd.  


The official countdown to 2017. photo: Insomniac.

Back at the Quantum stage, it started to get packed. I looked at the set times to see what the buzz was about and I saw the reason, Ghastly.  Bass music spilled out of that packed tent and the crowd grew so big I had to take a walk and boy am I glad I did.  Our group wandered over to the Infinity stage where I saw Rabbit In The Moon for the first time in my life.  The reason I love festivals is that it introduces new music to your life.  I think RITM might have had the 2nd best set behind Seven Lions.  With a performance art front and an industrial, almost psytrance backing, Rabbit In The Moon blew me away.


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Zedd closed out a jam-packed weekend at Countdown NYE. photo: Insomniac.

From there we caught Alesso start his set just before we ran over to NGHTMRE to bass drop the ball as the clock struck midnight.  The only thing left to do was to close out the festival with Zedd.  Zedd played his classics such as Clarity and Stay the Night, it was great to finally cross this one off my bucket list.  Overall the weekend was a success.  Even though mother nature tried to break us down the overall vibe of Countdown NYE was warm and inviting. I look forward to seeing what Insomniac has in store for me at Life is Beautiful and the much anticipated Middlelands.


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