The circus that rolled into the grounds of the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino was not your usual Ringling Brothers spectacle. This one was more sinister, a haunting big top that unearthed the ominous threats that only occur during All Hallow's Eve. Escape: Psycho Circus brought out a record-breaking 125,000 revelers to partake in North America's largest Halloween festival.
As one of the most immersive music festivals that Insomniac Events puts on, Escape opened its doors over two days and transported guests into a circus gone awry. Throughout the sinister Psycho Circus, fans enjoyed the revolving carousel, contortionists, fortunetellers, and burlesque show being performed under the big top.
The Wonderland Asylum (a highlight of the weekend) churned out over 5,000 “patients” through its elaborate maze. These patients were put on straight jackets, fed their “treatment pills” and had their faces covered in a mask as they individually roamed the 32,000 square-foot Asylum and encountered frightening rooms and mazes. 120 costumed actors and 25 sound systems helped create this immersive environment.
Roaming the grounds of the NOS Center were plenty of costumed actors to get you into the Halloween spirit as well as plenty of artwork and props throughout. VIP guests were treated to private viewing decks, photo ops from iconic Halloween-themed sets like “Stranger Things”, “The Shining” and “Psycho” and a trick-or-treat bar.
The Psycho Circus also had a hidden surprise for those who were lucky enough to be asked to join. A speakeasy disguised as a noodle shop was a highlight of the weekend. The Shanghai Surprise was located on the outskirts of the Pyscho Circus and was only accessible through a refrigerator door. Once inside, guests to the speakeasy were treated to music provided by Cats & Boots Records.
Helping put ravers in the Halloween spirit were the talented artists that took to the stage throughout the two-day event. The stacked lineup featured major EDM heavy-hitters and guests had four stages to choose from: The Slaughterhouse, Ghoul's Graveyard, Chopping Block and Cannibal's Tea Party.
The Slaughterhouse featured a reimagined clown's mouth smiling eerily from ear to ear. A far superior version of previous years, this creepy clown hosted artists like Tiesto, Marshmello, Rezz, Madeon, Duke Dumont, Afrojack and Slander.
The Ghoul's Graveyard saw an expanded stage this year and was positioned at the very entrance of the festival. Bassrush Massive hosted the stage on Friday and brought out bass-heavy DJs Datsik, Nero, Flosstradamus and Ghastly. On Saturday, the stage was home to Zedd, Nghtmre, Firebeatz and a standout performance by none other than Eric Prydz.
In the middle of the festival grounds stood the Chopping Block, where hardstyle fans were at home on Friday as Basscon hosted the stage and Audiotistic hosted genre-crossovers on Saturday. A mixed bag of artists, the stage welcomed DJ Isaac, Da Tweekaz, Audiofreq, Loudpvck, Mike Will Made-It, Slushii and a knockout live set by Boys Noize.
For those fans of the underground sounds of Factory93, the Cannibal's Tea Party was the place to be. Unearthing techno and house vibes all weekend, the massive warehouse hosted Chris Liebing, Jamie Jones, Green Velvet, Joseph Capriati and Nicole Moudaber. A highlight of the weekend, this was the place to be to get down and dirty with the underground sounds of earlier years.
The immersive environment, talented costumed actors, attention to detail, and the state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment used at each of their massive stages is what makes Escape: Psycho Circus a must-do for any music festival enthusiast. The level of intricacy found throughout the NOS Events Center is far superior to any other festival I have encountered and is on par with Insomniac's flagship festival, Electric Daisy Carnival.
A written review of the event is not enough to describe what awaits guests at Escape—a demented circus full of haunting asylums, ghoulish monsters, perverse burlesque shows, eerie carousels, Ferris wheels and, of course, the most spine-chilling electronic music performed by the best DJs in the world.