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The Ultimate Trance Destination: Dreamstate SoCal 2017

The blue and white streak of lights that circled around Mary Tennisson's body captured my attention as I roamed the back of the Citrus Building, known as ‘The Vision' stage. As I approached her, her arms seemed to rotate even rapidly like a windmill catching a gust of wind, creating an almost perfect ring of neon lights. I admired her from a distance, she wore a curly, shoulder-length bright pink wig that matched the sequined skirt around her waist and a silver top that read in big, white lettering: DREAMSTATE.

As she slowed her rhythm, those neon lights that orbited around her became streaks again and eventually came to a complete stop revealing two large, plastic balls with bright LED lights inside- one blue and one white. With her body at rest, I approached her and asked her how she's doing. She responded, as she caught her breath, “I haven't danced like this in twenty years, I'm great!”

Now boarding: the ultimate trance destination. Photo: Insomniac.

Insomniac Events' third annual Dreamstate festival was held over Thanksgiving weekend, November 24 and 25th at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, California. The two-day event brought out 35,000 trance music fans to Southern California where they experienced the largest gathering of trance artists in North America. Spread across four massive stages- The Dream, The Vision, Timeless and The Sequence- the festival gave guests a unique opportunity to listen to trance in all its forms– classic uplifting trance, hard trance, progressive trance, tech trance, and psytrance.

A sea of laserbeams and totems. Photo: Insomniac.

For Tennisson, none of those subgenres mattered because to her, there was only trance, house and techno music when she was dancing the night away in the late 1990's. When I asked her what brought her to Dreamstate, she replied, “There is nothing like this outside of Europe. I grew up listening to guys like Paul Oakenfold and Paul van Dyk in the 90's and we partied so hard in the underground raves. To have an event like Dreamstate bring all the DJ's that I listened to when I was younger and have them all in one place is a dream come true.”

A perpetual Dreamstate. Photo: Insomniac.

That is what makes Dreamstate so special. What the team at Insomniac have created and developed over the last three years is something that hasn't been seen in the United States– an annual gathering of trance music lovers that showcases the talented artists of the 1990's to today. For people like Tennisson, who is in her mid-forties, she never expected to party again like she did in her early twenties. “This feels like the raves I used to attend; the music, the genuinely friendly people, the minimal props and hooplah. It's just you and the DJ and all the pretty LED lights and lasers.”

“Trance is music with a soul.” Photo: Insomniac.

Over the holiday weekend, Dreamstate allowed established trance artists like Paul Oakenfold, Roger Shah, Paul van Dyk, Judge Jules, Mauro Picotto, and Rank1 to let guests experience the melodic beats of 1990s trance mixed in with the sounds of today. Highlights include the AEON project by Paul van Dyk, Judge Jules who ended his set with a classic hard trance set and Rank1 who performed live.

Trance pioneers Paul van Dyk and Paul Oakenfold at Dreamstate. Photo: Insomniac.

For those looking for a psychedelic time, the mindblowing psytrance artists on the roster gave their audience a breath of fresh air with unreal holograms that enhanced their sets inside the Sequence stage. Astrix, Ace Ventura, Vini Vici, Neelix, Avalon, Captain Hook and Liquid Soul commanded the weekend. High points include Alpha Portal (Astrix & Ace Ventura) closing out the event, Vini Vici (who garnered so much attention, people were not allowed to enter once the building reached maximum capacity), and the American debut of Blastoyz, Outsiders, and BLiSS.

A screengrab of a hologram during Captain Hook's set inside the Sequence stage.

The Anjunabeats family was also out in full force Friday and Saturday, with acts like Ilan Bluestone, Jason Ross, Andrew Bayer and Sunny Lax. The Anjuna roster presented guests with their progressive trance beats that had fans singing along to their favorite tunes.

Armin van Buuren putting everyone in A State of Trance. Photo: Insomniac.

The much-hyped about California debut of Gaia is a top contender for the best set of the weekend. Armin van Buuren and Benno de Goeij's project, Gaia packed the Dream stage as they loomed over the main stage in their signature black cloaks. Armin van Buuren also took the stage on Saturday with a solo performance that had me dancing throughout his entire set. Blending his older sounds with his newer, progressive beats, van Buuren was the talk of the weekend.

The cloaked duo, GAIA, brought out massive crowds. Photo: Insomniac.

With over 70 trance tastemakers across the “TranceGiving” weekend, it seems almost impossible to decipher a favorite set. While none of the sets I experienced were bad, there were some artists that ranked very high for me over the weekend. These DJ's are- Giuseppe Ottaviani with his Live 2.0 set, John O'Callaghan & Bryan Kearney's Key 4050 project, Jordan Suckley's 3FECT and MaRLo, who closed out Dreamstate in an outstanding way with his Tech Energy set.

MaRLo closed out the weekend with an outstanding Tech Energy set. Photo: Insomniac.

Throughout the grounds of the NOS Events Center, thousands of Dreamers encountered pure trance heaven. The melodic soundtrack of the weekend was nothing short of spectacular and a huge congratulation is in order for the entire team at Dreamstate. Ground control walked up and down the venue ensuring everyone's safety and well being- aerialists, stilt walkers, costumed actors and wall-climbing LED-masked humanoids helped create the out-of-this-world illusion. My only hope is that Insomniac continues to pour their creativity into this unique event and truly transport us into a futuristic trance heaven at the NOS Events Center.

These humanoids jumped off and scaled walls. Photo: Insomniac.

I caught up with Tennisson towards the end of Saturday night. She sat underneath a brightly lit tree near the side of the lake and gazed out into the festival. I asked her if there was anything that could make this weekend better. She responded, “A third day. A third day of trance heaven because I don't want this to end.”

The Ultimate Trance Destination. Photo: Insomniac.

The love for trance is why thousands of Dreamers make the annual pilgrimage to San Bernardino. The love for trance is why Insomniac continues to expand and explore what has become in the last three years, the Ultimate Trance Destination: Dreamstate.


Full sets from Dreamstate SoCal 2017.

Ilan Bluestone.
Sunny Lax.
Ruben de Ronde.
Manuel Le Saux.
Arty (ALPHA 9).
Andrew Rayel.

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