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38 Stray, Hungover and Sardonic Thoughts Recollected from Beyond Wonderland 2014

In Music
If I were tripping, I think this would be fucking terrifying. Photo by Jessica Perez.

If I were tripping, I think this would be fucking terrifying. Photo by Jessica Perez.

It’s that time of year again. As summer slips into autumn, the farmers prepare for the harvest, and the people prepare for the long hard winter ahead… It’s also time for Beyond Wonderland. A traveling electronic music circus—a playground for late teens and early 20-somethings to figure out just how little they can wear or just how borderline offensive a slogan they can slap across the front of a tank top. They come to get blitzed and feverishly dance—or flail, really—to throbbing electronic bass, twinkling melodies and grinding fax-machine-death-knells shaped into one of the tones commonly recognized as one of the 12 notes in the traditional Western musical scale.

Beyond Wonderland is a spectacle to be sure. Just check out these photos. Multiple impressively decorated stages—one featuring a giant, animatronic caterpillar, smoking a hookah and blinking his droopy mechanical eyelids over bright, LED eyeballs, surveying the proverbial valley of ashes that was the Shoreline Amphitheatre’s parking lot. There were lights and lasers galore, spiraling out into the night in seizure-inducing fits. The crowd was equally flashy. From candyravers to frat dudes, house dancers to oldtimers, the only barrier to entry was an $200. But that’s the festival scene, and with two days of DJs there’s room enough for the current glut of excessive and maximalist drivel and the good shit too. So, I paid the ticket and took the ride.

I also took notes… or tried to.

Beyond Wonderland was two very, very full days, and brave is the person who forged through the entire 19 hours. I sure wasn’t that brave, but I still took in more than my fill of music, all while occasionally scrawling something in my notebook (in increasingly illegible handwriting). Here’s what I culled from my notes:

Day 1

-If you’re going to hide in the bushes on Shoreline Boulevard to do drugs, don’t wear furry neon boots. We can see you.

– Parking and driving at Shoreline is a nightmare. Parking a few blocks away around the office parks is well worth the walk. Try to commandeer an abandoned Google bike for bonus points.

-Someone’s already getting transported by the EMTs. Hoo boy.

-Besides, the promised “TSA-style patdown” turns out to be a half-hearted rubbing by people at the gate.

-Initial impressions of Beyond Wonderland fashion aesthetic for ladies: what’s the minimal amount of clothing I can wear?

-Initial impressions of Beyond Wonderland fashion aesthetic for dudes: what’s the stupidest shit I can put on this tank top?

-Tank top examples:
“I’ll give you a hug if you give me phone number”
“Money / Weed / Pussy”
“Sit on my face #SoIKnowItsReal”
“I <3 (insert name of favorite drug)”

-Imagined meeting of two dudes with “I <3 Weed” shirts:
“Hey! Dude! Do you like weed as well?!”
“I do! I do also like weed!”
(They high five. So dope.)

-The main stage was impressive during the day, with it’s giant hookah smoking caterpillar. It only got more impressive at night. Lasers improve most things.

-First DJ of the day was Sound Remedy, which was alright until he dropped a remix of that fucking “Why you gotta be so rude?” song. I have a multifaceted hatred (like, a gem of hatred) for that song, for many, many reasons that are beside the point here. Fuck that song, my normally balanced and sharp reviewer’s consideration is irrevocably biased. I’m not qualifed to comment.

-Paul Oakenfold segued from Borgeous with some big room and then played some great trance, except that most of the crowd forgot how to dance without a drop.

-Over at PartyFavor though the crowd was going nuts. Trend at the festival for sure: the more trap in the set, the better. Some completely successful Bay Area pandering with Thizzle Dance. A+

-Overheard in the bathroom line: “You are already so drunk! I just wanted to have a good time!” “Great, I’m peaking and standing in the bathroom line.” “Dude, are you going to throw up again?” Struggle city.

-From my female friend: “I’ve had to stop making eye contact with guys, because then they immediately come toward me.”

-Later from the same friend: “I’ve only gotten my ass grabbed one time today!” It is sad she is excited about this. It is really not that hard to not sexually harass women. So, good job brostep dudes?

-Classic Keystone Cops moment as three security guards skid into a meeting in the middle of the crowd, gesture importantly at someone’s ID, then run off willy nilly.

-Destructo abandoned for direly necessary food truck run.

-Did we see Carnage? Paper diamond was cool I think. At this point, Total Sensory Overload begins to set in. There is no place without overwhelming bass. Later, everyone will agree that the sun was setting for at least 4 hours.

-Stray thought: “I’ve probably stepped in vomit at least 5 times today and not noticed it.”

-That moment when you realize you’ve been blindly following complete strangers.

-White-haired, pot-bellied old man spotted wearing John Lennon sunglasses complete with marijuana leaf lenses and a shirt stating “Molly Is My Best Friend.” He should definitely be consulted for new Kevin James vehicle “Undecover Dad 2: Undercover Dad Goes to a Rave.”

-12th Planet was killing it, throwing in some hard-style, trap, dubstep, but the other guy with him on stage would not shut up. Most DJs should not hold microphones, as they then seem to have an irresistible desire to spout a steady stream of inane shit. “OH NOW I PUT MY HANDS THANK YOU.”

-Oh god now he’s screaming into the mic…just kidding it’s a Skrillex remix.

-GTA plays the same big room everyone else is playing. At some point I probably could have walked across the entire festival and never stopped listening to “Booyah.” I never want to hear that song again.

-Krewella just played “Booyah.” Kill me. It’s cool that they sing live though. Great energy.

-Above & Beyond brought some welcome trance relief. People know how to dance now. They never said a word into the mic while I was there. Fantastic.

-Pendulum closed out day 1 with a great set playing to a smaller crowd on a side stage. I can’t feel my feet, but I can feel my brain. This is not how it should be.

Day 2: (Exhaustion and fear tempered by a large breakfast and eight cups of coffee)

-Major genre dispute at the Alvaro set: Is “jungle house” just big room house with a double time drop? Many strong opinions are offered, few of them can be heard.

-By day two the skill of group consensus via hand signals only has been mastered. This is key.

-Overheard: “Am I just high or is Alvaro crushing it right now?” “He’s crushing it.” At this time yesterday everyone was standing around looking at each other during Paul Oakenfold’s set. Now the crowd is nuts.

-Props to Alvaro for not playing “Booyah.”

-Notes get illegible here.

-People in the front of the bathroom line usually know better as to which Porta Potties are actually occupied. Usually.

-We chill out at with Moonboots’s deep house set for a while and find the congregation of the most naked people at the festival.

-I do a Serious Journalistic Survey on the way to and from the bathroom as to why today is so much better than yesterday, in five words or less.
“It’s the drugs.”
“It’s the environment. Everyone is more comfortable.”
“More people.”
“The crowd is hyped?”
“Five words?”
“Yesterday was better.”
“More trance DJs today.”

-The question was leading and shitty, but for real, Sunday was way better. Everyone danced harder, the sets weren’t repetitive, overall vibes were positive.

-The cops arrest one guy by the back fence and hold up his baggy of coke. What’s it like to be the one guy arrested for drugs at a festival where most people have drugs? (Ed. note: Actually, more than 60 people were arrested at the festival, according to The Merc. This was just the one arrest our intrepid reporter witnessed.)

-Kaskade closes out the festival in style with all sorts of fireworks and a high energy set. No one can resist “Atmosphere.”

In the end, we’re a bunch of people who can afford a $200 ticket and $11 Coors Lights having some good, commercially sanctioned fun. Which, for many, is where dance music is at right now. I don’t think I’m qualified (or coherent enough, right now) to comment on the whole scene beyond that, but in the future, I don’t think I need to pay that much for a dude to tell me to “Put your fucking hands in the air!” I mean, there’s an Animal Collective DJ set coming up at 1015 Folsom and tickets are $17.50. Booyah!

To check out our photo gallery of Beyond Wonderland, click here.

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