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Concert Review: Nocturnal Wonderland 2007

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I have never been to a massive rave Los Angeles, and I tend to stay away from overbooked and overhyped events like the ones held by Giant, Insomniac, or Spundae. But when I heard that The Chemical Brothers was headlining the Nocturnal Wonderland, I was eager to check it out. And even though I get easily clusterphobic in large crowds, especially in an environment full of loud music and wandering e-heads, I wanted to give this event a shot; and when you love electronic music, like I do, it's just something you have to deal with.

First of all the entrance process to the event was confusing and disorganized. Everyone was funnelled like rats through various gates and waiting areas, where we were constantly being placed in never-ending lines by clueless yellow jackets. Although it was a little nippy outside, the parking structure, which was used as the entry point, was hotter than hell. It was hot, sweaty, smelly, and dreary. The ground was littered with club flyers that were being distributed outside the venue, and there were no porto potties nearby as you waited in line. It was not a good way to welcome your guests to a venue that is supposed to be a party

I brought my DSLR camera to the event with the hopes of taking photographs for LAist, and even though their web site said that still cameras were welcome in the venue, I was turned away because my camera was deemed "too professional". Since when did having a nice camera become a basis for discrimination? I didn't really understand that policy, and tried to argue my case with their supervisor, but after awhile I realized he wasn't going to give in, my camera was just too good for this damn festival, so I went back to my car and dropped off my camera.

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When I finally got in, it was a sea of people, music, and food, it was full sensory overload, but not in a good way. There was not a lot of space to sit down, so everyone pretty much had to sit on the ground if they wanted to get off their feet. Because the event was an 18+ event, we were allowed to drink in designated alcohol areas only. And after forking out $13 for a drink we were not allowed to walk around with it, now that sucks! Every 14-year old with a fake ID was there; which made it really creepy in a Chris-Hanson-Dateline-NBC kinda way.

I have to admit the primary reason I wanted to go this event was to see The Chemical Brothers. For the past decade they have provided me amazing tunes for my workout and runs, so when I saw the stage setup, I was initially concerned. The venue was dominated by three major sound stages. The centerpiece, where the main acts played, was an enormous outdoor stage planked by projection screens. On each side of the center stage were two humungous tents grinding out music just as loud as the main stage. The problem with this setup was that the music from all three stages competed with one another, and it was difficult for a single dominant sound to emerge. Unless you were up front on the stage or drugged out of your mind, the music was going to be confusing. So when the Chemical Brothers came out, everyone stormed the already crowded front stage. But since I'm a little clusterphobic that left me near the back where all the e-tards were doing there light shows for their friends.

Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons opened their set with an inspired performance. With a towering, edgy and spectacular projection show behind them, the duo was a the top of their game. The audience was quick to connect with them, and it truly felt as if the party was finally on. If you strayed too far from the front stage, you were quickly bombard by bass and music from other tents and stages that surrounded the four corners of the venue. Their two-hour set provided a good variety of old and new from their long catalog; Galvanize, Black Rockin' Beats, Saturate, and Out of Control were quick hits with the audience.

Paul Van Dyk followed The Chemical Brothers, and helped continue the energy of the night. But it became clear to me early on that due to the venue's setup it was going to be difficult for me to really get into the music. So I spent the rest of the night hanging out with friends, and telling Burning Man stories to those who would listen. I felt like a missionary, trying to convert heathens.

Concerts are supposed to be about the music, and the creative energy that fluctuates between the audience and the performer. The Chemical Brothers and PVD are masters of carefully knitting a crowd's experience with their music. Despite the various distractions of the venue setup and the poor logistics by the organizers, it was the music that prevailed. Their performance was sensational and inspired. It is the main reason why thousands clamor to these events. But how much do we have to endure before these organizers "get it"? We are not cattle.

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Would I attend another Nocturnal Wonderland? Probably not. Would I see PVD and The Chemical Brothers in a more intimate venue? Hell yeah!

Photo by Caesar Sebastian via Flickr