With Insomniac producing three huge festivals this fall — Nocturnal Wonderland at San Manuel Amphitheater & Grounds on September 5th & 6th, Beyond Wonderland Bay Area at Shoreline Amphitheater & Grounds on September 20th & 21st, and Escape All Hallows’ Eve in Southern California (location TBA) from October 31st & November 1st — the LA-based company’s founder Pasquale Rotella is a busy man.
In order to spare Rotella from having to answer the same questions about his upcoming slew of festivals over and over again, a conference call interview with media from across the country was coordinated by his team. Due to time constraints, I had the opportunity to ask him only two questions but am including some questions from other media outlets as well. Find out what he had to say below, and be sure to grab your tickets for Nocturnal Wonderland, Beyond Wonderland Bay Area, and Escape All Hallows’ Eve.
How you think Day of the Dead might rival Escape if they overlap? – Carre Orenstein, Mixmag
HARD Events are actually part of the Insomniac family, so we thought it would be okay. In past years, we weren’t part of the same family, and, of course, we successfully existed, so we just continued what we normally did. Halloween doesn’t fall on the weekend every year, so it’s not going to be an ongoing thing. In the past, we’ve done one weekend, they’ve done the other weekend. There’s enough people in Southern California to go around. I think that both of us will have success.
As you put together these festivals, how do you go about choosing the artists for them? Is it something the artists request or is it something that you have a vision for and then you simply plug them in where they fit? – Wes Woods, LA News
It’s a combination of things. Definitely within the Insomniac office, there are people who have their favorite artists that we pursue. There are agents and managers that we have relationships with that propose different artists to play at the festivals and we take a listen. If we like them, we’ll put them on. And then there’s the fans, which we listen to. We keep our ear to the street. We also put out these surveys where people can vote on who their favorite DJ might be or producer might be, and we definitely refer to those as well. It’s a combination of those three things usually.
Why the name change from Escape from Wonderland to Escape All Hallows’ Eve? – Twila Grissom, LA Music Blog
That’s a good question. Nocturnal Wonderland was our first festival. We’ve been doing it for 19 years, and as much as the team loves our own twist on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland story, we felt like we’re playing it out too much, so we’re going to limit it to Beyond and Nocturnal. We’re going to change up the other festivals so we can get more creative and keep those concepts a little more special.
Looking at the way other festival brands, in particular HARD or Mad Decent, move forward with their planning in terms of safety, it seems like they’re trying to de-rave their party and doing it in the name of “safety.” Do you agree with that, or what’s your perspective on those moves? – Jemayel Khawaja from THUMP
No, I don’t agree with the most recent kandi situation. This is what I understood happened. I think HARD was more doing it as a fashion thing because they were not down with that look, which is crazy because dance music has been about expressing your individuality. People do that by what they listen to, the way they dance, what they wear. With the recent problems that Mad Decent had, I think they called the HARD guys and said, “Hey, we have these problems. Do you have suggestions on what we need to do to make the event safer?” I think they suggested a list and on that list was kandi.
That’s my understanding. I don’t know if this is a fact, but I think it started as a fashion thing and then was brought over to the Mad Decent show as part of the safety measures that can be taken. So they’re not aligned, from what I understand, on why. One person was doing it for fashion and because they were afraid of not being cool, which is stupid. The other team had good intentions and just didn’t know enough about the roots of it and the culture.
Dance music events were supposed to be the one place you could go and not be judged. You didn’t go to a Hollywood club back in the day. Everywhere you go, you get sized up in Los Angeles. In the underground events, that later became raves, that now are festivals, you’re supposed to feel comfortable. There are enough bad things happening in the world, and if people have a belief or have something that allows them to connect with others by trading beads, that’s a positive thing. Don’t kill that. That’s crazy.
I was hoping you could elaborate on some of the things that you’re focusing on for safety going forward? – Megan Berger from Billboard
Yes, we’ve spent hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of dollars, on technology that checks people’s IDs at the events. We’ll do multiple events in the same night. We’ve had to invest quite a lot of money in the technology of these ID scanners. We also have these tents set up outside. It’s like a customer service area where security does a more thorough check. We take it very serious, and we’ve been really successful with making sure these events are 18 and over. We own that technology. We’ve actually rented to other producers so that they have the same quality of service there.
The lineup is organized alphabetically and not organized with any hierarchy regarding the producers. I’m wondering if that’s the plan going forward and what your reasoning for that is? – Megan Berger from Billboard
That’s a great question. I’ve never been asked that. At one point, the billing was who we thought, or who the agents thought, or the managers thought were the biggest. Then they would be at the top and then the smallest would be at the bottom, and what that did was create a huge nightmare for us. I think everyone was going crazy and was stressed out, and I’m very proud to say that we were the first ones that said, “Enough of that. We’re not doing it. It’s going to be in alphabetical order.” We’re all the same and that’s how we did it. It was just too much.
What is the biggest impact that you still hope to make in the dance music culture and how do you frame your events around making that goal happen? -Twila Grissom from LA Music Blog
I’m always striving to make a better experience. I want to offer the best experience you can get at a festival. When I first started, there really wasn’t a festival scene. There were concerts and you’d go and get a beer at the food stand and there were long lines. There wasn’t a lot of care for the fans. It was almost like they were treated like cattle, and it’s amazing to see where things have gone. Now we offer you nightclub-type service at festivals. That didn’t exist before. There’s a big emphasis on everything being perfect, and we still have a long way to go. I want things to be better than they are now. I want to eventually do something where there’s a venue built for what we do.
As far as making the lineup alphabetized, is this to maybe brand your fest a little bit more as opposed to making it more about the acts? – Wes Woods from LA News Group
People misunderstand when I say that the people are the headliners, and it’s about the experience. The music and the DJs are about that experience. It’s just not only about that. It’s about the music. It’s about the brand. It’s about the venue. It’s about who’s playing and what’s playing, the marketing of the show, the vibe of the crowd. It’s all these different things that make a great event.
Do you view yourself or is it your intention to position yourself as pretty much the only major festival brand in North America that’s at least aiming to keep traditional rave culture as a big part of its ideology? – Jemayel Khawaja from THUMP
It’s not like a strategic plan as much as it’s just where I come from and what I know. I’m a fan of the culture, and in the company, we have a lot of people that were from a part of the culture since they were very young. We love anything that’s positive, whether it be encouraging the fans to dress up, dressing up the venue, allowing people to trade beads, or encouraging people to meet one another. It’s all positive stuff, and we don’t want that to be lost. Dancing, how important is dancing? I don’t even think the big DJs like it when people just stand there with their phones out. That’s something that comes from back in the day. You don’t have to dance with a girl or with a guy. You can dance alone, and you can dance in circles. You don’t have to face the stage. It’s about the music. It’s not about a rock star. All that stuff really comes from loving it and from having good times ourselves on the dance floor.
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