Escape Halloween 2023 sets the bar even higher with another successful edition: Review
Escape Halloween 2023 has once again proved that it is the best Halloween festival in North America with its immersive grounds, larger-than-life production, artist performances, and more.
When it comes to creating immersive and unforgettable experiences, Insomniac has set the gold standard in the world of music festivals. Year after year, they manage to outdo themselves, leaving festival-goers in awe. The 12th edition of Escape Halloween was no exception as it transported attendees to a realm where reality blurred with the ethereal. A spell spanning across two days at the NOS Events Center in San Bernardino, CA was cast over thousands of eager ghouls and goblins, who came out to play and dance the night away to the sounds of their favorite artists such as Kaskade, Afrojack, Slander, Lily Palmer, Reinier Zonneveld, Malaa, and more. With such a high-quality artist lineup, an immersive Halloween atmosphere, and a larger-than-life production stage production, a spooktacular festival experience was more than imminent. Read on as we take a deeper dive into Escape Halloween 2023.
The first day of Escape Halloween 2023 was graced with clear skies, comfortable temperatures across the day and night, and eager festival-goers who were ready to immerse themselves in the spooky realm of North America’s largest Halloween festival. Getting through the ID check, ticket scan, and security checkpoints was a breeze, which showed Insomniac’s history with the venue considering it has held multiple large-scale events here such as Countdown NYE, Beyond Wonderland, Audiotistic and HARD Music Festival, to name a view. As you began to walk through the entrance of the festival grounds, a significant change to the festival layout was noticeable — all the free water stations were now located in the front. In previous editions, there were multiple free water stations scattered across the festival grounds for people to use. The lines for water would get hectic at times, but that wasn’t the case this year with the new layout. Having them all at the front was a great move since there were never significantly long wait times to hydrate.
The real fun began as you walked by art installations that made great photo ops to show off your halloweekend. The first left turn through the festival grounds took you through a stroll through the Psycho Circus, which was located in front of the infamous NOS pond. Walking through this area immersed you in a circus experience that consisted of live performers in tents, as well as other interactive circus-themed activities and experiences. The next stop took you through Crazy Town, the very heart of Escape. This area was occupied by multiple interactive installations that hosted mysterious characters of the dark. Some of the main highlights of this area that truly made you appreciate the effort Insomniac puts into its festival production were The Fountain of Lost Souls and the enormous Fire Organ, which constantly shot up a massive pyro show for the masses. There was even a cemetery that hosted a silent disco area with multiple DJs spinning across different channels if you prefer to party in a more intimate environment!
Meanwhile at The Grimm, the festival’s main stage, things began to heat up as Dutch phenom Afrojack took center stage. Although a bit early in the night, he showed no mercy to the thousands of souls gathered underneath the megastructure. A techno-infused version of his mega-hit ‘Turn Up The Speakers’ with Martin Garrix sent the crowd to a frenzy as they jumped up and down to the four-on-the-floor beat. Directly to the side of The Grimm was the Sanitarium stage hosted by Basscon (and by Night Trip on day two). One of the craziest sets of the night here belongs to no other than Ben Nicky as he presented his Xtreme set. His massive selection of hard dance, hardstyle, psytrance, and various other subgenres had the crowd going crazy from start to finish. Visuals such as mysterious demons, psychotic surgeons, loose inmates, flashing lights, and synchronized lasers also added to the madness already caused by his presence behind the decks.
The Grimm also hosted the iconic British trance trio Above & Beyond, who opened up their set with their respray of Fatum, Genix, Jaytech and Judah’s ‘We’re All In This Together.’ With a mix of ethereal melodies and pulsating beats, their set was an enchanting tapestry of sound that captivated the audience, elevating them to a higher state of consciousness. Meanwhile at the Sewer District stage, Jamie Jones brought a darker and more underground atmosphere to the festival. Known for his groovy and hypnotic techno beats, Jamie Jones transported the crowd into the heart of the night, where the sounds of the underground bounced off all the metal containers surrounding the dystopian dance floor. The night was far from over as festival-goers continued to explore the enchanted grounds, where mystical creatures roamed and captivating visuals illuminated the path to stages such as Wicked Woods, the newest addition to Escape. The first night truly transported everyone in attendance to a magical realm filled with nightmares and fantasy, setting the stage for an even more magical day two.
A sense of déjà vu can be felt as you walk through the checkpoints at the entrance. Although a bit more congested than the previous night, getting into Escape was still pretty easy and painless. If you continued your path straight instead of turning left at the art installation found at the entrance, you would start to hear Rossy’s pulsating trap beats echo through the Feeding Grounds stage. As festival-goers got closer, they couldn’t help but notice the two gigantic spiders and their intricate webs, which dangled from the top of the structure. Clusters of LED screens made up the front of the stage where Rossy was cooking.
As the night continued to unfold, it was time for The Grimm to come to life. A star-studded lineup of DJs took the stage, one after the other, delivering sets that would leave an indelible mark on all in attendance. The best way to enjoy the rest of the night at The Grimm was no doubt in the VIP area, which had its own separate air-conditioned bathrooms, bars, food trucks, lounges, and viewing areas to the side of the stage. One of the first to perform was Brazilian artist Matroda, who weaved a dark and irresistible soundscape that had the crowd vibing and dancing. His bass-heavy tracks were perfectly suited to the sinister theme of Escape Halloween 2023, and he left a lasting impression as the night’s festivities kicked into high gear.
Tchami, the French maestro, was the next one to grace the decks with his signature sound, blending elements of deep and future house with a dash of techno sprinkled here and there. The night continued with DJ Snake, who brought a dynamic and energetic set to the stage. The crowd erupted in excitement as his infectious beats and chart-topping tracks reverberated through the air. The stage design at The Grimm added to the enchantment with its massive skeleton centerpiece moving its arms up in the air. The stage pyro, lighting, LED screens and lasers also began to intensify even more, creating a massive party atmosphere too good to resist. Zedd, known for his anthemic and melodic productions, was next in line to mesmerize the audience as he opened up with his remix of John Summit’s ‘Where You Are.’ His set was a symphony of lights and sound, casting a spell over the crowd and eliciting a euphoric response from all in attendance.
Closing out this unforgettable night (and the festival) at The Grimm was no other than Dutch superstar Armin van Buuren, who opened up with a remix of his timeless track ‘This Is What It Feels Like.’ His set was a transcendental experience, transporting the crowd to another dimension with his uplifting and euphoric trance anthems infused with techno soundscapes such as ‘Destination,’ ‘God Is In The Soundwaves’ and ‘Mr. Navigator.’ The combination of his music and the mesmerizing stage production generated an electrifying atmosphere that kept building and building until, at last, everything came to a climactic stop.
As festival-goers exited the enchanting realm of Escape Halloween on this second night, the memories they carried with them were nothing short of magical. The supernatural journey had come to a close (for those who didn’t attend the afterparties that continued until 6 AM), but the enchantment of Escape Halloween 2023 would linger on. With each passing year, it seems that Insomniac sets the bar higher and higher. One can only wonder what imaginative wonders and spine-tingling additions Escape will add next. One thing is certain though, the magic of Escape Halloween will continue to beckon those who seek an otherworldly, spooktacular halloweekend. Until the next edition, when the madness unfolds once again.
Main Image Credit: Ivan Meneses for Insomniac Events