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Debut Dreamstate Vancouver sends us to trance heaven (review)

Photo: Insomniac/Dreamstate

With a stacked lineup, world-class production, and a sold-out crowd, Insomniac’s Dreamstate made history with its Canadian festival debut last weekend. Was it a success though? Let’s break it down:

Location

Dreamstate Canada was held at the Harbour Convention Centre in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. A short walk away from the venue is the heart of downtown, to include the popular Granville Street, the waterfront at Canada Place, restaurants galore, and more! Parking was available on-site, for a price (we paid $15 CAD for 6 hours). We had no issues getting to the venue, having driven from out-of-town, and felt safe walking to, and from it.

Venue

As spacious as it is, the Harbour Convention Centre is an unusual venue for a dance music festival. The first thing we noticed when we walked in? Carpet! The two-story venue is entirely covered with it! Not necessarily a bad thing, just something we’ve rarely seen.

Super 8 and Tab taking fans on a feels trip (Photo: Stanley Sutton/DMNW)

There was no line to enter, and after a quick security pat down we found ourselves standing next to the mainstage. It’s literally right next to the entrance! Also located on the first floor: plenty of bars, a big merch stand, washrooms, small VIP areas, and a wealth of couches for those who needed to get off their feet for a bit. Despite being a sold-out affair, we never felt too overwhelmed by the crowd, as the width of the first floor offered plenty of space to dance.

The second floor was home to the second stage. To get there, you had to walk up an escalator that had been turned off. We went back and forth between the stages, and found ourselves breathing a little harder as we went deeper into the night. Hello leg day!

On the second floor were even more bars, coat check, washrooms, and, of course, the second stage itself! The stage was located inside a university-type auditorium. There were about 100 seats, a tiny bar, and a small stage- which we’ll address in the next section. There was no issue with sound bleeding as well.

Insomniac brought its’ World Class production to Vancouver (Photo: Stanley Sutton/DMNW)

We praise Insomniac for trying to transform a Convention Center into a two-day trance music festival, but the setting always felt off to us. We’d love to see Insomniac maximize its’ production to really offer a full immersive experience. More LEDS to occupy the many blank walls surrounding the mainstage. More lasers spread out in both stages. Interactive areas? Oh, and food! Maybe it was just us, but we didn’t find any food, nor find people eating any, at the festival. If you’re going to run 7-hour parties, snack options would be nice to have!

Lastly, the washrooms. They got DESTROYED. It was clear there were no custodians on-site. Probably the nastiest indoor restrooms we’ve seen at a festival, in recent memory.

Production

Despite an unusual space, Insomniac brought its A-game when it comes to the elements of production. Both stages were equipped with bone-rattling PK Sound speakers, lasers, strobes, LEDS, and more!

The setup of the mainstage was brilliant, given the space being worked with. There were two big LEDS, lasers, strobes, CO2- even costumed, futuristic looking, stage dancers! We just wish Insomniac took advantage of all the extra room surrounding the stage.

HALIENE captured the hearts of the crowd, ending her set with a beautiful rendition of Saving Light (Photo: Stanley Sutton / DMNW)

The second stage offered a more intimate environment. There was nothing separating fans from the tiny stage. We were up close, and personal, with HALIENE during her live set as she serenaded the crowd with the voice of an angel. The LEDs inside the stage were simply projection screens, the ones you’d see inside a classroom pretty much, and the graphics displayed on them weren’t as visual as their mainstage siblings. There were minimal lasers here, no CO2, no dancers, which wasn’t bad because it helped contribute to the intimate setting. Overall, the production in the second stage was never attention grabbing. A letdown considering how creative Insomniac gets with its Dreamstate stages.

Music

Dreamstate brought the big guns to celebrate its first Canadian outing. Heavyweights like John O’Callaghan, Ferry Corsten, Bryan Kearney, and Giuseppe Ottaviani took to the mainstage, while some of trance’s up-and-comers played in the second stage auditorium.

With PK Sound equipped, all the sets sounded amazing, and we didn’t witness any real technical issues. Some of our favorite sets include: HALIENE (live), Simon Patterson, and Gen Tech! We even saw a few artists in the crowd, and some surprise meet and greets!

Our wishlist for next year will include more psy trance acts, and more back-to-back sets! Dreamstate SoCal, last year, featured many exciting debut b2b’s. It’d be fun to see some first time action at Dreamstate Canada too!

Overall

A two-story, carpeted convention center isn’t the first place you’d think of when it comes to dance music festival venues, but Dreamstate did well with the hand it was dealt. The mainstage production matched the Dreamstate quality standard we’ve come to know, and love, while the second stage underwhelmed. When it comes down to it, music, and good vibes, are the most important things and both were amazing! We met Trance families from Toronto, Los Angeles, Portland, and other North American cities. We even saw a couple get engaged!

First time festivals rarely turn out perfect, and Dreamstate SoCal has plenty it can improve upon. But the foundation has been set for Dreamstate Canada to become bigger, and better. We can’t wait to see what Insomniac does next year…if the festival does return!

What did you think about Dreamstate Canada 2019? Let us know in our comments section on Facebook, and Twitter!

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