Text and photos by SCOTT FEINBLATT
It is a delight for horror hounds to see spookiness manifest in all facets of life. Sure, we get our kicks from horror movies, books and video games as well as scary and spooky artwork, collectibles and festivals that celebrate all of the above. However, when horror elements seep into otherwise non-horror-related entertainment, it is a cause to smile in satisfaction and give a happy sigh. This past weekend, the premier company for producing massive EDM festivals held its annual Halloween-themed event, ESCAPE HALLOWEEN. Naturally, the theme is only one of the elements that summons tens of thousands of mostly 20 and 30-somethings to dress up (or down) in their finest rave gear and dance the night away. Over the two nights of this event, 65 DJs spun their hearts out on the mainstages, and you can read all about them at escapehalloween.com.
As per tradition, Insomniac staged this elaborate event at the 120-acre National Orange Show (NOS) Event Center, where it has held many of its California-based events over the years. For DJ acts, the fairground featured four large stages, which are beautifully designed and colorfully named: “The Grimm,” “Feeding Grounds,” “Sanitarium” and “Sewer District.” Beyond that, there were several carnival rides; a couple of large returning, flame-belching art installations; a variety of Halloween-influenced set pieces and facades for photo ops; and two themed zones, where additional entertainment was offered.
The first of those zones was a circus area comprised of a big top (which hosted a burlesque show, complete with jugglers and strip tease acts), smaller tents with fortune tellers, mini-stages where this writer observed a contortionist and a snake handler and roving clowns as well other sexy and/or monstrous characters.
The second zone was “Crazy Town.” “Crazy Town” featured a large stage that showcased a colorful collection of zany and sexy characters, and it was punctuated with the menacing charm of a barker in a striped suit and top hat called “The Mayor” (portrayed by Jeffrey “Damnit” Klein). The stage also belched flames. Other aspects of “Crazy Town” included a large fountain with ghoulish gargoyles; the “Poison Ivy lounge,” which provided an opportunity for guests to bask in a black-lit environment rich in fluorescent pigments (complete with a large, dayglow Audrey II centerpiece); “The Butcher,” another building in “Crazy Town,” included a very short but enjoyable haunted maze and a cornucopia of hanging, blood-spattered corpse bags, chopped up bodies and body pieces and some human size scales. In addition to some very nicely designed photo op stations, a silent disco called “Danse Macabre” and a concessions shack called “The Well” fleshed out the rest of the area.
Adjacent to each of the main stages, there were VIP areas. Each of these allowed guests a relatively close point from which to observe the artists. The amenities of the VIP areas varied, but the best of them had areas where guests had additional photo ops, additional food and drink options, free water refilling stations with no lines, a beauty parlor where guests could have Halloween makeup designs applied and similar perks.
Insomniac has always produced wondrous events wherein ravers can do their thang. Recently, as a concession to some of the deadlier aspects of said thang, the company has partnered with the nonprofit company End Overdose to attempt to spread information and sell Narcan, Fentanyl test strips and ancillary products to prevent people from dying from overdoses and gain awareness about the dangers of certain drugs.
Of course, not all of the guests were on drugs (no one offered me any). Despite the usual sight of someone who’d partied too much being half-dragged to a medic tent or being given time and space to vomit into a trash can or “sit this one out” on a lovely patch of grass – perhaps within view of a fire juggler performing near the large pond – the festival fulfilled its expectation of attracting thousands of energetic, happy and daring adherents of the PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity and Respect) philosophy to do Halloween rave style.