Written by: Ted Abeyta & Vanessa Garcia | Edited by: Bernadette
Photos Courtesy of Insomniac Events
Countdown New Year’s Eve 2023, what can I say? It was a nocturnal odyssey of neon-colored, inter-dimensional schizophrenia. A neck-breaking whirlwind that helpfully overwrote my memory of last year’s rain-filled excursion. Have you seen the 1997 film, Titanic? It was a bit like that; water everywhere. No, this year’s New Year’s celebration went down flawlessly. Everything was very well-orchestrated, just like this year’s lineup: an overwhelming stack of certified gold. For two nights, across five stages, attendees were given the gift of unrelenting kicks and transcendent melodies from today’s biggest electronic artists. From up-and-comers like Tong and Gudfella to seasoned veterans like Black V Neck and Sofi Tukker, to legends like Tiësto and Deadmau5, there was an unbelievable pool of talent to pick from. Dashing between stages is nothing new for seasoned festival-goers, but making your schedule at Countdown NYE 2023 this year was a fun problem to have.
Saturday evening popped off with an exceptionally loud bang. The crowd poured in quickly and soon the festival grounds were giving off space-age Coachella vibes. As the dark settled in, aided by the intimidating yet ultimately benign storm clouds above, the festival lights took precedence. An awe-inspiring display of orange, green, purple, and pink filled the air. A cacophony of bass thundered from several directions. If you didn’t know what Countdown was before, you certainly found out after crossing into the alien frontier. Insomniac did another fantastic job turning the NOS Events Center into a dizzying, science-fiction spectacle, immersing attendees in a captivating world of futuristic wonders and otherworldly experiences. Between the futuristic art installations, the mesmerizing lights, and the otherworldly mascots engaging with fans, one can’t help feeling like they’re being visited by the third kind.
There is so much to do at Countdown NYE, it can be a little overwhelming at first. The festival grounds are vast and filled with entertainment everywhere you look. You can spend hours trying all the different culinary options, browsing for gear in the Black Hole Bizaar, watching alien strippers in the Red Light District, snapping pics at every photo backdrop, or taking a spin on the amusement rides. There are also places to relax, warm your bones, recharge your devices, get help, or even seek sobriety support from the on-site Consciousness Group, which holds regular meetings during Insomniac events. But if you’re like me, your main reason for being there was listening to your favorite artists and discovering new music at the five main stages.
When you first step into the realm of Countdown NYE, fans are greeted by the massive Nebula stage immediately in front of them. To be fair, you get bombarded early by its sonic output as you make your way in from the festival parking lots; a siren’s call to electronic music fans everywhere. Once inside, its presence is totally engrossing, eclipsing the night sky. Like a moth to the flame, fans can’t help but be drawn inside by its radiant neon-pink lights and HUD-like visualizers on both sides. Early attendees were blessed with the booming sounds of Super Future and Lizzy Jane on Saturday evening as they made their way into the festival. Fans took delight in the monumental display and were quick to snap a picture with the amazing Lazer-Ray photo op display in front of the entrance to the stage. Nebula played host to some of the biggest names in the industry with the biggest variety of genres, including house, bass house, electro house, dubstep, riddim, drum, and bass, and drumstep this past weekend. With acts like Nero, Valentino Khan, Kayzo, Trivecta, Svdden Death, and Seven Lions, festival-goers had their brains split in half with the different styles of music being played there.
As you made your way across the festival grounds from the Nebula stage, beyond Biosphere Boulevard and the Lunar Lagoon, patrons found this year’s newest stage, the Galactik Gate, hosted by Space Yacht and Lost In Dreams. Unlike the Incendia dome of last year, the Galactik Gate was finally recognized as one of the festival’s main stages. We missed the dome, but the crowd was never lacking. Here, fans could partake in a mid-way rave on their way back and forth from the main stages. Featuring an eclectic mix of dubstep, drum and bass, future bass, and house, the Galactik Gate hosted such artists as Pauline Herr, Blossom, Gentleman’s Club, Moksi, Habstrakt, Audien, and more. And partake they did. The fans at this stage were constantly vibing out. Maybe because it was such an intimate setting. The Galactik Gate was by far the smallest stage at the festival, allowing guests in the front of the crowd to be able to stand a mere ten feet away from the performing artists. Some lucky fans were even able to get a hug from Pauline Herr after she finished her set, an experience they soon won’t forget.
Moving on past the Galactik Gate, the next stage that caught our eye was the new and improved Twilight Zone. House and techno fans rejoiced as the Twilight Zone was moved back inside the Orange Pavilion building that has normally been home to the Galaxy Mall in recent years. Countdown finally had a proper warehouse to rave in this year, complete with amazing lights, background visuals, lasers, and beautiful centerpieces brought to us by Factory 93 and Insomniac Records. The Twilight Zone is basically the Yuma tent now but for the Winter season. Doc Martin, Nicole Moudaber, Adam Beyer, Black V Neck, Noizu b2b Joswha, Eli Brown, and more had the warehouse ascending into the stratosphere. By the end of each night, the entire floor was jam-packed, and dancing their asses off. All props to Insomniac for making this worthwhile improvement. We’re hoping this becomes the permanent home of the Twilight Zone for years to come.
Leaving the Twilight Zone, one can’t help but notice the flashing lights and insane vibrations emanating from across the map. There, through the Red Light District and the bumper car track, was the festival’s third biggest stage. This is Area 51, brought to us by Bassrush, the place where massive dubstep, drum and bass, riddim, and trap call home. It comes as no surprise. Area 51 has been the long established home to heavy bass music since Countdown’s inception, and they did it big once again. With a monumental seven vertical screen display, dazzling lights, neon-lasers, and a cast of dancing space vixens, the Area 51 stage blew audiences away and distorted reality. Artists such as NGHTMRE, Borgore, Apashe, Delta Heavy, Spaces Laces, and Ray Volpe b2b Crankdat delivered heavy drops that kept the party going and the ground shaking. Fans violently head-knocked and moshed for each and every artist that graced this stage.
Continuing on through the festival grounds, you no doubt noticed the biggest stage the venue has to offer, the Mothership. Reserved exclusively for the biggest acts of the two-night event, the Mothership stage is an eye-popping behemoth worthy of the name. An absolutely giant LED screen encapsulates the back of the stage, adorned with multiple LED screens and wide octagonal visualizers throughout the enormous canopy. This is a stage designed to entertain audiences both inside and outside its dimensions. Picnic tables, heat lamps, and a swing carousel are provided just beyond the clutches of the stage canopy, inviting everyone to catch a glimpse of what the Mothership’s got going on. It also boasts the largest VIP section on the festival grounds by far, including amenities offered nowhere else in the festival, including unique food options, a beauty bar, a workshop where you can design your own personal bracelet, dining tables with heat lamps, etc. This is the home of the festival’s biggest headliners, including Sofi Tukker, Fisher, Gryffin, The Chainsmokers, Deadmau5, Tiësto, and more. Unsurprisingly, the crowd here was immense. Dozens of totems flew proudly in the night sky as fans gathered to experience the intense melodies and stunning displays.
Sunday night was an even bigger rampage than Saturday. The weather had improved significantly with virtually no possibility of rain. It was warmer, dryer, and naturally, the anticipation and excitement for midnight was more palpable. Festival-goers donned space suits, animal onesies, Halloween costumes, snow camouflage, artist jerseys, luxury apparel, festival merch, ponchos, Santa hats, pashas, forearms full of candy, and more. Some dressed to impress. Some wore almost nothing at all. It was the last night of the year for self-expression and creativity after all. Why waste it? Fans who arrived early were pleasantly met with the sweet sounds of Egzod and Gem & Tauri from the Nebula stage as they made their way into the festival. The crowd felt much larger than the previous night as the task of navigating the festival grounds became more difficult. Squads, crews, units, and parties rumbled and stumbled their way through the flux of music fans trudging back and forth between the stages. Despite the huge attendance, the festival was still very well organized. There was very little trash on the floor and the queues for food, rides, and bathrooms moved fairly quickly. Festival staff were extremely courteous and helpful to those who needed them.
As we approached the midnight hour, the major stages displayed a graphical countdown on their LED screens for all to see and count along with. We found ourselves counting down the hours in the Twilight Zone, rocking out to Noizu b2b Joshwa, a fun and energizing tech-house collaboration. Both artists are fantastic DJs and producers in their own right, so catching a performance with them together was a dream come true. They got the crowd raging and together we rang in the new year under the warehouse lights. Eli Brown started playing his signature dark techno soon after the celebrations were over and the light show escalated to an unprecedented degree. The final level of the Twilight Zone had been unlocked. We concluded our evening at the Nebula Stage where we witnessed performances by Svdden Death and Seven Lions, a final parting gift before slipping back into reality. Svdden Death put the crowd into a frenzy with his unholy, hard-hitting dubstep, while Seven Lions took us on an emotional journey through sadness, longing, anger, rage, and euphoria. It was the perfect conclusion to an amazing two-day festival.
In retrospect, Countdown NYE 2023 wasn’t just another music festival; it was an immersive experience that transcended expectations. From the pulsating beats at the Mothership stage to the intimate vibes of the Galactik Gate, every corner of the NOS Events Center resonated with a unique energy and vibrancy. Insomniac once again showcased their prowess in curating an event that catered to every electronic music lover’s tastes. As the clock struck midnight and lasers illuminated the sky, it was evident that Countdown NYE had not only ushered in a new year but had also etched unforgettable memories in the hearts of thousands, promising a future filled with more epic nights and unforgettable moments. Thank you Insomniac and all the sponsors for putting together an awesome New Year’s Eve experience that we’ll be talking about for a long time. Here’s to an amazing 2024 and we hope to catch you all again at the next Countdown NYE!
For more info on future events check out www.insomniac.com