FreakNight 2015: Screaming Success
I can’t believe that two weeks have already flown by since FreakNight 2015. FreakNight was my first USC Events experience, and they definitely proved themselves; it was indescribable. The sheer amount of positive vibes and caring that filled the Tacoma Dome on October 30 and 31 was inspiring, the music flowed through your body like one of Zelda’s healing potions, and the special effects were riveting.
However, there were also a few major logistical flaws, including long lines in the cold rain due to slow security, poor acoustics, and availability of post-festival transportation. Despite this, I can’t imagine a better way to spend Halloween weekend; it was full of beautiful souls, wonderful music, and incredible effects.
Overall, FreakNight provided that indescribable escape from the real world, where nothing matters except the music and good vibes. This freaky fest offered attendees the opportunity to forgo the usual daily societal constraints, allowing revelers to express their inner selves, as evidenced by the wide range of costumes, ranging from candy sweet to terrifying. Despite being outside in the cooler weather, tents protected the brave who dared enter the creepy carnival. The protected cooler areas offered a brief respite from the crowded stages filled with hot, sweaty dancers while challenging attendees to ride the menacing merry-go-round, the terrifying Tornado, and the bumper cars. This was an invigorating experience, mostly thanks to the people, the music, and the atmosphere.
First of all, I couldn’t have asked for better company- through the love of music and the incredible power of social media, I left FreakNight weekend with the best crew a girl could ask for. As a recently transplanted raver in the PNW living in a tiny northern Idaho town, the number of people interested in events, much less willing to go to them, has so far proven to remain elusive, as they’re likely still hiding in the woodwork. Knowing I was going to FreakNight no matter what, and knowing the rave scene is so incredibly open and welcoming, I put it out to social media. I met my newest festie-bestie from Tacoma through the Be the Rave Family Facebook group, and we officially met in Portland for a show at the beginning of October.
We were joined at FreakNight by a guy I’d met through a Decadence Colorado Facebook group from last New Year’s Eve who had just recently moved to the Seattle area. He knew of a girl from Portland who was going solo through the Ultra Latino group, and she ended up giving another guy from Portland a ride after he’d posted in the FreakNight event needing a ride at the last minute. Finally, a friend from high school who lives east of Seattle ended up with the weekend off, and decided to go with us at the last minute. It was such an incredibly random group of people, all brought together by a love of music.
Moreover, everyone at the event brought nothing but alacrity. USC’s Conscious Crew was a mainstay in the crowd at every stage, faces glowing with endless smiles while they danced their way through the crowds, proffering free earplugs and spritzing of water to any attendee in need. Meanwhile, fellow ravers could be seen shuffling, trading hugs and kandi, and helping each other out throughout the span of both nights.
From the moment we entered the dome and crossed into the festival grounds, we were greeted by the flirtatious dance of blue and red lasers, translucent, pink-hued suspended orbs, and the smooth welcoming sound of Kolsch’s music from the Midway of Mayhem stage. As promised, the inside of the Tacoma Dome had been transformed into an otherworldly realm for the weekend.
Our first move was to make our way over to the Bass Asylum stage to catch Will Sparks’ set. The 22-year-old DJ didn’t disappoint, hitting Melbourne bounce fans with an energy that carried through the entire night. Because flight delays required a schedule change, Tuneboy swapped with Figure, so we got to catch a bit of the Italian’s hardstyle beats he was throwing down before moving to the main stage for the night.
The Twisted Big Top stage was a sight to behold. It reminded me of the classic swing ride you would find at a carnival, sans swings. The lights and design added extra depth to the stage, with the end result being an amazing backdrop for a myriad of spellbinding light shows, and a true reflection of the sinister circus theme. Large golden spiked stars hung from the ceiling, capturing and reflecting the lights and lasers from the main stage. The visuals were on point as well, swirling colors and geometric designs blended with the music to create a feeling of transformation and release from day-to-day stressors. Aerialists amazed the crowds as they contorted their bodies high in the air, while stilt walkers threaded through crowds, and performers filled balloons to the point of popping to create confetti shows.
Nicky Romero put on a remarkable show. The piano and vocals in Legacy, his collaboration with Krewella, sent chills down my spine, while Lighthouse was breathtakingly beautiful. Nero simply blew the crowd away. Promises was hauntingly beautiful, and not only did they serenade the crowd with engaging electronica, but they brought out live drums and a keyboard, finally topping this musical treat with poignant vocals by Alana Watson.
True to form, Deadmau5 appeared in all of his aloof glory to finish out the night, mixing together a blend of new and old tracks. I was overtaken by the wave of nostalgia that crashed over me when he played Ghosts n Stuff; the song immediately took me back to the hours of incessant studying when listening to the song on repeat helped get me through inane assignments, long before I’d even heard the term ‘EDM.’ Lastly, we caught part of Claude VonStroke’s set at the Midway of Mayhem, where a smaller group of Dirtybird fans were swaying to his entrancing music. Overall, night 1 seemed surreal, until we were rudely brought back to reality by an hour-long wait in the rain due to the overloaded taxi and Uber systems.
FreakNight’s second night proved to be even better than the first. We arrived extra early, starting the night off at the Bass Asylum stage with the epic bass lines and raw energy brought by Beauflexx, Apashe, and Bad Royale. I’d originally stayed for Bad Royale’s set because they’d recently liked my FreakNight post on Instagram, but they proved to be a group not to miss. They put on such an amazing show- their very different musical backgrounds were reflected in their music’s eclectic mix of genres that somehow flowed seamlessly together.
We moved to the Twisted Big Top Stage next for Adventure Club and Don Diablo. The lasers and strobe lights created an intense visual playground during Don Diablo’s set that fused with his music to create a euphoric atmosphere, really bringing people together. Carnage really threw down with his brand of festival trap, pleasing members and non-members of the Chipotle Gang alike with beats that reverberated throughout the entire Dome.
I broke away from the main stage to catch Myon and Shane 54 at the Midway of Mayhem, leaving my crew with Carnage, intending to only watch half an hour before heading back to catch all of Diplo’s set. The Hungarian duo was just starting Summer of Love as I crossed the threshold from Twisted Big Top to the Midway of Mayhem, and I was immediately enveloped by a familiar wave of tranquility, the sense of being home. Standing under the sea of lasers, their music washed over the crowd like alternating waves of warmth and color; I was entranced and couldn’t bear to leave. Their Strangers collab with Seven Lions was so uplifting, and the beautiful hour passed far too quickly.
Diplo ignited the crowd with festival trap hits like Revolution and Boy oh Boy, and while we missed Troyboi’s set the night before, After Hours served as a nice consolation. Furthermore, Freak’s infectious bounce beat left the crowd dropping and dancing their hearts out. Finally, Tiesto’s set was full of phenomenal melodic sounds and high energy. Attendees found themselves lost in the moments right before the drop, where for just a moment, time stands still. His recently released collaboration with Don Diablo, Chemicals, was well-received, and his edit of Dzeko and Torres’ L’Amour Toujours was astounding. As Tiesto danced his way across the stage, the connection he had with the crowd was almost magnetic.
We had to tear ourselves away to catch part of Infected Mushroom, whose set was purely magical, full of psychedelic touches and unexpected twists. When the ethereal synths finally came to rest, the crowds remained for a few minutes, as if unwilling to break the moment.
While we were lucky enough to enter the event through the quick VIP lines as media, many others were stuck waiting in the unfathomable long lines to the venue. While missing your favorite DJ can already be a frustrating experience after arriving extra early, add cold rain and an extra hour or two wait to that experience, and the end result is a lot of disgruntled ravers. I heard many complaints about the lines, as well as complaints about security-related atrocities, which included slow-moving entry procedures, insults, and criminalizing attendees. Fortunately, the venue security was not directly the fault of USC, and will no doubt be replaced by another company in the future.
The production team went all out and the dome was phenomenally transformed into a haunted haven, yet the musical quality left a little to be desired. The sound bleed was pretty severe at times, as both the Big Top and Mayhem stages were housed in the main dome area. If you were further up closer to the stages, it wasn’t as noticeable, but during quieter interludes, the carryover was more intense. This is the first year that FreakNight has been held at the Tacoma Dome, rather than at its usual WaMu home, so any issues will most likely be resolved for future events.
Despite these setbacks, FreakNight 2015 served up musical treats for fans of all genres. The incredible efforts of the Conscious Crew and production were visible no matter which direction you looked, and the festival attendees went out of their way to ensure a good time for each other as well. I can’t wait to see what USC’s next big massive, Resolution, will have in store for New Year’s 2016.