Dreamstate San Francisco 2016: Event Review

This past weekend was one for the history books as San Francisco hosted the second Dreamstate, presented by Insomniac Events. For two days, the Bill Graham Civic Center Auditorium was filled with trance loving fans and 16 of the biggest names in trance.

On Saturday, (in order of set times) RAM, Sean Tyas, Vini Vici, Jordan Suckley, Simon Patterson, Paul Oakenfold, Paul Van Dyk and Markus Schulz took the stage for an amazing first night. The second night of the monumental weekend was closed out with Neptune Project, Solarstone, Fleming & Lawrence, Bryan Kearney, John O’Callaghan, Aly & Fila, Cosmic Gate and Gareth Emery.

Dreamstate SF

The music was amazing. (Well, for those who have a soft spot in their heart for trance . . . and if you don’t like trance then I can see where you would have a not-so-good-time at an ALL TRANCE festival.) As I giddily entered the auditorium on that rainy Saturday night, I had an idea of what to expect. Drenched and soaked with the much needed California rain, I was soon baptized with a rude awakening.  I realized that I, in fact, was not prepared. All of the DJs this weekend shocked me -and plenty of other fans, I’m sure- with their arsenal of skills and vast pool of music.

Dreamstate SF

The anticipation on the first night felt as if it took forever to start. While standing in line, I heard the sweet soothing vocals of “Sweet Disposition” from RAM as he was tearing it up on the decks to a near empty dance floor, everyone still waiting to get inside. But, it was worth the wait. Once inside, there was a surge of energy from everyone who attempted to make their way in at 5 pm; everyone had smiles on their faces, some were jumping like maniacs, thrusting their homemade totems in the air or waving their trance flags, all under the spell of RAM’s goosebump-vocals and angelic beats (which reminded me of classic Armin).

Sean Tyas continued the manifesting excitement and energy by opening with a remix of “Personal Jesus”. No one left the floor and stayed to dance while others in carefully strategized outfits and vibrant kandi started to quickly pour in from the looming rain.

Paul Oakenfold wowed us later on in the night with his deep, progressive sound from his Full On Fluoro set. Paul Van Dyk uplifted the crowd, after, with his quick mix of trance hits, ending his set with a community karaoke of “I don’t Deserve You” and “Home”.

Dreamstate SF

After a late start, my group and I entered the second night under the rays of black and green lights of Fleming & Lawrence. We danced uncontrollably as their aggressive tech-trance sound coursed from the speakers and into our bodies. Bryan Kearney slowed our heartbeats down a tad bit with a mellow opening, which was short lived as he kicked it up with psychedelic notes. (He even made what seemed like a dying battery on a fire alarm sound amazing.)

Dreamstate SF

While still recovering from Fadi’s the epic trance set, which was filled with majestic hymns and soothing vocals from Audrey Gallagher, we were not ready for Cosmic Gate. Opening up with their hit “Happiness”, smiles spread across the faces of everyone at Dreamstate, our bodies were entranced with the feelz. If that wasn’t enough, the two German natives brought back the 90’s as wistful fans and raves bros jumped up and down, fist joyfully pumping in the air, to the nostalgic tunes “Sandstorm” and “Exploration Of Space”.

Gareth Emery closed out the second night with a fun set that could only be described, by my friend Antonio, as a “Gareth Emery set”. Starting off with “Hands”, Emery continued the ride on the feelz train with beautiful vocals that encouraged eyes closing and hand rising. He kept the energy up in the late night with specs of electro and high bassline trance. Emery, later, slowed the feelz with a piano version of “Concrete Angel”, allowing everyone there on Sunday to embrace the love between friends, lovers or a new lover-friend-whatever-you-call-it. He even played his classic “Sanctuary”. I was well pleased.

Dreamstate SF Gareth Emery

It’s no secret that trance fans are some of the hardest critics to please as the genre continues to grow in today’s festival culture that is dominated by big-room electro house EDM. Keyboard Warriors everywhere are quick to give their opinion. When Insomniac released the time-slots for Dreamstate, Markus Schulz received some criticism. Some said that he “left trance” or that “he won’t play a real trance set”. However, those chattering voices were quickly silenced after he took the stage.

Schulz started the night with a simple question to a still packed auditorium: “Are you ready, Dreamstate?!” The screen flashed through streams of lasers while his collaboration with Nifra, “The Creation”, pulsed from the speakers, matching the ignited cheers of the crowd. Schulz embraced our energy as he transitioned into “The Spiritual Gateway”. His flawless transitions from each track, teasing the next song if you listened closely, and unique sound made me feel like I was inches away from tumbling down a Coldharbour rabbit hole (or at least I was hoping), but his surging percussions and electronic keys were always there to guide me back to the sweet melody of trance. Schulz brought a big room sound to the stage that filled the space in-between everyone, connecting us all.

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Schulz paid tribute to the late David Bowie in his closing minutes with his mashup with Vincent de Moor & Cosmic Gate vs. David Bowie, titled “Fly Away to Space Oddity (Markus Schulz Mashup)”. My opinion may be bias, but Schulz truly delivered a trance set to close out the first day. He did not ruin the stage that Dreamstate built. Before he gave up the decks, Schulz left us with some words to remember: “Keep spreading the word. Trancefamily is alive, Trancefamily rules the world. Every time you go to one of those festival and hear all that noisy EDM, just remember that Trancefamily rules the world.”


The venue was quite big and spacious; there were plenty of room to dance and sit. Although, I wish there were bathrooms on the main floor, trying to not trip down the slippery steps was a challenge, even sober. But that’s not Insomniac’s problem.

The crowd was friendlier than most big festivals. This is expected of trance fans. But there were times when some people were not so nice. There were still trains running through the dance floor, but people were generally nice about it. Everyone respected one another and it was easy to talk to someone. I made a few new friends on the dance floor (sharing gum, water and our love for a mutual DJ) and in the smoking area outside. The only time where I felt the fans of Dreamstate could have been nicer was online. Remember, even though these DJs are labeled as “trance DJs”, just try to respect them as artist first!



Despite NorCal Dreamstate not selling out (compared to SoCal’s), many people attended the event. On the first day, Trancefamily SF hosted a meetup before the magic began. I saw families from Seattle, Chicago and some families were even supporting Egyptian flags. It was a marvelous sight to see people from different areas of the world coming together for an event that promotes love and peace. I didn’t see too many people who were just there to party (though, there were a few there partying), everyone seemed as if they were generally there for the music.

As I continue to go to festivals, I don’t know if I will experience the same kinds of feelings that I got at Dreamstate. I’m sure that I will have fun, but there is something different about the trance genre and its fans. To be honest, I felt a warm sensation that coursed throughout my body whenever I saw people on the dance floor embracing the music, eyes closed, hands in the air, opening their hearts to trance. Well, if an old jaded raver like I can feel this way at a festival after many years in the scene, then I’m sure Insomniac is doing something by creating this dream state movement (lame joke, I know). Here’s hoping for a bright future for trance and the many more Dreamstate to come!

Dreamstate SF

Neptune Project Live At Dreamstate SF 2016

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RAM Live At Dreamstate SF 2016

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Bryan KearneyLive At Dreamstate SF 2016

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John O’Callaghan Live At Dreamstate SF 2016

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Jordan Suckley Live At Dreamstate SF 2016

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Cosmic Gate Live At Dreamstate SF 2016

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