This weekend in San Bernardino, Pasquale Rotella and his Insomniac team – the same promoter that puts on Electric Daisy Carnival – will hold their Nocturnal Wonderland. Coming just three weeks after overdose deaths caused the cancelation of the final day of New York's Electric Zoo festival, attention will be heavy on the annual event, which Rotella calls his longest-running festival.
Rotella is used to the scrutiny. "It's horrible, but unfortunately if someone is going to take a risk, it doesn't matter where they are in the world – in their own bedroom, at a festival. They take that risk, and it's sad if it ends tragically," he tells Rolling Stone. "It happens every day, but there's this attention that dance music events get that is unfair."
Nocturnal dates back to 1994. In more than 20 years of producing events (including warehouse parties), Rotella has seen dance music festivals targeted by the national and international media. "Unfortunately, death at a music festival means national media attention," he says. "I think the general public thinks maybe this only happens at festivals, dance music events – that it doesn't happen at college frat parties, house parties, sporting events or rock festivals because it's not covered, basically. Dance music gets national interest. And sometimes, like EDC Downtown (Los Angeles), it gets international interest."
To Rotella, the responsibility for ensuring safety at events is shared by both the promoter and the festivalgoer. "It's the promoter's responsibility to do everything possible to protect the attendees, and after you've covered all your bases and done everything you can do, it really comes down to people handling their own business, people being responsible for themselves," he says.
Still, he says that Insomniac does all it can to protect attendees. "We go above and beyond other festivals," he says. "We do everything that needs to be done and we're proud of it, and we will continue to improve our operations as new methods of keeping these events safer are available."
All the focus on drugs and safety are diverting attention from a milestone year for Nocturnal. Thanks to Insomniac's new partnership with media giant Live Nation, this will be Nocturnal's first year inside the San Manuel Ampitheater, which gives Rotella and his staff a lot of room to revamp the festival.
"It brings a whole new energy to it. So this is a really big thing for Nocturnal. Aside from the venue being new, the whole new staging designs the company is committed to are exciting as well," he says.
Insomniac has put together a great, eclectic lineup, ranging from Datsik and Kill the Noise to Fatboy Slim and Porter Robinson.
"Fatboy Slim is old-school and current. He's been rocking it forever. Damian Lazarus . . . Bingo Players are super buzzing right now – those guys are killing it on the production side.
"I'm a big Andy C fan," Rotella continues. "He is the man. I love the energy behind drum and bass, and he is a master at crafting. He is a real DJ. Krewella is definitely exciting because they're new and the girls, at times, will sing. There's not enough female artists out there, so it's nice to see them rock it. Lee Burridge, just saw him rock the playa at Burning Man – great underground, soulful stuff. We have a little bit of everything."