Review — Alison Wonderland Turned Red Rocks Into a Psychedelic Temple

Last Friday Night, Australian dance music queen, Alison Wonderland, brought her eclectic take on the genre to Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Like most EDM shows at Red Rocks, the opening talent, which included DJ LMN and DJ Garth (although they only got to play one song each, but we’ll get to that), Jon Casey, 1788-L and Valentino Khan was immaculate and varied in both scope and style. As fun as the opening acts were, however, no one can compete with Alison Wonderland’s distinct incorporation of live instruments and spectacle during her temple of Wonderland performance. Despite an hour delay due to a broken-down tour bus, every artist kept the spirits high and the bass low.

The deep techno cyberpunk vibes 1788-L brought to Red Rocks were as energetic as they were hallucinogenic. Computer sounds and glitchy frequencies trapped in the matrix exploded into the crowd while waves of tech bass and sentient machine music crashed into the rocks with tenacious velocity and unrelenting persistence, never showing signs of fatigue or stillness.

Valentino Khan delivered a much more varied style of drum and bass, deep house, and traditional dubstep designed for headbanging. Between exploring nearly every style modern electronic music has to offer, the LA-based producer brightened up the crowd with an endless bag of contemporary bangers ranging from Ludachris’s “How Low” and Drake’s “Too Sexy” to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and even Josh Turner’s “Your Man.” You never knew what to expect next, and for roughly one hour, Valentino Khan managed the crowd’s energy and expectations by providing a masterful demonstration of the art of DJing. It was one big party.

Before Alison Wonderland got on stage, she invited DJ LMN and DJ Garth, who weren’t able to perform their opening sets due to Alison Wonderland’s tour bus breaking down en route to the venue, to play one song each. In part, this was an excuse for Alison Wonderland to get behind the light board and experiment with the bright strobe and neon lights while her friends enjoyed the attention. She clearly had a blast while she danced around in the sound/light booth before her real work began.

What makes Alison Wonderland so special is her live approach to the EDM genre. She doesn’t just hire a band, she is part of the band. Whether she was introducing herself to the crowd behind a drum kit in a grand entrance or playing the cello center stage to accompany one of many hit songs she played throughout the night, there’s a unique classical element to her otherwise modern bass and EDM sound that’s unmatched in the industry.

The Temple of Wonderland experience is exactly that — an experience. Of course, there’s the visual aspect, a healthy mix of slightly spooky cult vibes, psychedelic churches and lightning flashes amidst heavenly clouds across the massive, stage-wide screen. The true magic lay behind the screen, though — a residency for drummers and a small string section that contributed to every song, creating a unique live element that lived and breathed through Alison Wonderland’s music.

Although this wasn’t Alison Wonderland’s first time headlining Red Rocks, it was clearly still a special moment for her and her team. She devoted all her energy to dancing, jumping and singing throughout the night, rarely staying in place behind her CDJs, and the crowd did the same. Of course, she played her hits like “Church” and “I Want You,” plus tracks off her most recent album, Loner. Thankfully, she also made time to throw in some classic hip-hop flips of iconic tunes like Dead Prez’s “Hip Hop,” and Nikki Manage’s legendary verse on “Monster,” which gave the crowd plenty of opportunity to sing and rap along.

Electronic music doesn’t have to be dedicated entirely to computer-generated sounds. While artists like GRiZ and SoDown bring the saxophone to the party, Alison Wonderland takes a more classical approach, and the effect is endearing and wholly entertaining. The Temple of Wonderland held a beautiful space for creativity in all artistic aspects, turning the crowd into a choir and the rows of Red Rocks into a church pew.

All photography by Kiddest Metaferia