In general, Insomniac does a great job of encouraging its attendees to be creative. Between kandi, totems, costumes, glow gear, and flow arts, it’s legitimately awesome that we can bring nearly anything we want out to rave.
With that said, I’m a glover, and at Nocturnal Wonderland this year we got the short end of the stick. Something needs to be said about the way we were treated.
Before I get into it, I have to state the obvious. LED Gloves are not allowed at Insomniac events. This policy has been in place since 2011. However, most of the time, security inside the event is lax about it. This set the stage for a particularly shocking Nocturnal experience that resulted in violence and corruption among security.
The gloving ban has never been enforced as harshly as it was at Nocturnal. Based on the stories I’ve collected from the gloving community, the message Insomniac is sending us sounds something like this: If you’ve successfully snuck your gloves in, sometimes you’ll be able to use them. But those other times, we will straight up take them from you. And if you run, we’ll use physical force to catch you. Finally, if you bribe us, you just might get your lights back.
I know, it’s a lot to take in. Here’s how it went down.
Glovers were out in full force on Friday, with light shows being thrown at every stage I went to. We were everywhere. But starting Saturday, security went from zero to hero, and before you could blink, the light shows were over. The rest of the weekend belonged to hoopers, poi spinners and orbiters.
How did this happen?
The most common story I heard from glovers was that security confiscated their lights, which brings up the first problem: that is illegal. A venue cannot confiscate an item that doesn’t break the law, even if it is against the event’s policy. If the guest refuses to give up a legal item, that is their right. The most security can do is escort the him or her out of the venue.
One of the most awful stories that came out of this was from one glover who got caught, apologized for gloving and agreed to be escorted out of the venue rather than give up his lights. It was about 1 a.m. on the last day so he was ready to leave anyway. He asked the guard if he could go tell his girlfriend what was going on, and the guard said okay. But as he was leaving, a second guard saw him and immediately put him in a headlock. He was then aggressively handcuffed and escorted out of the venue before he could reach his girlfriend.
The first guard did nothing to stop this. After being fully compliant, this unnecessary headlock left him with bruising around his neck and throat.
Now, in all fairness, not every guard took this extreme of measures. Some glovers were simply told to stop and given a warning. Some guards made the effort to show glovers the list of banned items as a way of informing them (kudos to those guys). But everyone else was just shocked at the intensity of the situation, hearing about lights being taken and people being kicked out left and right.
Then there was bribing.
When some guards realized that glovers would pay good money to get their confiscated lights back, they accepted bribes and returned them. This not only led to a corrupt and untrustworthy security force, but it also opened the door for some non-PLUR Nocturnal attendees to walk around pretending to be “security” and confiscating lights, demanding cash for their return. Yes, that happened.
Other stories trickled my way, too.
Two big-name glovers were kicked out of the festival for gloving, but then they simply bought new tickets and were readmitted. In effect, they were basically fined a few hundred bucks for performing their art at the highest level. I doubt this is the message Insomniac intended to send.
Other glovers reported being chased down after running, being laid on the ground and cuffed, and being searched thoroughly multiple times. I would never advise running, but the fact that it got to that point showed a clear lack of understanding between security and attendees.
So, what does this all mean?
To me, it means that even though most glovers know the gloving policy, the enforcement of it has been anything but consistent. I was saddened to see so many victims of this sudden shift, especially at a festival that had so many good vibes going for it.
I want to return to Nocturnal and other Insomniac events, but I am afraid. I’m afraid because even though I have always been aware of the gloving policy, I cannot predict how it will be enforced. Even if I choose not to glove, there will still be members of my community who don’t know that they need to be cautious. In the past, it has been accepted, even celebrated by guests and staff alike, despite the rules. I fear for them.
So, what’s a festival to do about it?
Clearly there is a demand for light shows from glovers and non-glovers alike. So what about the idea of a designated light show area? Keep it away from the main stages and localize it to a fun, controlled space. We could host a sponsored area near a stage for people to hang out, meet their favorite glovers and flow performers and perform light shows.
This “Flow Garden” idea has been done for years at festivals like Burning Man and Lightning in a Bottle. With the explosion of flow arts in EDM, Insomniac can either continue its ban and keep encountering these security issues, or embrace the arts and actually control it on their terms.
I am all for any kind of compromise that maintains the authentic rave culture that gloving and light shows represent. Anything that keeps glovers gloving and out of trouble.