“Is there anything Alison Wonderland can’t do?!”
Those words rang in my head as I watched the latest installment of Temples of Wonderland at Red Rocks. Alison Wonderland — real name Alexandra Margo Sholler — played what she called the wildest show of the series on Friday, October 13th.
Despite taking place on that inauspicious date, the scariest thing about the set was witnessing how talented the Australian artist truly is. Attendees observed Sholler’s skills as she sang, deejayed and danced to tracks she wrote and produced. Also on display were her cello skills, as she wowed fans with a live string intro to her 2018 track “Good Enough.”
Building the Temples of Wonderland
Sholler rekindled an underground warehouse vibe with her Whyte Fang side project, which she recently debuted at Coachella. Denver got its first taste of her darker DJ persona the night before her Red Rocks show at ReelWorks. It was dubbed the Wonderland Warehouse Project, and fans got to experience the house, trap, and techno sounds that adorn the project’s initial release, GENESIS. Sholler also hosted a pop-up shop at Larimer Lounge that she promoted via social media. Ahead of her Whyte Fang show, fans could grab exclusive Alison Wonderland merch items and get free flash tattoos.
Creating an engaging mix for 10,000 rabid fans at the sixth consecutive sold-out edition of a series is daunting. Following up her steaming hot January Icelantic show increased that pressure. Sholler stepped up to the challenge big time! A blend of old and new tracks and live performance elements ensured this would be a memorable night.
Curating Choice Characters
Choosing the right opening acts sets the tone for the headlining set and assures the crowd is engaged. Sometimes, though, last-minute adjustments are necessary.
On the day of the show, fans learned that DJ Hanzel’s performance was no longer in the cards. While this undoubtedly broke some hearts, a fantastic fill-in was announced! None other than Sholler’s self-proclaimed best friend Valentino Khan replaced the satirical artist project. The pair released the track “Anything” together in 2020 and played a B2B set together at Holy Ship! in 2021. Their onstage chemistry was apparent and genuine. With a new lineup in place, fans could go down the rabbit hole of preparing for the night’s festivities.
One of my favorite parts of EDM culture is the lengths fans will go with their outfits. On this chilly October evening, there was a mix of the bundled and brazen. But a common theme among concert-goers was being decked out in fun ‘fits! Some of my faves were faux fur jackets that lit up colorfully, a yellow Teletubby, and a bony-clad bunch who passed out tiny, bendable skeletons instead of kandi.
Warming up the Crowd for Wonderland
Engaging the audience and keeping them dancing are key responsibilities of concert opening acts. On a brisk autumn evening, that task is paramount. Kicking off a hot lineup of eclectic performances were Jon Casey B2B Pauline Herr. While his beats leaned toward techno, Herr’s were definitively dubstep influenced. With both artists performing onstage simultaneously, the B2B format allowed them to feed off each other’s energy.
Onstage next playing a hybrid set was the Australian group Crooked Colours. Originally house party DJs, they evolved to include live elements. Their performance at Temples of Wonderland featured two members of the trio. Playing live drums was Liam Merrett-Park, while Phil Slabber provided a blend of guitar and vocals as he also mixed electronic beats.
With a funky flow and pop sensibilities, the band crossed decades and genres. One song featured an intense intro based on Pink Floyd’s classic “Time” that melted into a smooth island ambiance. Merrett-Park describes their polarity perfectly: “You can listen to it at 3:00 AM when you’re having an absolute rave or sip your morning coffee to it.”
Trekkies and historians alike undoubtedly recognize the last name, and so should fans of EDM! Born and raised in Los Angeles, Valentino Khan is a powerhouse producer and DJ.
Khan brought some of the electrifying visuals and crafty compositions that he’s been displaying on his High Power tour to Red Rocks. Playing on short notice, we didn’t get his real-life Tesla coil, settling for the screen version instead.
He did, however, bring a hard-driving techno set. Fans danced ecstatically along with the slamming bass of the kick drums. A fast, furious remix of “Bulletproof” by La Roux was a crowd favorite. Closing out his performance, Khan played a mix of the track he recorded with Alison Wonderland. He joined her onstage later for a reprise.
Making Magical Moments
From the opening of the headline set, you could sense something special was taking place. With what appeared to be an empty stage, onscreen visuals switched on to display a giant image of Sholler pounding on a large window. In the background, recordings of quotes eerily repeated the phrase Alice in Wonderland. The graphics depicted huge hands uplifting a floating woman’s body as the music reached a fever pitch.
Then, out of nowhere, Sholler appeared onstage. In an Instagram post the next day, she revealed her trickery. She had been onstage during the entire intro, hiding under a black blanket, then shedding it as she ascended the DJ booth platform.
Slight of hand was not the only kind of magic taking place on Friday. With dual drummers on hand to add flair to several songs, this was far more than just a DJ set. The percussionists were set up behind the mixing station on either side of the stage, joining Sholler onstage for a number. With the cello solo and Sholler singing on several songs, those live elements added emotion to the set. They complimented the frequent pyrotechnic displays as well as the astonishing light and screen effects present throughout.
Fans glimpsed the previous night’s industrial, hard-driving performance as alter egos crossed paths. Early in the set, Sholler played the Whyte Fang remix of the Alison Wonderland song “Losing Control” — which fans proceeded to do! Soon after, she treated the audience to her recent single, “Fight or Flight.” As it played, depictions of a chained Sholler wearing a hospital gown and struggling for freedom flashed on the screen.
Gratitude as an Attitude
Achieving growth and moving forward with positivity and hope have been familiar themes in recent Alison Wonderland works. Her album Loner illustrated a breakthrough in mindset as the artist works on her well-being.
Sholler has regularly allowed her music to shine a light on her internal battles. With this record, she also hopes to empower those going through tough times. In an interview with Insomniac, she stated, “I owe it to whoever else is out there who was like me, wishing that they had an album like this to empower them to feel less alone and know that it’s all going to be okay one day.”
Beyond the more positive messaging of her latest album, Sholler also demonstrated gratitude at the show. Displayed on screen were the words, “Thank you to everyone who listens to my music. I could not do this without you.”
Having given birth to her son Max in June of this year with fiancé Ti West, Sholler had far more than career successes to celebrate. She gave him a shout-out near the end of her performance and credited various crew members and her management team who contributed to her hard-fought victories. On that note, thank you for reading!