On Sunday of the Memorial Day Weekend, I packed up my car, turned up the volume, and set off for a long drive from New York to Montreal. My mini music festival vacation was about to begin, but not before I made a stop-over at the legendary Woodstock grounds, for a taste of Mysteryland, the electronic music culture and arts festival. The second edition kicked of a few days prior, with its many attendants camping at the Holy Ground, its lodging options ranging from a DIY setup, to a pre-setup 2-person “Easy Tent” (including the sleeping bags), to the very impressive Bohemian Premium Lodge, catered towards the “nomadic high rollers”, fully equipped with real beds, on-site concierge, lockers, restrooms and exclusive showers!
Arriving at the sacred grounds I was immediately impressed with the civilized check-in process, which included safe police escort, paved parking, and electronically processed wristbands. I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise – the entire area, including the town of Bethel Woods itself, is equipped with proper hosting of many concerts since the original Woodstock. However, Mysteryland is the first festival since 1969, for which the town of Bethel has granted camping permits on the grounds. One must acknowledge the evolution of electronic music festivals, which in my past began with impromptu warehouse raves, dirt-road middle-of-nowhere camping, and nearly-collapsing abandoned tunnels. As much as I cherish those memories, there is no way I would be able to participate in something like that at this stage in my life – but this… this I can definitely get used to!
Entering the festival in its full swing allows one to glimpse its affects expressed in the body language of the attendants. In the past I have witnessed serious fatigue, empty eye sockets, and the pain of the clenched jaw, but at Mysteryland I have seen only smiles. The seemingly younger crowd, dressed to soak up the sun, projected a chilled out vibe, where I felt safe, happy and welcomed. Immediately all of my anxiety associated with the long travel and immense crowds has dissolved and I was able to relax, enjoy the outdoors and immerse myself in all the fantastic art and music.
Speaking of art, there were many outdoor installations and ongoing art projects, including the Image Node – an interactive audiovisual geodesic dome with one can control with a “Magic Hamster Ball”; Incendia – a breathtaking combusting environment of illuminating glow and inverted erupting fire; a Life Size Game Of Mousetrap – a giant Rube Goldberg machine modeled after the 1963 board game; True Mirror Palace – an installation of inverted mirrors reflecting the inverse of our daily observed selves. I also enjoyed watching the people play in the outdoor ball pit, dangle their feet from a giant swing ride, and join in the yoga class.
And of course there was the music. From deep bass drops to the pounding kicks, to the syncopated beats and breaks, one could always find the desired sounds to dance to among the festival’s seven large outdoor (and indoor!) stages. The final night of the festival boasted its headliners which included The Martinez Brothers, Bakermat, Netsky, and Diplo. I found myself gravitating towards the Drumcode stage, where Adam Beyer ravished the crowd with his special flavor of minimal techno. I’ve also enjoyed all the low frequencies unleashed at The Boat bass stage by Etc! Etc!, TJR, Bro Safari and Doctor P.
Overall, I was impressed with the festival organizers, curation of sounds, and more importantly people (around and behind the scenes). Mysteryland gave me a taste of what a larger outdoor event can offer by building on all of the past and opening up into inevitably bright future. The bottom line is that I really enjoyed my time, and will without a doubt attend again next year. Perhaps this time I’ll come for the full lineup, relaxing in one of those premium lodgings, and doing it up in style. See you in 2016!
Words by HC