[FESTIVAL RECAP] Top 10 Reasons Mysteryland USA Peacefully Kicked Ass
With so many festivals permeating the US music scene nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to sort through the clutter to find the one that satisfies you on multiple levels. Sure, the music will be good (for the most part), but with the level of production and preparation going into some of these mega-fests, increasingly audiences are expecting more and more from their events. And it’s exactly productions like Mysteryland USA that live up to the high standards now asked of festivals.
This year, Mysteryland USA took place over Memorial Day weekend on the infamous Woodstock ’69 grounds, situated in the beautiful hills of Bethel, NY, creating a magical atmosphere of love, history, culture and music. But when you already have some of the biggest names in dance music gracing your stages, it’s time to focus on what else you can do better – and in the case of Mysteryland, they got it just about perfect. So without further adieu, we present our top 10 reasons why Mysteryland USA 2014 kicked peaceful ass, and why you should already be making plans to attend next year.
10. It’s a 21+ festival.
Sorry underage readers, but the 21 and up festivals are definitely a better experience. Don’t worry, you’ll understand when you grow up. Maybe it’s due to the fact that the majority of people can compose themselves better while on various ‘supplements’ or maybe it’s due to their more refined taste in music and conversation, but like a good wine, I like my festivals aged. The crowds are a bit less hectic and the overall atmosphere seems more inviting, which is due in large part to #9…
All walks of life, places of origin, and backgrounds were embraced at Mysteryland, and as varied as the characters were the stories behind them. The festival brought a unique blend of cultures together, meshing the peaceful, hippie vibes with a modern electronic flair. More than once I saw people go out of their way to help one another, and it really brought home the meaning that music can be the great unifier. Mysteryland USA was like the perfect girl to me: able to dance, go wild and have a good time, and at the same time able to chill, relax and just take in the moment (perhaps over a bowl or two).
No, there wasn’t really a fashion show, but EDM-Hippie would have made the perfect theme for the weekend if there was. Woodstock may have taken place 45 years ago, but it was alive and thriving in the atmosphere, as well as the fashion, at Mysteryland. From glitter with peace-sign glasses, to bandanas, kandi bracelets, tie-die and neon, it was a full on mashup of the generational fashion statements. Both ends of the spectrum were represented over the 3-day weekend as there was no lack of costuming, ranging from the ever-popular unicorn/horse masks to the more retro, ’60’s hippy vibe. Whatever your preference, Mysteryland USA was a place where you could let your freak flag fly.
In true integrated form, Mysteryland USA has embraced the idea of art and music coming together to create a unique environment and space for the festival grounds. The live art installations are especially captivating as you are taking part in the creation of that piece of work in that moment in time, simultaneously providing and receiving inspiration through the artists’ perspective. From the money tree pictured above to mermaid mannequin sculptures, luminescent wishing trees, giant TVs, and performance art, the abundance of creativity at Mysteryland added another layer of intrigue to lose yourself in.
As one of my fellow bloggers put it, Mysteryland USA’s lineup was more of an education in music than a star-studded lineup. Of course, the main stage boasted some of the world’s biggest names, but it did so in a way that introduced multiple genres of music to a single audience. Steve Aoki‘s wild, cake-throwing antics abounded Saturday night as he catered to multiple generations, mixing together tracks like “Boom Boom Boom (Everybody Say Hey Yo)” into Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” into “Boneless”. The always beautiful NERVO twins boasted a massive, festival-perfect set that made me fall even deeper in love. Even the sounds of hardstyle made it to the main stage, introducing many people to another side of the EDM spectrum.
At the Pirate Ship, bass heavy bangers blasted through the speakers as standout performances included S&S favorite, Sound Remedy playing to a packed day crowd while slanging Grey Goose. Big Gigantic, whom we had the opportunity to interview earlier on Saturday, threw down hit after hit from their discography while the combination of Dillon Francis and Flosstradamus (Dillstradamus) had me pulling off some dance moves I didn’t know I had.
And let’s not forget about the Sunday School Tents, preaching the good news of refined dance music to the masses. Bringing a deeper, at times underground sound for the older crowd, old school players such as Pete Tong, Seth Troxler, FEHRPLAY, Jeremey Olander, and Pan Pot kept the people vibing long into the night.
On a side note, one of my favorite moments of the festival was walking up to Dirtyphonics‘ performance as they dropped a slowburning, bass heavy remix of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze”. While they weren’t the only group to pay tribute to Woodstock’s musical era, it stood out as one of the cooler sonic experiences of the weekend.
This article would not be complete without a shout out to Rekorderlig Cider. Not only did they supply the media with all the cider we could drink throughout the weekend – which we proceeded to stash in our bags for easy access – they took us up in their giant hot air balloon. Any company that pops my hot air balloon cherry automatically gets praise in my book, as we soared a hundred feet in the air overlooking the expansive grounds. High winds and weather kept the balloon from operating all weekend, but just having the chance to get a lifted view of the festival only made the weekend sweeter.
Shit, Saturday night got chilly. After the brief rains and clouds passed, the sun warmed the grounds briefly before nightfall. But as you can imagine, those temps drop pretty fast in the middle of nowhere, New York. Thank God for the loving and warm embrace of the Spiegeltent – a saloon-turned-circus tent that harbored the humid air of hundreds of dancers in it’s belly. More than once we found ourselves vibing away to the deep sounds found within, as Seth Troxler and the VisionQuest crew threw a proper late night party that kept us from freezing our ass off outside.
For the die hard live music fans, it just doesn’t get any better than Bethel Woods. Perhaps the epitome of live music festivals, Woodstock ’69 continues to be touted as one of the greatest festivals ever held, and anyone who stepped foot on the grounds for Mysteryland USA could feel the energy saturating the air. Driving in on the same road that, 45 years earlier, had been gridlocked with traffic and dancing in the same bowl where people witnesses Jimi Hendrix light his guitar on fire was almost an ethereal experience. For me, it was a musical Mecca – a journey to be a part of the larger musical history that surrounds our culture and embodies it’s spirit.
No festival would be complete if it didn’t send it’s attendees back to the real world with a sense of wonder and awe. Of course, there’s no better way to do this then make sure the last thing the audience experiences is nothing short of mind blowing. Fireworks, flames, dancers and heart-pounding music coalesced into the grand finale of Mysteryland USA, leaving the crowd breathless. As the house of cards main stage digitally burnt down in flames, the speakers pumped mixes of “Smack Your Bitch Up” and “Addicted To You”, lighting the sky with thunderclaps of fire and sparks. It was truly a perfect ending to an absolutely amazing experience.
I also want to give a special shout out to Plexi PR and the the media treatment. Mysteryland USA provided an excellent stomping grounds for press and performers to mingle, network and begin, or continue, relationships. With a grass ampitheather spattered with swinging chairs, gazebos, and wi-fi (not to mention catered food and drink!), the media area was the best I’ve ever seen. Mysteryland USA and ID&T Productions know how to put on a festival, and other events should take note as together, they made Memorial Day weekend an experience to truly remember.
Check out our unofficial Mysteryland USA video recap below.
Filmed and edited by: Seth Bunting