There is something magical about the festival grounds in Bethel Woods, NY. They hold a special place in the history of music, the history of our culture, and the hearts of anyone who has stepped foot on the land. If you are not familiar with the name Bethel Woods, perhaps you are familiar with the 400,000 people it attracted for 3 days of peace and music, Woodstock.
As soon the festival gates were behind me and I moved forward into the campground, I could feel the thickness of the energy and anticipation in the air. It was Friday afternoon, and a village of tents was slowly being erected to house the community that was convening for the 3rd annual Mysteryland, US. Beginning in the Netherlands in 1993, it has since expanded to Chile in 2011 and the US in 2013, bringing together both powerhouse international acts and rising local stars.
At Mysteryland, there is so much to do at any given time. There is music at 5 different stages plus a late night silent disco, comedy shows, yoga sessions, art installations, speed dating, carnival games, speakers, endless things to eat, and of course amazing people to meet. Part of what I discovered about Mysteryland which has truly fascinated me is the strength of the community that has been created. I have been to many festivals, but Mysteryland attracts an audience of genuinely authentic people who come back year after year to not only hear the music, but spend time with the countless people they met the year before. It seemed like everyone I spoke with had been there all 3 years and would continue to attend for the foreseeable future. It wasn’t just about the music, it was about the community.
With music playing from 2 in the afternoon until 5 in the morning each day, there was certainly no shortage of artists to hear. After the festival, there wasn’t a single set that disappointed me and many sets which went above and beyond my expectations. I could talk about them all in vivid detail, but I’ll spare you and focus on my 2 personal favorites from each day.
Day 1: Friday
At the start of the day my intention was to make it over to DJ Schoolboy, but another artist continued to pop up in conversation and draw me in. This artist is REZZ. Before the start of her set, I didn’t know much about who REZZ was or the style of music she made, but I decided to check out her set nonetheless. I wasn’t disappointed. She came out on stage rocking a pair of LED glasses, unlike anything I had seen before. They flashed on and off, left and right, up and down, forming and changing patterns that transfixed me. Her mix quickly got the crowd in a head-banging trance, building in intensity song after song. If I could describe the style, I would say it was a mix of dub, electronic and techno. Halfway through the set, the glasses came off and she revealed her eyes for the first time. By the end of her set, I found myself needing more. So after the festival, I went to her soundcloud and promptly made some downloads and purchases to fill my iTunes (yes I still use iTunes). REZZ will be on my radar for the months to come, and I look forward to any music she puts out in the future.
Aaron Carmack AKA Mr. Carmack never ceases to amaze. From intimate venues to prime spots at festival main stages, his sets work the crowd into a frenzy with his insatiable melodic trap beats. He opened his set with Jimi Hendrix’s famous electric guitar rendition of the national anthem, not without his own distortions and effects. The power of this song had a profound effect on the crowd and lulled them reflection on the great events which happened right where they were standing. Carmack then exploded into the rest of his set, playing some of his best originals and remixes like Pay For What, Dance On Me and Drinks on Us. Each song was laid on top of the next like it was nothing. when he put together his charge remix with Young Thugs “Best Friend” the crowd absolutely lost it. Overall, Carmack played the perfect set, moving between genres and setting the stage for Gesaffelstein’s techno takeover.
Day 2: Saturday
The Floozies are bringing the funk back to electronic music. I’ve been following their music for a while, and they’ve managed to perfect their own style and bring a new flavor back to dance music. I was extremely excited for their set, and disappointed that I allowed myself to get there late. Regardless, when I arrived the crowd was getting the funk down to the blend of live instrumentation and DJing that The Floozies offer. With Matt on guitar and Mark on the drums, the two brothers worked seamlessly together to give the people exactly what they wanted, something funky to dance to. I’ve talked to countless people who claimed that the Floozies performed the best set of the weekend, hands down. Next to names like Bassnectar, Skrillex, Odesza, and more, that’s saying something. For all you Coloradans out there, I highly recommend you make it to their headlining show at Red Rocks this summer.
G Jones was spectacular. Performing at the boat stage just as the sun was setting, the beautiful sky and his selection of songs left an imprint of his set in my mind. Each song got wilder than the next, with the bulk of music taking the form of experimental trap bangers. From the front row of the crowd the wall of bass was unrelenting, and everyone loved it. He played a plethora of unreleased solo tunes and collaborations with his friends, like EPROM, Minnesota, Bleep Bloop and more. Towards the end of his set he gave a shoutout to the huge crowd that had assembled for him instead of the Chainsmokers and their support of underground music. As his set came to a close and Emancipator took the stage, much of the crowd dispersed to deal with the bass overload they had just been a part of.
Day 3: Sunday
Mija’s set was extraordinary to me because of the way she took the crowd on a journey from genre to genre. Warming us up with fifteen minutes of deep house, the crowd had loosened their legs and was ready to get into something a little heavier. Mija could tell, and soon moved from deep house to dubstep to trap to everywhere in between. You see the intense focus on her face as she played with her CDJ’s, occasionally enjoying a cigarette but never losing the beat. Unlike many of the other acts at Mysteryland, Mija is primarily a DJ and doesn’t produce much. This frees her from the constraints of only playing her own music and allows her to dive deep into the crates and see what the audience wants. Her technical skill allows her play with tempos, samples, effects, loops and acapella’s to create a truly unique set that is never the same. More DJ’s should be watching Mija, cause this girl is killin it.
It is difficult to experience a Bassnectar show and not be completely blow away by it. Before the set, the anticipation builds as engineers make sure everything is perfect with his equipment, and then Lorin takes the stage. Shrouded in darkness and cloaked by his signature long hair, the crowd erupts before a single sound is played. His mixer, laptops, and controllers sit menacingly on the stage, waiting to surge to life and take the crowd by storm. Suddenly the stage illuminates and the show begins, moving in an arc of sonic mastery. Lorin tells a story with his set, fluctuating in emotion and intensity to convey a message that each member of the audience may interpret differently. His fans are more than just fans, they are a committed community who obsess over his music, covered in merchandise and waving homemade Bassnectar flags. Every now and again he addresses the crowd. You can tell that he has a genuine love for all the people there and is one of the most humble performs I’ve ever seen. You can just see it in the way he moves and speaks. He thanks everyone for making it out and knows that much of the audience will be following him around the country as he does his summer tour. Even while he speaks, he keeps a low bass humming like an engine, keeping the entire crowd on edge. It was an incredible time to see a Bassnectar show because it coincided with the release of his newest album, Unlimited. Hearing Reaching Out sent goosebumps up my entire body, and Paracosm sent me into a rhythmic seizure. By the end of the show, I was exhausted and waiting for more. Bassnectar has truly earned his fame.
Monday morning came and the entire campsite was in a post festival funk, grudgingly packing up tents and getting ready to hit reality. Hosted on the former Woodstock grounds, Mysteryland has a grand reputation to live up to. While it may never reach the same status as Woodstock, it was successful in bringing together people from all walks of life in pursuit of 3 days of peace and music. Goodbye Mysteryland, until next year.
Thanks to DStath Photography for a few pics: https://www.facebook.com/dstathphotography/
For the official recap, go to http://www.mysteryland.us/en/