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Fest Raiders: Mysteryland – We Are No Longer the Counter Culture

I have been working for the better part of a week trying to figure out the best way to review the 3 magical days of Mysteryland. Any time I started to take one route I felt like I was going to leave out some important detail about how special the weekend truly was. It was more than just a fun music festival, a demonstration of PLUR culture, or even an attempt at recreating Woodstock 69. Don't get me wrong, Mysteryland definitely was a little bit each of those things but more so it was a realization that we as the electronic music generation have succeed. We are no longer a counter culture, we are no longer the scene that only 9 months ago was looked down upon for tragic drug overdoses and gross misbehavior, we have made our mark in history, and Mysteryland made it clear that it is a positive one. Before going any further I want to take the time to applaud everyone who went out to enjoy a music festival this Memorial Day weekend. At both Mysteryland and Electric Daisy Carnival in New York City, not a single person died, and in fact both events had incredibly low arrest and EMT incidents as well. The electronic music culture has started to strongly believe in and practice personal responsibility as well as taking care of its fellow members and regardless of which event you attended that is commendable. Before diving into my personal experience at Mysteryland I want to say that while the amazing music, stages, light shows, and environment made the festival amazing, it was truly the people I was fortunate enough to meet that gave me hope in where we are going as a generation. Of course there were some flaws, which I will discuss, but on a large scale Mysteryland was a huge success at recreating and dare I say topping (in it's own special way) the three days of peace, love and music, that was celebrated at Bethel Woods 45 years ago.

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Friday

I arrived to the festival grounds early on Friday morning as I was camping in the Holy Grounds. I was among the first 50 cars to pull up in the field, and the atmosphere was electric. Everyone got out of their cars, stretching and looking upwards hoping that the semi-ominous weather would hold until at least camp was set up. Security was strict and intense, and for good reason. The staff ran drug dogs through every single car as some attendees decided to take advantage of amnesty bins that were provided for either drugs or other legally questionable items people tried to sneak in. After having an adorable German Shepard mix try to signal that there were narcotics in my trunk (something I found hilarious as I have been sober for quite some time) I cleared security. After parking and unloading the car, the most difficult part of the weekend ensued. It was a mile trek from the parking lot to camp site, with three separate security check points and no reentry. Not thinking ahead I did not bring anything with wheels so carrying well over 300lbs of awkward camping equipment among two people over a mile was tolling.

Me completely defeated

Me completely defeated

The annoyances of the hike brought with it an unexpectedly positive consequence though. Kind of like how a pledge class bonds together over upper classmen hazing them, I made some awesome friends through the tumultuous journey. I met four awesome guys who had driven 12 hours straight from South Carolina and ended up camping with them the entire weekend. After passing security and setting up camp it was time to explore the grounds and relax until Nick Romero's Protocol Reboot Records Reboot Party Started that evening at at 6. I was able to catch up with a marketing executive for ID&T at this time who explained some of the difficulties involved with getting the festival ready, the most serious one being that in the 48 hours previous to the festival opening Bethel Woods experienced the hardest continuous rain fall it had gotten in 7 years. Among other things the crew had a wire snap which created difficulties at will call, but in true Mysteryland fashion they worked hard to rectify the situations with optimistic outlooks. The campgrounds were sloppy and muddy already, something that was unavoidable but only to get worse. The showers and toilets were in a central location and the food and merchandise vendors were set about a quarter of a mile down the road from the camp grounds. I walked around and talked to several people about their experience setting up and the general consensus was that “it was a bitch”, but they understood why it needed to be that way. This was an attitude I was not expecting, barely anyone whined about the situation, everyone was just happy to be there and be part of what was about to happen, and man was that attitude infectious.

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Nicky Romero's Protocol Reboot Party kicked off at 6pm and went until 2am. John Dahlback played a fun energetic set and Don Diablo kept the energy flowing. Unfortunately, in my opinion the closing sets of the night lacked the same enthusiasm and originality. Tritonal closed out the night by announcing that “They are Tritonal” over just about every single song, and played a set that seemed to be very reminiscent of what their openers collectively played before them. After the reboot party and checking out the funky deep/tech beats of an alternative Van/Stage called Bang On! NYC, I returned to camp to get some sleep as in the morning it was time to finally enter the festival grounds.

Saturday

I was awoken around 11am by a collective cheer of the entire camp grounds. I poked my head out of my tent to realize that it was because of the sun finally was breaking through the clouds. I got dressed and brushed my teeth and walked over to get some breakfast to realize that the widely advertised cashless system was well not working…and the vendors were only taking cash…something most people neglected to bring as it was hailed as a CASHLESS FESTIVAL. So this was a frustrating part of the weekend, but I can't complain as in only a few hours the system was up and running and the wristband debit system did not have another problem for the rest of the weekend. I finally got into the festival grounds after a brief security checkpoint and was met with a giant steep hill, that at the time did not seem like a problem (looking back I still wonder when my shin splints will heal..). I quickly ran over to see Oliver Heldens taking command of the main stage in spectacular fashion, and that's when I realized that the house of cards design was even more incredible in person than its artistic rendition.

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After Oliver Heldens finished up his wonderfully deep and funky endeavor the Sick Individuals came out and really got the crowd going. After about 30 minutes I wandered over to The Boat to see Let's Be Friends who were already in total domination. I personally have never seen the genre bending duo live before and wow was I blown away. I mean these guys were NON STOP and the crowd loved every second of it. A serious treat for a set so early on in the day. After their set finished up I had a series of interviews that I needed to conduct, and was busy with them up until Fedde's set at 6:30. Look for The Mysteryland Interviews coming this weekend, as I sat down with Fedde Le Grand, Big Gigantic, Let's Be Friends, Sick Individuals and Stana over the weekend. Before heading over to the mainstage to see Fedde I was able to ask the legend himself how he would sum up the set he was about to play…his response?

RAW FUCKING ENERGY

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And honestly…I don't think I could have put it better myself. After Fedde finished up an electric set which he closed with his incredible Michael Jackson remix, I made my way over to Seth Troxler's Visionquest in the hot box traveling-carnival-esque stage, the Spiegeltent. When I say hot box I mean it, like it could have rained in there the humidity got so high from human sweat. That being said the heat just added to the deep rhythms that Seth and friends were laying down. The few hours that were spent slowly moving and bobbing to the beats seemed to melt away into a realm that was somewhere between reality and wonderland. After hearing Coone was unable to make it at the Q-dance tent I journeyed over to the Vinyl Only stage to see my home town Philly boy Josh Wink spin his signature sound before heading back over to hear Big Gigantic bring down The Boat stage as the closing act. Big G was breath taking, they commanded respect as they pushed the audience into overdrive as the first night wrapped up. We ventured over to the main stage just as Steve Aoki ended to see the first nights end show complete with fireworks.

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Sunday

I woke up around noon on Sunday. It was bizarrely hot as I had already come to terms with that the weekend was going to be chilly and drizzly. Well I was wrong, blue skies and smiling faces. That is until I walked by the showers as I saw a lot of frowns there. Apparently there was no where near enough showers, personally I opted for baby wipes and shampooing and rinsing my hair with a bottle of water, so I was able to avoid that mess. I hit the festival right as the gates opened at 1 pm and immediately started to explore the food festival that I had neglected the previous day. Buffalo Wings, specialty corn dogs, and general tsao chicken nuggets were among my culinary endeavors of the day. Wow, they were all really freaking good too. After eating an unadvised amount of generally heavy food, I crawled my way to the main stage to see The Chainsmokers. The recently controversial duo played a fun and dynamic set, they definitely surpassed my expectations but I am also a sucker for Botnek's remix of ‘#Seflie'.

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After about half of The Chainsmokers set, I visited the Q-dance stage to see Stana throw down his unique brand of hard dance. It was truly one of the best sets of the weekend. So original and unique for a hard dance stage. He played to a smaller crowd but anyone who was there can attest to the fact that he is not to be missed at any festivals this summer. I then meandered over to ceremony field to hear Moby's lecture on Music and Healing Properties of it on the Brain. The lecture was incredible as Moby explained his own experience overcoming drugs and alcohol through using musical therapy as well as recent studies on its effectiveness as a therapy for autism. It was then time to hike back up that monster hill that now seemed at least twice as high as the first day to The Boat for Crizzly, where I ran into some of the OWSLA guys backstage.

Moby's Lecture

Moby's Lecture

Milo and Otis Enjoying Crizzly on the Boat

Milo and Otis Enjoying Crizzly on the Boat

Crizzly commanding the crowd

Crizzly commanding the crowd

I stopped by the Speigel Tent to see Pete Tong for a bit before making my way to Dillon Francis at the main stage. I had never seen Dillon live before and honestly am not the biggest fan of bass oriented music but holy crap he threw down. In my opinion his set was only topped by what was about to come next, Moby. Moby took the stage and like the bona fide legend that he is played one of the most incredible sets of live music I have ever witnessed. He took us on a journey from acid, to trance, to bass and back. He even played a good bit into Dimtri Vegas and Like Mike's set time which I did not complain about. When Dimtri Vegas and Like Mike took the stage the crowd reacted accordingly. The big room explosive duo played out every main stage anthem one could think of and without a doubt the masses jumped along with the beat.

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I spent the vast majority of DVLM's set over at the Q-dance stage getting into the hardcore rhythms of Evil Activities. The crowd was one of the best I saw all weekend, as they shuffled accordingly to the ever increasing BPM that flowed out of the speakers and shook the tent. After EA finished up there was only one more act to see.

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Kaskade to close down the main stage. In a bittersweet but incredible set Kaskade played to crowd as he bootlegged many of his biggest hits into the current festival anthems. The set was high energy, melodic and the perfect way to bring everyone down to earth. Just as his set ended though, the end show started that defied all words…

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Monday

I woke up early on Monday and broke down the camp site and made my way to my car. The trip back to the parking lot, though just as long seemed shorter in the worst possible way. I wanted so badly to not have to get back into my old Toyota and leave the wonderland that became home in a short 72 hours. Driving back to Scranton I thought about a lot of things like how incredible it was that Rolling Stone was now covering festivals like Mysteryland, even if I overheard them say “That Q-dance tent scared us”. Also how special it was that I saw all walks of life come together at Mysteryland…20,000 people from 27 countries, young kids like myself to old hippies trying to recapture what they experienced 45 years ago at the same spot, Kandi Kids to skinny jean totting hipsters. It did not matter who you were outside of wonderland, because once you entered the holy grounds you became a member of the electronic music generation, one that I can say after this past weekend I am proud to be a member of. We have turned to tides of mainstream opinion and become a responsible, active part of society. Mysteryland was not perfect but it cemented the legacy that we are here to stay, that there is no EDM ‘bubble', and most of all that we will be remembered. Mysteryland has a 3 year contract with Bethel Woods, so it will be a truly special thing to be a part of and see how the event grows and develops in the coming years. Thank you to ID&T, SFX, Plexi PR, Get In PR, Infamous PR, and everyone who worked together to make this weekend one that will go down in history.

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Thanks for Reading. Hope to See You Next Year

Thanks for Reading. Hope to See You Next Year

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