It seems weird to think that Mysteryland USA was over a month ago. The festival was held at Bethel Woods on the unofficial start of Summer, Memorial Day weekend. It was the first festival to be held at Bethel since the legendary 3 days of peace, love and music that was Woodstock '69. During the lead up to the event, while it took place and especially after there was a lot of talk that Mysteryland set itself apart from the other summer music festivals. Having attended I can say that Mysteryland was special. Maybe it was because of the Holy Grounds the festival took place on, maybe it was because of the legacy that ML carries as the longest running Electronic Music Festival in the world, or maybe it was the people and interactions I shared. Well as Mysteryland attracted some of the biggest names in the industry we thought to keep the peace love and music going even a month after the fact with sharing the artists perspective on the festival and what it means for EDM moving forward in America. Their answers might just surprise you.
Big Gigantic is the authority on electronic funk and soul. The duo based out of Colorado have incorporated live instruments into their music making for an incredible live performance as well as a signature sound. The duo seems like a match made in heaven and honestly the universe clearly agreed as it brought them together:
Dom – We met through the Colorado music scene. We were both just playing in electronic funk bands and jazz bands and basically just met through that.
Jeremy – We were also roommates too…
It was the Colorado natives first time playing Mysteryland as they never attended the Holland version of the event, so their Mysteryland experience was as new as most of the attendees. That being said Big Gigantic are no strangers to the festival scene. Dominic explained with fond recollection the moment when they realized they were blowing up.
We did Camp Bisco up here [upstate new york] in 2012 and Wu-Tang was late. So the side stage was just like ‘keep playing…KEEP PLAYING!'. So we just ended up playing for like tons of people, and we didn't even have booking agents at this point. But there was a new york agent guy there too see us, and then after that we got a booking agent. I feel like that happened then we really started to take off.
So while Big G has toured the nation to perform at festivals from Coachella to Lolla they had to agree that Mysteryland USA was special for several reasons.
Jeremy – Obviously the big thing is that nobody has had a festival here since Woodstock, so that is something really special. Then there is that- just bringing the kind of concept from across the sea over here is just something different from what were used to, whether it be a Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza or whatever. They [ID&T] spent just so much attention to detail on the stages. Like we are playing on a freaking pirate ship.
Dom – I have never played on a pirate ship before haha.
Jeremy – And yeah with all this rain it might just end up floating away ark style haha! But yeah, we are really pumped from the vibes here though and to see theentire experience for fans.
The guys related the dance music movement to that of hip-hop and rap when it was first getting put on a national stage. They believe that it is only the beginning and that the movement will only continued to be legitimized and grow out of a counter-culture into a culture that is accepted by society and positive and good.
Lets Be Friends
Let's Be Friends is probably the least known name in this article, but that is going to change very soon. This duo of international cohorts designed the theme for Mysteryland USA and threw down one of the most incredible sets of the entire weekend. Their music is a mix of raw energy and several different styles. A ideology that is expressed through their unique artist name.
Jonney: We had been working together for years producing music and we had this grand image of multiple genres having a good time; non-specific, everything in one pot. We discovered that idea with the music and first few tracks and realized that we needed a name to make people feel this as well! We wanted something not genre specific, not underground, not mainstream but just a phrase. I'm quite happy with it but never planned it to be so…profound haha.
The guys actually met through the underground trance scene. Which was surprising as their latest music has not been very trance oriented. But it goes to show that embodying diversity in ones music can have some seriously amazing outcomes. Kind of like how Mysteryland embodied diversity through their festival and created something so much larger than just another summer event.
Jonney: I think what makes it special is a history of taking strangers and making them friends. Of being an individuals amongst individuals and celebrating that idea, which is quite weird, as you are not conforming, but at the same time sharing an idea. It is so much of what happened here in the past and what is continued here this weekend: People come to this sacred spot to celebrate individuality as a group. To come here and do the same Job that the artists did here in 1969 and stand in the same ground and represent the same message is almost to say, ‘Wheres EDM now!?' We are all human beings on this world and come together to be reminded we have so much in common. And thats the party here.
It is hearing a perspective like this that not only changes how you look at a music festival but changes how you look at the entirety of EDM. Let's Be Friends were not only able to put into words what makes Mysteryland so special but go a step further and put that idea into music…and that is something just as different and amazing as Mysteryland USA itself.
These guys have had an incredible year. Their smash hit ‘I Am' with Axwell solidified them as serious players in the dance music landscape. Though the pair has done so much more than just one big hit. The Sick Individuals have worked hard to develop a sound that is both intense and emotional, something many artists fail to do in the creative process. That is what makes this duo of rising stars special…they have the talent to succeed where others burn out. The only real mystery behind these guys, is well…the interesting name.
Ray: We started out playing a lot of small parties and little local venues, and our MC would always shout into the Mic, ‘These guys are SICK! These guys are some SICK INDIVIDUALS'. So i thats kind of how the name came about. People just kept calling us ‘sick' and over time it just stuck!
The Sick Individuals are no strangers to Mysteryland having grown up and lived in Holland. They have been exposed to the magic of the festival long before it made its way over to America. This has given them some more educated and concrete reasons why Mysteryland USA has been viewed as something out of the ordinary.
Jim: Well we have known Mysteryland for a very long time from playing in Holland. What makes its special is having it held in such a large area so you can have different sounds playing in different areas. […] There is always a mix of older people and younger people as well as groups of friends who go together. Some go to the hardstyle area while others go to another and they are able to enjoy so many different kinds of music throughout the day. We have not seen a layout with several divisional stages, each with a unique sound to explore that much in the US.
The guys also took their experience from the European scene and had some insight on how they think the dance music culture will expand in the coming years in the states. While they think that EDM is not going to die down, they believe some more relaxed styles might take the forefront over the big room drops and bass that is popular right now.
Jim: I think its [EDM] going to be a lot bigger. Look at Martin Garrix and what is happening to him, hes a great example of how fast it can go. Now everyone is jumping on the harder, even hardstyle like drop, but the public's taste is expanding into tech house and other areas as well.
Ray: From watching it grow in Holland over the last 15 years, I am sure it will just naturally keep growing,. What we see are in Holland are a lot of festivals being declared strictly techno or tech house and they are really popular. So as dance music gets that big in America people are able to see what sound they like the most.
This man needs no introduction. He is a legend in the dance music world and no stranger to Mysteryland or any other major dance music festival. One of the many reasons Fedde has become such a household name is his involvement with the traveling festival Sensation. His experience with both Sensation and Mysteryland has given him some insight into what attracts such a large crowd to both events.
The thing with both [Sensation and Mysteryland] is that they have their own message, which goes beyond ‘buy tickets and have fun'. Mysteryland also tries to create a bit of awareness, which I think is very cool. So with that in addition to these grounds makes for something very special. In both parties they try to suck you into a different world, create a healthy escape from reality. Mysteryland being an outside festival compared to Sensation which is inside makes a bit of a difference. Sensation switches themes every time but Mysteryland is consistent with its kind of dreamy, nature oriented, story book world. People love escaping into the different themes together, that is how they are similar.
Most artists believe that dance music is just taking off in America and are excited to see what it is going to grow into. Fedde had a unique outlook on the entire situation, one that initially sounded negative but in fact was just informed and intelligent.
I mean I think its actually going to level out a good bit. There is just so much going on, and it ends up with several events just not filling out. It might sound negative but actually it slowing down is good. With less competitors it allows festivals to step up their game and make it more interesting and not only in terms of music but also make the experience more interesting. It will probably take one or two more years but you will kind of get this natural selection in which the lesser acts will disappear and the ones that deserve to stay, will, which I think is a good thing. That being said a bit of competition is a good thing as it makes everyone better.
Fedde hinted a very big year in terms of new music and even a collaboration with ‘a very big english artist'. He declined to say anything more about the collaboration but was clear that he was going to focus more on producing for the remainder of 2014 rather than touring.
So there you have it. Some of the biggest names to perform over Memorial Day weekend at the Holy Grounds and their perspective on what makes Mysteryland USA stand apart as well as their views of the expansion of EDM in America. Personally I am counting down the days until we can all return to Bethel to enjoy the several different styles of music, escape from reality and celebrate of individuality all as one.