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Mysteryland USA 2015: When A Festival Becomes a Community

For this review, two different authors contributed. Erik our Vice President covered Friday and Saturday. Meagen one of our staff writers covered Sunday. Here is our take on the second installment of Mysteryland USA

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Erik, Vice President: Friday & Saturday

They say that lighting doesn't strike twice. Well Mysteryland USA, held at Bethel Woods has done an excellent Job at disproving this theory. To start off this edition of FestRaiders, and review of the festival, it is necessary to say that this years Mysteryland USA was incredible. Starting a new festival in this day and age is a difficult task, especially one the scale of MLUSA. But ID&T and SFX have poured their heart and soul into making something special.

The largest thing that has to be taken note of is the improvements from 2014 to 2015. Mysteryland, Plexi PR, and ID&T worked with thousands of attendees through surveys and the Mysteryland USA Facebook group to learn from their mistakes. Many festivals act like they want feedback, but then fail to implement any different policies. Mysteryland took into account hundreds of suggestions and enhanced the festival in a beautiful way.

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Friday

The holy grounds, the camping area of the festival were enhanced in several ways. A more coherent camping set up was the first most obvious improvement. A series of street names made it easier to find your way around and to find friends. Wood chips and gravel were used in especially muddy areas to make sure that no slop stirred up in the event of rain, so last years disaster was not repeated. In addition to the camping area, there were several more stages and vendors in place for the holy grounds. These stages were awesome, whether BangON was laying down funky rhythms throughout the night or the Pineapple stage was laying out throwbacks all through the morning these stages were awesome. The food was affordable for the most part (more on that and the dreaded birdie buck system later) and it was also pretty awesome in the camping grounds.

So after getting in a relatively painless security check I set up my camp site with a few friends who I met last year. These guys were from South Carolina and after experiencing last year's festival with them I now look at them as family. I bring this up because this is something I experienced greatly this year. A strong sense of community. Whether it was a food drive for the surrounding community that raised several times the expected goal, the 10000 hour community service day that featured attendees working for the local community in exchange for tickets, or just some really awesome people and vibes that flowed through the entire weekend. Mysteryland USA has created a community in Bethel, New York, one that features both locals, and attendees, and it is absolutely beautiful. I am proud to say that I am part of the MLUSA family.

So after exploring the area a little bit I headed into the festival and immediately saw the new and improved boat. We went from Pirate Ship to Mississippi steam boat that was as bad ass as possible. Bass flowed from the ship as the weekend set sail. The food vendors shouted at me to try to entice me with their different brands of unique gastro-indulgences. I finally gave in with Sriracha Chicken Nachos. These things were the freaking bomb. But this is where I experienced my one major gripe with Mysteryland this year. So the Nachos were a pretty fair portion for the $7 I paid. Until I realized that it was not $7…it was 7 ‘Birdie Bucks', the cashless system that MLUSA had in place for its second year. The exchange rate was about 2 to 1. So $2 USD got you 1 BB, or about so. So those awesome Nachos? Well they gave me some serious indigestion when I realized I just paid $14 for them. Since I did not want to mortgage my house or put a lean on my car to indulge for the weekend, I decided to stick with the crackers and fruit snacks I had back at camp.

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So I continued to explore the grounds. Of course on Friday, the main stage was blocked off. All we could see was a horse head when we peaked around the corner. It was giant, and it looked amazing, and better yet, we had no idea the awesomeness in store. The Beatport Big Top was the place to be on Friday for me. GTA threw down their usual genre annihilating set which transitioned perfectly in A-trak's eye popping blend of live mixing. Maybe it has become an elitist cliche to say it at this point, but it is awesome to see an artist mix live from turn tables.

I then hit up the boat for a little bit of Nadus, before interviewing the legendary Josh Wink, we rode over to The Beatport Big Top and he climbed on stage before setting an awesome tone for the night which Maceo Plex and man of the hour, Richie Hawtin finished out with hypnotic pulse pounding techno beats. It was freezing outside. LITERALLY UNDER 32 DEGREES FREEZING. But Josh, Maceo and Richie warmed up the souls of all of those crammed underneath The Beatport Big Top. The first day set the pace for the rest of the weekend. After putting on two pairs of sweat pants, and sweat shirts and cocooning into a sleeping bag to try to find some warmth, it was morning before I knew it.

Saturday

I awoke to the feeling of being cooked alive in my tent. As the temperature shot up from the subfreezing temps the night before to the high 60's and wearing enough insulation to keep me going in the south pole was enough to make me feel like I was going to pass out. After getting dressed more appropriately for the day, and grabbing a bite to eat. I ran over to hit up the Lord and Savoir of the Boat: Space Jesus. He threw down a dirty absolutely badass set which bled right in JackLNDN. After a few minutes of Jack I headed over to Ricoshëi on the Mainstage and got my groove on with total style. I was able to sit down and chat with the guys of Ricoshëi a little bit later in the day, awesome guys, only outdone in awesomeness by their set earlier in the day.

I chilled out for a bit in a hammock at this point in the day and reflected as Manic Focus erupted in the distance. Mysteryland USA was something special. Between the beautiful stages, and attention to detail, to the artists selected to play. It all made for something special. It was not a festival you went to for sex, drugs and dubstep. It was not a place where you could brag to your friends the following week about the debauchery that ensued. No, it was truly an escape to reality. It satisfied my wanderlust without ever leaving the tristate area. One moment, I was in Japan with Cherry Blossoms floating down around me, 300 feet later I was cruising down the Mississippi delta with bass bellowing out below me. A few more steps down the road I was in a techno circus complete with carnival rides and tent. Then around the corner lied a main stage that defied all explanation. Mysteryland USA was an escape to a wonderland of beauty and relaxation. I was so grateful to be there again. I was so grateful for the improvements ID&T addressed and most of all I was just overwhelmed with happiness.

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Claptone into Madeon was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. Both artists lit up the mainstage. It was definitely going to be hard to top that back to back duo. After Madeon I decided to head over to the Q-Dance stage and catch Noisecontrollers, who never disappoints. His set at MLUSA15 was no exception either. NC threw down with a powerful high energy unforgiving extravaganza of hard dance. I needed to relax with the tail end of Lee Foss' set in the Zeitgeist. I took a break and got some food for a bit and wrapped up the night with Porter.

I had never seen Porter before, I actually had a slightly cynical perspective on his entire worlds image he was promoting. I thought it was a tad whiny and angst filled, but after seeing him live, I learned that I was dead wrong. Porter Robinson was hands down the best set of the festival for me. It was a beautiful construction of sonic perfection. The way he weaved tracks together and sewed them up with live elements was like a virtuoso conducting an orchestra. I was blown away. What a way to end an amazing Saturday.

Meagen, Staff Writer:

Sunday

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Sunday was completely EPIC! The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Spending the morning at 90s brunch jam with the Bayside Tigers, was crowded but it was nice hearing all those throw back 90s jams that we all used to dance to back in the day.
To start the day off we had to check out the beautiful and extremely talented Nora En Pure. Traveling far from Switzerland, she delivered a phenomenal set filled with some of the grooviest deep house favorites like, Sam Feldt – ‘Show Me Love' (EDX Indian Summer Remix), The Magician – ‘Sunlight' and she finished off with my favorite ‘Come With Me'. Just writing about her set gives me goosebumps it was so good.

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I made moves over to the Boat for CRNKN, who threw in some Kanye West – ‘All Day', A. G. Cook – ‘Beautiful' (Rustie Edit), and finished off with Ta-ku – ‘Closet'. Back over at the Label Tent was U.K.'s finest, Bondax. Bondax is not really well known in the U.S. yet but you might recognize them for their song, ‘Giving It All'. They know how to bring back the funky beat, starting their killer set off with throwback disco music. If you are a fan of Bondax, then yes they did play a few favorites such as ‘Gold', and ‘All I See'.

I raced over to The Beatport Big Top tent to see Adam Beyer to just let loose to some techno! He was definitely a crowd favorite of the weekend being voted one of the best sets during Mysteryland USA weekend. All I heard during his beautiful techno melodies was the crowd going “OOOH!” or “YEAH!” Pleasing the crowd with favorites like, ‘Human Reason', and a personal favorite, ‘Lovecraft'.

Now I took a breather from that mind-blowing set and headed over to the bigger and better Boat to see Bro Safari. What do you get when you mix Boombox Cartel x Jackal's – ‘Jamba', Skrillex & Diplo feat. AlunaGeorge's – ‘To U' (Beauty Brain Remix), RL Grime's – ‘Core', MERCER & DJ Snake's – ‘Lunatic' and Zomboy's – Terror Squad's (Bro Safari & Ricky Remedy Remix)? Well let me tell you you get one of the memorable Bro Safari set's of all time. It was a lot of fun seeing Bro Safari again, I saw him last year but his set at MLUSA15 surpassed last year’s with leaps and bounds.

Over at the main stage, Dillon Francis, warmed up the crowd before the closing act with an incredibly fun and interesting set. Playing tons of new music from his upcoming Moombahton EP as well as remixes of Zomboy’s ‘Nuclear', Deadmau5's ‘Some Chords' and plenty of tracks from his 2014 album, Money Sucks Friends Rule. Dillon even brought out his deep-house alter ego, DJ Hanzel! Several people said that this was by far one of the best Dillon Francis set they've ever seen. Dillon Francis said that he LOVES Mysteryland, but it is clear that the feeling is more than mutual!

Mysteryland USA had one more act, Diplo. He was closing his first ever headlining festival in America and did so with a set that bridged his solo career as well as his work with Jack U and Major Lazer. Our hopes were a little too high because when the JACK U sign appeared we all hoped Skrillex would appear, but not this time! He played tracks old and new including Major Lazer’s newest single that is spreading like wildfire – ‘Lean On'. Which totally won the award for the most played song during MLUSA weekend. Overall his set was a great finale to the weekend. The closing show and the spectacular fireworks, were great, bringing gorgeous visuals to the trojan horses, lighting them up in such a beautiful way. As the closing ceremony grew to a close, I began to realize that this was the end of Mysyteryland USA and it went by too fast, tears began to roll down my face because the reality began to sink in.

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It was overall an incredible weekend. Mysteryland USA 2015 was a brilliant success. We are so happy to have been a part of the weekend and cannot wait to return for next years addition. Thank you to all of those involved who helped in makinh this experience happen. For FestRaiders, we will see you soon, as we have a summer full of events waiting to break down for you.

Meagen's Top 5 Favorite Sets of MLUSA 2015

Porter Robinson
Adam Beyer
Empire of the Sun
Nora En Pure
Diplo

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Erik's Top 5 Favorite Sets of MLUSA 2015

Porter Robinson
Claptone
JACKLNDN
Bakermat
Klingande

Photo Credits:

AJR — Andrew Rauner // @AJR_photos for Mysteryland

DLG — Danilo Lewis for Mysteryland

JL — Jackie Lee for Mysteryland

JT — Joey Timmer | pikzelz for Mysteryland

JC — Julian Cassady for Mysteryland

TD — tomdoms.com for Mysteryland

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