Last weekend, on what is officially the weekend to show respect for those who defend our country and unofficially the weekend for everyone to get fucked up a little ahead of real summer, Mysteryland touched down in Bethel Woods, New York for the second year on our shores. The festival brought with it one of the most debated lineups I’ve ever witnessed, with too many people complaining that it lacked bigger artists while others like myself thought it was one of the best one’s I’ve seen this summer.
Surely enough, the music did not disappoint. Some of the best music was to be had at The Boat stage, which I understand topped last year’s by a good deal. Thousands turned up to watch back-to-back sets from Gramatik and Griz on Saturday night, and on Sunday The Boat was home to Bro Safari’s Animal House with everyone from CRNKN to Doctor P (and unfortunately was interupted when some girl decided to take a swim off the deck). I saw several great sets on the last day in the Webster Hall tent from their resident Alex English, Nora En Pure and Mija, and went on to groove out to the sexy sounds of Moon Boots and Bakermat. The techno stage didn’t really hold my attention, but it was a big hit and definitely represented a large portion of the fans. The mainstage seemed like a crowded hallway, especially with the Verboten stage right in the audience, and I was not sad that I did not spend much time there, though I did hear Dillon Francis’ set was something unlike he has played in the past several years.
Mysteryland missed the mark in many other ways, though, some of which might have been more forgivable if it had been their first year. Getting into the festival on Friday was an absolute nightmare and as a result made many miss a lot of the music that night (myself included). In fact, the whole process took about three hours from start to finish for our crew, not including the drive from Boston. The bathroom situation was downright laughable, as they were sparse in the campground and difficult to find and rarely cleaned in the festival grounds. There also ended up being a lot of noise bleed between stages, due to the seemingly poor layout of the place. But perhaps what annoyed festivalgoers most was the use of a cashless, RFID-powered payment system (“Birdy Bucks”) which was a ruthless ripoff with its confusing exchange rate, especially so for those that got stuck with the “auto-topoff” feature. Sadly, I have a feeling this system will continue to crop up at more and more festivals as I have seen this trend begin already.
Beyond that, the weather was not particularly suited for sleeping outside, with it getting down into the 30’s and 40’s for the first two nights. The venue, which was indeed a beautiful site for a festival, suffered from some of the most treacherous inclines known to man. It is near impossible to describe the way one would feel after finally reaching the festival grounds after climbing Mount Vesuvius but let’s just say they just so happened to have a medical tent directly at the top.
The thing about Mysteryland that I just couldn’t stop thinking about is that there is little to bring people back here as a way to spend their Memorial Day weekend. ID&T, the promoters and organizers for the festival, didn’t really do anything substantially wrong – by all accounts the festival was a solid success. I had fun, it seemed most people had fun, and any of the negatives were easily overlooked. But I have to wonder with festivals like EDC NY, Lightning in a Bottle and Movement all happening around the country, not to mention the option of just hanging out on a beach or a boat, that there are better (and far cheaper) ways to spend one’s Memorial Day weekend. The general consensus I got from talking to many people was that they doubted the festival will happen again next year. Who knows if it will, but with that attitude, you have to wonder who will come back.
P.S. Yes, there are MMIBTY photos on the way. Unfortunately, I have been very busy with my real job and haven’t had time to sit and edit them. Expect them later this week on our Facebook page.