As the sun sets on Memorial Day we find ourselves dangling our feet in White Lake, taking a moment to reflect on the beautiful chaos that was Mysteryland USA. Though the long weekend has now officially come to a close, we can’t help but feel the energy from the festival still residing within us.
Reminiscent of Woodstock Music & Art Fair 1969, concertgoers descended upon the holy ground at Bethel Woods for 3 days of peace and music over Memorial Day weekend. Unlike Woodstock, there was no Jimi Hendrix on stage at the bottom of the famed hill, guitar screaming across the fields. Instead there was a sea of modern day hippies, donned in flower headdresses and Go Pro’s, flooding the hill.
Throughout the grounds, groups could be seen skipping and dancing their way between stages, or on their way to refuel at a food stand. If there was one constant theme pulsing from attendees and artists alike, it was euphoria. The production crew at ID&T, the Dutch dance organizers responsible for the international festival, transformed the already stunning grounds into a fantasy world fit for a woodland fairy.
However the striking decor did not end there; when venturing to the Sin Salida stage one could be found dancing amongst Dia de los Muertos characters. Even the DJs proudly wore sugar skull face paint. Sin Salida boasted a constant party that mentally transported you away from the rainy and mud soaked grounds of Mysteryland to a Latin American beach club. The momentary thoughts of blue skies and paradise were enough to keep spirits high, and as the day progressed the rain did eventually stop revealing, yes, a double rainbow. During that unique moment it didn’t matter what stage you were at in the festival, or what genre of music was pounding in front of you, everyone stopped to take in what nature had given us after a hard day of trudging through the grounds.
As the rain let up and the sun came out, it was apparent that no spirits were dampened and the crowds were eager to dance until 2am. Located next door to the Sin Salida stage (separated by the Chapel of Love and a 10 foot tall teddy bear which was great for late night hugs) there was never a bad time to visit the Sunday School Mini Fest: Vinyl Only stage, boasting veterans DJ Sneak, Jesse Rose, and Victor Calderone. Decorated with nothing other than old vinyl records, the stage was a haven for throwbacks or exposing a newcomer to the art of vinyl.
A short walk from the Vinyl Only stage was a staggering magenta tent appropriately named The Big Top. Whether your group found themselves sprinting to the tent for shelter from the rain, or B-Lining there for your favorite techno artist; the Big Top quickly became known for dropping the most shocking and stimulating sets. Over the course of the weekend it was a typical sight to see those who had temporarily ‘lived’ at this stage to emerge from the darkness of the tent into the glittering sunshine for a brief break before returning to the shadowy tent to dance and groove for a few more hours.
As there is with every Mysteryland festival whether in the Netherlands, Chile, or USA, Q-Dance was ever present. If you went to Mysteryland never having heard of Q-Dance before, it is safe to say you left the fest with the logo imprinted in your brain forever (mostly thanks to the hundreds of flags being worn as shirts & the infinite amount of orange ‘kandi’ bracelets). Chances are you even stopped to ask a fellow camper what Hardstyle was and were met with the response “the raunchiest genre of electronic music that exists”, and, after taking a trip to the neon orange Q-Dance tent, you would agree. Although Hardstyle is a genre that is still growing in North America, it is taking root and breeding new fans exponentially. Many seasoned Hardstyle fans could be found gaping at the stage, shuffling harder than they ever thought they could.
For those that prefer a deeper sound, the ‘Magic Crystal’ or Spiegeltent provided a steam punk/speak easy themed indoor stage. A circular tent surrounded by booths for sitting down with friends over a drink, and a dance floor that led right up to the DJ booth, the Magic Crystal was the definition of what a ‘deep house’ venue should be. It consisted of an intimate environment where the DJ feeds off of the crowd, the windows were adorned with stained glass, and the vaulted ceiling tied the atmosphere together perfectly. Nowhere else on the Mysteryland grounds could you find a 5 hour back-to-back set featuring Visionquest: made up of heavy hitters Seth Troxler, Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves, and Lee Curtis. In addition, the Sunday lineup at the Spiegeltent included Justin Martin, Heidi, and the legend himself, Pete Tong.
Situated at the top of the hill overlooking the Holy Ground campsite (or “tent city” as campers came to call it) you could find the wildest party on the concert grounds; The Boat. A spectacular wooden boat ornamented with hand painted butterfly sails, complete with viewing platforms on both the stern and bow, nicknamed the S.S. Mysteryland. The Boat wasn’t the biggest stage on site, but it consistently drew the most whacky and high-energy crowd the festival had to offer. Slammed with the best dubstep, bass, moombahton, and trap, the boat was arguably the largest party Mysteryland saw all weekend (both day and night). With the sounds of Milo & Otis, Brillz, Figure, Bro Safari, Delta Heavy, Big Gigantic, and many others, it was near impossible to peel yourself away from the deck of the ship. The closing set from Dillstradamus (a rare collaboration of Dillon Francis and Flosstradamus) rocked the boat as fireworks blasted off above, as well as $1000 in one-dollar bills (thanks Dillon!) Unfortunately, DJ Hansel (Francis’s alter-ego) did not make an appearance.
The House of Cards Castle (the main stage) was without a doubt the most majestic scene at night, sitting tall at the bottom of the hill. The queen of hearts inspired DJ booth provided something never before seen in relation to similar festivals. While many fests are busy outdoing each other with the size of their stage, Mysteryland took the crown for most elegant. The afternoon crowd received an impressive mix of genres from Oliver Heldens, Dyro, The Mightyfools and DVBBS, while the night crowd was stunned by their favorite tracks from Nicky Romero, Kill The Noise, Moby, and Showtek. Mysteryland is famed for it’s remarkable end show, this year synchronized with fireworks, streamers, confetti, and beyond, set to the music of Kaskade.
Following the end show, campers reluctantly said goodbye to the famed grounds and trekked back to their campsites for their final night with their festival families. For those who refused to stop the party, the Bang On! bus was in full swing for campers to keep dancing until sunrise, or as close as they could make it. Monday morning brought the familiar feeling of sore legs, a bit of sunburn, and the looming thoughts of packing up and going home. For many, thoughts of going home were small in comparison to walking off these grounds for good. Most exchanged numbers and made promises to meet during the summer for another show or festival.
Whether or not plans and promises are kept, the one thought that remained on everyone’s mind that morning was “Only 365 days until we can do this again, together”.
[Photos by Chorale Miles Photography]
[Article by Sabrina Spellman]
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