This past weekend I went to Mysteryland USA, an EDM Festival in upstate New York. A friend that I have known for a few years motivated me to attend because he had been advocating for one particular artist, Bassnectar, since the time I met him. He would make tremendous sacrifices to see Bassnectar multiple times a year. I never really understood why, but since we share a lot of the same interests, and I have great respect for his insights, I decided that I should give Bassnectar live a chance.
My old roommate and I bought tickets about a week before the festival. Personally, my expectations for Mysteryland were low because I carried my biases about EDM. From an outsider looking in, it appeared that the culture just revolved around partying. Also, I had been to music festivals and concerts in the past, and while they were fun, I would not consider them life-changing.
But by the time the three days were over, all of my assumptions about EDM were shattered and then rebuilt with a strong admiration for it. I was surprised how easily I adapted to the festival culture and quickly noticed how similar some facets were to traveling abroad. Arriving at our campsite, we instantaneously became friends with our newly met neighbors and spent a lot of time with them for the majority of the weekend. It was special to witness how genuinely close our neighbors were with each other. Whether if it was a brother-sister, boyfriend-girlfriend, or best friend-best friend combination, you could feel how their relationships hold each one of them up. These types of group bonds were widespread throughout Mysteryland.
When I would walk around the campgrounds by myself, I would always meet a small group of people who would accept my company. Again, these instances reminded me how quickly I befriended people abroad staying in hostels. In both places, everyone was welcoming and willing to lend a helping hand. Everyone’s openness was very refreshing, and all that I needed was a friendly attitude. I found EDM culture to be mostly positive. I appreciated how accepting everyone was of each other. No matter what people looked like or where they were from, they united by one purpose, music.
The shows themselves displayed incredible quality in production value. What makes EDM shows unique from other genres is the visual aspect of it all. The intricate set designs and light show synced seamlessly with the music, it was unbelievable to watch. Everything synced together so naturally and with 20,000 people relishing in the energy at each stage, it was magical to witness.
Although most of the artists showed talent and grace, the most outstanding performance from Mysteryland came from Bassnectar. I have a tendency to be weary of cult-like figures like him, but after seeing his set, I can truthfully say he lived up to the hype. I can honestly say that his performance made my jaw dropped to the ground; that has not happened since I traveled to Brazil. What impressed me the most about his music was how his melodic sounds would inspire you to think. Just knowing that each time he plays is an entirely different performance, I cannot wait to see him throw it down again.
One of my favorite parts of attending the festival was seeing the totems that people brought with them. A totem is a sign that people bring to festivals that help others locate their friends in large crowds. Totems were the most prominent way to express images that represent the culture. What I found so unique about totems is that it was the internet coming to life at each stage. Whether it was a meme I saw on Facebook or a South Park reference; I found most of them to be incredibly entertaining.
All of this speaks volumes of how intertwined millennials like ourselves are with the internet. One of my neighbors even had a tattoo in binary as a tribute to it. Ironically, EDM was one of the first genres to utilize the internet to promote music through various music blogs and platforms. The internet is the foundation that holds the pillars of EDM culture.
I did find some negative aspects to EDM culture. Certain people had a superiority complex because they attended a plethora of festivals and shows before. Viktor Frankl in his book Man’s Search For Meaning says that in every society and culture, there are decent people and indecent people. The same applies to the EDM; people just can be unpleasant. Furthermore, I found some people to be way too deep into EDM that they neglect other parts of their life. What it all comes down to is being able to have balance.
Overall, Mysteryland was one hell of an experience, and I now have a newfound respect for EDM culture. The memories that I carry from that weekend, much like from my travels, I will treasure for a long time. If you ever have the opportunity to go camping at a festival, do not hesitate and go for it!