When we headed to the famed Woodstock grounds over Memorial Day weekend, we had high expectations. The thought of spending three days in one of the most picturesque festival settings on the planet–featuring one of the most eclectic lineups we’ve ever seen–kept me going for months in the leadup to Mysteryland 2015. In fact, in the days leading up I even went as far as to say, “I’m confident I’m about to have one of the best experiences of my life.” While I may have overhyped things a tad, the crew at ID&T certainly delivered an all-around amazing festival. The vibes were out of control, the stage design was top notch, and the mature crowd just made everything that much better. There’s definitely room for improvement, but for only being a second year festival, Mysteryland has established itself as a top notch experience that we at DanceDeep wholeheartedly recommend for anyone looking to escape reality for a weekend.
To give you an idea of just how diverse Mysteryland can be, here are my five favorite moments.
Silent Disco Sunrise:
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a silent disco, basically everybody has a set of headphones that are all connected to a DJ’s decks. Instead of the DJ’s music blasting over festival-sized speaker systems, it plays over the crowd’s headphones. To an outside observer, it looks like dozens of people are somehow dancing in beat with one another despite the venue being completely silent. To those participating in the disco, it’s the greatest thing ever. Mysteryland took this concept even further and had two different DJs spinning at the same time. By toggling a switch on the headphones, you picked which channel you wanted to listen to. The blue channel was usually trance or some chill/downtempo beats, while the green channel played some bass-heavy trap all through the night. If one channel wasn’t cutting it for you, all it took was a flip of the switch to completely change the mood. Game changer. It was unbelievably entertaining to watch the crowd change channels throughout, as indicated by the colors on their headphones. If someone rocking out on the blue channel danced their way into a crowd of people vibing to green, slowly but surely people would switch over to blue just to see why that someone was having such a good time. I only made it to 6 AM on 2 of the 3 nights, but the random friends I met and shared a couple unbelievable sunrises with made for some unexpectedly awesome memories.
Post-Anna Lunoe Sunset:
If you haven’t hopped on the Anna Lunoe train yet, get on it. Easily my favorite Australian musician right now. Mysteryland was my fourth time seeing her in the past year, and without question it was her best performance yet. I don’t think there’s a DJ on the planet who gets more into his/her sets than Anna does, which is just so refreshing. Combine her high-energy antics behind the booth with her high-energy sets on the dance floor, and you have a recipe for a stellar time. Even better than her set, however, was walking across the Holy Grounds at sunset immediately afterwards. Our motley crew of friends new and old from all corners of the world were just on cloud nine, and couldn’t help but take in the natural beauty we were surrounded by. Mysteryland invests so much into the little details and truly creates a whimsical wonderland–a wonderland whose true colors were on full display amidst a perfect Saturday sunset. I had always assumed carnival rides at festivals were nice distractions but not really worth doing, and I’m thrilled to report that my assumption was completely off base. You want to know what’s better than enjoying an epic sunset from a grassy hill with some of your best friends? Enjoying an epic sunset from a set of rotating set of swings hundreds of feet above that grassy hill perfectly centered between all six stages with some of your best friends.
Crepes, with a side of Dillon Francis and Diplo:
This recap really wouldn’t do Mysteryland justice without acknowledging the food at the festival because, my goodness, the food at Mysteryland was unbelievable. Stupidly expensive, given ID&T’s decision to make “Birdie Bucks” more valuable than every other major currency on the planet ($2.20=1 birdie buck), but my goodness. The food/drink stands were well distributed all throughout the festival, so you were never too far from some refreshment if you needed it. And, let me tell you, after Dillon Francis’ set, I was in need of some refreshment. Say what you will about Dillon Francis, but the man does what he does at a ridiculously high level. His sets will never be in the same league as, say, an extended Prydz set, but Dillon’s always going to put on a show. He even mashed “Easy” with “Some Chords,” which was just awesome. Even more awesome, however, was the crepe stand located just to the right of main stage. After 48 hours of camping and living primarily on Clif/Quest bars and Gatorade, the chocolate-covered banana crepes were out of this world. Unsurprisingly Diplo’s set was largely a disjointed trainwreck, but he dropped some Gesaffelstein out of left field, which more than made up for the Drake and DV/LM atrocities. Well, maybe not entirely, but the crepe definitely makes up for it.
The Martinez Brothers:
It’s tough to pick just one act from the goodness that was the Verboten Spiegeltent, but, as expected, The Martinez Brothers closed out Mysteryland in a big way. Going from Diplo’s twerk contest on the main stage to the air-conditioned Spielgeltent masterpiece of what essentially amounted to a world class nightclub constructed in the middle of an open field…absolutely unreal. The fact that you could get two completely opposite musical experiences by just walking 100 yards says a lot about this festival. By the time we arrived, the crowd had thinned out considerably, but those lucky few that remained were fully immersed in The Martinez Brothers’ signature blend of house and techno. The true test of any closing set at a multi-day festival is how much energy it draws out of people who have been dancing for two or three days straight, and needless to say, there wasn’t a single person in the room standing still. The sounds of the underground might not make a ton of sense if you listen at 2 PM on a Thursday afternoon at your desk, but everything just clicks when you’re shuffling the night away, feeling the bass in every part of your body.
2:30 AM at the Owari No Nai stage:
All festivals have a “closing time,” but as well all know, very rarely does anyone ever actually want to go to bed when that time rolls around. Whether technically allowed to or not, the folks at the Owari No Nai stage answered the late night call of duty in a big way. The side stage made for a welcome distraction from the festival every time we walked by, but one of the low-key best sets of the weekend was the after-hours session Sunday night. The startling juxtaposition of Asian stereotypes with laid-back house beats and pasty-clad dancers was without question one of the strangest moments I’ve ever been a part of, but those thirty minutes were some of my favorite all weekend. It was almost as if the fifty or so of us gathered were all just so confused by what was taking place that we all collectively threw caution to the wind. Eventually the party came to an end despite our well-coordinated “Pay the Fine!” chants, but it would be hard to dream up a more fitting conclusion to an unbelievable weekend.
Madeon’s masterful main stage set was probably my favorite, start to finish, of the entire weekend. I had never really heard of Goldfish prior to the weekend, but the duo from Cape Town absolutely blew me away. Empire of the Sun’s performance was probably the single most bizarre hour of music I’ve ever experienced, but their theatrics were quite impressive. TJR rocked The Boat, deep house yoga is every bit as good as you’d expect, and I still laugh every time I think about the dude driving around in a frog-wrapped DJ booth.
Above all else, as I hypothesized in my festival preview, Mysteryland was an experience, one unlike anything I’ve seen in my years of festival-going. If you’re looking for something to do next Memorial Day weekend, definitely consider making the journey to the Holy Grounds. Whether you come for the music, the art, the people, or the crepes, odds are you will not be disappointed by what Mysteryland has to offer.