For the third year straight, the rolling hills of Bethel, NY welcomed thousands of bright eyed festival attendees at Mysteryland 2016. Unlike years past, this year featured a fully stacked line up for Friday afternoon. Crowds rolled in earlier than years past, making for a much more fluid and enjoyable experience for all. Instead of hundreds of folks setting up tents by headlamp or iPhone flashlight, they did so to a slowly setting sun.
Following a painless tent setup and a ceremonial beer (or two) attendees walked to the festival entrance, roughly 20 minutes of beautiful walking away. Most arrived by 10pm at the latest, catching Gesaffelstein’s main stage DJ set and anxiously awaiting the night’s headlining set. And boy, was the wait worth it. The craziness of the NYC workday seemed years away as the (yet again) insanely well produced main stage glowed over thousands of outstretched hands. For the next two hours Odesza would deliver one of the weekend’s most epic performances – no small feat – and truly got Mysteryland 2016 off to a great start.
On Saturday morning we all awoke to partly cloudy skies and feelings of excitement. For many, it was the first time seeing the full Mysteryland setup in full daylight. Colorful tents dotted the campgrounds, flags and kites flew high in the light breeze, and all around were nothing but good vibes. Some headed in early for refreshing yoga in the Healing Garden or Wellness Tent; others stayed in camp and mingled with new friends and neighbors.
Following a quick entrance into the festival gates in the early afternoon, we walked through the full festival grounds on our way to the Big Top tent. It’s hard to describe how beautiful of a setup the Mysteryland 2016festival is. The production quality and attention to detail is second to none in terms of US Festivals. A first-time attendee was walking alongside me gawking at every turn of the serpentining path. Group photo staging areas, dance-off battle rings, and gorgeous, whimsical spaces for artists and musicians dot the walkway.
Akki, a dope Brooklyn DJ, whipped the the Bangon! NYC stage into a frenzied dance party with her insane set. It was complete with insane stage performers and a wild, purple haired woman on stilts! Penguin Prison continued the momentum with a 5pm set, followed by an insanely fun live-set from Autograf. With our dancing shoes on and going strong, we were well on our way to another amazing night.
Next came Black Tiger Sex Machine on the fan-favorite stage, “The Boat” – a meticulously designed set that each year is done up to look like a different style of boat; last year’s was New Orleans style steam boat, and this year’s was modeled after a giant dragon boat. Back on the main stage, at 9:30pm, The Chainsmokers took the stage. If there was any doubt that the night was going to get turned wayyy up, it was put to rest the moment those guys got started. Meanwhile back on The Boat at 10pm, downtempo electronic multi-instrumentalist Emancipator dazzled his sizable crowd. Then, attendees had to make a tough choice for their last set of the night: Skrillex on the Main Stage, or Gramatik on The Boat. Some of the crew went over to see Skrillex for their first time; others who’d seen him before stayed to see Gramatik go to work. There’s no way of putting it lightly: both sets were absolutely insane. A notable moment came late night when Skrillex led a chilling and memorable sing-along to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody before dropping into one of his classic hits. We all hiked back to our camps with smiles on our faces; hearts full from a day of great friends, awesome vibes, and incredible music. One more day to go.
Sunday morning came, and everyone in attendance was ready to worship at the altar of Mysteryland 2016. Winds were a little strong, and clouds loomed overhead, but no rain fell and the shows went on without a hitch. The main stage was where many spend most of Sunday: Claptone, Lido, and Keys N’ Krates all played their hearts out for the crowd, and amped us up even more for the nights big headliners. At 8:30pm, as the sky grew dark, Griz jumped on stage and blew everyone away with his jazzy, self described “future funk”. After his set, the crowd grew steadily larger as the bass heads descended down towards the stage for Zeds Dead, and then the festival’s last headliner, Bassnectar. I’d never seen either of these two, but when a few friends traveled up from Virginia for Sunday just to see them, I knew I was in for something special. And wow, I was not disappointed. Dynamic, bass heavy riffs ripped through the grounds to the delight of everyone witnessing their mastery.
Every year after Mysteryland I struggle to find words to describe the festival; and this year isn’t any different. It’s unlike any festival on the East Coast – or even in the USA all together. It truly is a magical place that brings together everything you’d want in a festival: great people, an amazing location, and world-class talent. I’m already counting down the days until next year’s. See you there!
And some video, courtesy of Mysteryland 2016: