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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Calendar > Arts and Culture

No mystery: Festival has the ‘vibe'

By Eli Ruiz - staff writer

Nyssa Calkin | Democrat
Fans of electronic dance music show their appreciation for Gladiator, a DJ pair who took the Boat Stage on Sunday afternoon.
BETHEL — The worlds longest running electronic music festival, Mysteryland, made its U.S. debut this Memorial Day weekend at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, providing the tens of thousands of mostly twenty-something - and younger - attendees with a “mini electronic holiday,” as described by Mysteryland co-founder Irfan van Ewijk.
“It's my baby and that's what I like to call it,” added van Ewijk, who went on to rave about the venue and surrounding area.
Saturday's periodic rains and long lines did nothing to stop close to 20,000 brightly clad attendees from all over the globe from dancing the day and night away, with festival set lists featuring such well known electronic dance music (EDM) acts as Kaskade, Steve Aoki, Moby, Flosstradamus, Dillon Francis and more headlining the house-of-cards-themed main stage.
The Boat Stage, fashioned into a massive wooden ship with butterflies as sails, was heavy on the hip-hop influenced genres of trap and moombahton.

During Sunday's closing set, Dillstradamus (the mash up act of Dillon Francis and Flosstradamus) cheekily played Alice Deejay's “Better Off Alone” and threw out throwbacks like Chris Brown's “Look At Me Now” and Three 6 Mafias “Stay Fly” interspersed with the aggressive bass rumblings of trap.
In fact, the bass? The bass was the one constant this weekend in Bethel: “You can hear it everywhere you go,” said a festivalgoer who called himself Ray Gunz. “It just goes in from your feet until it gets to your head and you just feel it through your whole system... it's just as dope as it gets out here.”
Produced by the Dutch company ID&T, the first Mysteryland festival took place in 1993 in the Netherlands and looked to distinguish itself from normal electronic dance music festivals, where the main and only attractions are the DJ sets.
Mysteryland's intention, according to van Ewijk, was to create an immersive, sensory experience for attendees, while maintaining the site's original “peace, love and unity” aspect. And in keeping with that vision the rolling festival grounds were decorated as colorful, cartoonish fantasy lands, making only half the attraction for attendees the actual music or big name performers.
There was a little something for everyone, including yoga workshops, aroma therapy experiences, communal dinners and even a fire performance by “la femme fatale de feu” at the so-called Healing Garden Area.
“I can't believe how clean this place is,” said festival attendee Manny Guzman of Middletown. “I've been to lots of EDM shows and festivals and this has to be the tightest run one.”
And security was tight for Mysteryland, though, as many attendees noted, “not overbearing.”
The more than 8,000 folks who set up camp at the “holy ground” for the first time since 1969 agreed: “They've [security and law enforcement] been really cool,” said 23-year-old Sergei Bravolov of Brooklyn. “As long as you're not being a total fool they just leave you alone.”
Though Bethel Woods' rolling hills and twisting terrain might seem like a challenge for Mysteryland's planners, to van Ewijk it was an asset.
“The diversity of this terrain... the hillsides and beautifully different landscapes offered our designers the opportunity to create different atmospheres to match the different musical styles,” he said. “The more challenging a venue, the more beneficial it is to the experience.”
Asked how he felt about debuting Mysteryland USA on the grounds of the original Woodstock festival, van Ewijk rolled up his right sleeve and offered, “Goosebumps... if you just ask me the question I get goosebumps.”
“When I first came out here [Bethel Woods] I was all caught up in production and logistics, but then I took a moment for myself and thought, 22 years ago when we started the company [ID&T], had anyone ever said to me that in two decades from now we'd be producing an EDM festival on the Woodstock terrain... I'd have said whoa... either you're a nut or you're high as a kite,” said van Ewijk.
“But even just driving out here was a party. I'm a flatlander and Holland is about the size of Manhattan but out here, it's just so beautiful… It's like driving through a movie,” he said.
Van Ewijk concluded, “Then you're here and you can just still feel that vibe. I've seen all the documentaries and the books and pictures and it's just amazing to be here... I can't imagine what it must have been like here 45 years ago but you can still feel that vibe for sure.”

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