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Unearthing Mysteries

by Victoria Wasylak

Photography Courtesy of Mysteryland USA's Facebook Page and Victoria Wasylak

Somewhere in New York's Catskill Mountains, a sign reads, “Before Skrillex, there was Hendrix” outside of the Woodstock Museum at Bethel Woods. Next door, Mysteryland USA, the EDM Candyland of music festivals, vibrates profusely.

Music festivals are a legacy-based culture, with Woodstock at the very core of it. Every big-name fest, from Coachella to Bonnaroo, owes their image to Woodstock, the original cultural “come together” of the twentieth century. Mysteryland, however, is the only fest to claim that its guests romp the original grounds while resurrecting the “peace, love, music” mentality made famous by the legendary 1969 event.

The third installation of the American Mysteryland filled the quaint town of Bethel this past weekend, June 10-12, with ravers ready to see headliners Bassnectar, Skrillex and Odesza, as well as get turned on to the best new tunes in the vast electronica universe.

EDM may be a far cry from the folk-rock of ’69, but culturally, it’s an accurate reincarnation of the original fest’s intentions. From the looks of the

signs—“Stay Trippy,” “Don’t Be Jealous of My Boogie,” “Long Haired Freaky People”—it’s apparent that some things never change.

Mysteryland is just that—a land. Carved out in the fields of the Catskills, dirt roads wind between stages and vendors, art and abundant photo-ops. On the horizon, colorful tents dotting the mountainside form a mosaic of attendees in town for a musical pilgrimage. With a whopping five stages, Mysteryland showcases big-name artists in a variety of environments for guests to explore.

Artists like The Funk Hunters rock “The Boat” on a pirate ship of a stage. An indoor saloon boasts a mini dance party, complete with ye-olde booths ’n’ bars with mirror detailing. Synergy abounds from the BangOn!NYC stage, with dancers shimmying from the rooftops of tie-dye buses and inside birdcages, bonding amongst themselves in the smaller setup.

The main stage is an incredible ode to EDM—wings ascending, two sparrows nearly kissing, a disco ball topping it all like a cherry. On the slope before it, thousands of ravers gathered on the same grounds as their musical ancestors. Over the course of the weekend, the mega-stage would be home for artists like Tchami, The Chainsmokers and GRiZ.

Sebastian Solano, CEO of Dutch promoter ID&T, said that these stages reflect the different “worlds” of the festival, creating a myriad of experiences for festivalgoers.

“Woodstock represented the music of a new generation and was a cultural tour de force for the changing times. “Each world has a certain identity

that falls back into our ethos of showcasing music, culture and art.”

Artfully, Mysteryland surpasses its competitors by integrating local art and quirk. Neon deer, glittery plastic horses and paper lanterns glisten in the fields of vendors. A handmade “car wash” booth with a live DJ allows guests to duck into a streamer-strewn room for private dance numbers. Most importantly, Mysteryland selects local arts vendors like Emily Tan, a live paint-pour artist, to sell jewelry, paintings and similar crafts onsite all weekend.

There’s no dress code, making it an empowering aspect of the festival for many guests who can wear as much or little as they desire without any second looks. Now that the festival is 19+ (compared to 21+ in past years), the event is more inclusive than ever. Solano said that Mysteryland adjusted its age restrictions once the demographic for the festival expanded over the past two years.

“We wanted to facilitate expanding young adults’ musical taste, providing them with an environment where they can listen to everything from progressive house, to hip-hop, techno, bass, indie-dance and everything in-between. We are a place of discovery, inviting legends from the international music and art scenes, in addition to providing a stage for new and local talents—the next generation.”

Mysteryland has already spanned multiple generations as the longest running electronic/dance festival in the world. While this year marks the third American edition in New York, Mysteryland began in 1993 in the Netherlands and even made its way to Chile in 2014.

Recent performers and London-based electronic duo Infinity Ink said that there’s a definite shift in America and Europe, but that they were still excited to play on the Woodstock grounds.

“I think Europe has more of a festival culture that America does, especially when it comes to electronic music,” member Luca Cazal said. “I’m really excited about playing where Woodstock was. I’ve watched that video [of the festival] many, many times. I wonder if the kids know about that.”

Free admission to the Museum at Bethel Woods all weekend ensured just that. “Before Kandi, there were love beads. Before MLUSA, there was Woodstock,” banners outside the museum boast, linking the cultural events. For once, Woodstock and Mysteryland USA demonstrate a historical event that bears repeating.

“Woodstock had a tremendous impact on the youth who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s,” Solano said. “Today, Mysteryland strives to bring together the global forces of music for the millennial generation’s revolution.”

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