Like a good low-budget indie film that requires the money, staff and resources of a syndicate of production companies, each with its own brand, logo and need for top-line acknowledgment, resulting in outlandish opening credit-clusters like, “Sick Dog Films and Corner Store Productions, in association with Lemming Life, Inc. and Three-Corner Boxes presents Running Man Pictures’ Raising Judas, a Just Kids joint…”
…like that, so is Mysteryland, a traveling Electronic Music, Culture and Art festival and an event of global cultural significance. A virtual Versailles Treaty of promotion and production interests, Mysteryland begins its third annual takeover of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on May 22. It may bring more than 50,000 people to the Yasgur estate. Mysteryland events in Europe have been known to attract upwards of 500,000. If you haven’t heard much about this massive electricity draw close enough to dim your living room lamp a little, you may be A) rural, B) the type who prefers guitars, C) over 40 or D) me.
In performance, electronic music often seems like an awful lot of pressing “Play” with some limited provision for mixing spontaneity, but there is no denying the artistry that goes into the composition and production of the files in question, back at the lab. It’s a crowdcentric thing, of course, the EDM world: an immersive sensory experience that is about states of mind and states of media, not stars per se.
Still, I figure that Mysteryland must be landing some of the biggest names and reputations in the field. Reading over the lineup, I firmly recognize only one name: Australian electropop duo and nasal-voiced indie-scene darlings Empire of the Sun. I thought that I recognized a few others, but then I realized that Mysteryland’s egalitarian lineup page (arranged by alphabetical order, not pecking order) also included the names of the food vendors. Chickpea and Olive sounds familiar, but it is not an electro outfit; it is chickpeas and olives.
Chapel Hill native and EDM breakout star Porter Robinson’s recent album Worlds is a wowfest of extravagant sound design and long-arc electropop compositions. Belgian producer Netsky practices the more Spartan and gritty electro subgenre known as drum ’n’ bass. On 2015’s All in All, Bob Moses (disambiguation: the Brooklyn electro duo, not the legendary jazz drummer who plays at the Falcon from time to time) blurs the already-fully blurred-line between club music and academic Minimalism. It sounds a little like a cross between new borough post-club anti-trance and downstep Miami dry chill.
It could be argued that no generation has clung to the reins of youth and cool quite as fiercely as the original Woodstock generation, so kudos to Bethel for recognizing a kindred spirit and an unlikely heir in the global electro movement. The museum at the Bethel Center has synched an exhibit to the arrival of Mysteryland: “Peace, Love, Unity, Respect: The Rise of Electronic Music Culture in America” is an art-and-artifact exhibit inspired by the new sounds and crowds that Mysteryland USA has brought to the historic Woodstock grounds. It highlights 30 years of an incipient culture with music, lights, interactive festival artworks, costumes and artifacts from disco, rave, club and electronic music culture. The exhibit will be open to festivalgoers.
As one would expect, Mysteryland US ticket and lodging options are many, tiered and imaginatively named. It is, after all, a roving high-tech city more than a traditional rock festival. For all the options, attractions and the full lineup of performers with sound samples, visit www.mysteryland.us.
Mysteryland US, May 22-25, Bethel Center for the Arts, 200 Hurd Road, Bethel; www.mysteryland.us.