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Posted May 25th, 2015 (10:07 pm) by Matt Felten
Image by Bethany Rees/DOLA Photography

Day one of Mysteryland USA came with high expectations; a product of Mysteryland's world renowned name, high profile acts, and a location on the legendary Woodstock '69 farm. After a jam-packed day of clear blue skies, new friends, great music, cultural richness, and so, so much dancing, these expectations were without a doubt surpassed.

The day started off as a continuation of Friday's pre-party, as the late night partiers took to the Silent Disco in the Holy Grounds camping area, hosted by Bang On! NYC. If you haven't heard of a silent disco, here's the gist: every attendee receives wireless headphones with multiple RF channels while 2 DJ's display their mixing skills side by side. The headphones light up red or blue depending on which DJ's channel you're on, and the DJ's compete to get the most listeners on to their color. Other than the sound coming through the headphones, the dance-floor is dead silent. This was truly a novel and surreal experience, especially when you take your headphones off and see an ocean of blue and red heads bobbing to seemingly complete silence. The event continued all the way until the sun came up.

After a short and much needed rest, the campground awoke and music started pumping from the Holy Ground in all directions. Not the most gentle wake-up, but it instilled an intense excitement for the coming day. After roaming the campgrounds for hours with a few recently befriended and very down to Earth neighbors to soak up the campground culture, get a buzz on, and socialize with strangers, we all headed to the real attraction: the festival area.

Although it was a bit of a hike to get from the campground to the stages, the whole process of entering the main festival grounds was surprisingly fluid. The security at the gates were extraordinarily pleasant and did a great job of getting everyone in as quickly and organized as possible.

Once inside the festival, reality quickly started to blur. It was as if we had walked into a fantasy world, where the norms and regularities of society no longer existed. The costumes and outfits (or lack thereof) that some people were wearing were outrageous, in the best way possible, and only made the initial impression of the festival more surreal. Glow sticks were absolutely everywhere, people were covered in body paint, and the energy and ecstasy of the crowd was intoxicating, almost tangible. Various art installations and small, sometimes bizarre attractions were scattered throughout the grounds, including various painted animal statues and a swing bench completely covered in stuffed bunnies (don't worry, not real bunnies!). Our favorite interactive installation was the True Mirror Palace, where you could look into a true mirror and see how others view you, instead of a reflection of yourself like you'd see in a regular mirror. It was a totally bizarre experience the first time we saw ourselves in this way and we highly recommend it!

After an arduous climb up the hill to the main area, we arrived at our first stage: The Boat. Aptly named The Boat for it's boat-like structure, the stage was artfully conceptualized and crafted. There was plenty of room for a large crowd, but the stage was small enough to make it a relatively intimate musical experience, and even featured a dance-floor on the “deck” of the boat above the DJ booth, where people could dance while looking out over the crowd.

Beats Antique was in the middle of their set when we arrived, which was a great medium energy warm-up for the beginning of the night. After about a half hour at The Boat we moved on to the Subversions stage to catch the end of Matador, and then on to our main stage destination, Kygo. Kygo threw down an amazing set, made all the more impressive by the enormously elaborate stage and light configuration of the double-horse main stage. The sound was incredibly crisp and the crowd was loving every second of it.

After Kygo we headed back to The Boat to watch Gramatik, with a quick stop at Subversions to see a few minutes of Matthew Dear. Gramatik ruled the stage for over an hour, dropping a mix of his classic bangers and his newer Age Of Reason work, and bringing out Russ Liquid on saxophone halfway through the set, much to the excitement of the crowd.

We then went back to the main stage to see some of Empire of The Sun, which was all round amazing. The set was surprisingly experimental, and the visuals were absolutely stunning. Various costumed dancers added to the stage presence, and the lighting-work and background screen were all very impressive.

After Empire of The Sun came one of the highlights of the day and Saturday's headliner, Porter Robinson. Opening the set with “Sad Machine,” Porter's performance was one to remember. The entire area around the main stage was flooded with his fans eager to hear music from his debut album Worlds, and his keyboard playing and singing added a very organic and personal element to his otherwise heavily synthesized material.

Sadly, the night had to come to an end, for the festival area at least. Porter closed out the set around 2 am, and we set off on the long walk back to camp, quickly stopping in Verboten to warm up from the 30 degree night. As we fondly recalled all the events of what had turned out to be an amazing first day at Mysteryland USA, we mentally prepared ourselves for our next adventure, early morning Silent Disco round 2!

Photography by Bethany Rees/DOLA Photography

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