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Posted May 26th, 2015 (8:40 am) by Matt Felten
Image by Bethany Rees/DOLA Photography
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Once upon a time Mysteryland was held exclusively in the Netherlands, but over the last two decades the electronically charged festival has flourished into a globally recognized and internationally hosted phenomenon. Now taking place on the “Holy Grounds” of the legendary Woodstock '69 festival in Bethel, NY, we were able to attend the wondrous event for the second consecutive year at this beautifully storied and visually stunning location.



Section One: Festival Production

The process of entering the festival was for the most part very smooth. Finding the parking entrance was the biggest issue we had, as the signage was not entirely clear and we ended up driving pretty far past the entrance and ended up having to turn around and find our way back(we were not the only ones either). Once we reached the entrance however, it was a relatively short and very well coordinated process. The staff were very amicable and guided us to our parking spot, the check in area, through security, and right to our campsite in a very professional and timely manner.

The camping area was very well laid out, with actual street signs for each walkway to help guide you back to your tent. There was always a bathroom area and water fill-up station within a minute walk from anywhere on the campground. The campground stayed relatively clean, there were trash and recycling bins on every corner and staff who would routinely pick up any litter. The bathrooms...well let's just say you can't expect 100% cleanliness when there are tens of thousands of people using the same toilets for a whole weekend. The festival would have been wise though to hire more people to clean the toilets throughout the day so that they didn't end up utterly ruined by the end of each.

Food and drink were very accessible throughout the festival grounds as well as the campground, though it was fairly highly priced (as you'd expect). The festival again used the “Birdie Bucks” system for purchases, where you put money onto your wristband and swipe it to buy something. Although very convenient, this system did seem slightly manipulative, as everything was priced only in Birdie Bucks which are each worth about $2.20 US. This made it difficult to tell how much you were actually spending on something, particularly when intoxicated, and it seemed like everything was much less expensive than it actually was because the exchange rate caused all the prices to appear low (i.e. a burger that cost 5 BB was actually about $11).

The Main festival area was very well thought out and organized as well. There were signs pointing towards various stages or attractions all along the walkways, and the two separate walkways from one end of the festival to the other allowed for a division of foot traffic and prevented blockage. The stages themselves were expertly separated, to the point that there was close to zero bleed between performances, even though everything was at a fairly high volume. Staff was always within sight if help or directions were needed, and there were food and drink stands conveniently near every stage.

Although the lineup was stellar, there were some issues with performance overlap. Many of the bigger name artists played during the same or overlapping time slots, which made it difficult to see them all. For example, Porter Robinson played almost concurrently with Griz on Day 1, which made it difficult to choose between one or the other if you wanted to see their entire sets.

Score: 25/30



Section Two: Presentation

Visually and aesthetically, Mysteryland was eye-candy. Almost everything was colorful and artistically designed, and at night the lighting around the festival grounds made it all the more magical.

The fantasy theme that Mysteryland embodied was furthered by all the interactive art works scattered throughout the festival. Little things like the swing-bench covered in fake stuffed bunnies, colored animal statues that you could climb onto, or the tree hung with colored glass bottles that you could put letters that you write to loved ones in added an extra dimension of mystique and intriguing outlandishness to the already visually stimulating scenery.

The only less than pleasing components visually at Mysteryland were the food and drink vendor booths, which were simply made of wood colored wood and nothing else. They were aesthetically bland, and the font of the signs above each booth denoting what it sold almost gave it a wild west style, which was very out of line with the fantasy theme of the festival as a whole.

The two biggest stages, The Boat and the Main Stage, were incredibly designed. It's hard to describe exactly what The Boat looked like, but essentially it was in the shape of a giant ship, with the stage almost bursting out from the side of it. It's design was amazingly complex, and it fit right into the fantasy theme. The Main Stage was even more impressive, with two giant horse heads on each side of the stage facing each other. One horse was supposed to represent good, while the other represented evil, and during the closing ceremony of the festival the evil horse blew fire towards the good horse, while the other returned with white smoke. Though visually outstanding, especially while fireworks erupted all around the stage and the light configuration on the horses went wild, the whole theme of good vs evil seemed somewhat corny. There wasn't much more of a story to it than that, and we thought they could have put a little more thought into that aspect of the festival theme.

Score: 17/20



Section Three: Sustainability

Because of it's sheer size (over 50,000 in attendance this year), Mysteryland has a significant impact on the surrounding environment. This is why it is so important that they have plans and practices for sustainability and do all they can to minimize their footprint.

“Mysteryland is based on a strong philosophy: the Festival Footprint. Mysteryland USA focuses on being organized in a sustainable way by relying on local participation and interaction, with attention on the surroundings and community — as well as sustainable projects — during and after the festival. Be friendly to nature, be friendly to the people around you – it was part of the mantra of ‘69 Woodstock and this permeates into the ideology of the Festival Footprint.”

Based on the six sustainability initiatives that the festival took on this year to try and reduce their impact on the environment, it seems that Mysteryland is living up to this pledge. These initiatives include: 1) Clean Vibes: Waste Management, Mysteryland's service in charge of recycling, clean up, and waste removal. This service also manages the “Green Teams,” who collect, separate, and dispose of garbage and recycling. 2) the Cup Program, which offers prize incentives to anyone who brings ten plastic bottles to the Cup Program tent, which helps reduce waste and furthers recycling. 3) Energy Management, a staff member in charge of monitoring the generators during construction and the festival to make sure they are being used properly and efficiently to reduce gas use and pollution. 4) Fair Trade and Eco-Friendly Food & Beverage Vendors, requiring all food vendors to serve on biodegradable plates, and encouraging the sale of biological and fair trade food. 5) Shuttles & Carpool, which provides Mysteryland shuttles to and from the festival and various airports and train stations, and encouraging carpooling by providing carpool options like RickyRides and Ride Joy. 6) Water Project, which provides free tap water to all attendees of the festival through water stations throughout the grounds, reducing reliance on bottled water.

Upon arrival to the campground, Mysteryland also provided a trash bag and recycling bag to every visitor, to aid in the separation of the two. Although there was large amounts of litter on the ground in the festival area at certain points, we believe that this is more a symptom of the attendants, not the festival itself. All in all, it seems Mysteryland is very much doing their part in terms of sustainability and eco-friendliness.

Score: 22/25



Section Four: Non-Musical Entertainment

Mysteryland offered a very diverse platter of non-musical attractions over Day 1 and 2 of the festival, allowing it to excel as both a music and cultural arts experience.

One of the main non-musical attractions was The Healing Garden, which offered a variety of spiritually centered mind and body activities, among other more musically related events. These included a session by Abby Devine, a “sound healer” who uses tibetan bowls to heal the spirit through vibrations, and Zoe Shailaja, a holistic healer of mind, body, and soul. Though we did not attend any of The Healing Garden's events, it certainly gave the festival a more cultural edge as well as place of relaxation for those needing a break from the electronic intensity of the rest of the festival.

The festival also hosted more art and entertainment focused events like The Life Size Game of Mouse Trap, True Mirror Palace, a mirror that reflects your face correctly(without reversing left and right), and Image Node, an “interactive audiovisual geodesic dome which you control with a Magic Hamster Ball.” Some quirky and others mind-blowing, these attractions added to the strange and mysterious nature of the festival, certainly helping it live up to the name Mysteryland.

Score: 8/10



Section Five: Overall Festival Atmosphere

One of the best parts of Mysteryland was the people it attracted. It is such a socially and ethnically diverse group and there is every single personality and style you could think of, but they all share a common trait: a love for music and art. Everyone is there to experience something incredible and memorable through those mediums, and this motivation also brings out the best qualities in each person. Everyone we met was amazingly friendly, caring, and welcoming. By the end it felt almost as though every single person was part of this larger community where not everyone is acquainted, but every person was connected and looking out for one another. The festival truly embodied the essence of Woodstock in this regard.

Score: 14/15



Conclusion

Mysteryland USA 2015 proved itself to be a more than worthwhile adventure. Despite some minor problems like the sign debacle when arriving and having to choose between two major acts because of overlapping sets, Mysteryland excelled in many areas like aesthetics, culture, theme, sustainability, and organization, and the wonderful and diverse group of people that were in attendance only made it a more enjoyable experience. We will most certainly try and come back again next year Mysteryland!

Final Score: 86/100

Want more? Check out our full coverage and photo galleries of both Day 1 and Day 2!

Photography by Bethany Rees/DOLA Photography

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