6 ways 'FORM Arcosanti' is changing the festival model as we know it
Resting above Arizona’s Agua Fria riverbed, Arcosanti sits tucked into a canyon side overlooking the lush high desert landscape. From the Interstate 17, nothing but the colorful desert chaparral can be seen. Last weekend, however, within Arcosanti’s walls, a creative consortium gathered to celebrate three days of music and art in a space that was seemingly built to foster unabridged ingenuity and imagination from its stone foundations to the top of its domed amphitheaters.
After experiencing FORM, describing the event as a ‘festival’ feels nearly inaccurate. The stereotypical snapshot of a festival in one’s mind is the direct foil to the inherent intimacy of Hundred Waters’ FORM. The typical festival model has met a new, sustainable alternative. Here are just a few ways FORM is changing the game.
1. Less is More
Now in its third year, FORM brought 1,200 people to Arizona this year, doubling in size from 2015’s installment. The entire constituency was not only bonded by a sense of familiar exclusivity but also by the immersive nature of the weekend’s getaway vibe. In the broad scope, each act on the lineup was actually attended by the same relatively small group of people. The same 1,200 people that were dancing with Mija the first night sat mesmerized in contemplation during Braids the following day. Without packing a teeming lineup of artists, but maintaining a three day span, the FORM model, by intention, allows enough time for the experience to manifest itself differently for each individual there. From impromptu sunrise Skrillex sets and Rome Fortune performances, to hiking Arcosanti’s south mesa and swimming, the event’s relaxed programming allowed for uninhibited exploration and inspiration.
2.Participation vs. Attendance
At certain festivals, the patrons are referred to as the “headliners.” Other festivals just call their crowds attendees. At FORM, people are considered participants. Everyone in attendance has a purpose, and every aspect of the event requires participation by not only the artists and organizers, but from everybody taking part in FORM. Electro-punk legend Dan Deacon summed it up best just as he was opening his Saturday night performance. He invited the crowd to come together in one perpetually growing dance-tunnel underneath each others arms. It was either participate or head to the door according to Deacon, a precedent that carried through the entire weekend.
The festival’s signature free-by-application admittance process added a unique wealth of value to the FORM experience. Tickets cannot be bought, sold, repurchased, or scalped. The experience was priceless, so according to Hundred Waters‘ method, the ticket had to be too. FORM Arocanti’s emphasis was on artistry as an umbrella term, the lineup was only a piece of the puzzle. TED Talks, performance art, painting, and yoga all tied in educational benefits, and unsurprisingly, all the music did too.
4. Location is critical
Hundred Waters’ Zach Tetreault explained finding Arcosanti three years ago when the planning of FORM was still in its infancy. “As soon as we went and stepped foot on the site we just knew, ‘This is exactly what we are looking for. It’s bizarre, beautiful, thoughtful, intentional. It’s inspiring and it has performance spaces built in,” said Tetreault. From Kodak To Graph‘s ambient patchwork resonating off of the open Apse to Moses Sumney’s breathtakingly delicate vocals filling the main amphitheater, Arcosanti’s unmatchable ambiance was inextricably interwoven into every detail of the event.
5. Leave No Trace
More often than not, music festivals seemingly take over their venues and host cities. Larger scale festivals draw swarms of people, all descending into one single place. FORM felt inherently different, pivoting towards a private, intimate appeal. The event felt more like an communal house party in the high desert than a festival. Participants engaged in respectful, environmentally-conscious enjoyment throughout the weekend. An encampment of attendees and the artists packed in and packed out, from full-sized festival stages down to the last tent stakes, proving that music festivals can operate by more sustainable means.
6. Curated Balance of Talent
FORM’s free-flowing, relaxing aesthetic was well contrasted by aced programming, thoughtfully curated talent, and a subtly mature, party-primed mentality. Without heavily favoring one single genre, FORM put on OWSLA’s Beats 1 pool party on Saturday, tastefully balanced by Thundercat‘s bellowing jazz licks on Sunday night. It was an ultra-diverse lineup that artfully represented the far reaches of both the electronic and live music spectrums. Acts like Bonobo’s chilled DJ set managed to complement Local Natives’ rowdy late night affair at the Elestial stage. Hundred Waters’ set was the culmination of the event though, as the Gainesville natives offered a passionate performance, debuting new music to a captivated crowd.
The event’s name is an ineffable testament to the experience put on by Hundred Waters. Like water outside its container, FORM took a different shape for everyone in attendance. FORM has presented a unique opportunity for individuals to come together and participate in a creative gathering together, paving a new direction that refines the music festival model as we know it. With a third year successfully in the books, it’s a model that seems to be working.