Opening doors and setting standards: An American experience at Mysteryland NL
The modern day music festival has blossomed into a phenomenon of sorts; a spectacle challenging each next contender to top their own lineups, decorations, and stature. It’s no surprise that along with the explosion of dance music popularity and the ever-growing mass of fans scouring the Internet for coveted festival tickets that music festivals have likewise become larger than life.
While the US-rooted heavyweights Insomniac and Ultra have quickly adopted the idea of expanding their respective festivals into a comprehensive experience rather than simply a musical concert or show to attend, the idea of completely enveloping fans into a musical adventure is still relatively new – and therefore, continuously developing – in the United States dance music scene. Earlier this year, Mysteryland’s USA edition touched down in Bethel Woods and received a surprised, but warmly welcomed reception. In our review of the American venture, we explored several key points that allowed the festival to stand out above the rest of its more seasoned peers, including the community it nourished and the festival’s ability to filter out the shallow, problematic aspects commonly associated with EDM and zero in on the valued essence of a music festival done right. This weekend, we tackled its original counterpart in the heart of The Netherlands and ventured to Haarlemmermeer to see where the saga of Mysteryland all began.
Mysteryland upholds the title as both The Netherlands’ longest standing music festival and the first of its kind to debut in the European country. A festival that once hosted Tiësto circa 1999 undoubtedly has deep roots both within its physical home base and also amongst its dedicated fans. Attendees a plenty listed the 2014 edition as their fifth, sixth, and even tenth time rejoining the Mysteryland legacy, joyfully disclosing their favorite aspects and memories of their previous experiences.
While Pasquale Rotella consistently reminds fans of how his rave empire has grown from the US warehouse scene and #TBTs flyers once physically handed to ravers all throughout the night, a different history lingers in the Holland air. It’s no secret that electronic music has had a long lifespan in Europe; where the older American generation reminisces about The Grateful Dead, many Europeans look to dance music in a similar nostalgic way. The familiarity with dance music and its proud festivals shines all throughout the expansive grounds of Mysteryland from the subtle but plentiful decor lining every inch of the Haarlemermeer grounds to the the comfortable atmosphere radiated from festival-goers of every age and culture.
A Welcoming Atmosphere
Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere of Mysteryland has carried through its veteran attendees and spread amongst even the newest of dance music fans. Cozy jackets and boots caked with mud from wading through the enormous venue’s many pathways were a welcome change of pace from the bedazzled bralettes and blinding neon attire often encountered in the Western scene. The attire code reflected the festival’s easygoing, yet still appropriately celebratory environment. Mysteryland was the peaceful contrary to the rushed sense of extremes felt at American counterparts of similar size. Despite the venue’s muddy pools and long, winding treks to get from one end to the other, the relaxed positivity felt throughout the grounds remained infectious.
Of course, where a music festival lands, so do drugs and their corresponding consumers. But while kids elsewhere in the world are making headlines and risking lives by ingesting whatever they can get their hands on, Mysteryland maintains The Netherlands’ open mindset in regards to the many illicit drugs found in the music festival scene. Similar to the more widely known DanceSafe initiative, Mysteryland’s Celebrate Safe booths invited attendees to openly discuss drugs of any kind while offering helpful advice, tips, and even brochures to educate its audience of over 60,000. While the matter of starting the honest conversation on drugs may take years – or potentially never even occur in the US – the growing concern surrounding festival-related hospitalizations and deaths could find solace in a similar approach in the future.
A Different Experience
Mysteryland boasted yet another robust dance lineup with both house mavens and soulful electronic connoisseurs alike, allowing the festival to cater to multiple facets of an ‘electronic music fan.’ Mainstage, home of DJ Mag top contenders like Hardwell and Steve Aoki was only a few steps away from the Resist Tent, a place where fans of grungier tech styles like Pendulum & Verse and Bro Safari came to congregate. While Q-Dance thundered on with a sea of people all throughout the day, The Crooning Jazzclub provided weary walkers with an opportunity to rest on couches in a library themed tent as jazz-electronica quartets and duos took to the small, intimate stage.
While HARD continues to impress with its delivery of appreciated underground lineups and others strive to diversify and stretch the limits for unconventional artist listings, Western dance music festivals still have a long way to go before Q-Dance can be considered one of the most popular stages at an event and a mix of other genres can equate to 20 different tents and stages across a one-day venue.
As a newbie to the Dutch Mysteryland experience, it may have been a biased perspective to overlook the festival’s annoyances and focus selectively on the positive, but the way the walking trail blended into many muddy, unexplored paths leading to people dwelling in the branches of trees while playing instruments, or the moment of stumbling upon the Red Bull stage’s secluded forest pocket where club house tracks drifted over the lake side listeners were rare and treasured experiences I’ve never found in the many Stateside festival counterparts.
For Mysteryland, it has never been about rising above the rest or blowing the competition out of the water with flashy decor – instead, it has always focused on maintaining the thriving culture of dance music and music festivals. While dance music explodes into pop culture with radio hits, superstar DJs and a lingering concern over irresponsible kids and drug culture, this classic festival continues to showcase our culture in exactly the way it blossomed. From near or far, Mysteryland welcomes people of all walks of life and ear to the heart of The Netherlands for one of its most beloved events.
A cheers to Mysteryland’s twenty plus years of growth and vision, and here’s to hoping there’s twenty and many more years to come.