Soul, synths, and spoken word in the Arizona desert: experience FORM Arcosanti’s opening day
FORM Arcosanti is the festival, if you can even call it that, of the future. Carved into a stone bluff above Arizona’s Agua Fria riverbed, Paolo Soleri’s artistic urban atrium once again plays host to Hundred Waters‘ annual creative congregation. It’s a singular ambiance that feels somewhat misrepresented when included in the “music festival” blanket term. The event seems to set itself apart from the common festival archetype in every conceivable way—from sustainability measures and cashless commissaries all the way to talent selection and event programming.
This year, OWSLA‘s indie-electronic ensemble are joined by vocalist Moses Sumney in curating the FORM experience, and while the highly-secluded consortium has welcomed more participants in its fourth year than ever before, it has done so without sacrificing an ounce of intimacy or integrity.
Arcosanti’s centerpiece, a sonorous concrete amphitheater, hosted performances from Sumney and Solange back to back to open the first night’s festivities. Even from the bottom of the stone pulpit, Sumney’s towering presence and stature filled the entire space with a calming, yet altogether euphoric energy. Already vetted by collaborations that include the likes of Flume and Beck, the emerging California-born, Ghana-raised songwriter delivered a captivating performance that innocuously blurred the divide between emotionally charged and whimsical. Moses opened his performance in a fittingly striking fashion, chanting a call to prayer from the book of Isaiah, the Kedushah, in Hebrew.
Resonating frequencies, looped live recordings, and vocoded microphones surrounded the singer, draped in robes and shrouded in smoke, while he alternated between songs from a forthcoming studio LP and lighthearted repartee with members of the audience. Setting the stage for Solange, Moses’s crowd sat cross-legged in amazement while he seemingly made time stand still.
Solange’s performance, while equally stunning, was a palpable contrast to Moses’ meditative musings. An enchanting opposite to her sister’s stadium-packing appeal, Solange delivered a masterful performance blending funk, soul, pop, and R&B, all saturated in her unmistakably intense stage presence. Powered by wailing horn sections and choreographed breakdowns, Solange kept the needle moving from the moment she stepped up to the microphone.
She was soulful, impassioned, funky, and unapologetic. Most commendably however, Solange took a moment to address her audience in an interesting way: not as her fans, but rather, her creative peers. In that moment, she encapsulated the FORM ethos perfectly, effectively dropping the microphone as a momentous crescendo to night one.
After-hours programming came by way of a sensational performance from S U R V I V E, the Austin-based synth quartet, of Stranger Things fame. The group delivered a brilliant, haunting hour of their immersive, ambient synthwave 80’s fare as evening programming wound down. To close FORM’s first day, XXYYXX played into the early hours of Saturday morning in the breezy clearing at the immersive Canyon Stage.
Somewhere between the event’s intentionally remote nature, and Arcosanti’s constantly alluring atmosphere, FORM is challenging the festival model with an enticingly alternative type of event. FORM’s day two programming includes performances by Father John Misty, Future Islands, and Skrillex; stay tuned.