Festival Report: Mysteryland

I walked into the massive Floriadeterrein for my first Mysteryland experience around 3pm on Saturday, August 29 (I wasn’t in attendance on Sunday, although it should be worth noting 2015 was the first year the event went “weekender”) and, for better or worse, was immediately struck by its immense scale and production.

Over my year living in Holland, most of my festival experiences have come by way of NDSM or boutique-style festivals in the form of Buiten Westen, Open Air, and Dekmantel. Mysteryland was different, not only for its scale, but for its musical diversity (everything from House and Techno to Hard Style, Hip Hop and, of course, EDM) and overt corporate sponsorship.

Full disclosure, Mysteryland was not on my festival radar as my personal tastes that weekend were much more geared toward the impressive VOLTT Loves Summer lineup, but sometimes you gotta take one for the team, bite your lip, and deal with “epic drops” and soaring vocals ad nauseum, and all for the sake of journalism.

Anyway, as I mentioned, it was mid afternoon on a scorching Saturday. As I walked in Oliver Heldens was doing his thing on the butterfly designed main stage. Heldens was followed by Laidback Luke, complete with Coldplay remixes in tow (although, props for dropping Green Velvet’s ‘Flash’ on the main stage). Dubstep maestro Nero (well, 1/3 of Nero, anyway) was up next. Donning all black attire, Nero’s DJ set consisted of all the hits, including ‘The Thrill’ and ‘Promises,’ although much of the enthusiastic crowd held over from the two prior Dutch DJs, seemed less than impressed. Regardless, as a favourite act of my girlfriend, my own criticism here will be limited (Seriously though, I really don’t mind Nero. In fact, I’ll still play their Essential Mix from a few years back every so often). That being said, the rest of the main stage featured (a personal least favourite act) R3HAB, followed by Nicky Romero and Alesso. Next!

With so much space, a walk around the grounds seemed to be the right thing to do. I found myself in the camping grounds at the edge of the festival, where food and drink was much easier to come by. The grounds were not as expansive as I had imagined, yet featured a plethora of tents, teepees and blankets. Part of me couldn’t help but notice the class division of the camping grounds. The luxury teepee style shelters, directly across the path from the DIY cardboard shanty style housing, served as an interesting microcosm to society at large. I guess, even in clubbing, one can’t get away from the division of finance and privilege. At least it didn’t rain though. God forbid the teepee dwellers get their well-coordinated festival attire wet.

Following the adventures within the camp grounds,  I figured the press area would be a nice place to relax a bit, smoke a cigarette, and use the facilities (in my experiences at festival’s around the world, press areas have much more sanitary conditions.  Not to be a germ-a-phobe or anything, but…). Finding the press area turned out to be much more difficult than expected, as it was the most elusive I had ever seen. The journey took me all through the festival’s North side, where the harder side of electronic music was featured. A giant Baboon shaped Q-Dance stage opposite a bungee jumping station (the layered pyramid design reminded me of something out of Aztec sacrificial ceremonies…see Apocalypto for the visual reference) was blasting hardcore. Then, there was an interesting Bollywood designed area, which did feature some cool throwback Bollywood film posters. There was the Heineken Star Club x Kriss Kross, bumping the Hip Hop flavour. Additionally, there was the electro stylings of Milkshake, where Hercules & Love Affair and Tommie Sunshine performed, and, also a pink inflatable bouncing castle, playing hardcore that almost immediately gave me an anxiety attack.

Finally, it was time for some house and techno. Unfortunately, this required another walk through the entirety of the festival grounds, finally leading to a nook featuring a HYTE x CLR stage, as well as the Beatport area. I’m a bit disappointed that all the walking took away from time spent in these areas, as they did feature strong lineups with the likes of Art Department, Maya Jane Coles, Apolonnia, and The Martinez Brothers at Beatport, and Robert Hood, Dave Clarke, and Planetary Assault Systems at HYTE, but all was forgiven when my ears caught the relentless techno of Chris Liebing closing the latter stage with a bang. I know we are a deep house publication but, man, Liebing is truly a DJs DJ. With endless equipment and a stage presence to match, the tattooed German veteran had the entire room sweating and heaving to every glitch, grind, and gear he could provide.

All in all, I am glad I attended Mysteryland as it was a throwback to some of the US festivals I would attend in my early days, like Ultra and Electric Zoo. Still though, the heavy handed corporate influence (featuring prominent sponsorships by the likes of Heineken, Mastercard, and the SFX owned Beatport) is always a distressing sight, especially when dealing with the creative realm, but, I guess that’s the world we live in. Otherwise, attendees seemed happy, there were smiles a plenty; sound systems were banging; stage design was impeccable; and activities were interesting (for Christ sake, there was a bungee jumping area). At Mysteryland you know what you’re going to get. If that’s your thing, by all means, go for it!