Last weekend just deep enough with the native lands of the Paiute Tribe in the desert of Nevada a cultural shift took place which has redefined what a “festival” has the potential to be: the event was Further Future.The festival, put on by the organizers of Robot Heart, is unlike any other festival on the scene. The founders have curated a truly unique space for the imagineers of the world to come together and converse. It goes beyond the party. The energy encourages growth and conversation. Upon entering the festival you can tell it is just different: it’s about the people, not the party.
It started with the surprise of getting off the freeway and driving down an ever more narrow road: we were taking a step back from all the noise of reality. It was Friday afternoon and people were just starting to arrive. It was clear that it would be a much smaller festival than the massive events our culture has become accustomed to. This smallness is one of the key elements that made it so special. You saw the same people each day, recognized them dancing by Robot Heart, smiled at them while you ate your poutine, and discussed speakers with them while running from raindrops. It was an atmosphere of community brought in by the people who understand the authentic nature of the millennial festival: the Burners. There is an element of a family reunion in meeting them, they recognize you and immediately accept you and take you in, as you are and as you have the potential to be. It’s like meeting cousins and Aunts and Uncles you didn’t know you had and finally feeling your family makes some sense. Two stopped by to say hello and comment on our choice of location. They mentioned how small it was compared with the Playa and how excited they were to share in the new community. I asked how they thought the festival was most different than the Burn, they told me it was the ease of it, “This takes all the pressure off, write a check and get the experience.”
“[The] smallness is one of the key elements that made it so special. You saw the same people each day, spotting them dancing by Robot Heart, smiled at them while you ate your poutine, and discussed speakers with them while running from raindrops”
For people traveling or wanting to experience elements of the Playa without the meticulous planning Further Future is the ideal festival. It truly does take all the pressure off. Camping accommodations included the ability to rent shift pods. They were expensive at $950.00 USD, but slept at least 4 people, and popped up in under 5 minutes. Other people had also rented Jucy Vans. These were minivans you could drive into the camping area and featured a kitchen sink and stove top. The accessibility opens the community that has grown from the Playa to a wider audience at Further Future. Yet, even with its luxuries it is an event in the middle of the desert and therefore not for those who can’t handle being exposed to the elements.
The first couple of days were admittedly a bit of a struggle. It rained. At a camping festival that always dampens the mood, literally. One festival goer even said “There is no way this festival will continue, the rain totally ruined everything.” The group camping to the left of him were all veterans of Burning Man and their time on the Playa had clearly thickened their skin. They smirked and didn’t let the rain affect the vibe. From the campgrounds to the Robot Heart stage to the ArtIsMobilUs booth you could feel the energy of the Playa permeating the festival. These were people making every effort to be as authentic as possible, to be seen and heard as they truly are. It was effervescent in them from the way they dressed, to the way they spoke, to the love they gave so willingly to all around them. However, these were also people that recognized that this was not easy. In some ways it was right that the festival imitated life, that it was cloudy weather when we arrived. It made it all worth it when we were dancing together and the sky slowly cleared Sunday morning as Lee Burridge played the Robot Heart stage. It’s this feeling, this unity, the magic of feeling the sun for the first time in three days surrounded by beautiful unique individuals all experiencing exactly the same thing— that defines this festival.
In this moment I turned to the man next to me and recognized his genie outfit, robot heart sunglasses, and raspy voice. He had led the discussion on the Future of Technology interviewing scientists and entrepreneurs including: Eric Schmidt the executive chairman at Alphabet Inc., the parent company of something we all recognize… Google; Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscience rockstar who works to build close looped video games to enhance human cognition; and Amanda Kahlow, a female entrepreneur who has developed a new AI technology. He looked my way, took me in, hugged me, and squeezed my arm. We did not exchange words, we didn’t need to. We were both grateful to be together and share in this moment of pure sunlight. Then Lee Burridge dropped another banger and off we all went. The energy was palpable.
See also: Interview: Lee Burridge
Further Future was not a conflict festival. The schedule pushed everyone to experience things together. The mornings focused on mindfulness, yoga, and sunrise dancing at Robot Heart. The afternoons focused on the Speaker Series where one could explore and discuss technology, science, mindfulness, and art in an open Roman style forum. Then as the sun began to dip below the horizon, the Mothership stage lit back up featuring live acts that enhanced the conversation curated by the speaker series. A variety of artists including Leftfield, Who Made Who, and HVOB took to this stage and reflected thoughts from the Ted Talk style speaker series from earlier right back to us. This was especially clear during the final set on the Mothership stage by the Austrian sensation HVOB. As Anna Müller laid haunting vocals over live tracks produced by herself and Paul Wallner, accompanied by live drums you recognized how deeply we connect through technology. Technology becomes the instrument and through it we connect within a song such as “Dogs.”
“Further Future was not a conflict festival. The schedule pushed everyone to experience things together”
Then once again we were all directed to Robot Heart to dance until sunrise with surprise guests including DJ Tennis. It was a cycle from conversation through others, to conversation through the music into self, back to communicating your growth through conversation with someone who had experienced exactly the same thing. This place is not something easy to describe. It’s an energy. It’s conversation. It’s getting the business card of the entrepreneur friend you just did a shot of tequila with at Robot Heart at 5am. It’s waking up to find Dixon in the smallest tent due to rain and the excitement when he stops playing and beckons you to follow him to Robot Heart. It’s the inspirational aspect of the Speaker Series. It’s the encouragement of self reflection through all of it.
At the Visions of Light and Sound series hosted by Ryan Uzilevsky, an artist and filmmaker stretching the limits of visual perception with his work with projection mapping, we discussed virtual reality, AI, and human experience (a common theme throughout the festivals discussions). He mentioned that science fiction always portrays the future as apocalyptic or dangerous, a dystopia. He joked that all these films warn us about Artificial Intelligence and yet we still build it as soon as we are capable. He continued saying that this might be inaccurate. What if our future is not so dark and gloomy? What if we allow these machines to aid in our quest of what it means to be human? Eric Schmidt mentioned his hope that our use of technology projects us into a world where we have more space to explore connection and humanity. Further Future has changed the bar of what festivals can offer by expanding into a speaker series as enticing as its musical guests. This opens it up to a unique community, a community of Futurists, and we are certainly excited to be a part of this new and growing community.
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Words by Carolyne DeBlois
Images by Ariella James
Carolyne DeBlois is an actress and writer currently living, writing, and dancing in Los Angeles, CA. For more of her writing please follow her on Instagram @carolyne_deblois