Cringes, Creeps, and Chemicals; Bask's Definitive Guide To The Best and Worst Of Music Festivals.
Ahhhh the great American music festival. The time honored tradition that turns sorority girls into spiritualists, frat stars into sobbing psychedelic stoics in a gloriously repulsive sensory overload.
Love them or hate them, one thing is for certain; almost no other social function combines the collective with the cringe-worthy quite like a music festival. Thankfully, we here at BASK NY are here to help you sort through the dopeness and detritus.
We have compiled a guide of all the characters, chemicals, creeps, and cause for alarm one can expect to encounter at each event, bringing you BASK NY’s definitive guide to the best and worst of the great american music festival.
Coachella is literally a meme at this point in time. It is the original blueprint or all the irony and ire recently surrounding music festivals. Coachella is the epitome and full embodiment of what is generally askew, astray, or flat out terrible about music festivals, American society, and the larger sub-context of all of human existence as a whole. People go to Coachella to despise it, to gawk at the glaring whackness of cultural appropriation and pervasive rape culture, propagated by the most essentially pure manifestation of the “bro.” Normally cubically confined, these weekend warriors, frustrated with their recent transition from frat star to entry level associate throng throughout Coachella, reclaiming whatever remnants of their days hazing pledges and delivering unsatisfying sex to sorority sweethearts they can salvage
These mobs of testosterone chargers revelers, peaking off stomped on molly, its impure and untested effects inducing them into a kind of blissful frenzy, experiencing ecstasy, at the mercy of the exploits of a professional button pusher, writing like some sort of religious experience or write of passage for the Anglo Saxon, North American “Bro”
However, not everyone attending Coachella seems to bask in the mediocrity with the same fervor. Coachella has long been a hot bed for a pervasive rape culture and downright ignorance to flourish un-abounded. A short walk along the festival grounds will expose any wary observe to cultural appropriation on a pandemic scale: Sorority Girls don cornrows or native headdresses, while Caucasian frat stars named Chet don dashikis in an utterly overwhelming display of cringe-worthy ignorance.
To add the cherry on top, recent allegations against the festivals owners have confirmed that these endemic problems of ignorance and corporatized whackness extend not just to the type of festival goers Coachella attracts, but are intrinsic to the festivals larger organization. This is evident in recent allegations that festivals owners not only denied climate change, but actually consistently donated to LGBTQ hate groups. The active homophobia of the festivals organizers, coupled with their total lack of any action to correct problems of rape culture and cultural appropriation simply adds to more reasons to skip out on Coachella this year.
Bonnaroo is the older slightly more refined but only marginally so sister of Coachella, actually less of a sister and more of a liberal cousin, fresh home from college in Vermont or Washington state, with developed chemical preferences that place a good DMT trip well over a parachute of amphetamines passed off as molly any day of the week. However, the southern geography, and notoriously underwhelming town of Lexington Tennessee lends Bonnaroo the dual feel of half Woodstock half hedonist southern hoedown from hell.
However, not all is amiss as this Tennessee festival. Festival goers who attended both Bonnaroo and Coachella reported that the festival was certainly a shit show in certain senses, however it was a decidedly less cringe-worthy one than Coachella. People who have attended Bonnaroo praise not only its organization, pervasive presence of doctors and medics (to provide care to any overdosing college freshman), as well as a substantially less rapey vibe, with less lurking intoxicated bros. Other Bonnaroo goers have praised the relative lack of body shaming, with people receiving compliments for what they were wearing regardless of their figure in a way that was genuinely positive and reassuring rather than creepy.
This woodland located, dystopically cheesy of a wonderland so frankly and undeniably whack Lewis Carroll undoubtedly rolls in his grave for two weeks every august. For many of Electric Forrest's Kandy crusted attendees, the entire experience for certain attendees is merely a repressed memory, like middle school make out stories, or that one time in bandcamp.
At current press time, during the writing of these words, the author was shocked that electric forest had not been discretely yet lovingly discarded like many in the treasure trove of cringeworthy occurrences encapsulating the exceedingly strange fog defining the years from 2002-2011 during which the PLUR lifestyle and the modern festival asshole as we know it emerged.
Ultra music festival seems to be the unstable cousin of Coachella. The festival itself plays out a lot like a coke fueled weekend in Miami: everything seems so sleek and sophisticated, the connections made with total strangers so substantial and pure only to wake up hungover with the sinking realization it was all a powdered fueled extravaganza of smoke and mirrors.
Why Now? A Corporate Autopsy
In order to understand why mainstream music festival culture has gotten so whack is important to trace the historical timeline evolution of Music Festivals in order to get a clearer picture of how we got here. There have been several different waves of music festival culture (since Woodstock) and each have been different, defined by genre, location, type of attendee etc. However one defining trait seemed to united early festival culture; in that it was an attempt to get away from the establishment.
Music Festival culture arose as an attempt by people on both musical and cultural fringes of society to express themselves and enjoy art in freedom in freedom and peace. In this sense, music festivals in their purest form arose as a push-back against constrictive, authoritative, repressive and puritanical laws and influence of racism, bigotry, and persecution both at the hands of society and the state.
So where did things go wrong? At what point did these organic outbursts of hedonistic freedom on the fringes of society, largely condemned and vilified by the larger public, become corporate events. Ironically, festival culture today deliberately targets advertising away from the fringes and instead towards the moderate, the mediocre, the sanitized, the mainstream, the ignorant, appealing to the very children and demographic of the people who vilified the original idea of music festivals in the first place.
The whackness, cultural appropriation and that music festival once stood in staunch opposition to have now become the propagated and quintessential culture of the music festival itself is in many ways a metaphor for the larger tendency within American society itself. Americans have since the country’s founding, fervently vilified and ostracized new cultures and ways of life as alien or dangerous. This ostracization and institutionalized oppression continues until American society discovers that they actually enjoy the very cultural/ social/ artistic practice or activity they were repressing, claiming whatever pre-existing culture for their own, ruining and manipulating it from its original form.
Thankfully, as with music in general, the absorption of festival culture by the corporate and mainstream has not in any way resulted in the death of the free spirit of an independent music festivals, the underground has and always be teeming with talented artists and individuals.
In this sense, no matter how much of a skin-crawling nightmare festivals such as Coachella embody, the mainstreaming of fringe festival culture does necessarily signify the apocalyptic death of the genuine expression of art and freedom that initially defined the festival movement. Indeed, as with almost all art forms, the underground will always thrive, dope music festivals are indeed certainly still out there one merely has to look harder. To save you the trouble, us here at BASK have taken the time to find the events with big names, cheap prices, as well as a huge selection of indie artists, just minus the cultural appropriation, cringe, creeps, or chemicals.
Portland, Oregon -- August 27-28th
This late summer festival, encompassing the majority of downtown Portland keeps the underground fringe spirit of the Music Festival alive with a robust indie line up of refreshingly talented, yet alarmingly unknown and underrated artists, combining this underground element with name such as Iggy Pop, Die Antwoord, Beck, and Nas. If you are looking for a wildly crunchy event blending all the best of a diverse multitude of underground scenes, Project Pabst may be the perfect destination to avoid the depraved moral bankruptcy of the other larger and shittier festivals.
Pitchfork Festival 2017
Chicago, Illinois -- July 14th -16th
This is more of the large scale and well known out of the more indie festivals, however Pitchfork manages to strike the delicate balance of being professional without being overly corporate. The line up frequently attracts big names and this year the likes of LCD Soundsystem, A tribe called quest, Solange, Nicolas Jaar, Isaiah Rashad, Joey Purp, and Madlib gracing the stage, fans can still get a big name large festival feel, but with a lineup that is more substantially organically indie and a pervading vibe that is substantially less corporate than functions like Coachella.
Free Press Summer Fest
The perfect way to get lit in the Great State of Texas, and avoid the madness driven over hyped Caravan-esque shitstorm that is SXSW. Avoid the madness of 6th St in Austin by pulling up to this Midsummer get down set in Houston's Greater Buffalo Park, on the outskirts of the city, overlooking the skyline. Set in a grass amphitheater this festival features a mind boggling variety of quality indie artist throughout a multitude of different Genres, however the line up is peppered with star studded names such as Solange, Cage the Elephant, The Shins, Lorde, Flume, Big Krit, Group Love among others.
Free Press Summer Press is more low key than SXSW in the best way possible; less chaotically hyper saturated rap convention than its Austin Counterpart, without sacrificing either the star studded features, nor the personalized feel of an exquisite showcasing of underground artists, and it is a very rare event to have so much underground talent convened in one place.