Just as EDM has experienced a monumental growth since 2010, so has dance music’s partner-in-crime, music festivals, especially within the past few years. Festivals like Coachella, Ultra Music Festival, and Electric Daisy Carnival have been around for decades, and early on, these festivals were not considered one of the hottest destinations for the rich and famous like they are now, rather many festival-goers would save up year-round to be able to attend the three-day paradise of music, food, and art of their choosing with like-minded individuals.
Dance music’s recent explosion in popularity has led to large corporations and faceless sponsors funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into many of these iconic music festivals, and hundreds of thousands of more dollars into creating their own music festivals, resulting in an overly-saturated market for festival-goers. Nowadays, fans can attend music festivals week in and week out, to their hearts content, as long as their wallet permits. This massive influx of new music fans and festival-goers has led many to look beyond the glitz, glamour, and posh status of festivals like Coachella, and instead, look for smaller, more intimate festivals that not only provide a diverse lineup of artists, but also differentiate themselves with cultural and spiritual emphases.
In a recent article titled “5 Smaller Festivals Better Than Coachella,” the Huffington Post lists Mysteryland USA, Wakarusa, Shambhala, AfroPunk, and Camp Bisco as five festivals where attendees don’t have to deal with the “dust storms, 110 degree heat or risking over-saturation from corporate sponsors” of Coachella. While we may not agree with the Huffington Post’s assertion that these five festivals are better than Coachella, the outlet brings up an interesting point about the advantages of smaller festivals like Mysteryland versus larger festivals like Coachella.
Mysteryland USA, for example, may not stack up with Coachella in terms of raw star power or vast popularity, but some may argue that that works to the festival’s advantage. The festival, which prides itself on its history and music, is held in Bethel Woods, New York, the location of the iconic Woodstock festival in 1969. The historical connection between Woodstock and Mysteryland is strikingly similar - both are cultural gatherings beyond just music and art.
Compared to a corporate-backed festival like Coachella, Mysteryland is able to set itself apart by creating an festival experience that is nearly unmatched in the world. Mysteryland looks to its home in New York to help elevate the festival - both Verboten and Zeitgeist are curating stages in Bethel Woods, and Mysteryland is slated to welcome a slew of local vendors and food options straight from New York.
Is Mysteryland definitively better than Coachella, or vice versa? The answer will change depending on who you ask. We’re not championing smaller festivals over large festivals, rather, we’re simply providing a different lens to view the festival landscape. For those that have grown weary of the “dust storms and 110 degree heat” of Coachella, perhaps it’s time to consider a smaller festival like Mysteryland USA, and tickets are available for the festival here.