Mysteryland USA: Kaskade, Steve Aoki, Acres of Music Rule EDM Fest on Woodstock's Grounds

Tens of thousands of attendees descended upon the original Woodstock grounds May 23-25 for the Mysteryland electronic music festival featuring Kaskade, Steve Aoki, Moby, Flosstradamus, Dillon Francis and many more. The Bethel Woods, New York event, produced by the Dutch company ID&T (acquired last year by the entertainment conglomerate SFX Entertainment), bills itself as the longest running electronic music festival in the world, with the first incarnation having taken place in 1993 in the Netherlands. This weekend marked the U.S. debut of the Mysteryland event.


As the American market has mushroomed with bigger and newer festivals in recent years, EDM fans and music industry watchers were curious to see how this one would distinguish itself from other options such as Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Zoo, and Ultra Music Festival.

Mysteryland marketed itself as something beyond the normal electronic dance music festival, where the main and only attractions are the DJ sets.  The festival’s intention: to create an immersive, sensory experience with a “peace, love, unity, respect” ethos. “We want to create a multiple day life and interactive art experience… in between the commercial dance events and the real off-site creative festivals like Burning Man,” said ID&T co-founder Irfan van Ewijk.

In keeping with this vision, the idyllic festival grounds were decorated with a whimsical fantasy-like theme in sherbet hues. While half of the attraction was the music of the big name performers, attendees could just as easily have spent their time attending yoga and workshops with vegan sushi in the “Healing Garden” area or watching performers bedecked in Dia de los Muertos costumes.

Mysteryland USA

The musical selection also reflected the festival’s philosophy of inclusion and discovery. Aside from the now radio-familiar names such as Steve Aoki and Kaskade, who both headlined the towering Main Stage, plenty of electronic music sub-genres and niche sounds could be heard pumping throughout the grounds.

The Boat Stage, fashioned into a massive wooden ship with butterflies as sails, was heavy on the hip-hop influenced genres of trap and moombahton. During Sunday’s closing set, Dillstradamus (the mash up act of Dillon Francis and Flosstradamus) cheekily played Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone” and threw out throwbacks like Chris Brown’s “Look At Me Now” and Three 6 Mafia’s “Stay Fly” interspersed with the aggressive bass rumblings of trap.

Moby was among the speakers at Mysteryland USA

Q-dance, a Dutch company focused on the harder styles of electronic music, also had its own stage at the festival showcase artists such as Ran-D and Coone. Its following in the US is arguably smaller than that of trap, but judging from the amount of festivalgoers sporting bright orange Q-dance swag, the movement is gaining traction stateside.

The sounds of techno and deep house also received much more attention than most other U.S. electronic music festivals with three stages dedicated to the genres at the Sunday School “mini-fest” within Mysteryland. Sunday School is a brand that has long been well-regarded in the underground circuit and Mysteryland partnered with the promoter to curate the artists. Highlights included Pete Tong’s set, which veered from vocal-heavy and funk-inflected house to tribal sounds in the intimate and enclosed Spiegeltent. Visionquest (composed of Seth Troxler, Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves, and Lee Curtiss) also performed a five-and-a-half hour four way tag team journey of a set on the same stage.

Sunday School’s Big Top tent showcased mostly big sound techno names, with Joseph Capriati and Marcel Dettman playing out hours of hypnotic beats that could just as easily be heard at Berghain, a Berlin club that diehards consider to be the mecca of techno.

In the Sunday School Vinyl Only tent, old schoolers such as DJ Sneak, Carl Craig, and Victor Calderone played to purists and long-time fans. The intimate stage, adorned with scores of old records, was also conducive to discovering new artists. One fan remarked of Frank & Tony, a New York-based duo with a growing following, “I’m a junglist and I came for Victor Calderone. I don’t know who these guys are, but they’re killing it!”

MYSTERYLAND WISHING TREEThe Wishing Tree at Mysteryland

Like the music, Mysteryland festival style had no one distinct theme, but a few sartorial strains stood out. Some attendees sported EDM stand-bys, such as barely-there bikinis paired with tutus, neon furry leggings, and bandannas worn as face masks. Others opted for Coachella chic with wide-brimmed hats and fringy bohemian looks. A few others took cues from the original Woodstock and opted for tie dye and flower child outfits inspired by Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.

Though attendees were still largely twenty-somethings and their older siblings, Mysteryland still seemed to draw a mellower, more seasoned crowd with its 21+ age requirement. With tragedies marring the recent Ultra Music festival in Miami and Electric Zoo in New York City, a central question would be if Mysteryland USA would be plagued by any similar issues. However, perhaps in part due to the age restriction, festivalgoers were mostly composed, and the event finished without major incidents.

On the contrary, cell phone service was perfect, traffic flowed fine, and food and beverage lines clipped along with a cashless payment system. The logistical problems that often plague other festivals barely registered at Mysteryland. One attendee even remarked, “This is the cleanest festival I’ve ever been to.”


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