From April 29 – May 1 on the Moapa Valley Indian Reservation about an hour outside of Las Vegas, Further Future returned for its second year, and sought to expand on its unique concept of futurism conveyed through pioneering music, fascinating TED-style talks, wellness classes, and masterful pop-up gastronomy. A vicious rainstorm caught the organizers and much of the audience by complete surprise on the Friday and Saturday, but all involved rode nature’s punches with grit and resilience, and by Sunday the skies were empty and blue, and the energy became more akin to the Burning Man vibes from which the new festival was originally birthed.
The clientele – which included a number of successful Silicon Valley/Black Rock City entrepreneurs, and a bulk of the more scrubbed up transformational scene – was a peculiar petri dish of somewhat similar minds that shared in music and fashion, but were divided on views of human’s role in the future. With a staggered menu of accommodation options, ranging from hammering your 2-man Target tent into the arid earth, to plug-and-play glamping in silver Airstreams with an on-demand concierge for $5000, there was certainly a pyramid of class objectively – with speaker Eric Schmidt at the top, and myself grubbing around somewhere at the bottom – but once everyone was lock-stepped on the dancefloor the networking retreat vibe that it at times wore proudly seemed to subside.
The crowd enjoyed stand out performance from their biggest headliners Caribou, Four Tet, Dixon, Derrick Carter, and Nicolas Jaar – who wooed many of the more eclectic music lovers with a deeply pensive and poised set, but has clearly grown weary of the dance music space, as his recent frustrating Essential Mix showed. Elsewhere The Pharcyde drew a huge and vibrant crowd, persistently trying to raise our spirits and dry us out with their funky live hip hop, while old skool UK electronica legends Leftfield smashed it, channeling the searing techno stomp back into the feet after they’d been Nico Jaar’d.
The bookings on the Mothership were carefully crafted, as all main stages ought to be, to unite the crowd, and while there were times during the day that unfortunately booked performers would be playing to a dozen or so people, they were generally strong swelling crowds at the mini EDM stage. The other side of the festival ground was home to the straight house and techno, with the festival’s flagship Robot Heart bus throbbing from sunset to sunrise every day.
It’s difficult to overstate the bus’ importance to this scene. Originally spluttering onto the Playa in 2007, it joined Distrikt and the Opulent Temple as being one of the first dedicated house and techno rigs at the Burn, and boasts being the first to instill significance in the scene’s now-sainted sunrise set.
“The very first Robot Heart sunrise had two people, and I was one of them,” Further Future co-founder Jason Swamy told Pulse Radio in March. “Five years later we had Lee Burridge playing to 6000 people.”
Burridge has become an ethereal protagonist in the Robot Heart phenomenon, and he was on sunrise duty on Sunday morning, delivering four hours of tribal Playa tech to a haggard group of warriors grateful to feel the warm morning rays on their cheeks after a day of erratic rain. The night/morning before Innervisions boss Dixon was navigated mid-set from the tiny Void tent to the nearby bus after the torrential rain eased, and the crowd congregated around the bus as the Berliner fired up Timo Maas’ creepy remix of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence” and sent us headstrong into the Saturday.
Elsewhere the intriguing Envelop 3D soundbath “stage” powered by LA DJ/promoter Eduardo Castillo had a couple of false starts due to the rain, but was eventually strewn with zen’d out, vibrating bodies on Sunday. The Wellness area offered yoga, IV drips, face painting, and conversations about a plethora of transformational lifestyle topics, with the zealous extolling of the virtues of ayahuasca and peyote being the only conversation we caught.
When we cornered the ubiquitous drifting Jason Swamy, he was rightly proud of the fact that the festival’s app – which, we should state, was very robust and actually useful – showed that the most ‘liked’ performers by the app users were Eric Schmidt, Nicolas Jaar and Dixon.
“Where else would you get those three people all together at the same event?” he said, giddily.
And he was right. Well, Nicolas Jaar and Dixon certainly aren’t world’s apart, but the inclusion of Google/Alphabet’s executive officer giving a speech in a leather top hat and a waistcoat made from broken mirrors, is novel for what’s essentially a music festival. But that’s what Further Future is all about: reimagining the festival experience for a refined, discerning audience, and pushing the envelope in ways that its peers aren’t. Though
it’s that self-affirmed dogma that all roads to the future pass through Palo Alto that seems to have rubbed the average person up the wrong the way. Further Future, like Burning Man and Coachella, has become the latest festival that scene die hards and passive spectators have lined up to offer an opinion on. Some have taken umbrage with the boutique event’s courting of Burning Man’s notorious billionaire class, while others are simply offended by the now-longstanding culture of West Coast hedonism. The festival was unexpectedly pushed into the spotlight on Monday when a pair of aggressive articles on Beatport and The Guardian somewhat unfairly eviscerated the 4500-capacity event, and in turn pushed the question of class, responsibility and authenticity back into the Burner scene.
But the reality is that Further Future was a superbly curated event that has come into a saturated and, at times, exhausted festival market offering something completely new and different. And while there are certainly some things that could be improved – the amount of trash lying around was a worrying element of the past not the future, and it certainly panders too heavily to the wealthy at the dangerous expense of the average fan – it’s important to remember that this is the event’s second year. While the iconic Robot Heart bus is set to celebrate its 10th year on the Playa, being an element of a festival is not the same as being a festival. That harsh reality was dealt out last year when the Bureau of Land Management refused to issue the organizers a permit at the last minute and a hasty venue change meant for a vast and sparsely populated festival ground without ample shade from the brutal heat. This year a lot of the logistical woes from the previous year had been ironed out, and the festival site was well organized, compact and mostly consistent with the event’s doomsday industrial dread aesthetic. And for an event with such lofty ambitions and a largely unique concept, to be that well organized and consistent in tone by year two is very impressive.
When we look back at the second edition of Further Future, or FF02 as it’s been branded by the company’s unique digital Burner marketing mantra, it will likely be unfairly remembered for the torrential rainstorm that tore through the Moapa Valley Indian Reservation Friday and Saturday. But the reality is that the festival was a success, and that it continued to position itself on the perimeter of the folksy transformational festival scene, whilst honing in on a complex ideological concept of luxurious futurism. It’s just a hope that the future includes a few more Target tents and few less $5000 RVs.