Standing in a tent at Amsterdam’s Mysteryland Festival I feel a slight pang. While Tiga plays an upbeat set at 5pm on a sunny afternoon in the Dutch capital I am surrounded by a sea of very happy faces. But they are not the faces of a youthful 19 year-old or 20-something, no these are the faces of people in their late 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. And what is more they are really going for it, dancing like crazy; arms flying around, shaking all they have and having a really amazing time. They don’t give a damn what anyone thinks and this is where my pang stems from – I wish I could be Dutch.
The very same scene has played itself over all afternoon. From the electro DJ sets at the Knuckleduster Dome to the Dubstep in theResist tent. Don’t even get me started on the fun the crowd are having over at the tiny Sin Salida area (pictured above) – I come out of there covered in nachos which have been thrown in to the crowd by a guy wearing a horse mask.
The festival is HUGE and an amazing effort goes in to making sure everyone has a brilliant time – whatever the age. The music ranges from frenetic hardcore to moderate electronica and just about every form of dance music that fits in-between that scale.
The setting is beautiful; a large parkland area with a lake. It is split into 2 camps: north and east. North is hardcore where the boys without tops and shaved chests and girls with fluffy boots hang out. East is a little easier on the ears and where we hang out.
There are 15 stages and tents and I am sure we only get to half of them. Even after several circuits we find new things to explore each time. This includes a garden of teddy bears, balloons on the lake, some large knitted Kanye West glasses and a freak show. It is random but it works.
We are offered a slightly awkward cup of tea with a 7ft Geisha Boy. It’s an odd experience. He doesn’t say much. Equally odd is the intense-looking men walking around with wash basins strap around their shoulders to cleanse festival-goer’s hands.
We are asked to write our worries for the day (that there will be rain in my case) on luggage tags by girls dressed in decorated cardboard boxes. The tags are attached to a large balloon of the globe and will be sent in to the air to ‘wish away our worries’. It kind of works, although there is some rain in the early evening everyone is having such a good time no-one seems to really care.
Most of the artists, acts and musicians at the festival have a local connection. Most are from the Netherlands with the exception of a few so while the names are less known to us the dance scene in the country is such that the quality is at the forefront.
Steve Aoki is the big headliner. He sprays the crowd with champagne, throws inflatables and postures like a rock star. The revelers are handed huge blue glowsticks during his set. The impact is pretty spectacular.
But for us the real headliner is the 2 main stages for each side of Mysteryland. They are epic in their scale and stunning in their aesthetics. Over in Hardcore land the Greek Mythological characterMedusa is ready to shoot lazers from her snake infested hair. While the east main stage has a beautifully crafted wooden owl peering out at the crowd. It’s eyes open and close and at some point through Aoki’s set even have smiley faces inside them.
For the finale of the headline sets at each stage a magnificent fireworks display ends the festival. Just 12 hours and it is all over, all that amazing effort for one spectacular day. There is a reason that Mysteryland is the world’s longest-running electronic music festival and a 61k sell-out and it is because the Dutch really do know how to throw the best parties in the World and how to enjoy them.
Mysteryland dates in Chile and New York
Mysteryland is making its US debut in 2014 in Bethel Woods, the site of the legendary 1969 Woodstock festival – 23-26 May 26, 2014.