There are three things that you can guarantee will come up in conversation if you ever sit down to talk to me: politics, Modest Mouse, and Elements Lakewood Music & Arts Festival. I spend almost every single day of the year bringing up the incredible-ness of this festival to at least one person, and I can’t see that changing at any point. There’s something wonderfully magical about what BangOn!NYC puts together every year in Northern Pennsylvania and this past Memorial Day Weekend was no different.
One of the hardest things that a young new music festival can do is ensure that each year is better than the last. Many times, you hear crowds coming back and time again professing how “nothing will beat the first year,” but Elements ages like a fine wine. This year, just about everything that BangOn!NYC did to improve their festival enhanced the experience as a whole. For the past two years I’ve been saying that Elements Music & Arts Fest, especially the one at Lakewood, is arguably the greatest weekend of my life – and (once again) I’m left wondering how I’m supposed to compare any other experience to what I get from adult summer camp.
Although Lakewood is never without its hiccups, it’s still an incredibly well produced event that brings some of the most eclectic vibes you can find in an electronic music festival. There’s something for just about anyone; and if you attend the festival you’re damn sure to leave as a fan of at least three or four artists you never expected or even heard of. I even found a way to groove and move enough to enjoy minimalist deep house and (dare I say) a little bit of techno. While rain, thunder, and some technical delays may have kept us on our toes for a lot of the weekend, there was still enough party to go around, and plenty of new friends to make.
Friday saw such a crazy concoction of music, I had a hard time keeping track of who I was actually seeing. I made a conscious decision that day to keep my eyes off of the schedule and just make my rounds catching whatever vibe I discovered. Some of the standout artists I caught were Beat Kitty, Choppy Oppy (who managed to include some gorgeous live instrumentation in his delectable beats), Steve Darko, and Clozee. Disclosure stole the show, however, and maintained a massive crowd that was surging with excitement at the Fire stage. Spinning the usual hits like “White Noise,” and a groovy “Latch” remix, they ended their set with the phenomenal Flume remix of “You and Me,” all while massive geysers of flame exploded all around.
Saturday began slightly overcast but quickly warmed up as the sun broke through. I was a little busy for the beginning of the day running The Drop BK’s renegade stage in cabin Pod B (which saw an incredible set from Brooklyn bass DJ: Joe San). But once we moved things to the rest of the festival, good vibes guru and world bass producer iX really took the cake with his interdimensional beats. 5am Trio was another highlight of the evening especially with absolutely stunning visuals being slung by The Void b2b Dial8visuals.
One of the acts I’d never even heard of, yet completely blew me away, was the New Zealand producer, Baynk, who came on and stunned with a beautiful mix of future bass stylings and bubbly summer vibes. He played just before The Funk Hunters and truly set the mood. The rain finally hit midway through The Funk Hunters and turned an otherwise dope set into a massive dance party in the rain. This did, however, allow for the funk to flow into an extended set as the follow-up act got delayed getting in, so we couldn’t complain. Following that incredible experience in the pouring rain, I made my way up to the Theatre Stage to catch the late night Sermon takeover featuring Tsimba, Stylust, Of The Trees, Tygris, and Supersillyus. It was an incredible string of acts that truly emulated the vibes we get at every Sermon event in Brooklyn.
Sprinkled around the festival was such an incredible collection of art, experiences, and more music than you could ever hope to hear. One of the greatest (and worst) things about Elements is that there’s so much to see and do that you can never possibly hope to find or experience everything in just one weekend. While I don’t quite remember all of the acts I got to see on Sunday (once again bouncing around sans-schedule), Liquid Stranger certainly stole the show. Blasting through a bombastic set of unrelenting bass, he kept all of the bassheads in a frenzy, sending us spiraling down a rabbit hole deep into the night.
After that, it was the kind of night you spend wandering through the festival. I explored the forest, checking out some of the beautifully illuminated art installations, mingled with new people and passed around many a bottle of champagne as we laughed and continued our adventures. The absolute highlight of the final night at Elements, however, was the breathtaking set that Mike Wallis put on for The Rust’s takeover at the Theatre stage. That man is an incredible producer and, after three nights of sleep deprivation and the day-three soreness, he still was able to keep us all moving and grooving in that dark sweatbox of a stage.
At the end of the day, leaving Elements in the afternoon on Monday is always one of the hardest things to do. The magical pull of that small little summer camp on a gorgeous lake in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania is as powerful as the world’s biggest electromagnet. Even here in New York, I can still feel the tug of Lakewood on my heart.