At the Mothership stage, WhoMadeWho had the frenetic, ruthlessly straightforward drumming of !!!, and the swaggering lead vocals of Franz Ferdinand. Hips swung, particularly to Rooftop Paradise and Heads Above.
At The Void Village, the disco Terry Francis plays sees the crowd casually socializing. He switches into spacy house overtracks with a sharp womp womp, presumably in an effort to inspire some movement in his spectators, but neither Intistars or Unique Shadow prove up to the task.
Back at the Mothership, “A trip through an electric desert, Dry Lights, [by self described antiVJ Xavier Chassaing], unfolds in an imagined environment of cacti and canyons.” The insectic twickering skittering across anxious orchestral atmospherics plays at the same volume as did the Whomadewho set. The quality of this art piece, thrown in to entertain us briefly between sets, speaks to the attention to detail at Further Future. This is a meticulously curated experience. They’ve considered every second of our time and optimized our enjoyment of it. After the video ends, no filler track takes its place. Silence allows the crowd to socialize in anticipation of Four Tet.
The dance area at Mothership is large enough that as Four Tet starts there’s space to circle up and roll song to song together as a loosely associated collective of undulating islands. The energy is extremely positive, with compliments on outfits, dance moves and smiles jumping across the narrow straights between islands and provoking hugs and high fives.
I haven’t heard a guitar sound yet. In fact, the absence of acoustic instrumentation is surprising. Four Tet is playing a character, charging and dancey, one who uses ear-perking trills in the midrange to fill out the sonic space. We’ve heard Morning Side and Parallel Jalebi. The set is heavy on tracks from Beautiful Rewind, but the reworking of them is substantial enough to render them practically unrecognizable.
The beat has been predominantly African, and somewhere after the halfway point he blasts the arousing African vocals. Everyone who’s ever seen The Lion King just did a three jump and yelled at the top of their lungs. He’s dancing the crowd like a fucking monster, but it’s not heaviness. The African beat doesn’t evoke Zion. It’s happiness and bounce.
If I didn’t know better I wouldn’t know this was Four Tet. He found the crowd where we were, projected himself onto us, and elated us.
After briefly spinning down like a couple of gleeful flywheels, we head to the Jucy to fuel up, and then right back to the Mothership for Caribou. We’re parked 20 or 30 spaces away from the far end of the lot, and still it only takes us 4 minutes to walk from anywhere on the festival grounds to the van, and 4 minutes to walk back, so we arrive before the set starts. This truly is a luxury festival.
Caribou’s set is straightforward, a technically flawless rendition of his most popular tracks, primarily drawing from Our Love. Odessa has the crowd grooving the hardest, though throughout the set our movements are smaller and attention less focused than for Four Tet. Both Julia Brightly and Silver draw cheers, but the crowd just isn’t bopping, which is a shame, because someone’s distributed purple glow boas to nearly everyone, and were we bouncing around in unison, the visual effect in the deep night would have been fantastic.
The stagecraft is impressive. He’s got a splayed spotlight spraying each band member’s head from behind, spinning through smoke whipped ‘round by the wild desert wind and further illuminated by green and white light bars at the edges of the scene. There’s so much light and movement that the drama differs strikingly from the professionally executed, but ultimately uninspiring performance.
On the tail end of the set, the sky spits little face slapping drops right as Can’t Do Without You starts up, picking up the pelting throughout the song until we’re dancing in the rain. The sudden sensory accompaniment gives the impression that God listens to FM radio, and is nodding along. They’re playing it at about 1.5x speed, and the extra energy elicits a chorus of cheers, but still the movements are muted.
As Caribou leaves the stage, the rain is coming down hard, so we huddle underneath the awning of one of the shipping-container-cum-bar-cum-observation decks that define the dance area at the Mothership, and try our first craft cocktail of the evening. We’re blown away. It’s as good as any mixologist’s creation, it’s $12, there’s no line to get it, and it’s available 12 steps from where the crowd dances to the Mothership’s acts.
The rain lets up briefly and we sprint back to the van, leaping hard running rivulets. We jump in and almost instantly the raindrops turn to sheets that turn the windshield into a down-sliding opaque mosaic, like Dalí’s vision of what the RV across the row from us should look like.
This is a full-on monsoon soaking. It’s raining so hard that we know we can’t open the pop-top and hop up without getting completely drenched, so we recline and chat briefly about how dope this festival is before falling hard asleep.
Luckily we wake up in time to fast-walk the four minutes back, trying to catch Dixon. Due to the rain, set times and locations at this festival have been… fluid. That’s great for us in this case as we hear the first notes of Dixon’s set start up under the tent at The Void, rather than at Robot Heart where he was scheduled. This is a great adjustment, as it’s still raining, and Robot Heart is totally exposed.
One hundred early morning jammers are packed in like penguins, huddling and for the heat, and dancing because the set is fucking fire. He slays Envision, No Distance, CompuRhythm, and about 40 other tracks during the at-least 5hr performance.
Dawn pulls the veil on the wet color in the world, and everything changes. We dancers kick it into high gear and everyone is so stoked I wonder briefly what it would look like to see someone’s cheeks pop right off, practical muscle fleeing too big a smile for its intimidating ecstasy. More than a few times I open my eyes to see someone, head thrown back, laughing to themselves with joy.
Dixon knows exactly what he’s doing. He’d toned it down for about half an hour in anticipation of Sunrise, and right as the full light bursts over the mountain and into the tent, he drops the most energetic beat he’s played thus far, then keeps it going at that level until he struts off the stage.
It occurs to me that we’re watching an artist who kills it for crowds of 5000+, as part of a crowd so small that by the time his last note rings out, we’ve known each other. If I want to communicate directly with Dixon, I simply walk up to the booth, make eye contact, and give him a big thumbs up.
After Dixon, we wander around. The rain has done a number on the infrastructure, but they’re busily moving speakers and lounge pods out of puddles. This festival was born of burners after all, not a crowd known for withering in the face of a little inclement weather. Thankfully, there’s WiFi throughout the festival, and they’re live-updating the set times and locations on the purpose built app.
We decide to take this time to tour the campgrounds, curious about the high-fine accommodations on offer, the presence of which had so many in such a huff in pre-event coverage. The Lunar Palaces have hardwood floors, are air conditioned, and booking one entitles you to the attentions of a 24hr concierge, at your disposal, and in the words of the friendly gentleman who gave us a tour of his hi-tech tent, disposed of the ability to “Get whatever you want. Seriously they'll do anything you can think of.” As it turns out, the only accommodation option not to sell out is the one we’re availing ourselves of – the least expensive option. Though there are the ubiquitous press, vendor employees, volunteers, production crew, and friends, it does appear that to say this is not a festival of one percenters would be a lie.
Photos by Sean Ruhland
Words by Derek Ruhland
You know you’re at the right festival when attendees only take “naps.” We woke up from ours to hear people’s hoots and hollers nearly drowning out the sound of Pharcyde absolutely rocking it, but only from afar as we readied ourselves for Saturday night’s revelry. We arrived at the Mothership to see the sun set, and wait for Nicolas Jaar to take the stage. Again, rather than a low-volume track to entertain the crowd, a ultra-high-definition art film featuring scenes of life in New York played until it didn’t, then silence.
Jaar takes the stage and makes no effort to match the crowd, which is buzzing, filled to spilling with the anticipatory energy of the new night. He opens with two minutes of African women singing, and then twelve minutes of swooping frequency pulses in the same register as the now-faint singers. The only sound reminiscent of a beat playing is a sort of surf-rock guitar track that reminds me of the original Batman theme. Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na. Over it all he’s got cockroach legs tickity ticking up and down the backs of our arms.
25 minutes in and we’ve yet to get the bass. The crowd is swaying patiently, appreciating the soundscape he’s painting, but as much giving him the benefit of the doubt. They’re sure that eventually he’s going to get them off, and they’re willing to wait.
Finally, slowly, surreptitiously, he slides, not drops, the bass in, still holding the beat in reserve. When he finally does introduce it in full, it’s part of a fully developed, very funky groove, but you simply can’t remember how it got that way. He introduces all the parts so subtly that you sort of wake up to realize you’re fully dancing, not understanding how your knees started popping and your hips started dropping. The baseline is pure Motown, while the beat calls back to the African vocals that got us started.
His lights are so bright that you feel their heat when they slam on. By the time the bright lights hit, the crowd is the largest one of the festival thus far, and he’s got total command over it. He’s blasting through genres, energies, and tempos at a clip. It’s disconcerting, disorienting, and we’re loving it. Every time he cuts everything away from a hard charger so that all we can hear are the soaring strings, eyes roll back into heads, hands turn out and we feel the goosebumps run up and down with the music. Puppets all of us.
We’ve lost ourselves, and he’s got the danciest track he’s played thus far slamming, then without warning he cuts all sound and light completely. A single blue laser array illuminates him from behind as an achingly gorgeous male vocal with simple midrange piano backing plays him out. It fades, and the crowd is screaming into the night, willing to him to understand how much they appreciate what he’s just accomplished for, and with them. It’s the first time this festival we’ve seen people abandon themselves completely to worship an artist.
All festival long, every time we’ve mentioned how good this set was or how excited we are for that set, the callback has been, “Just wait until Leftfield comes on.” At one point we were even told, “If you miss Leftfield I’m going to punch you in your fucking face.”
Neither of us had heard of Leftfield before, so needless to say, we’re intrigued. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long, as they took the stage almost immediately after Jaar vacated it. I suspect they saw what he’d done to the crowd and didn’t want to let one ounce of the good stuff he’d filled us with spill out and be wasted on the wet dust.
Leftfield immediately start in with Song of Life as an intro, then into a dub that got the crowd swaying. From the off, the crowd is startlingly in synch, dancing in step, stepping in time, timing the plant and the pull to the slap and the swell.
The music is far more techno than anything else we’ve heard thus far at Further Future, and they’re inhumanly tight.
I find myself staring at each musician, trying to understand how they sound so much like an electronic track, Nick Rice - the drummer - especially. That, the vocoder vocals, and the overall synthesized sound makes it hard for my brain to synch what I’m seeing with what I’m hearing. It’s an unbalancing sensation, and all the while I’m feeling it I’m in a sea completely out of its mind with dance. It’s one of the hardest partying crowds I’ve seen in my life.
Everyone, EVERYONE, looks like they’re doing kneehighs. Pumping their arms, they’re working so hard to keep up with the energy Leftfield is pouring out. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was watching some bizarre calisthenics video from the future. To my left is a woman wearing leather shoulder pads, electric blue lipstick, a vinyl bra, with 4ft tall iridescent plumage sprouting from a matching brown leather head-cap. To my right, a Mr.Clean-bald man wearing a set of brass wire liberty spikes. Both are totally absorbed and celebrating their transportation to a reality defined by music.
Leftfield runs through Original then onto funkier fare for two or three tracks. By the time they arrive at Phat Planet they’ve secured, beyond a doubt, their station as the set of the festival, and possibly of 2016.
The depth of the tracks winds down step by step, becoming bare but still driving, until BAM! With a huge hit they cut the audio and the lights and half the crowd says as one, “Whoah!” before laughing then clapping. The reaction to the end isn’t anywhere near as vocal as it was for Nicolas Jaar. I think people are a bit stunned, milling around, and who can blame them? The bottom’s just dropped out of their shared physical dream.
I’m chanting “One more song! One more song!” and I’m a bit by myself in it. I’m wondering whether or not encores are a thing here. People are just beginning to move on when Leftfield retakes the stage.
The drummer’s ass has barely hit the throne when the beat drops. They sprint through Afro-Left then 6 more burners, each more propellant than the last. By the time they leave the stage the second time, 1000 people are panting like they’ve just been fucked to blow their mind, trying to find the earth from the tumbling air balloon of a mattress caught in a thunder head.
I’m a bit tipsy from the trip of it. It’s been a long time since an artist I’d never heard of picked me up and tossed me around like that. Trying to stumble in a straight line as we slowly ride the high of discovery and the joy of dance back down to the ground, we wander over to YokoO at Robot Hearts. The set is groovy, but it’s apparent that a lot of the crowd is still processing the Leftfield set. I can tell, because every time I make contact with someone, they’ll grab me excitedly by the shoulders and yell over YokoO to ask, “DID YOU SEE LEFTFIELD!?”
The real beneficiary of the stoke provided by Leftfield was Lee Burridge. He took the stage underneath the Robot Heart at about the same time everyone had figured out where to store the Leftfield set and how to go forward, and forward Lee took them. If there's anyone on Earth who would have been better suited than Burridge to maintain after Leftfield's set, I'd like to know who they are. Burridge carried the crowd - the insane, enthralled crowd - with ease.
Unsurprisingly, his set was marked most by consistency. He starts out pleasantly, pulsatingly, pleasingly pumping, and stays that way for the next three hours.
Wongel and Lost in A Moment slide by, and the darkness recedes, so slow as to be imperceptible continuously, but steady enough to startle in punctuated realizations that the mystery of the desert beyond is draining against gravity, evaporating. Slowly the depth of the landscape matches that of the audioscape Burridge provides.
The dawn creeps closer and the color seeps from inside of one of us, across the dance floor, and into another. More so than during any previous set, the observation decks, the RV on which the stage stands, and the Heart are dripping with beautiful people in beautiful getups, dancing and living beautifully.
Dancing. Smiling. Laughing. Rays spike the low ridge to our east before the top of the disk breaks the line. It’s cresting. We’re cresting.
We’re a sunrise species. During the dark night of our ascendance we creeped and conquered the world.
Like the dawn we moved always. Always advancing. Always englightening. Like the dawn we moved stepwise. First Africa. Now Siberia. America. Until we changed everything.
Like the dawn we destroyed ourselves with progress, and until now our light has destroyed us as it’s enriched the color of our lives in equal measure. But now we’re seeing the first rays spike the low ridge of our primitivism. Maybe, if we can keep our face turned sunwards ’til the new disc rises, we’ll stride confidently into a bright day, hand in hand, and leave light footprints.
At Further Future it feels possible.