By Derek Ruhland
Last year when Further Future's debut was announced, the noise I heard about it would more appropriately be described as a grumbling than as a buzz. Complaints in the comment sections of pre-coverage about the new event, or around the camp stove and other festivals, ranged from indignation at the ticket price, to indignation at the "invite-only" attendance, to indignation at the location of the event on tribal land.
Southern Californian's uneasiness with the ever-increasing commodification of festival culture had, it seemed, focused itself onto this well-funded upstart event outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Being from the land of Coachella, I was used to bathing in the frustration surrounding VIP sections and private after parties, but the foamy waters of discontent surrounding Further Future seemed, to me, to be unjustified in their vitriol. Yes, its branding was slick and its bent corporate, but I held that Robot Heart was trying to do something new and cool - to embrace the Silicon Valley takeover of Burning Man so many others deride - and to bring innovation, and dare I say a specific kind of progress, to the world of alternative music festivals.
The core of Radical Inclusion is allowing ourselves to experience discomfort at the unfamiliar, and rather than rejecting it, to do the introspective work of examining our immediate reactions from a place of both rationality and empathy. Failing to do so is the definition of being reactionary.
No, Further Future did not appear to be another love and light festival appealing to purists. It was something new, and I for one was happy to give it a chance. For what it's worth, my impression was validated with post-event coverage that rated the debut, at worst, a tentative success pending future adjustments.
I was determined to attend the sophomore effort and create an informed opinion for myself. I love new ideas, and I wasn't going to let haughty naysayers deter me.
Then I saw the 2016 trailer above and my heart sank a bit. All that tolerance and optimism flooded out of me when confronted with "attendees" that looked suspiciously like planted fashion models, tired buzzwords sliding by in the typographic equivalent of a Volvo sedan, and an unreasonably nauseating image of identical white circus tents arranged in a grid, filled with costumed yuppies eating pop-up gourmet fare.
But I was uneasy with my own feelings. I couldn't help but think that I was being either unfair or ignorant, or that I was in fact the one out of touch. Before completing this write-up I put it aside for a couple of nights of sleep on it.
Then I saw the below video by Space-X and my failure to grasp the origins of my own reaction evaporated as quickly as liquid hydrogen. I, and everyone else blindly hating on Further Future are indeed the ones behind the times.
Silicon Valley is to our information age as Oil was to the industrial age. It's the trillion dollar beating heart of the new economy, and to expect it to maintain anti-establishment aesthetics is absurd. We're still demanding that revolutionary ideas come in radical packaging, when we live in a time where nearly unbelievable progress in both thinking and technology are as commonplace as was the production of textiles 100 years ago.
In the below video, a massive leap in our reach for the stars is branded identically to Further Future. Maybe we've reached peak alt. Maybe shiny, corporate, controlled, and relentlessly bounding into the greatest unknown, maybe Space-X, is a better representative of our current zeitgeist than a staunchly counterculture hippyfest. And maybe Robot Heart gets that.
My personal journey back to giddy anticipation at the prospect of experiencing this new kind of festival has revealed to me, in a way like nothing before it, the extent to which in our modern era we run a real risk of allowing the fantastic to become banal, and of forgetting that the further we go, the more we live in the future every day.