This weekend, I attended the Escape to New York music festival on the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton with The Statesman’s music blogger, Chris Priore (click here to read his review of the music of day one).

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a portion of the grounds of the Shinnecock reservation

What is essentially a vast field of grass had been overtaken by two stages, a cornucopia of vendors, several artists, and a group of people looking for a weekend filled with music, sun, and spontaneity.

Admittedly, there was not a huge crowd of people on the reservation on Friday.  When we arrived, at 11a.m., being young, eager, and naive and expecting a long line to pick up our press passes, we did not have much company.  Though that fact contradicted the general characteristics of a music festival (crowded, rowdy, intense), it was actually kind of nice.  We were able to get the lay of the land in a calm, relaxed atmosphere.  There were no long lines and there was no need to push our way up to the front of the crowd while the bands were performing.  It was very different from what we expected, and definitely not your typical music festival experience, but a pleasant atmosphere had been created.

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Chris mentioned the bathrooms in his blog, but I’m going to briefly mention them as well because they were legitimately impressive.  Wood flooring, air conditioning, four separate stalls with wooden doors, several sinks, paper towels, good-smelling hand soap; these are not things that one would expect to find at an outdoor music festival.  I like the Hamptons.

Now, what profound idea did I take away from the impressive bathrooms?  (After all, I have to come up with some reason to make it seem reasonable that I am mentioning the bathrooms.)

Here’s what I’ve come up with: They were an instant conversation starter.  Not only was there something to talk about with the other girls using the bathroom, but there was something to talk about with every single festival goer, because everyone had experienced the same moment of shock when they walked in.  Also, they were a sign of the fact that the creators of the festival were truly making an effort to create an atmosphere unlike that of a typical music festival.  It was clear that its organizers wanted the festival to be exactly what it was advertised to be: “a VIP experience.”

Okay, I am finished talking about bathrooms now.

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Best Coast performed toward the end of the day.

The first band of the day was The Static Jacks, followed by The Postelles, The Ettes, Lissy Trullie, Chairlift, Best Coast, and, last but not least, the headliner, Patti Smith.  The first few performances were basically private performances, because there were about 15 people in the crowd at the beginning of the day.  The crowd grew as the day went on, especially toward the end of the night when tickets went on sale for $30.

Before The Static Jacks went on, though, we walked over to the acoustic stage, located on the border of the area with the food vendors, and sat at a picnic table listening to a band called OTiS.  The band did a few covers and I really enjoyed their low-key, relaxed attitude, as they smiled at each other and the audience throughout their set and seemed to be having fun and playing not just for the audience, but for themselves.

But for me, the focal point of the festival was not necessarily the music.  The festival as a whole, with all of its moving parts, was far more interesting.

There were art exhibits in little clearings in the woods.  There was a deer with a human face standing, stunned, five feet from the frontal portion of a car whose headlights shone in the darkness.  There was a large black structure resembling a bird cage with a chandelier hanging from the top and cushions lining its floor, meant for mediation.  There was a mystical gamelan orchestra — an Indonesian music ensemble – in one clearing, powered by a computer.  Stepping into each out cove when no one was around was like stepping, for just a moment, into a different world.

And then there was the science tent.  Guerilla Science, a UK-based organization, brings science to music festivals in an effort to take science to unexpected places.  Throughout the weekend, different speakers made presentations under the tent.  On day one, we attended a presentation by a rogue taxidermist.  Rogue taxidermy (also known as “vegan taxidermy”) is taxidermy without the real animals.  Basically, the guy makes stuffed animals.  Despite the fact that I was nauseous for about half of the presentation, I now know more about taxidermy than I ever thought I cared to, and it was actually really interesting.  We had the opportunity to talk to the aqua-and-white-plaid-shirt-and-newsboy-cap-wearing taxidermist, Robert Rich Marbury, later in the day, and he was a really cool guy with a very interesting life.  He showed us photographs of himself dressed as different presidents; it was entertaining.

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The science tent was one of my favorite aspects of the festival for the reason which Marbury so accurately stated during our conversation with him: “I think people want to have that duality of ‘I’m going to party, but I also learned something.”

Check back soon to read about days two and three of the festival.

 

 

 

 

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