by Kyle Taylor |
Nestled in picturesque isolation, the 4th annual Infrasound Festival returned to its home at Camp NCN (that’s Camp No Clothes Necessary) once again this May, igniting the summer of 2015 with a blast of audio-driven energy and enthusiasm truly incapable of replication. To say pinpointing the apex of Infrasound’s brilliance and success is difficult would be a tremendous understatement- “impossible” doesn’t even really seem to do the trick. No, what makes this still-blossoming, playfully professional, annual exhibition such a treat for its many patrons is not a single stand-out component, but the vapid splendor of attention to detail in every possible aspect able to be addressed.
Of course, music holds a high-standing at Infrasound, likely the highest of all, and appropriately so. The staff has continuously shed no excuse in treating their attendees to the purest in refined sound. With 2015 marking the third consecutive headlining appearance from world-renowned producer Tipper (2015, 2014, 2013; not including Infrasound: Equinox), the inclusion of Funktion-One speakers on the main stage for all the festival’s skillful audio artists to immerse themselves in has only further challenged the sound experience of similar events. In 2015 the Infrasound team took the goal of pristine sound an extra step further, introducing not one, not two, but three separate Funktion-One systems across its humbly intimate stages: The Meadow, Mendi’s Beach, and The Bend. Each individual system would later be disassembled in the depths of Saturday evening, only to be revealed once again by the trickling sunrise of Sunday morning, spread across the venue’s majestic lake’s shoreline just in time for Tipper’s second, downtempo set to close out the weekend.
Straying from the labels of “music festival” or “arts festival” specifically, the Infrasound Festival further chooses to define itself by its overall experience. Too often is the phrase, “you’ve got to see it to believe it,” overused; but, never has it been more pertinent. I began my festival excursions in 2010, and sure there were still well over a handful at that time, but just five years later, it feels as though the number of new festivals popping up each summer is increasingly exponentially and nearing a point of over-populated suffocation. The seemingly unique and enlightening experience of certain festivals has begun to diminish in a corrosive wave of commercial partnerships and company buy-outs. Infrasound, however, side-steps such follies with delicate elegance.
It’s tough to know what specifically to discuss to follow up the impeccable sound quality when talking about Infrasound; but, aside from the sound units themselves, the lineup seems a great jumping off point- well, the dock protruding into Camp NCN’s dazzling waters is actually the best jumping off point, but we’ll still start with the lineup. Of course boasting the mystifying talents of Tipper firmly at its peak, the Infrasound 2015 lineup spilled down into an equally impressive, and rather expansive collage of supporting musicians. Two undeniable treats held a firm-footing just below Tipper: two sets from the UK bass legend Benga, and the newly assembled Opiuo Band, both of which were only in the United States for extremely limited runs. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. With the event nurturing a bountiful, well-rounded lineup of producers and electronica acts from Ott. to TRUTH; Ozric Tentacles to Freddy Todd; Mr. Bill to Bluetech; Infrasound annually finds a therapeutic balance of ambient and downtempo tones, melded against mid-tempo glitch madness, and entangling bone-crushing assaults of bass.
What is perhaps most impressive, though, is the undying persistence of quality of Infrasound’s artists from its lead headliner, to its very final line of talent. Even the most adept music fans were more than likely to stumble upon a small handful of new, pleasing artists over the course of the weekend. Calling upon artists of vastly versatile origins, Infrasound’s booking demonstrated a demand for quality over notoriety, and in doing so, proved the age-old argument that many times, the “little” guys are just as ready to play with the big boys (and girls) as anyone else.
With a schedule spanning from noon to at least 2AM each night (5AM on Friday and Saturday), there was not a moment where I felt bored by the festival’s musical presentation, not even a second. The Bend showcased an incredible group of rising artists, sure to be making their own footprints in the music world quite soon; Mendi’s Beach breathed new life into the United States’ dubstep fan base, calling upon North America’s and, of course, the UK’s finest deep bass producers to show listeners the true roots and underground culture of the dubstep movement; while, The Meadow served home to many fan favorites, including the sound mad scientist Ott., as well as electronica innovators Ozric Tentacles, glitch kings Freddy Todd and Mr. Bill, the rumbling tones of TRUTH and The Widdler, and never to be forgotten, the quirky, unmistakably authoritative jostling beats of Tipper.
Serving as the festival’s main stage, The Meadow flaunted the most advanced visual production found anywhere within the grounds: multiple LED walls and towers, with a full projection backdrop. In fact, the festival’s other two stages hardly relied on lights at all, instead encouraging the musicians to further prove themselves through their music alone. After all, you don’t really need flashing lights to enjoy music, do you? The Bend made use of a wooden makeshift shelter, only utilizing a minimal amount of lighting to enhance the atmosphere; but, with the stage’s decidedly organic appearance, snuggled along the venue’s forest line, artists who took the stage consistently set their own tone and brought their own energy, operating independently of any light programming. Mendi’s Beach took a whole other approach entirely, holing its artists in the famous Infrasound pyramid, which has housed many of the festival’s artists in previous years. When the Infrasound gates first opened, the pyramid was a clean, blank, white slate, but that existence was to soon be ended, as visual artist Aaron Brooks set his hands to work, coating the pyramid with a twisted, psychedelic masterpiece.
With the festival reaching its capacity of 2,500 attendees, selling out entirely, one might find initial confusion at the lack of more strategic and immense light rigs. Yet, the simplicity and originality of Mendi’s Beach in particular quickly proved the importance of its role. The concept of using a stage as a drawing board, rather than bombarding its onlookers with the same, tiresome flashing LED patterns one can see at any of the other hundreds of music festivals spanning the United States, further demonstrated the devotion of Infrasound’s team to new-found authenticity.
Now, the venue itself simply could not have been more pleasing. Yes, for those who have attended Infrasound in at least one of its past years, the knowledge is already burned (or maybe even scarred) into our minds; but for those seeking to make their first expedition in 2016 (assuming the festival returns to its Camp NCN home), be prepared for the “N.C.N.” policy to be in effect. Free-swinging and bouncing genitalia are a definitive part of the Infrasound experience; but hey, that only goes to show the free-spirited nature the festival instills in its patrons. By no means does the property descend into utter anarchy and chaos over the festival’s four days; yet, the shackles of day-to-day life as most of us know it, are left far behind and out of mind upon stepping foot on to that illustrious property- and we’re not just talking about the shackles of clothing, either.
Even at capacity, the venue was considerably roomy and comfortable, providing plenty of camping space for all its merry-makers. Most took to the trees: a small patch of forest which coats about a third of the Camp NCN property and provides, not only shade during the day, but a mystifying experience at night. Feeling encouraged to contribute and participate in their own unique fashion, many patrons unveiled their own art throughout the forest trails over the course of the weekend, escalating the artistic experience to be inclusive of not just those booked by the festival, but rather, anyone brave enough to call himself an artist and display his or her work for others to examine, but more importantly, enjoy. Everything from 2-D art to sculptures and more abstract 3-D visual art installations could be found, each day more plentiful than the last. The intimate and welcoming atmosphere of Infrasound is undeniably yet another key component in the festivals’s singularity, encouraging and instilling new artistic inspiration in many.
A quiet and air-conditioned diner makes its home on the fringes of Camp NCN’s property, making those early festival mornings ever so slightly easier via a fresh, hot cup of coffee coupled against a plate brimming with greasy bacon, crisp hash browns, and a fluffy tower of pancakes. The venue’s lake is a clear staple of the location and a common point of conglomeration as the thunderous dubstep claps echoing from Mendi’s Beach carried themselves with ease across the waters. Whether playing or laying in the sand, catching a breather on the dock while dipping toes into the refreshing water, fully embarking into the depths by boat or raft, or simply taking a full on swim to help revitalize the body, attendees could still revel in the stage’s boisterous, gritty noise.
There are numerous commendable festivals out there, and of course, many yet to be seen and experienced. Nonetheless, Infrasound has undeniably raised the stakes, giving new life to the power of music. It has proved that flashy stage production, heaving pyrotechnics, aggressive pronouncement of other aspects of a festival, are all not necessary in making a, not only fiscally, but more importantly, expressively, successful festival. Infrasound is the Robert Frost of music festivals, taking the road less traveled; it is the black sheep that bet on itself and did what it loved, rather than following the herd. It may sound cheesy, but it’s honestly a phenomenon far to scarce in the constantly expanding music industry. For finding success in its own passions, in following dreams, and never being beaten to defeat, Infrasound deserves more than a firm nod; it deserves the momentously creative and positive community that populates its grounds year after year. For all Infrasound deserves, it continues to ask for very little in return, and that very well may be the most inspiring aspect of all.
For more be sure to check out our Infrasound Artist Spotlight & Interview series from this year’s festival:
Spotlight #1: Thriftworks
Spotlight #2: Freddy Todd | Plus Artist Interview
Spotlight #3: Android Jones
Spotlight #4: Grimblee & Hecka
Spotlight #5: Midnight Tyrannosaurus | Plus Artist Interview
Spotlight #6: Beak Nasty | Plus Artist Interview
Spotlight #7: TRUTH (Andre Fernandez) | Plus Artist Interview
All photos by Scott Collins