Robot Heart has a reputation for being one of the most exclusive Burning Man camps and Further Future is considered by many to be a festival that caters to a very well-off and connected demographic. Tickets started at $350 and tent accommodations ranged from $950 to $7,500 for the weekend. Guests had the option of paying for luxury spa services, IV restorative treatments, and $250 gourmet dinners cooked by celebrated chefs. Featuring svelte models clad in artistically structured dark outfits, the promo ads for the festival looked like a futuristic photo shoot that you would see in a high-fashion magazine.
Given that Further Future is considered a luxury camping festival- a sort of“Club Med” in the desert- I arrived thinking that this weekend would fly by in a blur of dancing and perfect weather.
However, the festival started off with several problems that definitely dampened my initial enthusiasm. Although the schedule stated that gates opened Friday at 12 noon, construction on the site was behind schedule so attendees weren’t let in for another 3 hours. That meant impatiently hanging around my campsite for 3 hours sweating, and trying to get some shade from the desert sun. Once inside the festival, there weren’t many options for shade except in one dance tent and several small shade structures. It also seemed that most attendees were late arrivals- the grounds were sparsely populated until late Friday night. By that time the temperature had dropped drastically which made my costume choice for the night seem like a really bad idea. Then the rain started.
Apparently the festival site received the equivalent of 4 months of rain in a single weekend which lowered spirits and forced organizers to adjust programming. Ironically, those who spent thousands on luxury tent accommodations ended up struggling with the rain just as much as those who paid $80 for regular tent camping. Despite the efforts of the festival producers to provide a comfortable luxury setting for attendees, Mother Nature flooded tents and turned the festival grounds into a mud swamp.
Late Friday night, organizers closed the festival grounds in anticipation of a severe thunderstorm and sent everyone back to their accommodations. As I lay shivering in my tent wishing I had brought warmer clothing, I wondered whether I was going to regret coming to FF002.
In the end, I didn’t have the experience I expected, but I still had a great time and learned several important things along the way.
Lessons from the Future
- Diversity makes sense. As an attendee of EDM festivals since 2010, it was refreshing to see the diverse lineup that Further Future offered. Year after year, I hear the same type of house music at dance music events and festivals. Further Future was different because I had no clue who half the DJs on the lineup were. What made my first year at FF001 so special was stumbling upon acts like Kiasmos who had an amazing live act that blended minimal with classical music. Their album turned out to be my favorite of 2015. Unfortunately due to cold and rain, this year I was lazy about exploring new acts. My favorite of the festival was Hӓana who I saw perform Saturday night after her presentation at the speaker stage. Her unique style of music blends electronic beats with the uplifting sounds of string instruments and strange sounding foreign vocals to create mystical and beautiful melodies that transports listeners to a faraway world.
- Dancing on top of things is a lot of fun. I wasn’t brave enough to climb the famous LED heart on the bus while intoxicated, but I did have a blast dancing on top of the 2 containers next to the bus stage. Throughout the weekend, people danced on top of the containers or on top of the Robot Heart bus which provided awesome views of the beautiful landscape and sexy crowd.
- Chillaxing and doing nothing feels amazing. I expected to feel like crap by the end of the festival due to sleep deprivation, but since I didn’t party as hard as I expected due to the rain, I ended up spending a lot of time relaxing in cuddle puddles. It felt so good not to do anything. However after dancing from sunrise to mid-day on Sunday, I felt like I needed a body transplant. My friends were luckily able to secure a plush lounge chaise and we spent the next three hours doing nothing but chilling and catching up- something that is usually hard to do at festivals. Working full-time while running a clothing line doesn’t leave me much time to hang out with friends, so I appreciated the bonding experience and opportunity to have meaningful conversations.
- Mother Nature is Beautiful. Further Future takes place amid an expanse of red-colored soil and majestic mountains that ranged in shades of blue, purple, and grey. The rainy weather resulted in epic cloud filled skies that created beautiful sunsets and photos with the hashtag #skyporn. One of my favorite moments took place Sunday evening at sunset. After shooting some new pieces from the Fringe & Epaulette line, my friends and I sat down on the outskirts of the festival site and silently watched as the sun set over the mountains and turned the sky pink and purple, Overcome by the serene beauty of the desert landscape, my friend Stefania got up and thanked Mother Nature for the gift of her beauty
- Next-level festival fashion. Festival attendees at Further Future came out in force with their most futuristic and creative outfits. There were so many people in post-apocalyptic style clothing that it looked like we were on the set of a Mad Max movie. People-watching was one of my favorite things to do at FF002 and I was inspired by the style and creativity of the community. Dancing surrounded by people wearing out-of-this-world costumes definitely enhances the festival experience for everyone and I appreciated how much effort people put into their looks.
Some of the most outstanding costumes I saw:
Stay tuned for next week’s in depth review of Further Future #festivalfashion and their designers.
6. Food is life. The next statement shows how much of a foodie I am, but I think my favorite part of Further Future wasn’t the music or interesting speakers, but the food. After making a pre-festival stop at Trader Joes, I planned to subsist on peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, and canned beans for the duration of the festival. #howtopartyonabudget
My plan was going well until I tried some of the poutine my friend had ordered from the Poutine in Your Mouth food stand. Omg. Cripsy fries drenched in a savory sauce topped with crumbles of cheese. I have no clue what was in the savory sauce but it was so good I wanted to drain the leftover sauce into my mouth.
Even though I opted out of the VIP dining options, I was really impressed with the variety and quality of food available at the food stands in Vendor Village. There were a range of options from Asian Fusion, BBQ, to fresh organic produce. It was also great to see how much the vendors enjoyed serving festival attendees. Every time I saw George, the owner of QFS tacos, he had a huge smile on his face and made jokes as he talked with customers. Ted and Jen at Poutine in Your Mouth danced to the music pumping from the stages as they took orders and served fries. Sunday evening as I stood in line for my third serving of poutine, I couldn’t help but smile at their infectious energy.
Upon my return to New York, the first review I read of Further Future was the harshest criticism I’ve ever read about a festival. Not even Camp Bisco 2012 which was infamous for having portapotties that turned over in a thunderstorm got such a bad review. Beatport writer Zel McCarthy definitely makes valid points in his criticism of Further Future. Yes, it’s a festival that caters to a wealthy demographic. Yes, the organizers should have been better prepared for the weather.
However, every festival has its ups and downs. Beatport’s article focuses on the negative but fails to emphasize the good—the small moments of joy that you find at a festival that provides a transformational space for attendees: the gratitude you feel after dancing all night long and watching the sun rise over the majestic landscape; bonding over tacos as you wait in line at the taco stand; ending up in a giant cuddle puddle as you wait out the storm with 20 new friends . It is the combination of these small moments that ultimately determine the significance of an event.
One attendee who I spoke with said that he was happy with the gloomy weather because it forced him to be more introspective and have experiences that he normally wouldn’t have. “I learned a lot of things about myself and my friends this weekend that surprised me.”
As I waited in the security line at the airport Monday morning, I looked down at my dusty, rain-splattered boots and realized that even though Further Future wasn’t my ideal festival experience, I was grateful for the moments of happiness that I had experienced that weekend.
My biggest takeaway from Further Future: the future is not easy. It’s ultimately up to you to make the best of any situation you find yourself in.
Suggestions for Further Future 003
- More shade structures- Sunday was brutal. After dancing for 6 hours straight I spent at least 3 hours trying to escape from the sun and relax. The lounge chairs provided were amazingly comfortable but didn’t offer any respite from the sun. If the weather had been in the 90s as normal, people would have been fried by day 2.
- More art- I loved the Hybycozo installations which were absolutely beautiful, and the Artzone space but felt there was an overall lack of art. Given that the festival had a very minimalistic post-apocalyptic vibe, I’m not sure if this was intentional. But any event can benefit from having impactful, interactive artwork. Sponsoring artists to build installations would also be a great way of supporting the Burner art community.
- More daytime activities- it would be great if there were other activities offered in addition to yoga, meditation, and talks. As a festival that strives to be transformational, having a variety of creative and reflective activities would increase the impact of the event.
Next week’s blog post: FURTHER FUTURE FESTIVAL FASHION- an in depth interview with designers
By: Yoshi Churnac
Photos by Gilles Bonugli Kali