Elements Lakewood 2019 Evokes Nostalgia & Wonder For A Third Mesmerizing Year
Over Memorial Day weekend the ultimate music summer camp took place for the East Coast dance community. Nestled outside of a quaint Pennsylvania town roughly 5,000 electronic music enthusiasts united to create a unique and magical experience. Elements Music & Arts Festival sets itself apart from being classified as just another festival with its immersive setup and organic feel. The entire festival feels and breathes as if your fairy-godparents sent you off to camp of your dreams for the holiday. Each stage fully embodied the element of nature it was named after and had a curated lineup to create the vibe to match. From the art and camp activities to the vendors and cabins, it truly is anything but ordinary.
Before I get into the highlights of each stage and top notch performances I wanted to bring you all way back to your younger summer camp days and point out how incredibly awesome it is to be able to redo that experience as a “kidult”. Being my first year attending but the third year of Elements, I was briefed on what differences to expect from it being held at what is normally known to be a Jewish summer campground called Camp Levi. First and foremost, having cabins of 20 bunk beds each filled with familiar faces and smiling strangers alike was not only exciting but also extremely convenient for a camping festival.
For those of us who flew, we didn’t have the hassle of bringing or arranging to have any gear. It especially proved to be useful when huge thunderstorms would roll through and we all got to gather on the porch or watch from the comfort of our windows indoors away from the elements, yet still one with them all. The storms would drive us all in, to take a moment away from all the action and allow ourselves to have intimate time together playing games or to work on costumes and other crafts. We even had the opportunity to find respite to grab a nap and sleep a little if you happen to be into that sort of thing.
My favorite part was having more quality time with those we chose to attend with and the extensions of our inner circles that might not happen otherwise over the constant song and dance happening around us. The smaller size of the grounds made for easy navigation and allowed for running into people time and time again. Each cabin got to be decked out in their individual way, taking on its own persona for the holiday weekend.
The murals were vivid and interactive just like the attendees as we were prompted upon arrival by “camp counselors” to let our freak flag fly and to bring 100% of ourselves to the table. They briefed everyone on respect, consent, and leaving no trace to ensure a safe and conscious gathering. There were activities galore spearheaded by the one and only Rawb Lane including a vinyl scavenger hunt and a roller rink. There was even a movie theatre playing all the classics (not to be mistaken for the Theatre Stage). A few open fires to gather around at night for bonding memories and a bit of warmth is exactly the touch of nostalgia that is otherwise lacking at these events.
As its incendiary name denotes, The Fire Stage was by far the most alive and energetic scene consistently all weekend. Thanks in large part to could the perfect curation of house and techno every single night, this stage consistently brought an energy and intensity that fueled the party all night and all weekend long. With the wildest fire performers and pyrotechnics that would send a thunderous boom throughout the West Village, and even some femme bots that shot puffs of smoke from their bosoms. With the addition of Heavy Meta’s giant fiery dragon, they created views that seemed to be taken right from a Game of Thrones episode. However, despite the sky-high flames, the hottest thing about the fire stage was the artists who graced it. Global dance music superstars Disclosure and rising phenom Fisher turned up the tempature alongside beloved Dirtybirds Steve Darko, Shiba San, and the all mighty Justin Martin who closed out the stage on the last night kept our booties shaking until the dawn. Both of my new favorite artists Golden Pony and N2N as well as the record label Chub Rub were hosted on this stage and even made late-night appearances at the legendary renegade spot, Camp Pickleback.
Deep into the verdant trees that surrounded the entire festival where the wild things always are was where you could find your fix for the funky and experimental frequencies. Well-known names such as Liquid Stranger, The Funk Hunterz, Big Gigantic, Russ Liquid and my favorite ladies CloZee and Maddy O’Neal packed this stage out each night. There were endless trees to hang hammocks from and lots of art installations hidden at every corner creating plenty of wook-nooks and bewilderment. Saturday’s sunset was brought in by the ultra funky 5am Trio and Space Bacon was the perfect jam to keep the moment of the night going, with Random Rab wrapping up the entire stage for the weekend and patting us lightly on our hammock swinging bottoms to encourage drifting home safely. With the now familiarized element of mud at this stage, I think it couldn’t get more Earthly if it tried.
Undoubtedly, The Water Stage was the place to be during daylight hours. The views of the lush trees and open waters with revelers aquatic accouterments of all description, even a hovercraft to boot, was the true definition of awesome. Canoes, kayaks, paddle boats, and floaties abundantly took residence alongside the lakefront with views that could relax even the most high strung of us. All the silly sleep deprived antics that you could think of and even some you didn’t think possible was present, such as microwaved pizza rolls and popcorn being dished out randomly throughout the day by the top tier rave mom and dads looking out. There were performers and intricate costumes everywhere you looked, and the fanciest pirate ship doing booze cruises fueled by champagne that even took part in a ceremonial burn on the last night. The best part of any daytime stage is that each musical act is so smoothly blended together that it feels as though it is one artist seamlessly carrying us through a daydream for the entire day. Every artist was noteworthy and fluid just as the name suggests.
This stage was always the breath of fresh air whenever we needed to change up the vibe. It had multi-leveled structures to crawl onto and get elevated views of the creatures spread about. Every night turned into morning very easily with the driving sounds of the wizard himself Damian Lazarus, underground tastemaker turned global dance music icon Seth Troxler, Italian techno savant Francesca Lombardo, and a 3-hour closing set from festival standout Atish. For me personally, there were the most hidden gems I had never heard of before that I stumbled upon and found it hard to leave being so captivated. You could always count on this space to air on the side of free and untamed like the wind.
The Theatre Stage really embodies Elements underground roots. It was the perfect place to warm up and have a cool down all in one, depending on what flavor you might be looking for. Being indoors it was useful to get out of any weather putting a damper on your good times, and had a corner of throw pillows for comfortable cuddle puddles. Bandikook closing out the first night was the perfect vibe to keep the anticipation and energy going for the rest of the weekend. Stylust brought the Shambhala vibes and Of The Trees produced a truly eye-catching send off for the venue.
Coming from Colorado made the lush and humid environment feel as though I was in another country. Even the local artists were new and refreshing to me as the east coast vibes pumped through both the main and renegade speakers into the wee hours. There is a certain essence of sass and proper bass that the east brings and I can’t get enough of the respectable amount of attitude and adore bringing back to the all too often “nice” west coast. I always anticipate during the festival season the intermingling of the chunky east coast and pretty west coast melting pot that is this event.
The experience that is Elements delivers everything the name promises and much much more. The festival has distinguished itself as the leading camping festival in the Atlantic northeast, filling a void that countless other gatherings have tried to fill. With the nightlife wizards of BangOn! NYC at the helm it’s easy to see why Elements has blossomed into the gem that it is. It is the most convenient and well-rounded boutique music summer camp with never been seen or heard attractions that will keep any onlooker bewildered for their entire summer and urging for more. It will now be hard to imagine kicking off my festival season during Memorial Day weekend any other way. The intention and sense of community that the festival fosters are palpable and the future looks extremely bright for this budding festival already set to cement itself with iconic status.