F.A.R.M. Fest Awakens Transformational Culture in the Tri-State Area
New Jersey is known for many things, “transformational” music festivals not usually one of them. What struck me most throughout my three days in Vernon N.J. was F.A.R.M. Fest Music and Arts Festival’s keen and optimistic awareness of its own uniqueness. The vibrant intimacy immediately exceeded my expectations and filled me with a sense of hope. A little festival tucked away in the shadow of a mountain with consciousness-expanding art, cutting edge music, workshops and infinite bubbles can happen in this part of the country.
Despite a few scheduling errors and delays, the organizers maintained a satisfying balance between world-renowned acts and rising stars. The genre-spanning lineup, complete with jamtronica bands, workshops, visual artists, glass blowers, flame throwers and a healthy mix of DJs/producers, put this budding festival on the map.
The real pleasure was rooted in an ability to enjoy its intimate setting and collective sense of unity without worrying about the separating forces that seem commonplace at today’s larger festivals. No unnecessary and aggressive security, no never-ending lines, and best of all – no time-sucking walk between the campsite and festival grounds. The fact that you were always bumping into the same people made the whole experience feel homey, safe and accepting.
Those who made the trek to Vernon, NJ had the pleasure of witnessing the relentless sax battles of Moon Hooch, the electro-jazz funk of Cosby Sweater and the hypnotizing, transcendental electronica of Treavor Moontribe of Desert Dwellers late at night in the Funkadelphia tent. Throughout the weekend, you might have enjoyed the bizarre, trippy antics of Space Jesus and Supersillyus together as Schlang or been spaced out by the Hawaii-based downtempo artist Bluetech. Random Rab did what he does best; his lushly ambient set was accompanied by an incredible sunset as peacefulness permeated the air. EOTO freaked people out with their hyper-dub breakdowns and bizarre excerpts from “Say My Name” and “Dead or Alive.” Twiddle got the crowd moving on Saturday and put a smile on everyone’s face when they busted out an impromptu “Free Bird.”
For such a small festival, I was exposed to a lot of music I’ve never heard before. The two bands I heard for the first time at Farm Fest were Tweed and MUN. Tweed brought a special blend of flavors, from modern jamtronica to old school rock, and lead guitarist’s AJ DiBiase’s use of an old school talk box really got my attention. They closed out with a warped version of the Game of Thrones theme. MUN, on the other hand, was a little more abrasive and even got into some progressive metal, which was appealing to me as a longtime fan of heavy music. They slayed through intricate riffs, melodic breakdowns and epic solo battles. Their album Alchemy is available for download and is currently on repeat on my iTunes.
Before the festival’s main stage concluded with one of the most inspired Dosio sets I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing, the owner of the RickeyFarm took the stage with his wife. This man and his family have owned the lands that make RickeyFarm for 250 years, and he addressed the crowd with a loving aura, commenting that the site had seen musical acts in previous years but that Farm Fest was the first big event at the location in a long time. He was giving us an opportunity to understand who he was and where we were. He said that the genres of music being played there today are vastly different, but the creators and organizers still have those good intentions that often evade event planners in other subcultures. He also told us to take care of each other and look out for one another, and to help those who need it. He made a point to emphasize those working there were there to help and wouldn’t sell someone down the river if they were in need of any kind of medical care or assistance.
This man’s attitude is representative of transformational culture as a whole: an enlightened and open crowd filled with people who approach situations with a reserved courtesy and a commitment to making safe, sustainable spaces for freedom of expression and progressive ideals. It’s not about corporate sponsors, making large profits or getting the biggest and best lights and stages. It’s about building and creating, set and setting, understanding each other’s origins, a forum for forward thinkers, artistic minds and entrepreneurs. It’s about knowing that these festivals can be an agent for positive change for both the attendees, surrounding areas and the social responsibility of younger generations. The borders between music, culture, creativity and celebration are disappearing. And that’s reflected in the eclectic lineup and workshops. This music facilitates these tribal, visionary events and keeps them alive. It’s a constantly shifting equilibrium between commerciality, authenticity and sustainability, and right now Farm Fest has found its balance.