Who in their right mind bikes to an outdoor music festival at the farthest tip of Red Hook on the hottest, most humid day of the year, where the “real feel” temp was one hundred and freakin’ five degrees Fahrenheit? This chick, apparently. And for good reason.
Last week, BangOn!NYC hosted the third annual Elements Music & Arts Festival. Located on the ass end of Brooklyn at an industrial granary by the Gowanus, this was a fest for true New Yorkers. New Yorkers who came prepared for scorching summer heat with closed toe shoes for kicking rocks, re-usable water bottles for hydration, and sheer endurance for spending 10 sweaty hours in the blazing sun waiting for a killer headlining set by Gramatik.
Music festivals in NYC are conspicuously unlike others across the country. At fests like Gov Ball, Panorama, and Electric Zoo, one can expect aggressive security, aggressive corporate sponsorships, and aggressive bridge-and-tunnel bros looking to “get fucked up, dude!” While any big event in the city invites all walks of life, Elements set itself apart by offering community-building vibrations.
It wasn’t all breezy. In fact, I was praying to every god I could think of for just a light gust of dusty wind. The line to get in was a mile long. Fortunately people seemed pretty content to wait patiently under their parasols, taking breaks to run through the fire hydrant somebody graciously opened up (If that doesn’t scream true NYC-style ingenuity, I don’t know what does). Once inside, the scene was pretty chaotic. I’ve been to enough fests to call myself a vet, and this one definitely lacked proper signage. I honestly had no idea which stage I was at or who was playing until I recognized a track or asked enough people in my immediate vicinity.
The water situation was scarce. I was lucky enough to have backstage access to get hydrated, but the layperson was apparently expected to fill up at a hose with punctured holes for spouts; a hose, by the way, that I never located. I also heard complaints about lack of proper waste disposal. Garbage cans were a hot commodity. While I appreciate the DIY feel, Elements would be well advised to beef up these components next year, not only because I question the sanitary nature of a junkyard hose fountain, but because music festivals are a notorious place to find yourself hooked up to a saline drip in the medical tent after passing out from dehydration.
After I got my bearings, I found the best way to experience this fest was to wander around all by myself. There were no shortage of nooks and crannies to go esplorin’, and each one offered a unique surprise. The whole aesthetic was very Burning Man in an urban dystopia. The Fire Stage, hosted by Incendia, was built into a fort of freight truck tires and impounded vehicles. They got started off with a bumpin’ four hour set featuring JunXion founder Myk Tummolo and DJ Matt Sebastian of the WCKids, where guests beat the heat by splashing around in a big ol’ puddle of mud. I found some shade in the arts village, set inside a crumbling open air factory building, and featuring a myriad of artists whose work was sure to entertain fest-goers in an “altered state.” Climbable sculptures en route to burning man offered some of the best views of the scene when dancing on the ground felt too earth-bound. Most of all, though, I met so many new and wonderful people. People with whom I hope to develop long and collaborative relationships.
After a casual conversation with Chris Zeus, captain of the JunXion’s Qetzal Bus, about my interest in jewelry design, he brought me to jewelry designer Britt Bolton. Britt, who was not a vendor at this festival, makes some incredible metal and gem wearable sculptures. We got acquainted while scarfing down pulled pork at the Mighty Quinn food tent, (whose BBQ creations many of you will recognize from both their regular appearances at Brooklyn Flea and Shmorgasburg, as well as the brick-and-mortar location in the East Village). Britt agreed to let me observe at her studio in exchange for some clerical work, which is just the opportunity I haven’t been able to find through formal channels.
While filming with Good Looks’ new spokeswoman, Nina Burns, I couldn’t help but admire the detailed body painting she had done by graffiti artist Mastro, who spent the day decorating bodies to match the scenery. I spoke to Mastro about his work:
Body painting isn’t your primary medium, what is your favorite canvas to paint on?
Walls mainly-this whole Bodypaint thing came from graffiti. I’ve been writing since ’92.
What is the most popular design you lay on human skin?
Geometric/floral/animal/random. I have no preference, I just intertwine them all.
Where can we find your work around NYC?
All the 5 boroughs! Ranging from spots that are in the open, to cutty abandoned places.
And where can we find you body painting next? My birthday party? Just in case that was unclear: I’m inviting you.
Next up is Imagine in ATL, then Ezoo in NY. Then on the 10th I’ll have one of my team there on hand for birthday bonanzas. I’ll be at Great North Festival in Maine.
Sun poisoning be damned, I survived Elements Music & Arts Festival. And I came out on the other side enriched, rather than drained. I can’t wait to be back next year, as it’s sure to once again be the most magical year yet.