It was the best of times. It was the worst of times; a time of triumph and great loss. It was Gratitude Migration: Summer Dreams 2016, where lost wallets, water logged iPhones, sandy asscracks and burnt skin gave way to unexpected experiences, transient friendships, cool breezy evenings and mind-blowing displays of light, sound and fire.
I went in expecting to lather up on sunscreen, slap on my press laminate and go hunting for a story. After promptly losing my wallet somewhere by the PEX fire domes that seemed to, impossibly, breathe dragon fire above your head, then dropping my phone into the ocean chasing down a bodacious babe swinging sparks ’round her body like a ribbon dancer, I thought maybe I ought to re-assess my approach. This was, after all, about the experience. As a casual appreciator of house music, the house-stocked
line-up of DJs offered an endless thumping soundtrack to the fun-house weekend. You didn’t need to stand by any stage, because as you skipped away from one, a new beat would come rolling in from the next. You felt free to get lost, because nothing and nobody was ever too far. And as I wandered fearlessly, I learned to listen closely. Here is what I overheard at Gratitude Migration:
“You’re either watchin’ it, or watchin’ someone else watch it, am I right?” – some guy watching the nutso visuals at the Gratitude Earth Stage
The visuals at Gratitude were among the best I’ve seen. The Gratitude Earth Stage was adorned with an enormous phoenix, which transformed along with the music. Meanwhile, the PEX fire stage offered, hands-down, the most incredible feat of pyrotechnics this girl has ever seen. And finally, the most incredible visual was not provided by Gratitude, but was rather a collaboration between NYC and the City of Keansburg, NJ: The positively stunning view of the Verizano bridge, connecting Brooklyn and Staten Island, glittering in the distance.
“Hey guys! I figured out House music! You just imagine that the end of your night is your entire night!” – Some girl who’s got it figured out
Gratitude was a marathon, not a sprint. And knowing that the music literally never ended, one had to pace oneself. You can bet this chick wore sunscreen and stayed well hydrated.
“Well, I was trying to make a statement…” – some girl who just kinda ruined this other lady’s piece of artwork
An unfortunate side effect of the “no boundaries” style of party, where festival attendees felt like they were part of the team, meant that sometimes they overstepped. One girl decided to adorn another woman’s piece of artwork with garbage folded into origami. And while the artist was visibly not happy with this guerilla collaboration, she was also surprisingly calm, cool and gracious about the whole thing: a representation, I think, of the kind of community people were willing to foster during our short time together.
“No no no, guys! That wasn’t a collective hallucination, that was reality.” – Some guy in his tent.
A collective hallucination might be the perfect way to describe this weekend. When you consider the massive adult-sized jungle gyms, floating tiki islands, the fire shows, the strikingly good-looking people (and did I mention the fire?), it really did seem as though we had all come together to collectively envision our idea of a perfect festival.