About two weeks ago I arrived back home from FORM, a 500-person weekend festival put together by Hundred Waters. The festival took place at Arcosanti, an “urban laboratory focused on innovative design, community, and environmental accountability”, just over an hour north of Phoenix.
Last week I was on Randall’s Island between Brooklyn and Manhattan for Governors Ball, a 55,000-person weekend festival.
Both festivals are extremely young. This was FORM’s second year and Governors Ball’s fifth year.
I had no intention of pitting the two against each other, but there was a stark difference. One festival was extremely inspiring and the other was incredibly draining.
Governors Ball had an incredible, diverse lineup and the weather was pretty great, but 55,000 people was overkill for the island.
Take Björk’s set: we couldn’t hear because every drunk attendee was loudly talking to their friends. We had to weave forward through the crowd for about 30 minutes to be able to hear.
Overall, the trek to Governors Ball was worth it, but I’m not planning on returning. St. Vincent and SBTRKT’s performances were incredible, but there were just so many negatives.
When I first arrived to pick up my press wristband, the media line was moving incredibly slow. It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but when I got to the front of the line the guy working seemed stoned. He forgot to put the wristband on my wrist and had to call me back, then he forgot to give my ID back and I had to reach over the table and get it. Little things like this add up, dragging out wait times.
Areas became extremely overcrowded around peak performance times. We tried leaving a vending area near the stage where Florence + the Machine was scheduled to come on. We ended up squished like salmon for about half an hour.
Attendees were way too drunk and drugged. We saw a girl puke, then someone promptly slipped and fell in the puke.
I’d also like to suggest that Governors Ball follow in the footsteps of Glastonbury and ban Native American headdresses. There were far too many and it was incredibly offensive.
Now lets go back to FORM. The festival was free, but prospective attendees had to fill out a questionnaire to receive an invite. This is a barrier, as not everyone was invited, but Governors Ball’s $275 price tag is also a barrier.
The questionnaire helped weed out those who weren’t serious about experiencing the weekend. Everyone there cleaned up after themselves, kept their inebriation in check, was respectful, and was eager to help and share with other attendees.
Dropped your phone? Someone would run after you to give it back. Having trouble carrying your gear? Someone would step in and help you carry it to your campsite.
It also helped that the lineup was more focused, ensuring an all around great time for those in attendance.
The crowd practiced attentive listening. There were many well-deserved standing ovations, and almost all the performers thanked the crowd and Hundred Waters for a great weekend.
Comparing FORM to Governors Ball seems wrong. FORM was an inspirational retreat, while Governors Ball is a music festival designed to make money. However, it does show that the future of music festivals lies in smaller, specialized festivals that provide a great experience for both fans and artists.
FORM’s Facebook group was swamped with people thanking the organizers, artists, and other attendees. How often does that happen!? One attendee is even composing a piece of contemporary classical music inspired by FORM.
I can’t wait until FORM 2016. Check out some videos of the performances here.
Nina Ulloa covers breaking news, tech, and more: @nine_u