This Memorial Day Weekend, we took a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of the city and fell off the grid at Elements Lakewood Music and Arts Festival. Whether you’re a traveling festival veteran or have just recently dipped your toes into the electronic music scene, BangOnNYC’s Brooklyn-meets-Burning Man event has evolved to offer something weird and wild for everyone. Now in its second year, the festival hosted another top-notch adult summer camp retreat in the rolling hills of Northeast Pennsylvania. For three days and three nights, Lakewood provided a magical and eccentric asylum with hardly any cell service, to get lost in an evergreen of music, activities, food, art, wellness, and fantasy.
Once again, the campsite offered prime access to the festival, but we stand by what we said last year — cabin accommodations were the way to go. Whether you were deep in the heart of the festival in the West Village, or in the more secluded grassy knoll of the East Village, the cabins provided large, spacious areas with bathrooms and showers, and the perfect sized porches to hang around with friends or pass out on a hammock. Meanwhile, the activities seemed endless this year. From color wars, to roller disco, to fire walking classes and more, campers had plenty of traditional and non-traditional events to keep them stimulated and occupied. And when the munchies came into full swing, we were treated to a variety of food options like fresh lobster rolls from Maine, wood-fire pizza, and black bean burgers, satisfying our every craving.
As is tradition, all of the elemental wonders came to fruition through the structures of the stages. This year, five funky stages came to life: Air, Alchemy, Earth, Fire, and Water. Deep into the woods stood our favorite stage, the Air Stage, an elaborately decorated tree-lined wonderland brimming with discotheque vibes. Hosting world-renowned deep house and techno players like Jamie Jones, ThugF*cker, and MaceoPlex, the Air Stage transformed at night from a tranquil forest to an otherworldly club experience. Intricate lighting structures and a massive disco ball reflected rainbow beams of light into the crowd and off of the forest’s leaves, while tree houses, jungle gyms, and hammocks provided the perfect space to dance and chill within the trees. Those who preferred for their feet stay on the ground could shake up the forested dance floor that circled the entire stage for a nearly 360 degree experience.
When we were ready for something different, we followed an illuminated forest path even deeper into the decorated woods and found ourselves engulfed by the Alchemy Stage, a late night (read: early morning) stage with smoky bonfires, mysterious elixirs, and sultry Burning Man vibes. The stage became home to electronica legends including Be Svendsen, Raxon, Unders and David Hohme, and featured a Saturday night takeover by Bushwick techno den Members Only. Attendees of Alchemy warmed themselves in the cool night air by packing inside the toasty, tented haven, lounging inside cozy teepees, or resting around the fire to the sounds of entrancing techno beats. From 2am-9am, this was the most bewitching place to be.
Those with a taste for music of louder, lower frequencies spent their days at the Earth Stage, where heavyweight experimental and bass artists like Sphongle, TroyBoi, Minnesota, and REZZ shook up the camp with deep and heavily psychedelic sets. Projection video mapping from Rhizome NYC illuminated the stage with cutting-edge, highly conceptual visuals – while massive climbing structures allowed attendees to take in each sets ocular elements from high above the crowd. Fog seeping out from all around the crowd filled in the spaces between dancing bodies providing an utterly enigmatic environment to match the resonant sounds of the stage.
True to its name, the Fire Stage lit up with explosive flames thanks to stage design by Incendia and fiery performances from house music legends of all subgenres. Things heated up quickly with Dirtybird Record’s Friday takeover, bringing acts including Ardalan, Fisher and Claude Von Stroke to the stage for an evening of hot and bouncy Dirtybird tech-house. Saturday brought heated sets from BangOn favorite DirtyLooks and Elements Festival Founder The Golden Pony, before an explosive set by Chris Lake that quite literally melted all of our faces (including his). And if you didn’t think the Fire Stage could get any hotter, Sunday’s Desert Hearts Crew takeover proved that BangOn! will stop at nothing to keep the party going until the very end.
For campers wanting to cool down while soaking up sets from The 1989, Matt Sebastian, and DJ Dayoh, the Water Stage provided a beach side escape. Here, we lounged on a floaty, kayaked around the lake, and danced in the sand for hours on end. Those who wanted to go rogue could even hop aboard a pirate ship to sail off to the other side of the lake and escape the madness for awhile. Just up the hill from the lake, sat the big, blue, and bold Cookie Monster art car, who had plenty of chocolate chip cookies to offer up.
If we weren’t so into the music, we would have spent the entire weekend indulging in the wellness centers and healing gardens. From yoga, to meditation time, to massages, and more, we felt incredibly relaxed and rejuvenated after stumbling upon the WellNest, Spa Ship + Future Clear Pyramid. After a long night of dancing until sunrise, there was nothing more satisfying — and more desperately needed — than getting a foot massage, hair braided, and recharging with some Kombucha. Seated high on the hill overlooking the madness of the Water Stage, this resting place felt like a little slice heaven that we could go and come to as we pleased.
What we loved most about Elements Lakewood this year and last, was that there was art everywhere. Striking, bizarre, and charming art installations could be seen all over the campsite. The wooded paths held the most curious pieces of all, with impressive tree carvings, trippy tapestry hideaways, illuminated tunnels, and other odd creations that captivated our senses.
Elements Lakewood 2018 was one of our top festival picks this year. After an incredible inaugural festival in 2017, we can honestly say that its second edition lived up to every expectation we had and delivered the exact experience we were hoping to relive. Thanks to everyone at BangOn!NYC for another wild and wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. We’ll see you in the woods next year!
For those of you who didn’t get the chance to escape the city, Elements NYC returns to its industrial playground in Hunts Point this August. This idyllic urban asylum in the city will bring its new otherworldly vision to life, with beats by Bassnectar, Snakehips, Dirtybird Players and more. Check out the full lineup to Elements NYC 2018, and purchase your tickets here.
Photo 1: Julian Cassady
Photos 2-10: Elements Facebook
Co-written by: Brie French-Sorgini