What may have seemed quixotic at the time, BangOn!NYC began with a mission plan; to resurrect an element of partying that had long since disappeared in the 90’s. Their youth collided with a critical point in nightlife and musical styles in New York City. Today, BangOn! has less than 10 years of development but, before their launch, incubating in the cultural stew of NYC was a major advantage, spending lots of time soaking in so many flavors of the lifestyles.
Memorial Day weekend (May 26th-28th) was a time to kick off the summer, and for many, to kick off festival season. Elements Lakewood represented one of the most anticipated 3-day camping music festivals ever on the east coast. Organized and produced by some of NYC’s finest minds and talent, it was only a two and a half hour drive from the big apple. Camping tickets were less than $150 (if you were the early bird), and from there, cabins were not unreasonably priced when costs were split among the occupants. Just BangOn! announcing a camping festival was all some fans needed to hear as they purchased tickets and cabins online ASAP.
Elements Lakewood combined every type of dance music lover, artistic, creative, cultured minds from different areas and all walks of life. The love of the people and love of the music drew together a community unlike any other seen before in music festival history. The legacy BangOn!NYC has left in its wake of 8 years of parties and celebrations shows just how much growth they had amassed with the ability to create an event as elaborate as Elements Lakewood. BangOn! had tested the waters with their following of fans with the original, abbreviated style of the festival in years passed – one day packed with so much to do and so much talent, you were very lucky, and agile, to be able to say you had seen it all.
Set in picturesque Lakewood, Pennsylvania, this summer camp came with many outdoor activity amenities and enough housing to host the multitude of musical artists’ performances from chill and swanky, to wavy crowds and high energy. In the beautiful landscapes either natural or tastefully designed, campers got their share of spending dancing breaks out on the lake in a canoe, vibing out in Cosmo’s Ambient Cuddle Puddle, or taking strolls through ethereal forests, to name a few activities. Captivating art and sculptures of all calibers for viewing pleasure, camping and heavy hitters of the music industry drew out a colorful crowd, and undoubtedly there was the demographic of people that were convinced by friends who have attended BangOn! events/celebrations and/or Elements Brooklyn from previous years. Many had made this pilgrimage from NYC as BangOn! faithful friends or lovers of the slew of other NYC musical talent. Some were just curious to try something new, and the outcome of the event certainly solidified a lot of happy campers itching to return for 2018 or at least to extend their Elements high and hit up Elements NYC in August.
The music was invigorating. The love and attention to detail put in by the producers and all crews working together made such a unique, unforgettable experience. Most people solidly agreed that this was a much-needed change of pace from urban festivals. This is BangOn! after all, and they chose an amazing location; a place where the peaceful lake and majestic forests all came to life as the party-power of Brooklyn and NYC poured abundantly over the land.
If you asked me, I’d say the law of attraction was in full swing with so many like-minded people all in the same place. Not a single person I met shared less than a handful of interests or beliefs in common. The vibe was just right to foster that connection between strangers and cause spontaneous smiles and laughs. Basically, it was hard NOT to have a good time.
Meanwhile, on the physical plane, things were pretty groovy if you were spending your stay in the cabins. Clean and well equipped, electricity meant enough outlets for everybody. Two showers instead of one and three toilets in our cabin erased much of the murderous intent one can harbor when their roommate takes forever in the bathroom and you’ve been slapping the wine bag non-stop like a big, round, juicy… Well, you get the idea. All this and more made cabins a hotspot for gatherings of friends, new and old.
Saunter out of your cabin area, and in a second, you’d spot an art installation, or informative creations specifically for maneuvering the festival grounds. Many of these works came from previous BangOn! parties, bringing back fond memories of ragers in Brooklyn or giving you a totally new viewing and handling experience with your music. Who doesn’t love a piece of art they can climb 10 feet high for an incredible sense of elation? Works such as these, music, dancing and hangout areas were abundant in theme camps, my favorite being the incredibly intricate, woven, blacklight webs that acted as a hammock lounge and immersive piece of artistry.
The electronic and dance music forces were strong with this festival: from house and tech to heavy bass and experimental, the acts rounded out to an eclectic mix bound to keep the energy going all the way through Sunday, and boy, it did. There was something for every kind of funky music lover to dance furiously to, along with down tempo acts for those who wanted to really feel the vibes and relax.
Each Elemental stage was nothing short of innovative and engaging. From the acts that played to the very stages they played upon, everybody brought their A-game to blow the patrons away. The Earth stage was Native American meets modern visual arts mogul. As impossible as it seems, Tipper’s renowned visuals were amplified even more so on this stage design. On Saturday, Webster Hall hosted the stage and brought in staples of crowd pleasers along with others that have their own up-and-coming styles to be enjoyed. In particular, Yheti just oozed trippy vibes and was enjoyed from either the vertical or horizontal position.
Dancing at the ZERO Air stage felt like an embrace from the forest wind, making spirits soar over cool earth beneath your feet. Tree houses at this stage really gave you that bird’s eye view, and the lights deployed onto the trees at night were nothing short of jaw dropping. If you treated yourself to Lee Burridge’s extended set on Saturday, you watched the incredible illumination take place as dusk turned to night, and darkness birthed beautiful fireworks.
Water stage vibes were buoyant and carefree, whether you were jamming out by the water, having a drink or watching what shenanigans were going down aboard the pirate ship. Filled with appropriate themes, this stage had their DJ’s spinning from inside “Captain Tickles Crab Shack” (wink) for the scallywags, sand on the shore, sailing on the pirate ship and boats so close by, you heard music over the water long after embarking on the high seas, err, lake.
The Fire stage on Friday hosted an enchanting masquerade party topped off with Claptone’s closing performance of the night. As if Claude Vonstroke and The Golden Pony weren’t already hot enough, Incendia brought the heat with installations on either side of the stage as well as flames in front of the DJ booth for extra awe and wonder. Not just for decoration, Incendia’s structures doubled below as warming huts, and watching the way they cull their prowess with fire and safety left many blown away.
Grand Hall Late Night was reminiscent of the massive energy you’d find at BangOn! warehouse parties back in the day, floors shaking and packed for acts like Dirty Looks and SNBRN; Snakes & Suds Rock bar brought its namesake genre along with other varieties of dance, rap and hip-hop, proof that variety in musical tastes was embraced and appreciated. There was a certain mystery about the Members stage that drew me in where I was delighted to have found longtime friends and crowds of beautiful people. Rather than placing themselves in a secluded upper echelon, Tim Monkiewicz and Brett Herman, co-founders of BangOn!NYC, were stationed side-by-side in the back of the crowd, watching the musical acts just like any other patron. Masters of this space and time, they appeared unassuming. It was Friday night, and they stood sentry as all they had created blossomed about themselves. Truly, they had taken things to a whole new level, with no signs of settling, only raising the bar higher and higher.
Performances came in all shapes and sizes. Lions, dragons and deep-sea predators – Oh my! You can thank Team Kitty Koalition for unleashing these beautiful go-go dancing femme fatales. Aerialists, fire breathers as well as deadly-but-graceful fire dancers were amongst the others, spicing things up with flips, flows and flamethrowers. There were many colorful costumed characters as well, such as fairies, mermaids and (pretty damn sexy) clowns. Even in the crowds, those not for hire were still exuberant, bursting with liveliness and creativity in their outfits.
However beautiful, there could have been a few more precautionary measures taken in the event of rain. During departure on Monday, the main problem was the shuttle busses, or lack of thereof. While one was turning around the other was getting stuck in the mud. More buses would have been ideal, but thankfully tensions between staff and patrons lessened when they broke out the hot chocolate and sandwiches (and an impressive amount of other choices for free). We were all running on fumes at that point and every little bit of fuel for our aching bodies helped us withstand the three to four hours of waiting in the dreary mist. Five minute naps hunched over your damp and muddy luggage, then being jostled awake to move 10 feet, and repeat until shuttled, was a less than splendid way to spend the afternoon.
Regardless, on a grand scale, a few technical hiccups were expected for an inaugural year of a festival at a new location. Memorial Day weekend means a lot of competition for celebratory events, and Elements Lakewood didn’t just set the bar high for all subsequent festivals this season, but high as well for themselves when Elements Lakewood 2018 comes around again. Pushing the envelope and always trying to find new ways to amaze and captivate has been a hallmark of BangOn!NYC from its humble beginnings. They make it look easy, but undoubtedly, I give my utmost gratitude, appreciation, respect and love for all the hard work and all of you that made it happen.