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Woodstock, Meet Mysteryland: Two Converging Histories

It's been a long road from Woodstock '69 to Mysteryland '14. Get the whole story....

by Jemayel Khawaja
May 23 2014, 4:02am

The story of Mysteryland 2014 began 45 years ago on a farm in upstate New York. It's a tale of two seemingly disparate countercultures, hippies and ravers, walking the same road towards unadultered partytime absolution. Maybe it's time to squeeze in a 'lil learning before you lose those brain cells....

1968 - Yasgur's cattle farm hosts 'a small festival'

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In 1968, Max Yasgur's cattle farm in Bethel, New York had 650 cows, mostly Guernseys, and produced the most milk in Sullivan County. He leased one of his fields for $10,000 to a few guys who said they wanted to put on a small music festival called Woodstock.

A few months later, 150,000 hippies showed up. While most residents of Bethel resented their presence, Yasgur gave away all the food, milk, and water on his farm to accommodate the massive influx of people. What resulted was one of the most culturally important moments in modern history. Sets by everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Grateful Dead and Ravi Shankar, often through the rain, canonized a historically unique lifestyle that brought counter-culturalism to the fore.

1993 - A gabber rave in Holland

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In 1993, the first Mysteryland was held in Lelystad, Holland. Gabber (a style of hardcore electronic music in the Netherlands) and hardstyle acts like The Prophet populated the line-up for a crowd of 15,000. The festival bounced around locations in The Netherlands over the next few years and it wasn't until the turn of the century that local Dutch talent like Tiësto, Armin van Buuren and Laidback Luke began appearing, long before they became household names in the States.

1994/1999 - Woodstock "revivals"

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Two separate attempts at appropriating the Woodstock name descended on other sites in Upstate New York in the 1990's. The 1994 iteration came closer with Gen X'ers reveling in the mud in nearby Saugerties, NY. In a move that would have made some 60s folk fans weep, there was even an electronic music stage, dubbed "Ravestock," that featured artists like Kevin Saunderson, Aphex Twin and Orbital. After a successful weekend, a film and a double-CD live concert album, some thought the event could be repeated. However, a 1999 Woodstock in Rome, NY was a shameful exercise that ended with bad weather and actual violence.

2000s - Mysteryland worldwide

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By the new Millennium, Mysteryland promoters ID&T had established itself as one of the premier festival brands in the world and by far the longest running. Still just one day-long, the programming had expanded over the decade to recognize the breadth of the growing electronic music spectrum from Richie Hawtin to Swedish House Mafia. A two-day sister festival in Chile has been in operation since 2011.

2006 - Bethel Woods reborn

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Although Cablevision magnate Alan Gerry purchased Max Yasgur's old plot in 1996 for philanthropic purposes, it wasn't until 2006 that ground broke on the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. The renovated grounds have hosted shows by everyone from Phish to John Mayer to Lady Antebellum. Still, no electronic artist has ever performed at the venue, until now...

2014 - Ravers take over

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Mysteryland will be the first major festival to take place on the site since Woodstock '69. Never has a beat been dropped on these hallowed grounds. It could be argued that the experiential, community-based culture of electronic music represents a homecoming for the venue, 45 years after the story began. Either way, shit is about to get far out, man.

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