In a world of seemingly endless music festivals, it has become even harder for one to stick out from another. Of course festival giants like HARD, Coachella and Insomniac each have a devoted fan base and easily sell out festival after festival. However, other festivals have trouble not only selling tickets, but retaining customers for years to come.
Enter The Do Lab, a realistically pretty small fish in the music festival pond, but, something about them is different. Their naturally designed stages with purple, blue, yellow, orange and pink fabrics, strewn across beautiful geometric forms stand out among the bright LED walls and lasers firing above the crowds of all major festivals in electronic dance music. Subtle and beautiful, their stage production is a direct reflection of the The Do LaB as a whole. Inviting, spontaneous, inclusive and contagious, no festival has ever struck me as much as the The Do LaB production “Woogie Weekend”, did a few weekends ago.
Many festivals rely on their line up to sell out, names you can expect to see cut and pasted to every electronic line up poster in almost every state. Skrillex, Martin Garrix, Calvin Harris, Tiesto and the like, the list goes on. You can expect to hear all your favorites for the cool price of around 300 dollars, plus camping, plus parking, plus in venue food and lockers, plus, plus, plus. The price tag of each festival continues to climb each year and the general public continues to pay it. This is by no means denouncing major music festivals, I continue to attend and enjoy what I pay for, but sometimes nothing about a festival other than the music really stands out.
However, In the Middle of Nowhere, California, with a festival population of around 5,000, The Do LaB changed my perspective.To be honest, Woogie Weekend’s line up was not my cup of tea, with stand outs like Autograf, Rufus Du Sol, and J Phlip being the only names I knew on the card, I was forced into researching the rest of the line up, which unsurprisingly was still not my cup of tea, but i kept an open mind. Upon arriving I didn't really know what to expect, but what came after--I can say, was the most genuine festival experience I have ever been a part of.
Check in was a breeze to get through, and with minimal security checks, and a free re entry policy, I could immediately tell that a sense of trust and responsibility had been agreed upon between the The Do LaB and the festival attendees. Drugs are a very real concern and there have been many tragic deaths regarding overdoses at festivals in the past years. But I can say, out of all the times I passed the med tent, the vast majority of cases that I saw were non drug related and mostly due to the torrential rain pour we got on days 2 and 3 of the festival.
On that note, I have never seen a crowd more excited for rain in my life. Where I would have thought many would have ran for shelter, the vast majority of people danced like there was no tomorrow in the middle of the down pour. The rain eventually got so bad on the last day, that the festival had to be shut down for a few hours to get electronics back up and running and to allow people to rescue their tents and belongings from the rising water level on the camp ground.
After all this, the iconic “Beat Nest” was still in knee deep water and couldn't be used for the duration of the last day. During this fiasco, I expected people to be miserable, yet again to my disbelief, people still had the most friendly and contagious smiles on their faces. We met people from all walks of life in the camp ground, of all races and backgrounds, and there we were all laughing like we were lifelong friends. And then it hit me, Woogie Weekend wasn't just about the music or the production, it was about all of us. The Do LaB had created a space where we all felt that we could be ourselves. They didn't have to sell out with a line up of huge names, they sell out due to the culture that they have created around each festival, they sell out, because people want to be a part of The Do LaB’s culture.
The takeaway for me was enormous, I have seen problems in many festivals plague and ruin experiences, but not here. If more festivals followed the The Do LaB's model, satisfaction and return rate for larger festivals would be enormous and people would be much happier paying the price of admission the second time around. So what can festivals do?
Be more sustainable, don't leave trash and don't lack recycling stations. Keep it clean and sanitary for all festival goers. Treat festival goers like they are welcome, not like they are going to prison. Allow for water and other items to be brought into the venue and provide free water and other commodities that will allow each attendee to be more safe. Think about the attendees and create opportunities for festival goers to talk and connect: art, interactive stations, and conversation starters are all outlets which a festivals can use to accomplish this.
Some of the coolest people I have ever met, I have met at a festival. But, some of these friendships would have never been possible without that initial ice breaker. Be smart about production and strive for intimacy even in a larger venue setting. Be creative with your lineups and think outside the box. Don’t settle for the mainstream choice and go for a bold choice that's about good music. Most importantly, create an atmosphere where festival goers feel like the music festival is just for them, even if it is just one thing. These moments of truth can make or break a festival, and the The Do LaB left me with an experience that I will never forget.
This isn't a formula for the mainstream, but once you establish a culture like the The Do LaB has, the tickets will sell themselves. It isn't about the size of the festival or the main headliner, its about the experience, and I firmly believe you will not find a better festival experience than with the The Do LaB.
Take a look at our photo gallery below of snaps from our getaway at Woogie Weekend, and be sure to watch our video recap as well. Thanks again, The Do LaB - looking forward to what else you have in store for us!
AUTHOR CREDIT: GARRETT KUBON & KRYSTINA RICCIO PHOTO CREDIT: KRYSTINA RICCIO