A Magical Journey Into Lost Woods

WORDS BY: JUNE-MEE HONG
PHOTOS BY: SASHA CHAROENSUB & BRITTANY, NO FOMO

Lostwoods_535Photo by: Sasha Charoensub

“Curation is king in my book,” says Harry Williams, the mastermind behind Lost Woods – a rare festival experience in an occult NJ forest location. The gathering rejuvenated and restored my faith in finding the ideal union of elegant taste, kinship rooted in nature, quality food and drink, and an eclectic music selection of live bands and DJ acts. And WOW, what a charmed chapter of that book he and his team (made up of  Daisy Johnson, Eduardo Alcivar Gonzalez, Roya Sachs, Defne Onen, and Henry Harper) gifted to the close to 200 participants, curators, and artists this past “holding onto summer” weekend.

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While speaking with Harry, I learned about his fervent ardor and motivation behind throwing this phantasmagorical and intimate first festival. Having worked in the events and music industry for the past few years, Harry has always had a passion for organizing concerts, events, and parties. After visiting family in Oxfordshire, England, the Wilderness Festival particularly hit home for him due to its focus on food, lectures, wellness, and its emphasis on atmosphere and aesthetic. While contemplating the realm of festivals in the US, he wondered why festivals of this nature were so non-existent and in turn, bore his increasing frustration with the structure and model of massive commercial productions that have oversaturated the festival marketplace. Harry explains “It was born out of a desire to offer a new approach to the festival experience. The mission or goal is to deliver a tangible immersive experience not limited to one particular genre, instead open to boundless possibilities and adventures.

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As us three NO FOMO florally crowned girls arrived on the campgrounds with no expectations but splendid anticipation of what this mysterious festival would entail, we emerged into a vast land of forests and trails making it abundantly clear that the next 24 hours would be nothing but adventure, love, and the discovery of the utmost manifestation of beauty. After a short walk down the trail in our new glittery forest fairy identities, we were welcomed into our sanctuary. Each area of the land and woods was decorated with strategically pinpointed artistic intention, ample comfortable seating areas, cozy bonfire pits, delectable pig roasts sizzling in the fading orange sun, and tables set up with white chairs and country tablecloths under a majestic tent that would house our communal feast for the evening.

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The dining experience was another focus and grand prize of the festival. Harry and team’s vision was for, “Lost Woods to be dedicated to offering great music but take great care in making sure it does not overshadow or take more precedence in the experience. The aim is to have other areas share equal billing with music – such as food and art – and to allow music to seamlessly integrate with them.”  The first rendition, taken directly from the festival’s website, “…will provide an amazing dining experience cooked by the very talented Angie Mar – Head chef at the Beatrice Inn… We believe food tastes best when it’s in season, sourced locally and prepared with love.”

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Sure enough, the setting and curation put forth a truly authentic experience shared with a group of like-minded, fun-loving, warmhearted (and not to mention stunningly beautiful!) people. Looking around, the crowd was already killing the “otherworldly creatures” theme of the night: refined costumes of crazy capes, tribal feathered headdresses, glitter galore, furs fangs & fauna, and spirit animal masks bounced around the mystical lands. As the group eased into the evening sipping on open bar draft beers and cocktails, whisperings were buzzing with communal excitement of what the impending night and luring enchanted forest would bring for us with particular praises around the lighting design throughout the trees where the Gigwax Stage would later emerge.

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And now for the music! Each band and DJ act seemingly went on like clockwork to the time of day and night, again reinforcing the tastefully thought out curation and seamless flow of events. Before sunset, the stage, with the pond and dock as its backdrop, opened with the Brooklyn based band Tony Castles who played songs full of clear, crisp California dream gazed beach-like riffs and romantically infused feel good indie pop vibes. Their quirky and easily lovable charm was palpable as they casually spoke to the crowd about one of the songs intentions, “So this next song… is about a couple of things (insert beaming smile)”. After Samson the Truest put on a perfect transition from day to night set, we were then ready for the final live band act.

lost woodsPhoto by: Sasha Charoensub

no fomolost woodsPhotos by: Brittany, NO FOMO

F!nk, a funk jam band hailing from Vermont (Brooklyn based) with that type of raw talent we thought was almost lost in this day and age, closed out the stage stunning us with both original songs and covers of some all-time dance tracks like “Billy Jean”. Their show certainly procured the perfect warming up footwork session for the soon to hit night time DJ sets. The crowd answered back on their question “What cover next?” with shouts of “LCD! LCD!” Our wish became their command as they rounded up the show with “Someone Great.” [You can see them at their next show on 9/26 in Bridgeport, CT at BRYAC where they will hopefully still be buzzing off the Lost Woods’ magnificent energy.] Catching up with the band afterwards, they were all thrilled with the experience: “Lost Woods was out of this world. We are so grateful to have been a part of it, and hope to be back next year!”

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Nighttime falls… As expected, the Gigwax stage’s setting and genius lighting design, (mastered by Eduardo Alcivar Gonzalez, Roya Sachs, Defne Onen), brightened and enchanted our souls with the reflections of colored blue, red, purple, and orange spotlights scattered in the midst of the trees. The lineup made up of hidden gem talents Momus, We In Cloudz (WIC), Mectec, Maria Ton, and Kike Mayor was carefully curated by the Gigwax Crew. [Talking to Alexandre Seilliere  (COO/Cofounder) and Amaury Meunier (CEO/Co-founder) of the Gigwax team, I discovered that they are currently revolutionizing the DJ booking marketplace by offering online booking and payment solutions for DJs and by connecting them with great gigs. They have a community of over 1500 DJs using the site already and aspire to give them the tool to become their own agents and build momentum on their careers.] We undoubtedly saw the direct results of their endeavors in each of these acts, as the DJs churned out deep and dark beats that sounded like they had been dug up from the core of the forest earth we were all dancing on. In our increasingly technologically dependent world overrun by large scale EDM acts, the Gigwax stage was such a breath of fresh air. It brought me back to my old school raver roots, which always emphasized the bonding force between the artists and crowds, i.e. the original idea of the artist/DJ as a shaman.

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One of the highlights of the Gigwax Stage was Brooklyn based DJ & VJ trio We In Cloudz (WIC), whose goal is to continuously merge influences of their German (dre.ze) and UK (Nicholas.AM) home countries into a unique blend of disco, tech, and house. Every turned track by this sexy duo embodied bonafide dark magic as the buildups were perfectly spaced out while simultaneously, gradual and uplifting symphonic melodies tickled the fancy of underlying body-blasting dark beats. Their spot on set shrouded us with a magnetic force pulling bodies to get lost in the ever so elusive “now” that we so desperately seek. [Be sure to catch them this Friday 9/25 for their next party at Cameo in Williamsburg, already piquing our curiosity about what fresh new set they will bestow.] Undoubtedly, theirs and all of the acts left us dancing hard and enslaved to the beats in the very best way. We could all feel the illumination flowing more clairvoyantly with every hour of the night into sunrise.

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Lost Woods goers weren’t only fooled by the magician that was cleverly and slyly placed amongst the crowd performing legitimate magic tricks that night, as this weekend escape granted every wish on the tip of our tongues like true sorcery. It reminded us so elegantly of what the core of an exquisite festival experience should be – to celebrate life, creativity, love, passion, music, and art. We all departed the next day after refreshing dips in the pond with positive and radiant vibes, providing the perfect end to our summers in nature. “I want to offer something to a wider demographic of people, and I think the secret ingredient for that is putting more attention to detail in the atmosphere and design of the festival,” Harry further explains his motivation for curating Lost Woods. “I believe there is definitely a desire for this, and once people are sold on this concept, the hope is that down the line, more people will follow.” When the festival team’s passion and love can generate a physically heartfelt movement in every participant, and the equation of fantasy + real life can seemingly be solved for a moment in time, it inspires us to remember that anything is possible.

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