Why Further Future Festival Deserves More Credit Than It’s Getting

Further Future
Further Future, an event that happened this past weekend in the desert beyond Las Vegas—on the Moapa River Reservation, to be exact—has been scolded for, and scarred by, a number of top-tier publications as the “Burning Man for the 1%,” catered to a very specific audience of tech and business elite that need WiFi and air conditioning on their weekend endeavors and prefer “glamping” over camping.

I’d like to counter that argument.

As a fresh-out-of-college 22-year-old individual still scraping the bottom of the barrel to pay rent, I don’t fit into the 1%. I’m not anywhere near the 1%. Sure, I have my foot in the tech world living in San Francisco, but that does not put me anywhere near some of the attendees at this event (sure, there were plenty of tech elite there – but there were also plenty of “normal” individuals as well). From an outsider’s perspective, you could say that it was marketed towards the 1%. With a pricey ticket fee of roughly $350 (depending on which tier you were able to secure), along with extra costs for amenities ($40 for a shuttle pass that no one ever actually checked, $100 for a “sold out” self-camping pass, and extravagant other amenities so far out of my price range I didn’t even care to dig into them), it added up pretty quickly. Though, keep in mind – a ticket to Coachella, Ultra or EDC will cost you around the same thing.

Further Future is put on by Robot Heart, a well-known Burning Man collective filled with “doers and dreamers.” They have bases in New York and San Francisco among others, and are well-known and respected for the musical talent that they work with. Their bus, a massive school bus you’ll often see driving around the playa during the burn bumping the latest and greatest of tunes, has a massive metal heart placed on top of it that you can climb and dance on. The bus’s sound system is unreal – I have to wear earplugs if I’m anywhere near it. I’ve experienced nothing but good vibes from these guys, so when I was first introduced to this festival, I couldn’t stop myself from seeing what the hype was all about.

 photo IMG_6028_zpspwkbxfww.jpgThe Robot Heart bus stage on Friday night.

With three stages of music, numerous spots for wellness, tech and science talks, yoga and meditation, a spa, food trucks galore, it seemed like a well-planned boutique festival expected to deliver. I, being the last-minute person I am, purchased my ticket and flights the night before, hopped on a plane to Vegas, and caught the shuttle to the desert Friday night. Though I walked down that initial dirt path with no expectations, I was still caught in some sort of awe.

Yes, this event had a number of attendees that could qualify as the 1%. Yes, Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet (hello, Google), was there, along with Stan Chudnovsky, head of product at Facebook Messenger, and Bob Pittman, the founder of MTV. People spent unfathomable amounts of money on extravagant costumes and helicoptered in and out of the event. There was an aura of wealth in the air at all times. Granted, I felt a bit out of place at first – but that feeling did not last long.

I argue this point for one main reason in particular: this may be a place for the 1%, but, more than anything, this is a place for people with an open mind. I find that EDM is an ongoing, trending umbrella of musical genres that is attracting business and tech elites by the masses on a scale that no other genre has successfully done. Sure, all of these individuals did the same thing at Further Future, spending loads on glamping and air conditioning and all that jazz, but unlike other festivals, there was no VIP section. There was no area “off limits” to various ticket tiers. Instead, everyone intermingled. You met people from all walks of life, where the rich and famous held conversations with the average joes wandering the grounds. Borders were non-existent. Intellectual creativity and passion brought people together, not money. The “rich and famous” façades were able to disappear momentarily, and everyone was just able to prove that they were passionate and they worked hard for what they loved. I was able to walk away from this weekend with an entirely new perspective based on the conversations I was able to have, the sets I stumbled upon and tuned into at various points throughout the day or night, the art I was able to interact with and the talks, tech and scientific discoveries and ideas that were shown to me.

The ideas presented at Further Future aren’t forced down your throat, they are offered to you to absorb and consider. I can say, without a doubt, just about every single person I spoke to brought a new perspective to think about. Every individual I interacted with had some kind of dream, some kind of vision, some kind of passion; and, beyond that, they had acted (or were in the process of acting) on it. They weren’t just thinkers; they were doers. I met VCs, founders and CEOs of tech startups, music-makers, writers, software engineers, and many more. I was continually astounded by the crowd I was surrounded by. These people knew what they wanted and they had fought for it. At one point, when the skies decided to open up and shower us all with a bit of a torrential downpour, I found myself dancing and conversing under the only covered stage, having intellectually stimulating conversations about the way the festival itself was working. I can honestly say that I’ve never been to a festival that presented such an ongoing exchange of knowledge; there was never an empty conversation throughout the entire weekend.


Sunset at the Mothership stage (via @furtherfuture on Instagram)

As one of the youngest attendees, I found myself constantly learning and discovering new paths of thought, figuring out and truly grasping so many types of perspectives and outlooks. I met a man with Asperger’s who sat with me and had a long conversation about the dynamics of the social rules around the dinner table: how we, as adults, understood the necessary mannerisms and social conduct rules we had to follow at the dinner table, but children see it in a completely different light – for example, his son saw dinner as a time to fight the aliens that were taking over his mashed potatoes. I sat for a half hour with another man who was passionate about photography and started his own startup – Priime – as a way of creating a network of tools for individuals that shared the same passion. The smallest of conversations as simple as these opened so many ways of thought I rarely had the chance to think about prior. I’ve never been so thankful for such an intriguing learning experience.

That being said, it’s interesting to have such a new type of boutique festival exist in a scene already so crowded by music festivals and events like Coachella, Burning Man, Lightning in a Bottle or Northern Nights. I respect Further Future for taking such a large task on of trying to disrupt the space with a weekend that offers an entirely new outlook on how festivals should be addressed and what they should offer. These conversations, these experiences, these mornings watching the sunrise with friends old and new are all things that will resonate with me into the future. Entering the weekend, I had expected just another music festival of sorts, but I was happily incorrect. Hats off to you there, Further Future.

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Sunset on Sunday evening

While I can hardly speak a bad word about the experience at Further Future, one thing I was disappointed about was the lack of art present. Though the few pieces that did exist were stunning, there was potential for so much more. The paths between stages seemed almost barren besides a piece here or there; there could have been so much more that made those walks a bit more eye-catching.

I did, however, enjoy the cashless aspect of the weekend—another “futuristic” element that allowed you to use a credit card or your wristband to pay for goods. This made transactions more seamless and eliminating the hassle of carrying cash was a load off our backs. The drinks were pricey, as any festival’s typically are, but they were always tasty and refreshing. Having them in pre-made mixes made lines move quickly as well.

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Nicolas Jaar’s set at the Mothership stage.

For a first-timer who walked in with minimal expectations and no plans, it was much more exploring and a lot less of a structured schedule. I could wander from stage to stage and see artists I had hoped to stumble upon and enjoy. Nicolas Jaar and Four Tet both played sets that absolutely blew me away. Leftfield, whom I had never listened to before was mind-boggling. Caribou played a live set through the rain Friday night shortly after I arrived that was magical. The music constantly wowed me. Even the tech and science talks I walked into were unreal; in particular, Hansen Robotics‘ introduction of their new AI robot called Sophia, creeped me out in so many ways that I’m still unclear if this was good or bad. The mindfulness talk I saw on Saturday morning was eye-opening; though I’m unsure who exactly it was, it was nice to hear someone set the idea of how the human race should come together to guarantee our future and save our planet. Finally, natural phenomenon always boost the festival experience; the sunrise on Sunday morning, backed by the tunes of Lee Burridge, was beautiful.

For anyone looking for an adventure, musically, physically, and intellectually, I highly recommend giving Further Future a shot. The desert is calling…