After delivering legendary experiences at Burning Man for years, the Robot Heart crew had certainly set the bar high for their own independent festival, which they dubbed Further Future. Fans around the world–myself included–hardly even researched the event before finding a ticket–a testament to the strength of the brand they’ve fostered. At a conceptual level, combining a stacked musical lineup with tech CEO talks, a full spa, pop-up dinners, and improved amenities in the desert certainly sounded like a good mix of ingredients. In practice, however, without the proper recipe for success, attendees were met with incohesive fragments of experiences–some successful and others not–that together left much to be desired. First-year events are always tough, though, and we’re confident that Further Future has the capability to turn into something truly special.
Further Future’s inaugural grounds were on the Moapa Indian Reservation about 45 minutes north of Las Vegas. Though conveniently located, upon arrival it quickly became clear that this site was not planned properly. Construction vehicles were seen all around, assembling incomplete stages and moving supplies here and there. Unfortunately, two weeks prior, the Bureau of Land Management denied the organizers a commercial use permit for the roads leading towards the venue, causing a frantic rush to secure a new location. As a consequence, festival organizers were left playing catch up all weekend. There was also virtually zero guidance or instruction for attendees looking to set up camp, but campers took things into their own hands and got settled in just fine.
At first glance the event felt poorly attended, which was mostly due to the oddly planned and unnecessarily expansive space. It was hard to tell where anyone was supposed to go or which paths they should take to traverse between areas. The main stage seemed empty a good portion of the first night but luckily the food area served as a perfect distraction while my crew waited for things to pick up. The experience of having unbelievably tasty pho in the middle of the desert was easily the culinary highlight of the trip, with the smoothies, juices, and poutine all fighting for a close second.
Unfortunately, purchasing food presented the first of many situational conundrums for the experimental festival. Enforcing “Leave No Trace” is a bit wonky when you have to worry about buying things and dealing with the associated trash. And that brings us to perhaps the crux of the issue with the event as a whole: mixing the concepts of Burning Man which are very community driven with a for-profit dynamic creates many uncertain lines. Are attendees supposed to pick up random trash–common on the playa–or is cleaning staff paid to do it? This situation presented itself over and over again throughout the weekend. On Saturday, another problem presented itself when, after wandering around for hours with little to do, many people stumbled upon an air-conditioned tent full of strewn-about plush sleeping cushions and a ton of flowers, plants, and other decorative items, all stuffed into the corner of the room. One energetic young lady made it her mission to decorate the room in an attempt to help out with tasks that were left unfinished. She was met with generally unsympathetic attitudes from everyone else–something that would have seemed completely out of place at Burning Man. Where were all the people who were supposed to be on top of this?
The festival redeemed itself, however, with incredible music and sound systems. Both were totally on point and very much proved that Robot Heart truly has cultivated its own sound. In fact, the entire festival was really all about the Robot Heart bus. You could put that thing anywhere in the world and you could have one of the most legendary parties happening with the right talent and crowd. Further Future was, if nothing else, a testament to the power of their ridiculous art car.
My personal standout act was Desert Sound Colony. Live vocals, guitar, and drums, all within the context of a continuous DJ set. This guy is going places. Zhu seemed like a special guest at this first-year festival given his low profile, but nevertheless he delivered a strong performance, as did Rhye and Nosaj Thing. Generally there was an excellent mixture of live instruments mixed into traditional DJ setups throughout the weekend which certainly set a sonic bar for years to come.
It is highly likely that the festival organizers will figure things out and evolve the event into something that has its own vibe and community in time. If you’re looking to experience some version of Burning Man in a more convenient and manageable manner, this could be a great next step for you once the kinks get ironed out.
Photo Credit: Stacie Hess