Will FORM Arcosanti Reinvent the Festival Experience?

Article by: David Sikorski|@_davidsikorski

Thu May 28, 2015 | 00:00 AM

“Architecture is frozen music.” That's a quote taken from famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright given during a ceremonial speech last Memorial Day weekend at FORM Arcosanti . The third-year, artist-curated music festival, hidden an hour north of Phoenix, is a three-day gathering featuring a curated lineup of emerging artists like Moses Sumney, Majical Cloudz, Julianna Barwick, Holly Herndon and How to Dress Well, with standout performances from Hundred Waters (who curated and founded the festival), The Antlers and even a surprise guest performance by Skrillex

But this isn't just any kind of electronic music festival. 

There are no pre-sale tickets, and no VIP packages for purchase. Instead, there was an application process vetted by the musicians of Hundred Waters and their FORM team in order to ensure that the limited space within their 500-person audience amphitheater  included patrons who were both “thoughtful and creative,” similar to the recent Further Future festival . In 2014, 350 guests attended. In 2015, 750 were present. In 2016 1,200 participants will descend upon the compound from May 13-15, a thoughtfully chosen mix of artists, musicians, writers, educators, architects and other creative types. "Free-by-application, and made possible through patronage and in-kind support, a diverse community of creators is empowered to participate in FORM without financial barriers," reads FORM's website.

Hidden within an Arizona canyon, the Arcosanti compound created a gallery for architecture and artwork surrounded by the beautiful desert landscape during the day and views of the Milky Way lighting the night sky, all of which provided a surreal backdrop for the musical performances each day. 

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Photo by Luke Hansen

In 2015, campsites were situated just 50 yards away from the actual venue, for those who wanted to stay onsite. FORM offered showers and lavatory access, food trucks and even a cliffside pool area featuring afternoon DJ sets. Moog was invited out to install a special Sound Lab featuring the company's classic and latest sound equipment for artists and fans to explore — the first time that the Sound Lab equipment has traveled outside of its Moog factory. 

The festival provided artists an outlet for showcasing their latest music and a preview for fans to hear unedited tracks, that bands were still currently working on. Soulful Los Angeles-based singer Azul utilized this opportunity as her first-ever live performance, giving fans a glimpse into her unreleased album, which is currently still being recorded. The intimate amphitheater setting also allowed artists to comfortably interact with the audience as they communicated and joked around between sets.

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Photo by Luke Hansen

“I always find it odd how much you guys can fall in love and cheer for a song that was written to describe a dark time in my life, but whatever, it’s better than you not liking it I guess,” claimed Moses Sumney, as he joked with the audience and commented on how comfortable he was playing there.

The lineup featured multiple styles of music celebrating various manipulations of sound. A globally known and dance-heavy EDM artist like Skrillex kicked off the first night of the festival, inviting the audience to join him on stage to dance during his set. Bay Area electronic artist Holly Herndon, carried the audience through a journey of textured audio and experimental sounds during the second day. The weekend slowly transitioned its way through various genres and ended with a final performance by The Antlers, whose elegant indie rock sounds and lush instrumentals provided the perfect closing set to the festival.

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Photo By Luke Hansen

Visitors to this micro-city were exposed to a deeper appreciation for self awareness, infrastructure, sustainability and community, one of the original goals set out by Hundred Waters when they first founded the event. As many music festivals each year look to add more sponsors, increase revenue and include over-the-top production sets, this unique project offers a sanctuary from the sometimes highly stressful festival and instead provided an intimate place to foster creativity for artists and fans to enjoy music and share in this unconventional experience with one another.

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Photo By Luke Hansen