With a few days of hindsight, there is no longer any doubt that Middlelands is now the premier electronic-music destination festival located between Miami and Las Vegas. Insomniac and C3 put on an event that was damn near perfect and simply crushed the maiden offering. They now face some huge problems – namely, how to make sure the first year does not remain the best one, and how to make Middlelands' second year even more spectacular.
Grow the Kingdom.
The headliners were a major key to the success of the Middlelands kingdom. It was reported that more than 66,000 headliners descended on the grounds over a four-day period. The instant camaraderie among electronic music fans is like no other and they are going to bring more of their friends next year, especially as word spreads.
The portion of the physical site used was ideal, with quite a bit of room to move around. A couple of choke points began occurring in the evenings when the headliners moved to stages to see bigger named artists. This would need to be addressed with the influx of more people, but may prove to be difficult considering a unique aspect of the grounds is that many parts of the permanent infrastructure are being utilized.
Keep the Younglings on the Other Side of the Moat.
Attending a festival with an age restriction that allows for only 18 and up is magnificent. It will be tempting to resist the urge to expand the market to another massive amount of people by opening the castle doors to underage minors. The liability will increase more than one-hundred fold, and the risk of media backlash if something horrible were to happen is not worth the reward. If Middlelands chooses to let kids attend, then it needs to book Yo Gabba Gabba! with DJ Lance Rock and Biz Markie. Wait…they may need to do that anyway.
Make Peace With Those Outside the Kingdom.
Listen to and act on the concerns of the surrounding communities. There may only be a small group in the adjoining forests, but with a few strokes of the keyboard and some social-media posts, the castle walls could begin to crumble (see White Oak Music Hall). If Insomniac cares for the community as they did for the headliners, things will work out fine. A Town Hall event in Magnolia has already been scheduled to address the issues among the local citizens.
Steer the Focus More Toward the Electronic Artists.
The talent buyers at C3 Presents brought an incredibly deep lineup to the gathering. They have already booked Bassnectar to be an annual staple; rumor has it several of his fans are actually waiting and lined up against the rail at this moment. However, this year at times it seemed that the fringe acts were not as well-received. One instance happened with Danny Brown. The Detroit rapper put on a fantastic performance, but the jam-packed Arena was left sparse when everyone flowed out after Getter's set to catch Marshmello or 12th Planet. People were not clamoring for Jurassic 5 and Crystal Castles' sets either.
Pray to the Old Gods and the New for Great Weather.
Nothing can ruin the vibe of a festival faster than Mother Nature. Ask the backers behind Houston Open Air or the SFX debacle at TomorrowWorld in Atlanta. The weather was perfect this May, and Middlelands mastermind Pasquale Rotella needs to sign the same agreement for years to come. Seriously, though, this is going to be extremely difficult to match if held on the same weekend next year.
Keep the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard In Place.
Middlelands 2017 saw numerous drug-related arrests, and one inconsiderate person stopping GRiZ’s set. Everything short of invasive cavity searches was done to keep drugs out of the festival grounds by the promoters, local law enforcement and contracted security services alike. Overall, the security detail did a great job. They were strict, consistent and yet fair.
In addition to these efforts, Insomniac appeared to be taking the realistic approach to mitigate the risks when people use illicit substances. This included the stationary Project #OPENTALK and traveling Ground Control staff helping keep fans safe or assisting them in case large issues occurred. However, the public shaming by posting the mugshots on major news outlets for clickbait is ridiculous and should cease.
Keep Trinity Vale as a Sanctuary for the House-Heads.
It was great to have some deep house on the main stage when Kristian Nairn took over the decks at Castle Northwood. The giant of a man spun hidden gems while drinking a can of tropical Red Bull that was the size of his pinky, but the massive stage dwarfed even him by comparison.
It was nice to have Trinity Vale pumping various types of house music at all times. AC Slater, Will Clarke, Black Gummy, Redlight and J.Phlip all slayed their sets without the use of pyro, CO2 jets, lasers or confetti. The massive amount of production was not needed; the heat generated from the decks out to the crowd was enough. The crowd around Trinity Vale ebbed and flowed but was constantly dancing, creating a permanent dust storm in the immediate area.
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Now, finally, here are our “Best Of” awards for Middlelands' inaugural year:
Best Set: ZHU
Best Set, as Constantly Stated by Everyone Else: Seven Lions
Best Festival Closer: J.Phlip
Best Stage: Middlelands Arena
Best Stage, Collectively: Trinity Vale
Rowdiest Fans: Crizzly
Surprise Act of the Weekend: Elohim
Best Totem: Medieval Mama June
Best Performers: Wenches and their “half price boxes”
Best Quote: "This is so much better than Coachella." — Sarah Barthel of Phantogram
Best Special Guest at a Sound Camp: 12th Planet at The Call of Booty