Buried in the San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild Arts Academy was once again host to the second iteration of FWB Fest. More than just a music festival, the DAO known as Friends With Benefits (FWB) looks to discuss the future of internet culture, crypto, and more during this weekend retreat style festival. While this article will focus mostly on the music aspect of FWB Fest, I felt it wouldn’t be a complete story without mention of these other aspects.
I took on this event with truly minimal knowledge of crypto currency and the culture surrounding it. I found myself making the same jokes to anyone who asked me about my experience, “I once bought Dogecoin in 2018.” This was usually followed by a small chuckle. While the music performances kicked off in the early afternoon, I found the mornings offered a unique opportunity to delve into the communities that orbit this festival and explore the paths they are carving as the crypto world continues to evolve.
Although the festival was open to the general public, it seemed that roughly 80% (or more) of the attendees had some affiliation with the festival's supporting organizations. Everyone I spoke to displayed an optimistic outlook on the future of crypto, but this optimism didn't ignore the prevailing negative public perception stemming from the rapid declines of the past two years. Nevertheless, these moments were seized as opportunities to discuss the necessary changes and improvements to rectify past mistakes.
As an outsider, I often felt like I was swimming in unfamiliar waters during these discussions. After most talks, I walked away with more questions than answers, but I realized that this was a positive outcome. It was abundantly clear that there exists a substantial knowledge gap between the "crypto bros" and the average individual. The term "on-chain" became the catchphrase of the weekend, with discussions frequently centering around how more people can become integrated into this fascinating universe.
Right around mid-late afternoon, attendees would begin to gather at the beautiful amphitheater on the Idyllwild Arts campus. From top to bottom, this lineup was loaded with talent, both underground and mainstream. Many of the up-and-coming artists performing at the fest also partake in the Web3 community to some degree.
The opening act for the music performances was Leo Pastel, a self-described multi-sensory artist. His music offered a unique blend of synth, lo-fi, R&B, funk, and rap. Although he may not have been a household name for many, Leo Pastel had already made his mark in the web3 community. His initial exclusive releases on sound.xyz had soared to the top, claiming the #1 and #2 spots on the platform. Ricky Lake, hailing from the Bay Area, also graced the stage on the first day of FWB Fest. His performance brought a refreshing change of pace compared to most other musical acts at the festival. Ricky Lake's style was characterized by its upbeat tempo, reminiscent of the SoundCloud era of music. The entire band contributed to a lively and energetic show that undoubtedly resonated with the audience in attendance. Collectively, they demonstrated a genuine passion for their craft, and one can only hope that this dedication will be met with equal enthusiasm from fans in the future.
There was one major and I mean MAJOR moment on day one as far as music performances went. At approximately 10:30 pm, a wave of festival-goers converged on "Rush," an intimate club-style venue located on the campus. What unfolded was a surprise announcement that had been on everyone's radar: an A.G. Cook b2b Charli XCX set. A.G. Cook had been the creative director for Charli XCX since 2016, and their undeniable chemistry was palpable throughout the entire performance. The performance was nothing short of extraordinary, and it left an indelible mark on everyone fortunate enough to witness it. If you want to dive deeper into this unforgettable set, you can check out the feature dedicated to it right here.
Following the impressive opening day, day two of the festival stepped up to the plate with a lineup that was equally remarkable. Kicking off the day's performances was the rising star, Alex Purdy. Her music is an electrifying blend of high-intensity synth sounds, and what truly sets her apart is her captivating stage presence. After pouring her heart and soul into her on-stage performance, Alex Purdy took her act to the next level by immersing herself in the audience. Dancing and singing with unabashed passion, this young artist clearly has her sights set on a bright future in the music industry. It's no surprise, considering that her 2021 singles, "no stopping me" and "you make my dreams come true," have both achieved remarkable success, each garnering over a hundred thousand streams on Spotify. This is an artist to watch as she continues to make waves in the music world.
As the evening wore on, it was time for the headliners to take the stage, and among them, indie musician The Dare delivered an absolutely electrifying set that unquestionably claimed the title of the most high-energy performance of the entire festival. Up to that point, much of the music had leaned towards the more laid-back side, but The Dare had a different agenda – to get the crowd on their feet and grooving. In a festival limited to just 1,000 attendees, it can sometimes be a challenge for artists to truly connect with their audience. However, when The Dare stepped onto the stage, he managed to extract every ounce of energy from the crowd. Described by some as embodying the genre of "indie sleaze," this NYC-based artist exudes an irresistible charm that is simply indescribable. Among all the talented artists at FWB Fest, The Dare unquestionably tops the list of "ones to watch." The growth and momentum he's gained since the release of his EP earlier this year have been nothing short of extraordinary. If you haven't yet heard of The Dare, mark my words – you will soon, and you won't want to miss a beat of his meteoric rise in the music scene.
Closing the curtain on the amphitheater performances was Caroline Polachek, and boy, did she close it with style. She managed to pull in the largest crowd of the entire festival, and there's no mystery as to why. With her impressive track record, collaborating with big names like Beyonce, Solange, Doss, and yes, the very same Charli XCX we've been grooving to, Polachek's synth-pop tunes were on another level.
But here's the thing that really set her apart – her performance wasn't just about the music. It was a visual feast, choreographed with an elegance that left us all in awe. She had this uncanny ability to connect with the crowd, turning the gig into a collective experience we won't soon forget. One festival-goer was so blown away that they declared themselves "unworthy" of the performance and hailed it as the best they'd ever seen. And Polachek's voice? It was like a finely tuned instrument, delivering perfection throughout the entire set, even as she danced her heart out. The ethereal setting of FWB Fest made it a perfect backdrop for this unforgettable musical journey. So, if you ever get the chance, I strongly recommend catching Caroline Polachek live. It's not just a suggestion; it's an experience that'll resonate with your music-loving soul for a long time to come.
In the grand scheme of things, FWB Fest 2023 definitely goes down as a success. Despite the challenges that the community has faced in recent times, it's heartwarming to see everyone come together and put on such a remarkable event. The festival not only serves as a hub for brainstorming future internet culture concepts but also provides a much-needed escape, thanks to its unique, intimate, and downright phenomenal performances over the weekend.
While the future remains uncertain, it's evident that FWB Fest and the Friends With Benefits organization are in capable hands. Here's hoping that the next year brings even more growth and evolution to this one-of-a-kind experience.
Check out the Full Gallery Below:
All photographs have been captured by Mike Amodei specifically for Tonitruale. Any external usage or dissemination of these images must be accompanied by proper accreditation.