Why the Conversation About Further Future Festival Matters

And Why We Should Help Robot Heart Iterate

Photo by:  Tomas Loewy

Photo by: Tomas Loewy

Speaking at Further FutureBob Pittman, founder of MTV echoed a mantra of the tech world: “Fail fast, iterate and move on.” In spite of making terrific improvements from year one, the producers of the festival were given some powerful lessons in their second offering. The event suffered from four months of rain in a single night, the natural growing pains of a bold new concept, and some negative press immediately after the event.

My experience of Further Future was of joyful connection, generosity of spirit, brilliant people, and expertly curated programming. There were certainly things that the second-year festival didn’t pull off completely but it did create an environment that cultivated moments of intimacy and vulnerability. Along with some dynamic and affordable programming in wellness, education and music, I came away with a very positive experience and new friends. Yet when I returned friends and colleagues in the festival world were already sending me articles trashing the event.

Beatport published a snarky takedown that, in the words of one friend, was the “most scathing review” he’d ever read. By the festival’s own admission, some of Beatport’s observations about production errors were on point but they were delivered in such a mean-spirited fashion that it felt like a takedown piece against festival culture generally. The article was finished and published while I was still at the festival and it felt like the author didn’t engage with the event at all. The writing clearly showed that the author didn’t understand or feel the community element that was important at Further Future.

Then there was an article in the Guardian that framed the event as a party for out of touch elitists representing the worst depiction of Burning Man in the mainstream media. The piece felt rushed and incendiary, with some completely fabricated quotes. Russell Ward, who was widely quoted in the article, runs a PR company, The Confluence, that supports beloved events in the west coast festival community from Shambhala to Envision. The author did not only mischaracterize him, her facts were completely off. Ward is no festival runner nor did he develop any of the festivals that his PR company represents. Ward told me how hurt the team was to be misquoted by someone they considered a peer.

Both of these reviews were written by outsiders with an agenda to use outrage to drive traffic. They didn’t reflect my experience or those I spent the weekend with and to me they felt like attacks on our whole community. Yet they picked up a lot of traction within and outside of the festival world. Why were people so eager to heap their ire upon Further Future? How much of the criticism from production to ethos was warranted?