Electronic music webcasters/tastemakers Boiler Room are taking over the Split Rock resort in the Poconos this weekend, and no one, not even the people curating it, really knows what to expect. There’s nearly 48 hours of straight music, in the form of DJ sets plus two nights of live performances headlined by Kamasi Washington and Blood Orange.
The real party won’t be in the main ballroom, but scattered throughout the resort: Boiler Room invited a handful of NYC promoters to bring their parties to the Poconos. The hotel’s bar, arcade, and billiards room have all be converted to party spaces, and the after parties go from 2 a.m. until… An indoor, glass-roofed water park has been converted into a venue for those who want to rock four-on-the-floor beats in a wave pool.
It’s not just music, either. English multimedia artist Margot Bowman created looks for each of the twelve performance locations, video-based music site Yours Truly is curating two days of theater programming along with a VR installation by Robbie Hillyer Barnett, and there’s also an immersive art installation from Brenna Murphy and RVNG recording artist Visible Cloaks.
Boiler Room is able to do this because they collaborated with Ray-Ban to create the weekend, and we were curious about what to expect at such a bonanza–and how these underground promoters feel about working with two massive international brands. We talked to a handful of the New York curators making the trip up to Lake Harmony this weekend. Here’s what they had to say.
JOSH HOUTKIN (FIXED NYC)
Village Voice: How did you get involved with this?
Josh Houtkin: Over the past two months I’ve been helping book the overall weekend. Boiler Room has never done anything like this in the U.S. before. All the local crews have been able to invite some of their favorites from New York, L.A., and more. For Fixed, we’re having a couple New York people, Paul Raphael and Barbie Birdish; our friend from London, Rorick Phillips; and from L.A., Losingers. The idea of Weekender is to spread the love, branch out to your friends and have them invite their friends.
Kind of sounds like if Coachella never left the hotels in Palm Springs.
Yeah I think you kind of hit it on the head. From Friday afternoon evening all the way to Sunday, it’s pretty much all music. You don’t have any reason to drive anywhere—if you want to switch your music or vibe, you can go elsewhere. We have Revenge from New York doing a really cool ambient area, so if you just want to take a break from raging altogether, you can hang there.
Do you change your booking strategy for an event like this?
I think it’s definitely different in that we didn’t want to cater to only one crowd in New York. In general, we want to make this broad and enjoyable for everyone. We’ll have things that we like, but things we can’t [normally] book. I love Kamasi Washington, but he’s not necessarily someone that I would have at Fixed. We want people to be there for the entire time, and want to be well-rounded musically so it’s not just techno kids or hip-hop kids.
EMMA BURGESS-OLSON (UMFANG/DISCWOMAN)
Village Voice: What do you expect to go down this weekend?
Emma Burgess-Olson: I’m not really sure what to expect. We’ve seen those sneak peeks of the arcade, where the after party is happening. The two events that [we’re doing], it’s not clear to me where each of those are. The atmosphere will be something new for everyone. I think the idea of having a party in an arcade, it might be massive.
What’s the closest analogue to this party you can think of?
It’s the closest to a techno summer camp thing [Ed.—Sustain-Release] that my friends do, which takes place at a children’s camp. It’ll be interesting to see it done on a larger scale. There are a lot of unknowns and it’ll probably be super weird; I think that our performers are used to only performing in clubs and underground clubs, and we try to really get people to go past the underground scene. It’ll be cool to see them in a different environment. I don’t know what to expect.
ELI ESCOBAR (TIKI DISCO)
Village Voice: Do you know anything about the space you’re playing this weekend?
Eli Escobar: They said that it would be a villa. I’ve stayed in villas before, so I’m expecting sort of a nice spacious house, and if they have a sound system set up in the living room area, the picture I have in my mind is a house party in Beverly Hills in a mansion. I have no idea if that is accurate or not. But I like the idea, it sounds really fun.
What do you think about working with a corporate sponsor? Have you done it before?
Yeah, we have. As our party has grown, we moved to a pretty big venue that doesn’t have sound, so we have to pay for sound, security…we have a lot of expenses. We’ve worked with sponsors, [which] I don’t have a problem with as long as it doesn’t take over the identity of the party—as long as there are no banners and we’re not required to do too much advertising for them. If they feel like it’s beneficial, and we’re barely aware it’s happening, I’m cool with it.
What’s about Tiki Disco are you trying to recreate this weekend?
It’s the same thing we always try to do: Focus on fun music. One of the myths is that people think you’re playing disco all night. We sort of stitch together forty years’ worth of dance music, and we’re committed to celebrating all of that and not just focusing on one subgenre. As long as we’re in the mood to play something and it’s good, we’ll play it.
DRE SKULL (MIXPAK)
Village Voice: What’s the Mixpak party at the Weekender going to be like?
We’re basically putting together a pool party. Literally in a waterpark. I think there’s a wave pool, too. It’ll come together well to do a party that isn’t under the cover of darkness—it’s a completely different set of parameters [from] throwing a party at 2 or 3 a.m. in New York. That informed how we put together this bill.
Who are you bringing to the Poconos?
We have King Addies Soundsytem, a legendary Brooklyn-based sound system that’s been an important party in the sound clash world since the late ‘80s. They’re going to be DJing and playing classic dancehall. We’re really excited to bring the sprit of this booking to these different groups of people. And so if you look at this, it’s quite different from any festival that I have seen. Sometimes festivals can end up being done by booking agents, and there’s a certain amount of repeat guests.
How do you address skepticism around sponsored events?
I think it would be very hard for a profit-minded promoter to book this line up. There’s a reason there are a lot of brands that are similar, making safe choices. Ultimately I think that this is an example of how you can do really interesting things with partners like Boiler Room and other brands.