Relive the magical three-day journey of Mystic Valley Festival in Khao Yai from the tail-end of November with our recap of the experience.
Once upon a time, in the year 2017, a music festival of epic proportions known as Mystic Valley was born in Thailand. The massive three-day event took place in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima at the foot of Mountain Creek Golf Resort and Residences in Khao Yai.
The festival, which debuted back in February, boasted one of the biggest, sickest lineups in the history of Thai electronic music festivals. Hosting eight stages with over 50 world-class artists from Fedde Le Grand and Sander van Doorn to techno legend Sven Väth.
Festivalgoers who attended Mystic Valley’s first edition remember it with great fondness for the amazing range of electronic music genres represented. Some had pondered whether they would ever see its like again. And when it seemed like the festival would have been a distant memory years after, nobody could have foreseen what would happen next.
Fast forward to 2020 – Truly a tough year for people around the world. In September, after a long drought of notable events, the news broke: Mystic Valley would return! Plans for the second edition of the festival, focusing solely on local talent, and spread out across 10 stages, were set in motion for the final weekend in November.
There was some doubt whether the festival would be able to go ahead due to ongoing pandemic regulations. Others felt the festival lacked the first iteration’s all-star lineup, providing less incentive to make it there go-to holiday destination. However, the three-day spectacle came off without a hitch, providing countless hours of music played by the most talented local DJs from all corners of Thailand.
After having braved through all three days of Mystic Valley, one thought rang through my head – ‘Was it all just a fever dream?’ As I prepared to return to the Monday morning workday world, I felt it had all gone by in such a blur. Well, I guess you know what they say; time flies when you’re having fun.
After spending all three days navigating the various stages, ordering endless bottles of water for me and my festival buddies, and enjoying countless hours of electronic music – it was truly a weekend well spent!
Getting Ready – Embarking on An Adventure
Traveling between the venue at Mystic Valley and your lodgings can prove problematic for those who lack their own transportation and/or weren’t staying at the resort. Some attendees resolved this issue by staying in camper vans on-site.
No taxis were readily available at the festival, and some attendees were left with either hitching rides or falling back on contact numbers taken earlier from personal drivers. It was difficult finding a Grab at night around the area on my first night.
Once the transportation problem has been solved, an otherworldly realm awaits those with a burning desire to rave beyond the arching entranceway of Mystic Valley.
A quick glance at the map provided, with its eye-catching graphics, gave ravers an overview of the layout of the festivities. However, after trudging along the dusty red path that led from site to site, some festivalgoers may have found it to be a bit daunting moving between stages. And this is in addition to memorizing each location – a feat that literally took me all three days. Though the map did not convey the detailed intricacies of the actual pathways, at least signs were posted at every fork. While efforts were made to prevent people from getting completely lost, there was still a sense of adventure and exploration to the experience.
For those who were hungry, a designated food area was located between the Hardstyle Thailand and Siang Sun stages. Those at the opposite end of the festival had to trek all the way back here to eat – a bit of an inconvenience but ‘hey, you’ve been raving all day so no harm in walking a few more minutes to get a bite?’ There are also golf carts driving around the festival to pick up people but they were few and far between. To spot one was not unlike spotting a wild animal on a safari trip.
At the food area, there were food trucks parked around with numerous choices that give hungry voyagers the much-needed burst of energy to last the whole night (if you so choose). From juicy burgers, greasy pizzas, sizzling BBQ skewers to savory Bratwurst sausages, hot noodles, and frosty ice-cream – food was in bountiful supply. Fruits and dumplings were up for order too – the latter coming in both Japanese-style gyoza and Tibetan-style momo (a personal delight of mine). Also of note – bars were situated at every staging area if you were feeling thirsty.
Bangkok’s popular Golden Axe Throw Club had also set up shop here, and you could test your strength and throwing skills in between breaks of dancing. Fun for the whole family! Just be careful where you throw those bladed hammers.
As previously mentioned, the camping area sits not far from where the food hub lies, offering an alternative option to staying at resorts or hideaways for wanderers wanting to stay close to the action. At the center of this small, restful community lay numerous tents encircled by the aforementioned camper vans – all set up for people hoping to sneak in for a quick snooze.
Prior to the event, tickets were able to be purchased with Bitcoin, Ethereum and USDT. This was a partnership made with Bitazza, an all-digital asset platform, marking Mystic Valley as the first blockchain-based festival in the world with its own currency.
All payments are made through the Mystic Valley phone app where people can transfer their cash or their bitcoin into ‘Myst Tokens’. The app is best downloaded beforehand as phone signals aren’t particularly strong at Mystic Valley.
Once the festival is packed, especially late at night or on Day 2, it would prove a challenge to convert all your money into tokens, creating long queue lines for those who just want that one extra bottle of water.
Once I had my fill of Momo dumplings, it was time to check out Mystic’s raison d’etre – the stages hosting the wide selection of music!
DAY 1 – Friday, November 27
If Mystic Valley were a three-course meal, the first day would be served as the appetizer. Attendees got a taste of five of the stages, and they all proved a taste of things to come for Saturday, Day 2 – the main course.
Early comers on Friday night could visit the Epic stage, the first to kickstart the evening. The DJ Plus stage was where the mixing abilities and skills of the newest DJ talent was on display. In addition, people could take a restful break in the tranquil Sanctuary Stage where bean bags and haybales were available for lounging while listening to music of a less intense nature.
Two stages, however, drew considerable attention for the warm-up evening jamboree of Mystic.
The first is S2O Jungle – a name so renowned and recognizable by ravers all over Asia. This stage was the place to be for mainstream festival EDM. This meant that the audiomancers playing here could be dishing out anything from electro/progressive house, trap, to trance/psytrance and hardstyle.
You had one of two reasons to be there; 1. Those who missed getting soaked in the splashing madness of S2O Festival due to the COVID cancellation of the Songkran holidays this past year. 2. Those who missed out or were envious of S2O Taiwan in September, which was able to bypass the impact of the pandemic. Both groups were able to recoup the missed opportunity at this stage.
The first thing that definitely caught the attention of Mystic adventurers was its stage design – a lush mechanical oasis featuring three waterfalls. Steady streams of water gushed and splashed down around the stage where the DJ was playing. While not dousing the audience with water as in an authentic S2O Songkran experience in Bangkok, the stage definitely kept ravers refreshed whenever the waterfall streams matched the intensity of the stage lights and beat drops of the music.
DJs Kikie and Yukio, two femme fatales of the Thai EDM community, hyped the crowd up amid flashing green lights creating a jungly effect before popular Singapore-based duo Rave Republic took over the decks to play a fun set of pop-EDM crossovers.
The other main highlight for the night, possessing a unique allure of its own, was the Siang Sun stage. This stage is distinguished by three key factors.
The first of these factors is that the stage is powered by the state-of-the-art Funktion-One sound system. This system delivers an impeccable sound quality unlike any other. One not only hears the music but feels it. This makes all the difference as those who were at the stage can attest.
Another factor is the featured DJ rotation. The stage hosted a different DJ crew with their own unique sound and brand for each night. The first night was hosted by the Grow Room collective consisting of residents Spencer and V. Alarik, groovy maestro Linus, young hotshot Wild Thai, and versatile audiomancer Kuroten.
Last but definitely not least is the distinctive stage design: towering above the DJ booth is a sinister-looking owl in an upright stance, its wings spread, and its menacing glare in constant spinning motion as it gazes down on the crowd.
Its striking appearance is made possible by the creative mind of Lud Absolud, an art installation and festival stage designer from Amsterdam who is behind much of the visual work that goes into the stages of popular festivals in Thailand including Jai Thep, Kolour, and Fly to the Moon.
As an advocate of recycling, Lud constructed the owl out of tree branches found throughout the wilderness. The eyes were built from used microwave engines which explains the perpetual motion. This gaze transfixed the crowd as they readied their phones to take pictures of it before immersing themselves again in the sounds of electronic music.
The crowd settled down under the steady stare of the owl for a warm-up set first by Eddy Frampton, then by Soi Dogs’ Spencer who took over the decks with a fine selection of minimal house tracks. He was later joined B2B by Wild Thai, and together, their passion and talent never failed to draw people to the dancefloor.
Soon after, the crowd eased into V. Alarik’s curation of deep house before teaming up B2B with Linus, forming an unstoppable pair that took ravers on an hour-long sonic voyage.
Kuroten kept the groove going with a banging two-hour set before being joined on stage with his Grow Room brothers for a discotastic finish lasting into the early morning hours.
While each Grow Room set shone brightly, Mendy Indigo‘s closing set delivered what the fanbase expected from the female DJ – shifting to an introspective mood with a darker and heavier techno set.
DAY 2 – Saturday, November 28
Day 2 is the busy main dish of our sonic three-course meal. It is when people from the city begin to pour in for their weekend getaway after a long week of work. It is the only day when all 10 stages were open, so time management was of the essence – there were a lot of sounds to absorb in so little time.
Kickstarting the second day was Sway’s pool party. The Thonglor venue’s stage featured gigantic yellow-colored inflatable pools – one complete with a large slide that was reminiscent of a water park. Here, audience members were provided with a casual and fun way to chill and cool down from the sun, accompanied by hip-hop music.
Meanwhile, Violett’s stage provided a sanctum for bassheads – from trap music’s loud kicks, snappy snares and dirty bass samples to future bass’ modulated chords and catchy melodies.
Elsewhere, Hardstyle Thailand was overtaken by distorted kicks and pounding bass at their stage. The noise and speed of the music was so intense that it could bring a house down.
The Sanctuary Stage gave ravers a bit of a breather where they could partake in yoga, sound healing, and breathwork with wellness practitioners Selin Sila, Jen Chapman and Nathaniel Try, respectively. Those who stayed after feeling revitalized from the workshops can enjoy the acoustic folk from Jennifer and Fiffi Lackgren and Rosalyn‘s smooth and soulful rock music.
As the day began to darken, I became hungry for some tech-house. I visited the Mustache stage where Blast Sessions’ Nukier was serving up the deep basslines and hypnotic beats my ears were starving for.
Afterwards, I traversed to the Trance Lovers Thailand stage; its location one of the furthest away from everything else. Hype Viper‘s uplifting trance set sent me into a hypnotic state and carried my soul away on an emotional journey. The music, melodic and beautiful, kept listeners in a euphoric state. Despite playing at midnight, Sam Laxton debuted his new trance hit ‘Waiting For The Sun’. The uplifting tune sent the packed crowd jumping to the beat of the drop with exhilaration.
Sometime after that, my companions and I made a quick detour back to Mustache where we grooved along to deep soundscapes from Eddy Frampton.
Finally, at the end the night, I went back to the Siang Sun stage, where the Baba Loop collective kept ravers on their toes. Though it was past midnight, the night was far from over. Wildealer kept the vibe upbeat with a set of tropical sounds and trippy melodies. Their music was enhanced by the almighty owl stage, the flashing lights alternating between its wings and the gigantic tree above it.
At 3 in the morning Tim Roemer and Wan Issara gave a bouncy tech house set B2B that enraptured the audience until the sun rose.
DAY 3 – Sunday, November 29
After some much needed rest, I started the final day of Mystic Valley late in the evening – I was ready to have some dessert. As it was a Sunday night, there were fewer people in attendance than at the madness that had occupied all corners of Mystic Valley the day before.
Sunday the festival played host to two exclusive stages. Zulu Records showcased the label’s artists, both local and international, with their very own after-party stage.
Online indie music platform Fungjai had an indie rock takeover at the Sanctuary stage. Their takeover included prominent Thai indie artists and bands including songstress Pyra and her eccentric dystopian pop. Indie rock darlings Yellow Fang and synthpop group TELEx TELEXs gave listeners the option to break away from the electronic music that engulfed the entire festival.
Starting with a progressive and tech house set from Sadia at the Epic stage, along with an energetic set of trance classics and mashups by Bobby Janpho at the trance stage, I was fully reawakened and reenergized, ready to spend the rest of my time at Siang Sun’s final outing.
Siang Sun, on its final day, was taken over by the Tropic City family. The stage was far more positive this time, with the DJs’ curation of feel-good disco tunes. This was due to a collaborative B2B effort between four artists – Sweetbabyjane, Slowlygreen, Seba and Takamichi.
We moved to the funk and soul brought forth by the four talented disco maestros for many hours straight until they were fully done playing their uplifting sets. Once that was over, and the lights from the owl had shut down, Siang Sun had finally come to an end.
Still reeling from their music, the crowd hurried about to the Epic stage where the finale was scheduled to take place. When we arrived at the last stage standing, a huge crowd was enthralled by Jesse Oat’s dark selection of techno.
For the wrap-up, Alex Fischer and Jack Haze delivered the grand finale – a set that was so on point that served as the perfect culmination of the three-day romp that was Mystic Valley. They were joined by DJs Vas and RedRum for the ultimate finish – a set that transitioned from tech house to deep house and even a bit of trance, with Robert Miles’ ‘Children’ being my personal cherry on top of this sonic sundae.
Mystic Valley served as a haven for EDM fanatics as each stage showcased one type of electronic music genre. If you were fan of a certain style, you could bet your blessed ears that the festival had it. Or you probably experienced something new and ended up becoming a fan of a specific style that you hadn’t been before.
I found myself wishing that there had been a greater balance of focus between the various genres. Furthermore, various aspects of the locations could use a bit more planning, especially in the areas of transportation and sanitation. Overall, the journey across Mystic Valley was nothing short of spectacular. A magical memory held in regard for those who have attended, it sparked a change of setting away from the city and served as the Mecca for electronic music fanatics that so many festivalgoers had long desired. The festival served to unite them all together for a celebration that will resonate throughout Thailand’s festival resurgence in the post-lockdown era.
All photos courtesy of Mystic Valley Festival.