This is Mainstream

Looking for news in all the wrong places

Is this how the future’s supposed to feel? Barn swallows flit across the Polish Czech border with Schengen impunity and the sun sets laconically over rolling Northern haze. The basic order of the place suggests a relatively perfect stasis-the satisfaction of an honestly tired man watching his well-tended garden grow. The smoke from our fire dissipates over the immense field that hosted last year’s Czechtek festival, a sort of Glastonbury of European free techno sound systems. This tranquility, interrupted by occasional spats with unruly gardens and snow, seems a fair summation of life in Andelka, a village of less than 100 people resting a few hundred meters South of the Polish border.

Last year, the mainstream press descended on Andelka and “discovered” Czechtek. Like an overweight Columbus, they were probably equal parts threatened and enchanted by what they found. There must be something to this, the covers mused. What sort of depravity are these kids getting mixed up in? It’s about drug gangs, they theorized, and wild, unrestrained sex. Reflex planted a topless hippy girl on their front page. She looked stoned, directionless, blissful and strangely like a prairie dog.

Driven by last year’s headlines, and a long-standing invitation to visit a friend at his restored farmhouse, I went to Andelka looking for the story behind the story. I went looking for headlines, gentle reader, and I found myself staring at a newsprint photo of Jason Blair as I crumpled a copy of the International Guardian into the newly raked ash at the base of the fire pit.

In coming to grips with the “phenomenon” of free techno parties, the frustration of the press and the hype-seeking public are both mired in the fact that there is nothing odd about the festival’s popularity at all-nothing phenomenal. There’s no news, despite all attempts to make it news, and aside from issues of taste and aesthetics, no one can seem to find a problem with a bunch of people dancing mindlessly in a field, no matter what the prize. But as this season gets fired up, keep your eyes peeled for the inevitable “tech-nomad” exposes. This media dilemma is further exacerbated by the inability of anyone to capitalize on a free festival. There’s nary a billboard in sight to pin a logo on, no booths where potential consumers can sample new products. And topless girls don’t wear C&A tank tops. And, honestly, had there been a Eurotel logo behind her, would that girl have ever have ended up on the cover of Reflex? The question at the base of the media inquiry is: why would anyone do this, if not to make money?

Personal responsibility factors in to both the dilemma of the press, which needs terror and scandal to sell papers or tune in viewers, and the ever-elusive “vibe” of the parties themselves. The sycophants of pop culture have no problem bitching and moaning about over-commercialization, but fail to look at the root of the problem. “Sponsorship”, be it in the form of a financially supportive parent or a multi-billion dollar corporate nametag, obviates personal responsibility. Thus, if 16 gigawatt fun couldn’t drill its way past 6 hits of speedy ecstasy, it becomes the fault of the “sold-out” organizer. Events like Czechtek put the individual back in control of the situation, and in such a solipsistic scene, yourself is what really matters, after all.

Like backpacking kids lugging their oversized packs along Europe’s festival tour, the American press, and the world press by extension, is also feeling more than ever the weight of its own integrity. After years of blind faith in “them”, the recent hypersensitivity to truth and accuracy in media may only be a symptom of a wider discontent with the ubiquity of false claims and disinformation-part of a cyclically recurring realization that personal responsibility ends up affecting ripples of positive change in society.

Considering the scale of last year’s Czechtek event-nearly 20,000 selves descended on the idyllic location with cars, tents, dogs, trash and drugs-there ought to have been just a little bit to complain about. “The noise became a little bit irritating after a few days,” said Magdalena Kyselkova, one of Andelka’s few full-time residents, “but those young people were so nice.” By all accounts, the festival was nothing but good for the locale; the proprietor of the local market claimed to have sold in two weeks more than in the previous two years combined. An unresolved trash problem, over which the regional government imposed an enormous fine on the “organizer,” was the only thing to tarnish the event.

A year after, the only sign that the festival ever passed through are a few faded ribbons marking off parking areas in the overgrown fields. According to local residents, there has been talk that the festival will likely return to Andelka this year, though the “anarchist collective” that puts the thing together doesn’t officially announce the location until a week or so before the date. In the meantime, Andelka carries on unconcerned. A handful of village kids peak out the speakers of their car stereos and blow cigarette smoke out into the darkness. The older folks sit around fires and talk about “real stuff”. The wind shifts, a log falls and crushes the empty bottle into the embers of our fire, and the future feels ok, I guess.

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