People have come to expect and hope for certain things from festivals. With the recent explosion of EDM and electronic music in general around Asia and the facelessly commercial events that come with it, expectations in the region are also heading in the direction. And if that’s what you’re after – a big name line-up, VIP luxury treatment, product placement and world-class production – then Quest Festival in Vietnam probably isn’t for you.
However if you’re looking for a bone fide colorful adventure where you can create lasting memories and new friendships, a fully inclusive and collaborative experiment in art and music, then this is what awaited festivalgoers at this years edition of Quest.
That is not to say that Quest is somehow subpar to the current trend of Asian festivals, it’s far from it actually. The ethos is clearly communicated and seen in all facets of the event. The promotion, the management, the music curation and the production is all on point while still uniquely following its own vision, a vision that other organisers in the region would do well to pay attention to.
Located about an hour’s drive outside of Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi in the tropical jungle locale of Ba Vi National Park, arriving is a trip in itself whether you go by bus, or as many of the more adventurous did, by motor bike. A newcomer would be excused for a momentary feeling of surrealism when it dawns on them that they are in an actual jungle in actual Vietnam; to many a war, or even an entire genre in film before it’s a country. That notion is quickly shaken however as the muddy path through a dense forest suddenly opens up to reveal a colorful and idyllic landscape with multiple stages and jetties dotted along the shores of a glistening lake filled with revelers dipping in. When you realize that collaborators, volunteers and visionaries built the entire site by hand, you also realize that you are not there to just BE there, you are there to take part.
The festival is a feast for the senses. Music is of course the major element but the array of additional attractions is actually too much to fully sample in the three days. Workshops, theatre, classes, party games, street art and processions abound – all beautifully depicted by the stunning photography above. Impromptu performers roam the event sometimes messing with heads of those that may be under the influence of things not served at the bar (I’m still confused and distraught days later as to why I was red carded by the party referee).
As for the line-up, you must forgive me for not having my choice of favorites but actually that’s kind of the point. Organisers stay clear of booking ‘headliners’ and keep it underground with acts that can just bring it, leaving revelers to simply roam, follow vibes and whatever whimsical new friends they might stumble upon, discovering all the different stages along the way.
But it must be mentioned the line up alone was a feat of logistics. 150 acts ranging from local Vietnamese to expatriates from afar, Asia-regional noisemakers and further afield up & comers, across 4 stages for 3 days non stop is no small task to manage as seamlessly as it was.
The days were bursting at the seam with live acts running the gamut through too many genres to list as well as deeper electronic, reggae and dub sounds to enjoy in a more relaxed atmosphere while the sun was still shining. But when the sun went down, stages came alive in new ways with video mapping and light installations to the sounds of techno, house, psy-trance and beyond and kept festivalgoers moving until the sun came back around the horizon to start the day anew.
While sold out, the festival now in its sixth iteration is still growing for sure but the effort that was expended on this run was surely epic and was clearly progressed and improved upon from earlier versions. My head is still reeling from the experience and 12 months feels too long a wait to once again wander through the jungle and arrive home at Quest.
Were you there? Vote for Quest to be listed as one of the top festivals in the world on Fest300 here.
[photos via Quang Nguyen & Theo Lowenstein]