Biscoland music fest nurtures community in nature

Biscoland music festival nurtures community

Wonderland Forest’s two-day event draws campers together for a weekend of musical transcendence.

Fans dance around with homemade totems at Biscoland 2023.
Matt Hofmann
Biscoland attendees dance around with homemade totems following the intermittent rain during the two-day music festival.

Tuned in, tapped in, turned on, was the shot heard around the Wonderland Forest campgrounds this past weekend as 1,500 pairs of eyes bore witness to the trance fusion musical stylings at CNY’s Biscoland. 

Located in LaFayette, New York between southern Syracuse’s apple orchards, the music festival’s two-day open-air jamboree attracted nationwide campers who all adhered to mother nature’s calling for community.

Beginning with the musical celebration of July’s Summer Jam 50 to running barefoot as Twiddle played Tumble Down in September, Biscoland closed out the new outdoor venue’s trifecta with melodic lines of electronic psychedelia performances.

The finale of the Wonderland Forest campground music festival series was three years in the making. Featuring The Disco Biscuits and Lotus, the festival paved the way for listeners to open up their ears and put down their phones. 

“I opened up as the sun fell down, and that’s when everyone really came together,” said Debra Bell, a featured hairstylist from Albany, who moved to the beat of her dazzling flower crown. “Who would want to be on their phone right now?”

Performances commenced as the weather dropped on Saturday, and guests formed a straight beeline from the 7-foot-wide open fire pit to Copper Horse Coffee’s truck. Here, they lined up for hot tea and chocolate chip cookies. Nothing was going to keep attendees from dancing through the storm.

“The rain didn’t stop anyone,” Bell said. “As fast as they got wet is as fast as they got dry.” 

Lotus took the stage around 7:30 p.m. Saturday night, with heavy rain earlier in the day delaying most the sets by about 30 minutes. Photo by Matt Hofmann.
Lotus took the stage around 7:30 p.m. Saturday as heavy rain earlier in the day delayed most sets by about 30 minutes.

The festival was nothing short of a campground for common ground. Expecting just that, Complementary Angles Massage of Schenectady joined the Wonderland Forest series for a second time. 

“We were here at Tumble Down and we got booked pretty quick so we decided to do it again,” massage therapist Abby Jones said. Jones and her best friend, Graziella Andron are licensed masseuses and co-owners of the massage that frequents flea markets and festivals throughout the state.

“We’re really here to make a difference by offering healing to the body,” Jones said. “We go where we’re needed.”

Fitting right into the festival’s energy of building community, the co-owners handed out tie-dye business cards quoting “there is no competition if the goal is universal healing.”

Maddy O'Neal rocked the Saloon stage for two back-to-back sets on Saturday night at Biscoland 2023.
Maddy O’Neal rocked the Saloon stage for two back-to-back sets on Saturday night.
Eggy opened up on the Main Stage around 5:30 p.m. Friday evening to a lively and excited crowd.
Eggy opened up on the Main Stage around 5:30 p.m. Friday to a lively and excited crowd.

Haystacks bordered the center stage and held witness to the frolic dancing and lack of lit phone screens during live performances from Emancipator, Opiuo and The Floozies. Each artist gave the audience an opportunity to envelop into the present moment mimicking the one rule for the weekend: live one minute at a time.

Down the Dandylane, festival participants set up tents and stations around the two-mile-long campgrounds which met at the mouth of Vendor Village, the strip of vendors. The pathway including crystal merchants and Hellenistic-style painters formed a connecting corridor to the Saloon Stage and Woodland Main Stage. These trails eventually led to the Apple Valley Lookout with scenic overlook sights for more than 100 miles.

A couple dances along to Maddy O'Neal at Biscoland 2023. Aaron Liedka shows off his art in front of a black light. Liedka uses whatever tools he can find in his garage to create his art, saying it's a fun new hobby he's enjoyed exploring. He also enjoys writing poetry. He says this is one of the few paintings he's named so far, but is considering combining his writing and art later on. Twirling lights were a common theme when the sun went down at Biscoland 2023. The jam band 'The Disco Bisuits' played well past 1 a.m. on Saturday night, with fans sticking around to dance along with them.

Aaron Liedka, an LED blacklight painter and vendor of neon marble artwork from Cleveland, New York, camped out at the entrance to the festival. When he wasn’t talking to passing traffic, he sat in front of his paintings playing his guitar and writing poetry.

“This one here has bits of bacon embedded in the canvas from an interesting time,” Liedka said in reference to one of his summer paintings. Along with his next-door neighbor and traveling comrade, Jamie selling tie-dye apparel under the same tent, the two are frequent festival hoppers. 

“I live for this,” Liedka said. “I’m painting, playing my guitar, writing poetry and then doing it again the next day. This is a great place for it all.”

Many fans said they traveled from all over to see The Disco Biscuits live.
Matt Hofmann
Many fans said they traveled from all over the country to see The Disco Biscuits live.

More than half of the 1,500 attendees opted to camp at the festival overnight. With over 32 volunteers for the weekend, shuttles, golf carts and UTVs darted around the property line, transporting guests from different vantage points.

“Everything started ramping up last year when more people were added to the team and I kinda started getting involved,” festival coordinator Shelby Martin said. “That’s when the first festival came into conception.”

Martin, a Kentucky native who found solace within the 500-acre Wonderland Forest, graduated from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry last spring. Working within a close group of six people that expanded to 20, Martin and her team endured 60- to 80-hour weeks over the summer to nail down all the details. The outdoor music festival specifically provided the opportunity to become one with nature. 

“When you think about music you don’t really think about hiking, but we brought that in,” Martin said. “If you don’t wanna leave you can go camp, you can still hang out or go to the waterfall.”

The property once belonged to Adam’s Eden, a Christian camp dating back to the 1970s. Over the decades, the campgrounds found their way into ownership by a father and son. The duo dreamed of a land that would allow them to reign free from others. When his father passed, the owner’s creative process ignited as he worked to reach his goal of making the land into something special with music. 

“If we don’t have a band, the amps are always on,” Martin said. “We’re always hearing music. We’re bringing people together in nature through music.”

A bonfire burned near the Saloon Stage for the entirety of the festival, with more and more people gathering around it as temperatures dropped into the 40's on night two.
Matt Hofmann
A bonfire that burned near the Saloon Stage for the entire festival attracted dozens more attendees as temperatures dropped into the 40s on the second night.