Nestled in the serene beauty of Idyllwild, California, FWB Fest 2023 redefined the festival experience as an enchanting convergence of music and technology. Also known as “Friends with Benefits,” FWB is a token-gated community and creative agency using Web3 technology tools, founded by none other than Trevor McFedries — whose tech start-up brought us Lil Miquela. You also might remember him as DJ Skeet Skeet, who toured with Katy Perry back in the day.
Set against a whimsical backdrop, the festival embraced the small and intimate nature of FWB, offering a truly unique and immersive journey into a harmonious blend of art and innovation. Talk of Web3, crypto, and recycling spread from formally programmed events to hammocks and picnic tables, where attendees lounged, sipping from reusable water bottles — which they were given if they didn’t have already. These blockchain nerds are also finding ways to fight climate change — hopefully Greta Thunberg gets the invite for next year…
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What immediately struck me upon entering the Idyllwild Arts Academy was the communal atmosphere, reminiscent of Warped Tour in the early aughts, where only two stages were set up on opposite ends of an Orange County athletic field. Safe enough to meet a hundred strangers, and maybe make your new best friend, FWB deliberately limited the size of the gathering to help forge genuine connections and engage on a deeper level with one another in what felt like a summer camp simulation for adults looking to revisit those fleeting junior high vibes. If you’re reading this, mark my words: It won’t stay this cool forever.
The carefully curated lineup featured both established and emerging artists, each delivering heartfelt performances that resonated with the crowd. The small stages and welcoming settings created an atmosphere of closeness, where attendees could immerse themselves in the music while basking in the natural beauty that surrounded them. Late-night after-hours with Charli XCX, who was celebrating her birthday via a DJ set with A. G. Cook, was something special. We were happily packed into an auditorium, sweating out the caffeine from the free Yerba mate — which managed to keep me up until 4 a.m. The next day, I stumbled through a digital art show sponsored by OpenSea, meditated, attempted some yoga poses, and met Max, a golden retriever who also happens to be the official mayor of the town. To cap off the night, Yves Tumor completely blew the crowds’ minds, and Caroline Polachek delivered a scintillating performance, catapulting all into a fairy-filled dream — or maybe it was just me.
What truly set FWB Fest apart, though, was the pool party, replete with smash burgers and lectures that I personally couldn’t sit still for. These little details made all the difference — a true testament to the power of intimacy and innovation. By bringing together music, technology, and a close-knit community, the festival succeeded in creating an experience that was not only captivating but also deeply meaningful. As the last notes faded and the event came to a close, I realized that I had only narrowly dodged a macro dose of mushroom tea, but I have a feeling many others didn’t, and were surely elevated to a higher frequency that could only have been magical.