Meakusma comedown: Back porch musings about festivals and their ilk

After over a week of lists and highlights, best ofs and nostalgic recaps, the occasional souvenir post still makes an appearance and betrays the obvious: we’re all still there somehow, still processing. Meakusma is not a festival that you immediately return from. Rather, like any remarkable experience, it stays with you, quietly but indelibly.
20 September 2019 | AG 14

While it may have all the bearings of a showcase festival, Meakusma has managed to gracefully tread the line between exposing audiences to compelling and not unchallenging acts while letting those good, easygoing vibes flow. A refreshing absence of senselessly oppressive guidelines and patronizing clearance situations make for a highly accessible experience, even for those who accidentally stumble out of the bushes to find themselves in a friendly bonfire of freaks. It makes quite a statement: the acts and settings are considered thoughtfully and appreciatively, and people react in kind. Little to no troublemaking can be found, recalling the old adage about treating children with kindness and whatnot in order to see it come back to you. Faced with the prospect of such good times ahead, it’s hard not to feel like a child once more, even without a slew of annex activities and Red Bull wet T-shirt contests or whatever stunts can be pulled to distract and entertain our reptilian brains. There is nothing to expect besides music and a spot here and there to relax in.

To be sure, honoring the many facets of contemporary music is ostensibly at the core of this festival’s ethos. The feat of providing a platform that accommodates these subcultures while eschewing confining aesthetic preoccupations in order to converge under the banner of ‘undefinable music’ is a symbolic ode to the big melting pot that this field of music really is. Pondering the possible futures of how these festivals can be organized, there are two noticeable approaches currently being explored: that of an expansive, multifaceted festival, with numerous rooms and hundreds of acts, where the visitor doubles as curator and can navigate the program at an individual and customizable pace. Then there’s the stance taken by festivals like Gardena, Troglobatem and of course KRAAKfest, where the path is already carved out for the audience and they have no choice but to trust. In the first scenario, the main draw is the possibility of discovering unfathomable amounts of music in one go, thus gleaning a panoramic view of current and upcoming voices in music old and new. Yet there is always the danger of sensory overload: are you really able to discern what you enjoyed, or even make sense of what you saw, as you hurry in your cargo pants to catch the next act? This expanded menu of all-you-can-eat music can be hard to digest once the mental saturation kicks in. The risk for organizers is also present in the ways that a blooming realm of possibility can override a clear sense of purpose. Prioritizing sheer volume over a coherent vision is a trap, one to remember and avoid. Of course, that doesn’t mean that smaller festivals don’t encounter their share of struggles and limitations: there will always be acts that go forgotten or neglected, missed opportunities and shortsighted mistakes, tone-deaf decisions and inevitable regrets - especially when space cake is involved.

One thing that is indisputable, as the rush recedes and we are grounded back to our worldly anchors, is the respectful attitude reflected by this experience in communal merrymaking. There is respect for the musicians: no headliners, for nobody’s art and vision is more or less valid than the next. Respect for the community, in the trust and instant familiarity bestowed by the organizers and shared by the spectators like an infinite tournée générale that extends to the Germanophone grannies dotting the village. You can even say respect for the environment, as far as festivals go and as much as an intrusive presence such as ours can have on nature - hopefully not too many Decathlon tents were left abandoned. In any case, everyone is on the same page, already stirred by the novelty of trekking down to Eupen (exotic!) and propelled by the idea of this vital communal experience. A worthy pilgrimage indeed for anyone looking to be challenged and immersed, joined by familiar faces and unexpected allies, colluding for a three-day escapade into the inebriated bliss of the undefinable.