Redefining Festival Sounds: Community Collaborations and Unique Beach Setting Creates Variety at Gratitude Migration

From the latest in electronic house music to sacred bass and live world music, the lineup at Gratitude Migration is the definition of diverse. As the migration of Brooklyn’s underground music and arts scene, the lineup is replete with DJs, collectives and live acts typically found on the banner for an underground party in New York or Philadelphia; as well as newer names commonly listed on festival lineups on the west coast. From reggae to raga, there’s not a genre that’s not represented by Gratitude Migration – and that’s something the co-curators, David Kiss (resident DJ at House of Yes, Soho House, Samsung 837, Kostume Kult, and member of Acid Eastern and The Deep NYC) and Mike Grosz (co-curator and co-founder of event production company Vyvn and community collective Lightning Society) are super proud of.

“We have curated this festival to not only show the multitude and depth that is our community, but to create a flow throughout the festival for people to immerse themselves in and let the “migration” take you away,” says Mike Grosz.

Since the beginning of time, music has been shaped by the environments it is played in. From outdoor African drumming to indoor cathedral hymns, the shape and space of the musical venue has been key in evolving sound and the energy of the people dancing, singing and participating in the musical experience. Taking place on a beach in New Jersey, it’s evident that the surrounds of the festival known as “Summer Dream” are just as pivotal in shaping the musical curation as the people who will be dancing to it. “We have tried to curate music that reflects our environment - the beach and the ocean,” says David Kiss, “but whatever vibe you’re looking for, you’ll find.” Adds Grosz, “The special thing about a festival is that we are able to cover a wide range of music to accommodate whatever mood you're in at the time.”

The variety is inspiring for a music festival that strives not to align itself with one particular genre. “What I am most excited by is the diversity of sounds and artists that we’ve been able to book,” says Kiss. “There’s techno from the underground Brooklyn community, reggae, afro-beat, bass, disco, and of course, many iterations of house music.”

Gratitude Migration is a unique experiment in exporting Brooklyn’s underground music scene, typically played in warehouses in the darkness, onto the wide expanses of the beach in Keansburg, New Jersey. In addition to the primary Gratitude Earth and PEX Fire Stages, there will be several smaller soundstages provided by theme camps that combine the best of Burning Man’s east coast scene, from PDG and Bangarang in Philadelphia, to Brooklyn underground mainstays Discwoman, Rinsed, Might Get Weird, ebb+flow, and JunXion, along with Washington DC’s Meso Creso. Each camp's DJs represent a plethora of talent and global influences projected onto the stage of collaborative community.

“The multitude of music coming in will take us on a journey around the world,” adds Grosz. “Each genre we are hitting has a wide range of components that will be implemented into the festival, curating the music in a similar way to how the entire festival is being put together: by a variety of groups working together to create something greater.”

“I’m even more excited to see how each of our “villages” express themselves with their music of choice. It’ll be a treat to see true self-expression and their “gift” back to the community,” says Grosz.

Migrating from underground warehouses into the festival format influences the music as well as the crowd, providing a larger canvas for both musical and artistic innovation. PEX (The Philadelphia Experiment) will be bringing their musical magic from Philadelphia’s streets and the woodsy Camp Ramblewood to the PEX Fire stage, where fire performers such as Flambeaux and Kaytibunny will enthrall the crowd to the sounds of electronic music; and live acts will perform under the serene canopy of the Mandala Biergarten instead of crowded city bars, inviting open mics and jam sessions. On some stages, musical acts will be synchronized with fire performances and interactive, immersive art. “We have some special environmental performances that will be very unique, and an experience waiting to happen; like our “multi-sense” tent that will bring you to another world and immerse your senses,” says Grosz.

With immersion and creativity backing it up, the music lineup is a solid representation of variety in genre, region, and established vs up-and-coming acts. “I’m very excited for all of the artists who are being brought in because each of them covers a specific niche in a very professional sense, so there should be no disappointments,” says Mike Grosz. “Everyone from Jon Charnis (who I think is an amazing producer/DJ), to Oona Dahl and Davi who will float us over the beach, to SAAND and other up-and-coming artists that will blow us away.”

The lineup features newcomers from the West Coast along with well-known entities on the east coast. “I am particularly pumped about the Desert Hearts crew coming from the west coast to grace us with a 5-hour set at the Pex Fire, as well as local all-female DJ collective, Discwoman, playing 4 hours of techno at the Don’t Sleep stage,” says Kiss. “One last interesting act,” according to Grosz, is West Coast festival veteran and newcomer to the East Coast, David Block, who brings two projects – The Human Experience and the Cat’s Pajamas – with a “whole new vibe”.

“I know we are all very grateful for each and every artists who is involved that they will be a part of a start to something the North East needs, and will help create more collaborations like this one,” says Grosz.

Not to be left aside, the live music lineup is exceptional and features favorites in world and sacred music from Brooklyn and the northeast. “We have a myriad of musicians performing live at our Mandala Biergarten from all over the world, thanks to Sir Roan and Brooklyn Raga Massive,” says Kiss, “as well as local bands with genres ranging from jazz, rock, and live house.” The Biergarten and Center Camp will feature several live jam sessions and open mic opportunities for artists in their freshest state, and up-and-coming artists are a strong part of the lineup. Worldtown, a recipient of the Gratitude Migration art grant program, will be bringing their form of fusion electronic-jazz-hip-hop-reggae-rock-gypsy-funk to the stage, with gratitude for the investment this festival has made in their artistic development.

“The curation team has been able to put their heads together and bring out each of our expertise to create a wide range of high quality music,” says Grosz. “Huge props to David, Drew, and Reda for what we have done.”

The festival canvas is also an opportunity to change the way the music is served, adding to the beachy vibes. “We’ve also tried to facilitate longer sets from our artists so that they can really connect with everyone on the beach,” says Kiss. “This is a festival after all, and to me, festivals are about connecting with each other through celebration and dance.”

At the end of the day, the variety of music, the collection of communities and the beachside location is the ultimate canvas for a new method of dancing and connecting at Gratitude Migration. And perhaps also, a way to connect that isn’t exclusive to a festival or a warehouse, but one that can straddle both worlds. “We will be on a beach overlooking the Manhattan skyline,” says Grosz. “It gives the perception that we are in our own little world, while still being able to see reality at our fingertips.”