Warm weather brings music festivals to the area, each with their respective brand but ultimately pretty similar traits: current hype bands rounded out by a big-name reunion act for an expensive ticket price.
Fields Festival organizers Amanda Schmidt and Stewart Mostofsky are doing something a little different. The inspiration behind their three-day event harks back to childhood — a nostalgia for summer camp. The festival takes place Aug. 19-21 at Ramblewood, a group campground just outside Havre de Grace, Md., about an hour from such prolific Baltimore arts venues as the Crown.
“There’s something really beautiful, and particularly transformative even, about taking people out of the normal show-space environment,” Schmidt says. “I think that immersion in art leads to a sort of life-changing experience for some people.”
To ensure that sort of involvement, only full-weekend passes are available for purchase — a rather unusual stipulation for festivals of any size. Overnight camping is encouraged, and clothing is optional.
Fields Festival bills itself as “a Baltimore music, arts and performance camping experience,” and it unites an eclectic mix of musicians, live theater performers, filmmakers, poets and practitioners of the healing arts. Schmidt and Mostofsky assembled the music lineup, while curation of the non-music content has been placed in the hands of artists who specialize in each individual discipline. Ben O’Brien of Baltimore’s Wham City Comedy curated the lineup of comedians, including Alan Resnick of “Adult Swim” and gender-fluid sci-fi comic Violet Gray. Innovative performance artists Alexander D’Agostino and Noelle Tolbert programmed the dance performances, including their troupe Mooncrashers and the provocative duo FlucT .
There also will be short films from more than 25 area filmmakers, including abstract animator Jodie Mack and experimental visual artist Karissa Hahn. Stretching the conventional understanding of what art should be, the festival will have a wellness tent with massage therapists, yogis and a variety of clairvoyants for all the weekend’s chakra-decluttering needs.
The first Fields Festival, held in 2014, was deemed a success, but the stress of coupling this self-described labor of love with outside life responsibilities became too much for the organizers, who took a sabbatical in 2015. Schmidt and Mostofsky have revived the festival in the spirit of its first incarnation: completely on their own terms — without corporate sponsorship and completely funded by ticket sales — and perhaps even more ambitious.
Once locals only, the music lineup has grown to includes acts from elsewhere. The organizers looked for artists that shared the spirit of Baltimore’s DIY scene, as Mostofsky put it,“the ability to embrace the seriousness of artistic approach, as well as the fun and joyful spirit . . . in a way that is fairly unique.” Legendary jazz ensemble the Sun Ra Arkestra, prolific noise outfit Wolf Eyes and New York City club sensation Juliana Huxtable fit the bill.
Baltimore’s Future Islands was recently announced as the festival’s headliner; it’s the only remaining East Coast performance for the trio this year. The 4AD signees came to international notoriety in 2014 after a performance on “Late Show With David Letterman.” Along with co-headliner Dan Deacon and such acts as TT The Artist and Abdu Ali, the fiber of Baltimore’s music scene will be celebrated across six stages.
Private cabins are sold out, but tent space is abundant, with more than 200 acres of land available. Schmidt advises campers to “bring things to take care of yourselves — but we’ll take care of everything else.”
Aug. 19 to 21, gates open at noon on Aug. 19. 2564 Silver Rd., Darlington, Md. Three-day passes cost $100 in advance, $125 at the gate. Single-day passes will not be sold. fieldsfestival.com.