Everything Tyler Hunter needed was at the tips of his fingers: good music, good vibes and a community of friends in the thousands.
The Brooklyn resident had never been to Camp Bisco before this week. But within several minutes of touching down at the Indian Lookout County Club, he felt like a veteran of the three-day electronica music festival in Mariaville.
“I absolutely love it,” he said Friday, leaning back on the edge of the converted handicap bus purchased as surplus from a prison several years ago. “It’s an unreal experience.”
Hunter’s friend, Brent Barker, was utilizing an app called the Music Wagon to turn the bus into a mobile radio station. When installed on an iPhone and plugged into a soundboard, Barker was able to broadcast the sounds from the 200-acre rural campground across the Internet.
“Anything that goes into the board is broadcast live through our app,” Barker said.
And that allowed Hunter to spin records for one audience at the festival and another listening from around the globe.
“I was spinning from 7 [in the morning] and I think I stopped at 4:20,” he said with a smile.
The bus also brought Dank Bliss, an older Grateful Dead fan who set up a cafe at the festival called Coffee Shop Amsterdam. Some of the festival’s best coffee is brewed on a camping burner and sold for $4.20.
“They’re no joke,” Hunter said.
And so goes the beat of Camp Bisco, a place where just about anything goes; a place where the real world seems very distant.
Ask the fans and the rules are fairly simple: Be kind to one another, explore your inner imagination and cut loose. If that means wearing a panda suit, a go-go dancer’s outfit or toting a pole with a coconut monkey on the end of it, then so be it.
“It’s fun when people can live out their own imagination,” said Mason Pare, thrusting into the air a pole bearing the Rastafarian colors, a coconut monkey and bananas.
Pare, who was attending the festival for the first time, was impressed by the sense of community he found at Bisco. Wading into a mass of people gathered at the main stage, he wasn’t afraid to call any of them friend.
“Good vibe, good people,” he said.
Now in its eighth year in Mariaville, the festival draws at least 12,000 people to the sleepy lakeside hamlet. Though organizers never release an official tally, some believe this figure to be a gross underestimate.
The festival has come under fire lately by Mariaville residents and law enforcement, both claiming the free-wheeling Bisco crowd creates an unnecessary hardship: traffic snarls, public nuisance complaints, a bass that can be heard from miles away.
Critics also accuse the festival of creating a burden on local hospitals. Last year, about three dozen fans were taken to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, including a number of drug overdoses.
Ellis had seen eight patients from Bisco after the first day of the festival Thursday, with one being admitted for care. Spokesman Matthew Van Pelt said seven of the cases were drug-related, but each was released; the eighth was admitted for injuries sustained in a fall.
Medical personnel working the festival tended to a number of fans who collapsed due to dehydration. With dry conditions, festival organizers were urging fans to remain hydrated and take care of one another.
It was a message fans seemed to heed as they danced beneath Bisco’s tents and in front of their crowded main stage. Tara Trautman of Texas looked out into the crowd and smiled.
“It’s an amazing community,” she said.