May 28th – The Aerial View Festival

For a very long time, humans have wanted to fly. You can trace the urge all the way back to the Helican myths (interestingly, Escotolatian myths seem more interested in what lay beneath the earth), with the tale of Traciam, who built a giant catapult, hoping to land atop a cloud. Today’s festival leverages that urge in the service of music and revelry.

Aerial are an elektronika band from the east of the City, who make music from recordings of everyday sounds. Each year they host a festival called the Aerial View in an old converted warehouse, which is invariably filled to the rafters. Just below those rafters is a large screen, onto which around fifty pieces of footage will be projected, flickering between them as the music plays. On each of the walls is a similar construction.

How is this connected to flight? Well, at 12pm today, as the festival begins, the band will release fifty greater swifts, chosen for the amount of time they spend in the air and their larger size than most other types of swift. Each bird has a very small camera and radio transmitter attached to it. To avoid excess bulk the camera only has enough batteries to last for 9 and a half hours, enough to produce footage until just after sunset, and when the batteries run out the strap which attaches the camera and transmitter to the bird’s body will detach harmlessly from the animal.

The footage from each of the birds is played live on the screens which line the venue, one of the band mixing a number of feeds to create the most visually pleasing arrangement. Whilst the festival goes on much later than 9:30, usually continuing well into the morning, it is then that a break is organised for the revellers to take on food and fluids, before the footage from the day is remixed live into the night’s entertainment.

Whilst Aerial has produced some dance numbers, their musical style is characterised by floaty reveries that have often been referred to by reviewers as ‘spiritual’ and ‘transportational.’ Low beats undercut the reverberative electronic sounds that make up the melody. All the music at the festival today will be mixed on the spot in response to the footage on the screens, but certain popular refrains will undoubtedly surface.

The music is delivered by several enormous speaker stacks that encircle the space. Inside those are hundreds of hammocks, all hung between a number of metal rings which themselves encircle the dance floor in the centre. If you want to dance there is always room, or if you would prefer to lie back and watch the swooping footage above you, that too is always an option; whilst the place is always packed you never have trouble finding a good spot.

Much of the appeal of the festival is that it provides a new way of looking at the City; the birds usually end up swooping around the countryside catching small insects and water droplets from the air, but before that they will hover high over the City, seeing it laid out below like a great jigsaw puzzle. ‘There’s my house!’ you might hear someone shout. Besides hot-air balloon rides, this is the closest you can get to flight. Yet the main appeal must surely be the strange, floaty sensation you get as you hang in a hammock, slightly drunk, and look up at the footage above you, the twists and turns tricking your brain into feeling some alternate gravity. Even on the dance floor, folks often crane their necks to look at the ceiling, which often leads to a few collisions. Yet there are no fights or harsh words here; it’s difficult to get angry with such calming music.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Three Wines
  • The Orvis Benaldor Festival of Comedic Sneezing
  • The Day of Bedtime Stories