Boiler Room’s Weekender was a naive experiment that revealed Trump’s America
On Friday, November 4, Ray Ban and Boiler Room teamed up for their first weekend festival, inviting the cream of the world’s diverse underground club scene to a small year-round vacation resort in Lake Harmony, Pennsylvania. On Saturday night, it was shut down after violent involvement from local police and security. FACT’s John Twells witnessed an experiment gone wrong.
We were an hour outside of the Split Rock resort, an idyllic lakeside retreat in the Pocono Mountains, about two hours drive from New York City, when we started to feel uncomfortable. We’d already spotted a few Trump/Pence signs on our long trek from Boston, but nearing the Poconos their frequency increased. I was traveling with two friends; both non-white, they picked up on the subtext immediately. “We can’t stop here, huh?” noted one, pointing to a dimly lit bar surrounded by an outcropping of Trump signage. “It’s like Halloween – but instead of being scared of Michael Myers, you’re terrified of racists,” we joked nervously, driving past picket fences demanding to “make America great again”.
There was no awkward encounter with strange locals at a gas station, no manic hitchhikers or drunken priests to ward us away – but the scene was set. The drive was like the eerie intro to a horror movie that’s a vivid documentary for people of color in America.
Our unease subsided a little when we checked in to the resort, soon transformed into sheer disbelief at the surreal situation unfolding. As we drove to the main building, I narrowly missed hitting not only a deer but a wild cat of some kind, within just a few seconds. We wandered into the main foyer a little shaken but still positive – music was already playing in the lobby as confused millennials traipsed around grabbing wristbands, keys and flashlights. It’s hard to overstate how odd this all seemed from the start. It was as if someone had welded a water park to a conference center; brightly colored slides surrounded the building, but inside you’d be forgiven for thinking you were at a tech industry trade show circa 1987.
At this stage, attendance was minimal – the traffic from New York had been worse than expected and numbers were worryingly low. When Kamasi Washington performed in the Keystone Ballroom that night – a large hall more suited to a product launch or a prom – it was so under-attended that we (and many others) assumed he was sound-checking; we were wrong. The rest of the shows had been delayed to allow crowds to accumulate, but the mood was tense. The event staff seemed confused as to what was happening – this didn’t appear to be what they’d signed up for, whatever “this” was.
Photos courtesy of John Twells