There are no right angles in Arcosanti, the tiny Arizona town where boutique music festival FORM took place this past weekend. Designed by experimental Italian architect Paolo Soleri in the 1970s, Arcosanti forgoes sharp lines for curves, and was constructed as an “urban laboratory”; a physical manifesto for a sustainable way of living away from car culture and urban sprawl. Today it’s home to around 80 permanent residents, and hosts architectural engineering classes, bronze-work workshops, and tours for curious visitors. But for the past three years, FORM has put down roots amidst Arcosanti’s arches and domes for three special days in May. When we arrive Thursday night, we see a flurry of tents popping up on the edge of the town, and by Sunday night’s closing party at the Elestial stage in the valley below Arcosanti, we’re surrounded by 1200 dust-covered guests who look like they’ve spent the weekend making new friends. FORM began as an artist retreat but has quickly blossomed into an enthusiastic community; there are many performers and attendees who’re on return trips, and everyone commented on the good vibes.
Because it’s so young, FORM has some kinks, but that’s part of the fun. Sometimes set times and stages changed without notification, but it wasn’t hard to figure out because no performances overlapped and everyone’s phones were on Airplane Mode anyway, as no one cared to receive any outside interruption. There wasn’t any time to bother with Twitter, we were too busy getting lost on Arcosanti’s circular sidewalks, peering into the koi pond in the shade underneath the dorms, exploring cliffside nooks, learning about the people around us, and soaking in the hot desert sun. (Thankfully Arcosanti’s elevation meant the wind brought frequent relief while ringing the city’s many homemade bronze bells). There was so much to experience: “Kitty Kat” singer Empress Of killed the pop game with her midday set; Perfume Genius’s alternating screamed anthems and tender ballads were transcendental; we danced around the amphitheater to the funkiest Thundercat; and one woman confessed she shed tears during Moses Sumney’s electric folk songs. There were also plenty of other non-music things to get involved in: L.A. poet and singer-songwriter Saul Williams and artist Sanford Biggers spoke on race, activism, and the disruptive power of art during a panel; and there was meditation and vinyasa yoga on a rooftop overlooking the Arizona desert for the early risers. It was like living in a dream of the future, only we know it was real because we all came home a little bit sunburnt. Take a peek inside.