No more than an hour from Philly and just over two from Manhattan, there is a place that’s hard to believe exists. A place that features towering pines, sandy beaches, a glimmering lake, and raw beauty that can hardly be contained.
The place I’m speaking about is Paradise Lakes Campground in Hammonton, New Jersey, the previous and current location for Submersion Festival. While the campgrounds are no stranger to live music events, there has never been a festival like Submersion at Paradise Lakes. In fact, there has never been a festival like Submersion on the east coast until its arrival this past October.
With an incredibly unique lineup and The Rust and Aspire Higher as our hosts for the weekend, I left Fishtown and set course for New Jersey.
Thursday – It’s a Thought Process Party
After a short trip down the Atlantic City Expressway, we arrived on the grounds of Submersion Festival greeted by courteous security guards, smiling staff members, and the growing warbles of the early entry pre-party.
Making our entrance all the more grand was Thought Process at The Beach stage throwing everything you can imagine at the crowd. Joining him at various moments were Zone Drums (5AM Trio), Keith Wadsworth (Wax Future, 5AM Trio), and Rasp Cinco which set the tone for the collaborative performances that were yet to come.
The set was intoxicating but we still had to set up camp and get stakes in the ground in time for Daily Bread. Following the shoreline, we made our way through trees, “what’s ups” and “hellos”, and a community of people who may not have known each other but were all still planning to share something very special together.
Finding a nice spot by the water was easy and no one was on top of each other – a theme that stayed consistent even after everyone arrived.
Once we got back to The Beach stage it was clear that the population had grown a decent amount. No surprise considering Daily Bread has a tendency to get people on their feet.
Despite the absence of Lazershark, Daily Bread’s performance still went ballistic and stood tall as one of my favorite sets of the weekend. After fighting back tears during TYGRIS’ last set with the 5AM Trio then melting myself to some pheel., I was off to explore the grounds and chat with the community of animated patrons.
Friday – “This is not zucchini, it’s squash.”
The next day we were blessed with a late start and a beautiful autumn sun that after a few hours, shined a light on my taste buds. I made my way to the bottom of a vegan falafel bowl from What About Bobs in record time and right before I got in line to get another, BogTroTTer scratched out a symphony that lassoed me firmly back to the Beach Stage.
While BogTroTTer’s turntablism set stood out as one of my preferred sets of that early afternoon, Hyroglifics, TYGRIS, Inspect3r, and of course that Morning Coffee sunset set were all amazing.
At around 8:30/9, the Woods Stage cranked up the BPM with drum and bass acts Justin Martin and Chase & Status while the Beach Stage slowed things down with cHLL sMTH, a DMVU downtempo set, Emancipator, and a VCTRE chill set.
During this four-and-a-half hour downtempo period, it was DMVU’s set that really had a profound effect on me. He introed cool as ever, pairing these lo-fi vocals of a woman reflecting on her life with raindrops, birds, and pillow-soft melodies to create this incredibly ethereal landscape.
Paired with the transcendental visuals of Cortex, my peers and I became wrapped in a blanket of LEDs and powerful sonic remedies that reached out and massaged my soul. The songs from this set would later be included in DMVU’s Little Castles, Swim to Me LP released a month later.
The entire set was a nostalgia-fueled journey from start to finish that stirred an unusual feeling within me that I have tucked away for safekeeping. I don’t believe I said a word that entire set.
While I enjoyed riding out the bliss from the downtempo therapy, there were bricks to be squashed. Vide swung the mood with style, finesse, and grace, setting up BRICKSQUASH to come in and lay some thousand-pound stones on the speakers.
Despite the fact that only cloud_d was in attendance, fans were still treated to classic bricksquashian lullabies including a bass twisted edit of Key Glock’s “Broccoli and Cheese.” Without a doubt, my crew was squashed, and as some of us began to call it a night, a select few of us kept each other up in anticipation of Entangled Mind’s sunrise set.
Right as the sun began to peak above the pine barrens, Entangled Mind took the stage while VJ and media maker tyme took to the beach with his fire poi to perform for the early morning inhabitants of Submersion Festival. As I looked around me I saw friends I’d known for years and some who I had just recently met in my new home of Philadelphia. Entangled Mind played an enchanting set that swung me to sleep.
It was perfect.
Saturday – B2B Clinic Into Ultrasloth
When I woke up in the early afternoon, I was certainly feeling the effects of the sunrise set earlier that day. Nothing a cold shower and a few dumplings wouldn’t fix.
When it came time to start bogging my dogg at the beach stage, I had caught the wind back in my sails. Starting to gain more popularity in recent times, the duo of DRRTYWULVZ and BogTroTTer (BogDogg) is certainly a spectacle to watch.
Next up was Abelation B2B Fly who dropped everything from Kodak Black to CharlestheFirst. Keeping the B2B momentum going was the pairing of Digital Ethos and Tiedye Ky who had one of the most energetic sets of the whole weekend.
It was interesting to see their two juxtaposing styles weave together with Tiedye Kye wielding a more loose, relaxed fit and Digital Ethos with his chiseled precision. This set had some incredibly fat bangers and IDs in it such as unreleased Lab Group, unreleased Potions, “Old Ways,” some Pipus, and not a remix of “Banshee” but a suplex.
We even got to hear Tiedye Ky sing acapella about halfway through his set, something that I’ve become a fan of in recent times. The set was definitely in my top 3 next to BRICKSQUASH and DMVU’s performances.
However, kLL sMTH and his band of sloths were yet to come.
I was a bit disappointed that Mr. Bill had been replaced by Tripp St. so a few of us took the time to go back to camp and get some layers on. It was a little chilly, but it was nice getting all wrapped up to bop around.
At 12:30 AM, kLL sMTH, captain of the intergalactic vessel that is Ultrasloth, took the stage alongside his shipmates bioLuMigen and Duffrey and began to deliver some incredibly wonky beats and bass music.
They played favorites like “Dingo Bingo” while also traversing into unknown territory and tons of unreleased material.
By the end of their set, I was more than satisfied. After scarfing down a few more BBQ chicken dumplings from Humpty Dumplings, there really wasn’t anything else I could ask for. However, there was still one surprise left.
Around 4:30 AM, I was chilling at The Beach stage when I heard someone starting to play a style of music I hadn’t heard all weekend. Mixing together a blissful concoction of ambient house, playa tech, and IDM, Lusine enraptured me one last time on that beautiful beach on Paradise Lakes.
While I don’t mind house music I don’t normally sit down and listen to it. But ever since that Sunday morning, I’ve been searching high and low for the same minimal house vibes that Lusine delivered in a cool and transcendent package. I’ve tried to scratch the itch with Burning Man sunrise sets, Boris, Booka, and more but I don’t think anything will do it for me until another set or his next release.
While I came to Submersion Festival confident about what kind of music I like, I left with a new appetite for a genre I had never explored. The ability to introduce fans to new music is what I think makes a festival great and one of the reasons Submersion was so special for me. They didn’t curate the lineup to satisfy anyone’s preferences but their own. Luckily, festival curators Ryan Karolyi (Aspire Higher) and Jesse Boyer (The Rust) have pretty good taste.
As Submersion Festival plans their 2023 return to Paradise Lakes, the electronic music scene waits in anticipation. Keep up with updates and everything Submersion has going on in the links below.