With painted Volkswagen buses, talk of “free love,” and other reminders of the Woodstock era replaced by advertising and corporate sponsorships, hippie culture may be dying, but a new subculture—a sort of purgatory between hipster and hippie—is on the rise.
At the bottom of a dirt path marked by a yellow question mark painted crudely onto a circular piece of wood, a soothing voice can be heard: “The power is in the exhale. Release yourself. Lose yourself.”
“Now,” the voice says, “Feel your heart move into your neighbor’s heart. Now bring it back to yourself once more.” It is 1 p.m. at the What the Festival in Dufur, Oregon, and an afternoon session of “Good Times Yoga” is being held in the Illuminated Forest. Trek deeper into the Illuminated Forest and you’ll find a Japanese tea lounge; a makeshift Buddhist temple; and various art installations, like a wooden unicorn, a life-size stag made only of mirrors, and a massive dream catcher. Emerge from the trees to discover a hookah lounge furnished with vintage couches and coffee tables. Continue further into the middle of the festival—passing the organic coffee vendors and the fire twirlers until you get to the pool party helmed by a chilled out DJ—and you’ll be reminded that female toplessness is technically legal, that not everyone makes wise tattoo decisions, and that questions like, “Who here is on acid?” are sometimes answered with resounding cheers and a sea of raised hands.
It’s difficult to tell if the What the Festival, abbreviated as WTF, which includes stage names such as the “Effin’ Stage,” the “OMG Lounge,” and the “Late-Option Lounge” (or “LOL Stage”), is making an ironic stab at mainstream culture or a clumsy attempt at cultural relevance, but it is clear that the nascent festival in rural Oregon sees itself as an alternative to better-known and more popular summer music and arts festivals (Coachella, Sasquatch, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and the Electric Daisy Carnival).