Just two days before the fifth annual FORM Arcosanti Festival begins, headliner Chance the Rapper pulled out Wednesday due to “unforeseen scheduling conflicts.” The festival, which is held at an “architectural eco-city” in Arizona, announced that it will otherwise proceed as planned, with Flying Lotus’ 3D live show taking Chance’s place on the bill. Other artists booked for the festival, which runs Friday through Sunday, include Skrillex, Charli XCX (with special guest A. G. Cook), Beach House, Fleet Foxes, Courtney Barnett, Blood Orange, Daniel Caesar, Dirty Projectors, Hundred Waters, and others.
“Due to unforeseen scheduling conflicts, Chance the Rapper is unable to perform at this year’s FORM Arcosanti festival,” the announcement reads. “While we are disappointed Chance won’t be with us, we are excited to contribute to his philanthropic initiative SocialWorks and look forward to the next opportunity to support each other’s missions through music. In the meantime, we’re thrilled to announce that Flying Lotus’ mind-blowing 3D live show has been added to headline the Amphitheater on Friday night.”
“This started with a relatively small group of artists, friends and family,” added festival co-organizer Alex Hoffman. “Having collaborated with Chance in the past, we were excited to share what we’ve been up to out here the past few years and support each other’s causes. While we’re bummed he’s no longer making it, we know this weekend is greater than any single performance, panel, or person.”
The fifth edition of FORM, a small, 2,000-capacity three-day “microfestival” curated by the band Hundred Waters, begins tomorrow in Arcosanti, located in the Arizona desert. The site, begun in 1970 and designed by architect Paolo Soleri and built by volunteers, “continues to be developed as an experiential learning center, walk-through demonstration of how to pursue efficient ‘lean’ alternatives to urban sprawl,” according to its website. In addition to performances, the festival includes talks, panels, workshops, art installations, new technologies, and outdoor/wellness activities.
Previous performers include Solange, Skrillex, Father John Misty, James Blake, Future Islands, Four Tet, Thundercat and many others. The festival’s “Cultural Series” partners include: ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, Parley for the Oceans, NeueHouse, and more. Part of the appeal for Chance to perform at such a comparatively small event is that the festival agreed to commit 100% of the proceeds from this year’s event going to SocialWorks, a Chicago-based youth empowerment charity founded by the rapper.
FORM was created by the band Hundred Waters in the hope that “a leaner alternative could inspire greater connection and creativity amongst artists and friends,” according to a statement. Sponsors include: RedBull, WeTransfer, Snips, Sierra Nevada, VANS and Health-Ade.
Less formally, the idea was essentially born at a house the bandmembers shared in Florida when they were in college. “We had a huge fenced-in yard and we built a stage, we could fit like 500 people,” recalls Hundred Waters drummer Zach Tetreault, who is FORM’s main organizer. “It was totally DIY but I used to take them really seriously, we’d hire security and bring in nice lighting.” Years later, the band sought out an interesting site to do something similar on a larger scale, and after visiting Carlsbad Caverns and the BioDome in New Mexico, Arcosanti was their last stop. “As soon as we drove up and walked onsite, it was obvious it was perfect,” he says.
While the festival has grown each year in terms of attention and the caliber of artists playing, the first year “was an album release show with a bunch of our friends playing,and it kind of evolved from there,” Tetreault says. “It comes from us: I book every single artist myself, I personally do the outreach and go through a lot of back doors and form relationships with artists or managers. For instance, Hundred Waters performed on ‘Colbert’ with Chance and Skrillex a couple of years ago. And Solange came about through [singer/songwriter] Moses Sumney, who was my roommate for two years. He helped curate the  festival, he brought it directly to her and she was interested. Next thing I knew I was being contacted directly by her agent saying ‘Solange wants to do this, let’s figure it out.’”
While the coolness of the event and the appeal of performing at, as Tetreault puts it, “a tiny amphitheater in the middle of the desert” is often enough to get artists to sign on, it wouldn’t matter if the event’s organizers couldn’t pull it off. “We deliver,” he said. “Last year we delivered Solange’s show exactly the way she wanted it and it was the best show I’ve ever seen; we did the same with James Blake and Father John Misty.”
Not surprisingly, Form isn’t the first festival to take place on the grounds. Arcosanti played host to a festival for three years during the late 1970s, featuring artists such as Stephen Stills and Todd Rundgren. But in 1978, which turned out to be that particular incarnation’s last year, “there was a massive car fire in the parking lot because carburetors were sparking and the gas lines were plastic,” Tetreault says. “They called it the ‘Carbeque’ and it basically killed the whole spirit of events there for years, and didn’t do it again until we came along.” (Read more about it here.)
While the group and its team — co-organizers Hoffman and former Hundred Waters manager Mike Feinberg, and around 50 staffers for the event itself — plans to “scale up” next year, there’s only so big it can get. “The amphitheater really can’t fit more than 2,000 people, so we sell just under that many tickets and with staff artists and guests it’s right around 2,000,” Tetreault says. Yet capacity isn’t the only reason.
“Obviously, Arcosanti itself largely informed the ethos of the festival,” he says. “It’s a very symbiotic relationship. The place was built through the work of 10,000 volunteers over 10 years, so you immediately realize the historic importance — and you want to be a part of it and protect it.”