The crypto world has had a tough summer time. Costs of bitcoin and etherium have plunged in current months. NFT mania has cooled after the market turned flooded with low-quality tasks and scams. And regulators have begun cracking down on a slew of crypto corporations which have allegedly engaged in dubious behavior and potential fraud.

Regardless of this dim outlook, over 500 individuals lately took over the campus of Idyllwild Arts Academy, a personal arts boarding faculty in Idyllwild, Calif., for a weekend competition that local media deemed to be the “crypto Woodstock.”

The occasion was referred to as FWB Fest, and the artists, writers, musicians, software program engineers, start-up founders and creatives who gathered have been all united by way of their membership in Pals With Advantages, a crypto-based on-line social membership that you have to buy a token to affix.

At FWB Fest, crypto’s downturn was welcomed. “I don’t assume this competition would have labored six months in the past,” mentioned Alex Zhang, 26, certainly one of Pals With Advantages’s leaders and an occasion organizer.

The individuals at FWB Fest weren’t the everyday crypto convention attendees who jet between Miami and San Francisco. Many have been working artists or inventive professionals. They have been there as a result of they imagine that the blockchain, crypto’s underlying know-how, can be utilized to construct a greater world by way of group and decentralization.

“The factor that’s taking place on a much bigger stage,” Yancey Strickler, the previous co-founder and CEO of Kickstarter advised a room of fellow attendees throughout a session titled “Past Crypto,” “is that we’ve had many many years of maximum and rising individualism as the first worth, the place every of us are anticipated to face on our personal … however now we’re recognizing the hollowness of that, and the loneliness of that and the grind.”

“I believe we’re all getting our sea legs after many years of neoliberal market mind individualism,” mentioned Austin Robey, a Pals With Advantages member and co-founder, together with Strickler, of Metalabel, a platform that gives instruments for on-line collectives.

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Whereas the crypto world’s public picture has been largely outlined by a model of hyper-capitalist libertarian individualism, attendees at FWB sought to leverage the crash to usher in a distinct, extra inclusive techno utopia centered on group and creativity.

“Crypto is clearly divisive, and there’s a whole lot of language and instruments that we’re snug utilizing that don’t translate to the mainstream,” an attendee mentioned. “However how we’re going to have a higher optimistic impression on extra individuals’s materials lives is by constructing instruments on public ledgers that aren’t hyper-financialized.”

A $100 million group chat

In 2020, entrepreneur and artist Trevor McFedries started exploring find out how to deliver a extra mainstream viewers to crypto. He’d lengthy been on the forefront of artwork and know-how, having constructed an organization that created the primary digital influencer, however after the pandemic hit he started delving into the world of Web3, the broad and considerably fluid time period that serves as shorthand for a brand new sort of web that’s constructed on decentralized blockchains. Whereas Internet 2.0, the present iteration of the online, is outlined by a handful of massive tech corporations that personal and management consumer content material and knowledge, advocates of Web3 see its decentralized methods as resulting in extra egalitarian possession.

In a single weekend, McFedries created a specialised cryptocurrency token and despatched it round to his mates within the music, artwork, design, and tech worlds in addition to to some Twitter followers.

The “FWB” token granted them entry to a Discord group referred to as Pals With Advantages. The group capabilities as a DAO, or “decentralized autonomous group,” which is mainly a blockchain-based co-op the place every token holder owns a stake within the group.

Within the two years since, Pals With Advantages has taken off. Buoyed by the crypto increase, the group chat grew right into a full-fledged on-line social membership, producing media consideration and attracting 1000’s of high-profile members together with celebrities and music artists like Erykah Badu and Azealia Banks.

Because the group scaled, the worth to buy a token to realize membership additionally grew, at one level reaching $175 for a single token. Final yr, Pals With Advantages raised $10 million from buyers together with the enterprise capital agency Andreessen Horowitz in a funding spherical that valued it at $100 million.

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The group used the funding, partly, to increase offline. It hosted occasions and events in Los Angeles, Miami and New York, rising its cultural footprint. At one level the group mentioned a futuristic dream of at some point taking on a defunct liberal arts school and internet hosting a competition. When it was found {that a} pal of a pal labored in admissions on the arts academy, after some negotiation with the college and native city officers, FWB organizers landed the venue, and FWB Fest was born.

Crypto utopia within the woods

All through the weekend, Idyllwild Arts Academy was reworked right into a utopian summer time camp the place dialogue teams and talks throughout the day on matters like “Social justice and web3” and “The place do NFTs go from right here?” gave method to night performances by musicians together with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova from the anarchist feminist group Pussy Riot, experimental digital music producer Oneohtrix Level By no means, and rapper JPEGMAFIA. James Blake performed a piano set.

There was a pure wine backyard, ambient sound baths the place attendees might sip mushroom tea, late-night stargazing and a pool occasion. Andrea Hernandez, founding father of the publication Snaxshot, who has turn out to be an oracle within the meals and beverage world for her capability to identify up-and-coming merchandise earlier than they make it to grocery retailer cabinets, curated a customized snack sales space, and NFT market OpenSea collaborated on a gallery of digital artwork.

All through the weekend, administrators Adam Faze and Ari Cagan chased down attendees for interviews for an upcoming actuality present backed by Mad Realities, a web3-oriented manufacturing firm, based mostly on the competition.

Outdoors of the talks, nonetheless, the subject of crypto appeared secondary, if it was talked about in any respect.

Greg Bresnitz, the cities and occasions programming lead for FWB, mentioned that was intentional. FWB, he mentioned, was actually about “utilizing Web3 as a coordination mechanism for tradition.” “For the final two years [crypto] has been on the forefront,” he added, “and now with the crash it folds into the background.”

Different attendees agreed. “There are lots of people right here who’re relative novices to web3, however are actually into tradition and that’s their entry level into FWB,” mentioned Cherie Hu, founder and writer of Water & Music, an unbiased publication and analysis DAO centered on music and know-how. “I haven’t even heard many buzzwords or individuals speaking about crypto within the nook,” mentioned Patrick McDermott, an artist in Los Angeles.

Due to the serendipitous nature of its founding, Pals With Advantages by no means began with a mission assertion or marketing strategy. “It began as a scene” mentioned Zhang. “Most people who find themselves a part of a scene can’t recite the mission assertion of a scene.” Throughout one session, on the second day of the competition, members brainstormed on find out how to increase FWB into new endeavors, whether or not it was product launches or one other competition.

Every part about FWB Fest was organized together with FWB Discord members. “The group is full of people that work in different industries, so once we placed on occasions we attempt to rent from inside the group,” mentioned McFedries.

Zhang mentioned he thinks of Pals With Advantages as a metropolis. “New York Metropolis, for example, throws festivals,” he mentioned. “There are additionally eating places, museums, parks, and so forth. FWB feels much less like an organization and at this stage, and extra like a small city that’s obtained a vibe.”

Regardless of the current contraction within the crypto market, everybody at FWB Fest remained steadfast of their dedication to utilizing the blockchain, crypto’s underlying know-how, and mentioned they hope that FWB’s success will usher in a brand new period of web3, constructed round group and inclusivity.

“We’re attempting to construct whereas we are able to earlier than large terrible firms come and destroy it for everyone,” mentioned Joshua Eustis, a music artist often called Telefon Tel Aviv. “Capitalism is superimposed on our lifestyle and our monetary system and the truth that web3 is presently wildly insufficient to right for that, isn’t sufficient of a purpose for us to abdicate our accountability to form it in its early situation.”

“If we don’t,” he mentioned, “some a–hole will later and we’ll have to make use of it.”

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