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Bubbles, Patti Smith impress at 'Escape'

A father and son listen to a band

A father and son listen to a band play during the Escape to New York festival. (Aug. 6, 2011) Photo Credit: Jin Lee

One minute, White Rabbits were playing their set on the Escape to New York main stage. The next, hundreds of new fans arrived carrying bubble-blowing guns, turning the field into what looked like the world's biggest bubble bath.

It's one of the many unusual creations the three-day festival, which runs through Sunday night, has crafted in its inaugural year on the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton. As any good magician will tell you, magic doesn't just happen, it starts with plenty of preparation. Saturday's bubble creation began with a special tour of the Escape to New York grounds designed by Improv Anywhere to create another shared experience.

No one was more surprised by the bubble event than White Rabbits themselves.

"It really helped me," said singer Stephen Patterson. "It was nice positive motivation. How can things seem bad when you're surrounded by bubbles?"

It was just one of many possible shared moments on the festival grounds. For example, in the middle of the woods sits "Gamelatron," the world's first fully automated gamelan, an Indonesian orchestra of gongs, metallophones and other instruments.

"It's meant to connect with the gods and foster a sense of community," said Nate Wheeler, the assistant to the exhibit's inventor, Taylor Kuffner. "At a festival like this, when there are so many sounds bumping into each other, it offers a moment of peace."

Of course, music is at the center of Escape to New York and by late afternoon, such a crowd had gathered for '80s heroes Psychedelic Furs that it felt like a conventional rock concert, complete with hooting, beach balls and a bit of crowd surfing, egged on by singer Richard Butler's energetic performance.

"We are part of something new," singer-songwriter Patti Smith told the crowd during her set. "Every time there is something new, there is a risk. There is always a risk of failure . . . There is also a risk of finding light, of feeling new and alive."

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