Spring Festivals 101
by Daphne Carpenter
"He is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest."
—Henry David Thoreau
It's cold, and today I've been daydreaming—gazing out my bedroom window through the drizzle, thinking about warm weather festivals. As we bloom into spring, and festival line-ups start popping up everywhere, I become both motivated and excited.
Just like a little kid, I start imagining myself in nature, surrounded by beautiful elements and fun people; we're all dancing under a full moon, celebrating our existence. In this star-drenched hour, drums have come to life and it feels like spirits have been summoned. As if some other force were manipulating the movements, my fire staff orbits itself around my body in reckless abandon. I feel free and unrestrained. In this eternal moment, stars shoot out from my eyes and I can only keep smiling.
A Skype call comes in and I'm reminded that I'm still just at my computer.
For many of us, the spring and summer festival season is an outlet, a way to connect with our deeper selves through this simple formula: MUSIC + DANCE + COMMUNITY + NATURE = ONENESS. It's how our ancestors celebrated life way before the burdens of assumed 'daily responsibilities' began to take command of our time. Luckily, though, we festival heads have a place to go to, a place to escape what some call "the illusion." and return to what feels "real." More and more today, festivals become long awaited vacations and/or unforgettable retreats. Here's a pocket guide to a few noteworthy festivals that are bound to get your blood flowing more vibrantly
Shakti Fest Spring OMmersion (A More Intimate Bhakti Fest)
—A Celebration of the Divine Mother, May 11-13
Shakti power ignites on Mother's Day weekend. This personification of "divine feminine creative power" is embraced and celebrated far away from city lights in Joshua Tree, California. Organizers have created a sacred space for people to meditate and spend a considerable amount of time in a state of self-reflection—even if this means you're dancing the whole time.
"The Divine Feminine is the alchemist of all creation," says Kennedy Carr, Bhakti Fest Stage Manager and Editor at Large at Vision Magazine. "Her love is unconditional, with total equanimity. By loving her, heart and soul, we're able to achieve expanded states of Bhakti bliss and continued love and support from all that is."
What sets Shakti Fest apart from other festivals, says producer and organizer Sridhar Silberfein, is that in the soothing warmth of the desert, one can "immerse themselves totally in their sadhana [daily practice]." And of course this means "living" and "being" yoga, to a soundtrack of powerful Kirtan music.
In terms of yoga mysticism, art, and spirituality, there's nothing watered-down about Bhakti Fest events—they're the real deal. With traditional fire ceremonies (pujas), ubiquitous Indian art, everything yoga asana to prepare the body for meditation, live Kirtan, and of course, that iconic flow of aromatic, incense-imbued air, it's easy to feel like you've been transported back in time 5,000-plus years. "Our festival is very traditional—very Indian," says Sridhar. "It's a space where people can come to deepen their spiritual path."
As an alcohol-free, vegetarian event, the Spring OMmersion festival is more a wellness retreat than a debaucherous rager. "We're not trying to change people's lifestyles. What anybody does, we respect and honor [drugs, alcohol, meat]. It's just that when you come to this particular venue, for this particular festival, this is what we give you…the other stuff you can get any day of the week, any place in the world."
Don't think these events are prude gatherings, though; instead, you'll find an ocean of amazing people who are blissed-out and high on life. You'll find processions of happy-hearted Hare Krishnas, dancing joyously along the pathways. You'll eat delicious guilt-free food, converse with open-minded people, and feel comfortable in your space. Everywhere you look you'll see a slew of intriguing, mystical people.
Those who embrace the yoga lifestyle will undoubtedly enjoy chill-out sessions in the Wellness Sanctuary, where you can have a massage or a reiki session, take a workshop on everything from mantra chanting to drumming, or simply utilize the space to assume your best "corpse pose," to re-up your energy for some ecstatic dance later.
Regardless of what you're into or where you come from, in my humble opinion, Bhakti events are extremely friendly and very entertaining, and I'll add, seemingly life-enhancing. We're talking about a yoga community that's welcoming and unpretentious (as many of us know some pretentious yogis). You're surrounded by people who keep higher vibrations and are inspiring to be around.
Symbiosis’ Pyramid Eclipse Gathering—Pyramid Lake, NV, May 17th-22nd
Okay, now nights get a little wilder.
Symbiosis gatherings are rare occurrences. They don’t happen at any particular time of year, nor on any given year. They keep people waiting and there’s magic in this anticipation. “Symbiosis is dedicated to producing great transformational events,” says organizer Kevin Kochen. “Each event is completely special, when the time is appropriate.”
On May 21st, a very full moon will cross the sun’s path and emerge as its dark galactic center. This phenomenon is an annular solar eclipse, where in the sky, the suspended dance between mother moon and father sun causes the appearance of one celestial body. This interstellar union reveals itself as a colossal, fiery ring in the sky, with solar flares shooting out all around.
Throw in some psy-beats, and all the while, earthlings below have been dancing for the duration of the cosmic show. Who are they? They’re our sisters and brothers who share in a wonderstruck admiration for the movement of astrological bodies and the effects these occurrences have over us. The last Symbiosis gathering was during the autumnal equinox in Yosemite 2009. “The first few events weren’t necessarily meant to create some type of festival dynasty,” says Kochen, noting that these are opportunities “to take time to appreciate, and be in awe of the universe.” (Note: some mystic traditions associate solar eclipses with “a time to pause,” a time for “deep changes in both our inner and outer world awareness.”)
Having built-up a reputation for excelling in the art department, Symbiosis events aren’t only sonically entrancing, but also quite visually disarming and straight-out trippy—think huge, unimaginably designed art installations, transposed in the air above you. Participating artists go way beyond in creating alien vistas and vibrant panoramas conducive to the psychedelic experience—con or sans drugs. You get the impression of being in another world, in some sort of other cosmic reality. Reminiscent of late 90’s (and also modern-day) trance parties in European forests, no artistic details are spared, and these art-scapes trigger the psychedelic mind.
“If you were going to compare us, we feel that we’re more like the Boom Festival [Portugal],” says Kochen. “We’re an international gathering, basically, we just happen to be in the United States.” Showcasing what he refers to as “the best cutting edge artists from each genre,” this year’s line-up features (to name a few) Little Dragon, James Blake, Desert Dwellers, dj Cheb i Sabbah, Photek, Heyoka, Entheogenic, and sacred beats artists, Dub Kirtan All Stars. And on dance floor, Minilogue, Claude VonStroke, Tron, Captain Hook, Thugfucker, and so many more. (Check out the website, the list is endless!)
“This will be a hundred-and-twenty course meal,” says Kochen. “We’re serving dinner and you have the opportunity to choose from a delectable buffet of amazing talent,” he promises. “It will definatly be worth the drive.”
The Do LaB Presents Lightning in a Bottle, Memorial Day Weekend
Ah, LIB—an outlandish, eccentric little world, one that stimulates the neurons in the brain and opens the eyes wide. Some people may need to prepare themselves mentally for what happens there. As an avenue for radical self-expression and self-acceptance, what happens at LIB, (you fill in the rest)…
Others, however, are the opposite—they're naturally drawn to these environments of fantasy, where stilt walkers roam like graceful, futuristic dinosaurs, and masquerade characters drift naturally through crowds like deer in the woods. Taking an artistic approach to the liberation of the human spirit, festival goers adorn themselves with avant-garde wardrobes and props, and turn the overall experience into an art form. At LIB, you are the art. And it may feel like the Twilight Zone of festivals, where you never know what to expect around the next corner.
Leave it to the Do LaB to create a space for all this to happen; they build an extraordinary, temporary biosphere that pulses with electricity for four days, and then, post-event, everything seems to just vanish.
The Los Angeles based company says that their "highest mission is to create experience as art form." They remain committed "to the highest levels of art, production, and aesthetic, to always challenge people's preconceived notions of reality and what is possible," say the organizers. With old-world theatrical productions and stunning aerial performances, these events are epic journeys into the mysterious and unfamiliar.
Most noteworthy is that at the heart of LIB is a deep commitment to the principles of sustainability in all aspects of the creative process. The stages are made from bamboo, rattan, and trash—reused and reusable materials that would otherwise never be considered as platform resources. As a leader in the Green Festival Movement, organizers say that their policies have been "adopted worldwide" and that through their green vendor policies and renewable energy and waste management standards, they are "constantly striving to push the industry standard a step forward."
"LIB stands for active change for a better world. We live in a time where it is no longer enough to simply 'leave no trace' or do no further harm," says the Do LaB. "LIB also stands for 'Leave It Better, Leave It Beautiful.'"
This year's line-up features Bassnectar, The Glitch Mob, Shpongle, Tipper, Lucent Dossier Experience, Random Rab, Opiuo, Bluetech, and so much more, so do some research and see what excites you.
Lucidity Festival—Awake in Your Dreams, April 13-15
And lastly, I'd like to mention the dream-centric Lucidity Festival in Santa Barbara, which will feature six themed villages that revolve around archetypes much in the same way as our dream characters represent aspects of ourselves.
"Lucidity is an open-source transformational arts and music festival. We call it open-source because we will be co-creating this festival experience with YOU! We invite you to come play with us, get involved with one of our six themed villages, bring art, lead a workshop, spark a spontaneous flash mob, embody a character from your dreams, be silly and wild and free."
The Lucidity family guarantees a "visual voyage" that weekend, with multi-sensory stimulation and themed environments. This space is where "imagination becomes manifestation" and play is embraced through consciousness.
So there it is, guys. I hope some of this information helps you decide which days to call in sick or take vacation time. You deserve it.
To learn more about these festivals, and to purchase tickets, go to: www.lightninginabottle.org;
www.bhaktifest.com; www.pyramideclipse.com; and www.lucidityfestival.com.
Daphne can be reached at email@example.com and at www.paintzflwrs.blogspot.com.