Arise Up at Sunrise Ranch
It has taken more than just a few days to gather my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of this year’s Arise Music Festival experience. As with most intentional festivals, this event is so much more than the music- the aftershock of beauty, creativity, and connection shared continues to ripple out into our lives long after the gathering itself. Now as I sit and attempt to write about the festivities I can do nothing but share with you the beauty and wonder I personally experienced. This is a constant thought of mine when reviewing various music festivals: Does the audience want me to tell them about the festival, i.e. songs played, workshops offered, essentially lists dressed up in prose. Or does the audience want to know about my experience, the only true thing I can speak to without rewriting the festival website into my review. Personally, I like to think that preference lies with subjective perspective, with first hand understanding of what it means to immerse oneself in the moment of divine gathering (and even if it isn’t what you want, that’s all you, I, or anyone, has to offer!)
The next step in writing a review is deciding where to begin! Do I start by telling you, the reader, about the ease in which we got into the Sunrise Ranch campgrounds on Friday? Or do I begin with the weather, and how the overcast skies made for an extremely comfortable campground set-up. Funk is always a great place to start, especially when Brooklyn natives (represent!) Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds open up the weekend with some serious soul, while a group of clowns, fairies, acrobats, stilt walkers, and children paraded through the performance. Rising Appalachia followed, eliciting a sultry, earthy energy within the crowd, a linking of primordial inklings to present movement.
Artistic offerings adorned Sunrise Ranch. In the field by the main stages lived a metal owl and dragonfly. So afraid of the dark were they, that when the sun set they erupted in flames, offering warmth and light to the seekers of such. Above these metal creatures, at the top of the hill, lived two labyrinths and the artists’ tent. Yet I was more intrigued by what was beyond – the Solutions Village. Representatives from various environmental, social justice, and non-profit educational outfits (including Trees, Water, & People, Rock the Earth, Friends Against Butts, Medicinal Mindfulness, and more) offered educational resources and lead discussions on permaculture, plant medicines, social justice, food justice, homelessness, and meditation throughout the weekend. The time has come to do something, to gather our frustrations with the current state and make a new wave of change through direct action. When a festival co-creates a space where people are not just talking, but given the resources to get involved and make a direct impact, one just has to give two thumbs up, kudos, high fives, or whatever tickles your recognition fancy.
The StarWater People’s Stage. This was where the majority of my musical enjoyment came from throughout the weekend. Each Wednesday the StarWater Collective hosts an open mic night at Boulder’s local vodka and whiskey distillery, Vodka303. A large part of StarWater’s Arise lineup was the result of weeks and months of great local alcohol and even greater local talent vying for a spot on the StarWater Stage. Some of the amazing acts I caught included Xerephine, Lulacruza, Spectacle, Earth Guardians, The Congress, Shook Twins Howl at the Moon, Intuit, Gipsy Moon, Bluegrass & Bloodies w/ Chain Station, The Alcapones, and the Lunar Fire Ritual.
Friday night ended with Emancipator Ensemble, followed by Turkuaz, and then Polish Ambassador closing out the evening. If you haven’t heard of the Polish Ambassador’s Permaculture Action Days I highly suggest getting educated and then getting involved. Days in which time, energy, and love are donated for the sake of spreading ecological awareness are a rare opportunity to peer down into the core of our community, to the core of beings trying to shift the existing paradigm towards a more harmonious way of interacting with our environment.
This year’s Arise was a bit difficult to navigate. There were hardly any schedules floating about, hardly any given to attendees at the door (there wasn’t even a reserve supply for press or vendors) and all two of the posted schedules were located inside of the festival grounds. As a result performances and workshops were missed that were intended to be seen/heard, while performances and workshops never intended to be seen or heard were stumbled into by divine accident. Saturday’s divine accident occurred after game playing and intention setting in the Lotus Temple. Intending on listening to the Wisdom Council, a friend and I stumbled into the Children’s Village, an area that would make anyone who likes fun drool. Colorful fabrics, hula hoops, yoga mats, various domes and tented structures, guided meditations, singing and dancing, toys and art supplies galore, and so much more was exploding out of this zone. The children’s village attracted the largest of kids, if only to nap in the soft grass and shade, to rest up for Saturday afternoon’s line up of TIERRO, Ayla Nereo, and The Magic Beans.
Ozomatli rocked that valley, their fiery performance onstage uplifted the crowed, and all around were people lost in the joyousness of the moment. About ¾ of the way into the performance Xiuhtezcatl, 14 and Itzcuauhtli, 12 of the Earth Guardians, (a familial hip-hop duo hell bent on uniting the youth of this world and reigniting the innate stewardship within us all) came out and presented Ozomatli with the “Arise Music Festival Uplifting the World Through Music Award” for social and environmental impact through music.
Sunday’s always tend to be the culmination of the weekend for me, a time when I run into those who I hadn’t happened upon just yet, a time when I reflect on how fast the festival has gone by, and a time when I jump into that which I hadn’t yet gotten a chance to experience. A large portion of Sunday was spent in the Elder’s Village praying and offering to the sacred fire, including ceremonial drinking of cacao and kava, meditations and hugs galore.
That evening Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes (what I thought to be a bit of a random choice initially) played down the sun. As they were finishing their hauntingly beautiful set I headed over to the Area 51 Untz Stage and watched my girl Lily Fangz tear the metaphorical roof off and keep the crowd groovin, all despite and in spite of technical setbacks. (Don’t miss Lily Fangz and Rising Appalachia opening up for the Polish Ambassador this October at the Fillmore!) After a dip into some of Trevor Hall’s melodic pickings, I dried myself off and headed back to the Untz Stage to boogie down the night and close out my festival experience with one of my favorite electronic producers, SaQi.
If you’re a 90’s baby there’s a pretty large chance that you were adorned with the classic Wee Sing VHS tapes, like Big Rock Candy Mountain and Sally’s Birthday Party. Taking it back about 20 years, We Sing in Sillyville is the story of SillyWhim working to make amends between warring colors, reuniting them once again into a beautiful rainbow. This is what Arise is, a chance to “make new friends, but keep the old – one is silver and the other’s gold.” As festival culture continues to bleed into waking contemporary life (i.e. the rising popularity of music festivals, the flooding of bohemian couture into popular fashion, the reintroduction of psychedelic art into advertisements [see 1967-1974]) it can be difficult to distinguish authenticity of intention, to retain the magic of communal living, if only just for a few days. This is the true magic of Arise Music Festival- the people. Never have I been to a festival where its attendees are as equally committed to creating the space as they are to enjoying it. To obtain but a glance into the arts and musically minded scene of the Rockies, one needs to look no further than this culmination of wandering souls, this Colorado family reunion.