Gratifly Festival in Review
After much anticipation, the Gratifly Arts & Music Festival was held last weekend, July 24th-27th in Westminster, SC, here are my thoughts and review of this summertime fest.
Ayla Nereo of Wildlight started her set by asking, “So is this the East Coast or the Deep South?” “BOTH” the crowd enthusiastically responded. So there, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians, in both the Deep South and the East Coast lies a slice of paradise called Avalon. This wildly wooded bit of land hosted the music and arts festival, which has far and away been four of the most precious days of my summer.
I made attending this festival into a tour of the South East. Armed with camping gear, a hoop, a good friend and intentions for the sun to send away the rain, I drove from central Texas to South Carolina. For a Texas girl, the lush Appalachian environment was a gift and it leant itself well to festival camping. At the center of the activity was an open space for the main stage, vendors and food. Circling around this area were patches of trees providing shade and protection for tents. Our campsite, like many others, was tucked in with the trees far enough from the stages to have peace and quiet when we needed it but close enough for quick access to the fun. Avalon is also blessed with a beautiful river which quickly became a beloved hang out spot during the heat of midday. From the sounds of this bubbling water and the singing cicadas to the fresh smell of new grass (and new mud) I was enchanted by this property and excited for the festivities.
Gratifly offered its attendees yoga, workshops and of course, music. I attended as much yoga and as many workshops as I could; of these, the one that stands out most vividly to me was with Mark England. England is the mastermind behind Empowered Language Systems. This is a set of tools that helps to bring awareness to one’s speech and linguistic patterns with the aim to manifest more positivity and clarity and dispel self-deprecating cycles. The hour that I spent with England almost made the entire trip worth it, it was a very enlightening experience.
Gratifly’s lineup hosted some impressive names. Crowd favorite Papadosio played a set on Thursday night as everyone rolled in as well as Friday. Both sets were solid performances with just the right laid-back yet energetic vibe, a really fantastic way to bring together the festival goers right from the beginning. Saturday night welcomed Wildlight and The Polish Ambassador. They both
charmed the onsie-clad audience with so much love that a few rogue festival-goers rushed the stage in admiration. On Sunday, Rising Appalachia and William Close and the Earth Harp Collective graced the main stage to send off the festival on a love-filled high note.
Opiuo and Gladkill were unable to play Saturday night. It was unclear exactly why; however rumors suggested it was related to sound ordinance issues. While the main stage fell silent, the fun kept going as smaller groups formed throughout the festival and some camps started playing their own music or fostering conversation and connection. This incident was one of the few yet obvious drawbacks of Gratifly. Another complaint I heard was the miscommunication of the distance between the parking and camping. There were several miles between where most people left their cars and the actual festival grounds and it took most of Thursday for any sort of reliable transportation to be established to help people haul their camping gear.
It was eventually sorted and by the end catching a ride wasn’t as much of an issue. Printed copies of the schedule and a map of the grounds were also not provided. Initially this was off-putting to me; however they did have large poster-sized schedules in a few locations and all the structures that hosted events kept updated chalk boards listing the day’s lineup. I realized at the end of the festival that the amount of waste and trash present (i.e a few hundred soggy schedules stamped into the ground) seemed to be far less than I typically see at festivals, so maybe Gratifly is onto something here.
Truly those little faults are easy to set aside. The overall feel of this festival and the memories that I have brought back with me outshine these little misses. It seems that in that little pocket where Deep South and East Coast meet, a perfect platform for togetherness and connection was created. Overall, Gratifly 2014 was an inspiring, uplifting and memorable festival and I am already excited to see what next year will bring.