It’s Like a Circus: Festival Culture with Del & Domino
Watching the festival play out through the front window of a car with Del the Funky Homosapien and Domino of Hieroglyphics was something out of a dream. About an hour before the duo were set to perform, T. Delfin and I joined Del and Domino to cover a lot of topics ranging from Afro-Futurism to Woodstock. The scene outside the window was dusty and colorful, with hundreds of people walking around clad in neon and patterns, spinning with hula hoops and dancing with poi.
“It’s like a circus – it’s about entertainment,” Del says as he watches a man on stilts hop around in front of the car, “[Entertainment] you can participate in. So, if you want to come up here with the deer hooves or whatever that dude’s walking on… you could do that. You could be part of it.” This guy on the stilts had the whole car laughing as Del explains his theory that he must be a scientist, or a genius. “That shit is crazy. He’s like, ‘I’m about to design some horse legs and they’re gonna work like that’… you feelin’ me? I’m actually amazed by that.”
Del has always had a fascination with the counterculture movement. “Even if it was from the ’60s or ’70s, I studied about that shit. There’s always new countercultures so I’m always trying to keep up with that.” He is especially feeling the underground scene of battle-rap these days where he got his start. One of his favorite battle-rappers is Star Girl Lady Red, a woman rapper rising through the ranks of the scene.
Woodstock is another aspect of the counterculture that Del finds himself fascinated with. The late ’60s music festival represents a time “where everyone who went knew those artists performing.” He comments on how Woodstock was at the forefront of the countercultural movement. “It was dangerous to a lot of people. There were hella black people and hella white people coming together. It meant a hella lot back then.” The 1969 festival acts as a beacon of light for what a festival could and should be — a place for freedom of expression, love, art, community and music.
“There is a certain authenticity about this festival [Serenity Gathering], it isn’t just one of the ones that people are like, ‘I’m gonna go to because everyone else is going.'” Domino points out that Serenity’s festival goers are much different than those he’s seen at bigger, more corporate festivals. The audience here gets down and dirty in the dust. “When [festivals] get big and blow up, they don’t have the same charm. Can’t help that,” Del chimes in right before a woman comes to the car window; she has been listening to him since she was a little girl, not much older than her son in her arms.
About two years ago and further up north on the coast of California, Del and Domino performed at another festival that sticks out as similar to the ideals of Woodstock. Domino remembers it well, “It was a similar vibe, the people were camping… a very ravey, hippie vibe.” These smaller festivals that don’t have as much to prove social media wise are more appealing to the two — Domino brings up that Jimmy Kimmel skit where they interview attendees at a big festival about bands that don’t exist. “What do you think about assholes and clowns? Oh yeah, I’ve been hearing a lot about that shit. That’s a perfect example of that…”
A perfect example being the divide between those who are there for the music, community and the experience, versus those who use these festivals for their next Instagram photo. “Its almost like you get the feeling that people are witnessing things so they can show who isn’t there.” Domino makes a phone-holding gesture: “the whole time they’re like this. People are having different experiences and they’re not able to soak it up.” Del perks up from working on some music to remind us that none of us are perfect when it comes to abstaining from cellphone use during shows. During a quick glance through the windshield, there are no people visibly on their cellphones, though. “And there is a certain authenticity about that,” Domino smiles.
As the sun gets lower and lower on the horizon, more interesting happenings start to present themselves. Del notices a guy who is walking a pig on a leash. A pig in the middle of the desert, in the middle of a music festival. As someone who is relatively outside of this crazy festival scene, Del isn’t judgmental of it. “I’m not surprised. I’m not hating either. Whatever is fun for you, so be it as long as it ‘aint hurting nobody.” This pig does provoke a conversation about keeping non-domesticated animals as pets, where in silly festival fashion, Del interrupts a story about a chimp tearing off a woman’s face with an animal noise. “People think they can tame that… you can’t.” Kind of like a bunch people at a festival.
“Honestly, I don’t see much happening besides kids having fun. I don’t see anybody here really doing anything that groundbreaking. More like just enjoying what’s already out there. There’s participants taking part in it, but that’s just what I see from my eyes, like I don’t know what y’all are doing,” Del explains. The LED hoops and other flow toys come out as the sun starts to get lower, but he’s still tripped out by the guy on stilts, who we approached later on — he is not a scientist, but he is “kind of a scientist” — whatever that means.