It’s not hard to view music festivals as an evolving form of experience that have grown over time to tick off more and more boxes of the destination checklist for those heading out to the multi-day party environment.
It’s common to ht a weekend festival today that has music and dance performances, live visual artists along with curated art and sculpture galleries, snacks to high-end food and drink vendors, yoga classes and instructional workshops touching on everything from sustainability practices to cryptocurrencies, pop-up fest and alternative-interest clothing and craft vendors — and dance music that goes on until the sun comes up.
With large festivals such as Los Angeles’ FYF Fest and Phoenix’s Lost Lake Festival announcing their cancellations this year, it’s apparent the glut of festivals may even be reaching their saturation point. What’s left is for the events in this environment to excel at what they do. A weekend spent at my first Sonic Bloom Festival demonstrated that this one does just that![pullquote]Festivals like this are as much, if not more, about the audience as they are about who is actually onstage.”[/pullquote]
Held on Hummingbird Ranch, about a 2.5-hour drive south of Denver in Colorado’s scenic Spanish Peaks country, Sonic Bloom seemed to pack every square inch of the sprawling ranch with stages, art installations, sculptures, food, or – my personal favorite – more hammocks than I’ve ever seen in one place before. The festival grounds were an overabundance of sensual stimuli that left us constantly stumbling upon new things, even in areas we had walked through multiple times before and hadn’t noticed.
Aside from those aspects of the June 14-17 festival, the music itself wasn’t limited to the scheduled lineup. Nights, as well as dawning days, brought surprise performances, from the fest’s three stages to unannounced DJ sets to musicians playing in the parking lot and camping areas (until security shut them down).
Festivals like this are as much, if not more, about the audience as they are about who is actually onstage, and the space surrounding the main stage at times seemed a fluid sea of spinning lights and hoops. The barter blackjack tables where anyone could play with any items except for money, the art and sound sculptures and installations meant to be climbed upon, crawled through, or generally interacted with are some of the things that make Sonic Bloom feel far more of a participatory experience than many music festivals.
After late nights and overstimulation, when some found themselves in need of a quick nap or a shady spot to cool off and hang out, the extended hammock forest provided more than enough canvas slings draped among the hummingbird-filled orchards to lie down in as the weekend’s warm breezes rustled the leaves.
Sonic Bloom’s appeal is in its diverse and bacchanalian abundance of art, its speaker and yoga instructor list that rivals its musical performer lineup in length, in the sprawling city-life spread of its camping area that ensured the party went long after the final performers packed up, in its featuring of Colorado-based bands and DJs amongst the international list of performers, and in its four-day duration that let revelers indulge for as long as they could handle.
While festivals seem to be searching for the uniqueness and the formula that keep them ahead of the competition, Sonic Bloom appears to have found theirs in taking the aspects that build a creative and hedonistic environment, and filling the weekend to the brim with as much of that as they can. While we plan to make Sonic Bloom’s parties and art a destination next year, after these past few days, it’s time to get some rest.
– Shaun Astor