Envision a tropical playground, complete with vibrant wildlife and extreme environments, filled with visual and sonic art and sacred movement, presented through the collaboration of a broad spectrum of artistic talents. Allow this community to experience intense weather and persevere in creation and expression,and mix in any number of mystical moments and unforgettable experiences…..and you have a clue to understanding Envision 2013.
Envision, now in its third year in Uvita, Costa Rica, featured an EDM heavy lineup, complemented by a variety of other flavors such as latin acts like Sonámbulo, the reggae stylings of Midnite and the sultry roots sounds of Rising Appalachia. Headliners like EOTO and Emancipator delivered some of their best sets in recent history, with rich energy and classical stylings showing the depth and power of electronic music. Small stages and intimate spaces showcased some incredible talents as well and spontaneous performances and collaborations peppered the festival grounds. Creation, collaboration and celebration were central throughout the week. Adverse weather and equipment issues made for an out of the ordinary production and there were some very difficult moments behind the scenes, but the music and the art, as well as the extraordinary efforts of certain individuals and the incredible energy of the Envision tribe as a whole, made for a transformational experience.
Envision's main stage SOL, did not open until Thursday night. The Luna Stage, a space dominated by electronic acts throughout the week, got things going on the Wednesday, the first night of the festival, with a chill but danceable evening. Lux Moderna led an opening ceremony that engaged Envisionaries (as festival participants were often referred…think "Burners") in inviting the energies of the directions into the gathering. Rituals such as this, and the nightly Post Sunset Ritual brought an intentional purpose and sense of community to the gathering. Funky world-beat and downtempo had the crowd grooving that evening, with Colorado favorite Cualli dropping some tasty beats, jOBOT delivering a soulful downtempo set, and Adham Shaikh bringing home the boogie. Cualli's live guitar riffs and well produced tribal-step rhythms were a highlight, really pulling the crowd into a mystical experience and welcoming us into the new space we were about to co-create for the week. jOBOT showcased a unique side of his sound (we're more familiar with his glitch-hop efforts), mesmerizing the crowd with haunting downtempo and his stirring vocals. jOBOT's classical training shines through on these tracks, and the sexy vibe feels like a male Sade. We would have loved this set at sunrise though, as it cut up the vibe a bit for the night. The energy came back up with world dub maestro Adam Shaikh. Shaikh did what he does best, fusing global grooves and west coast bass into a full on tribal boogie session.
On Thursday night, David Starfire and ill-esha blew up the Luna stage, and The Egg inaugurated the Sol Stage with a captivating and psychedelic performance. The Egg, who are british OGs of live electronic, delivered a high energy performance of their signature audiovisual blend. This 4 piece live band expertly manipulates sounds live and collaborates with a video/projection team on video triggering to offer a truly psychedelic performance. Inspired by Pink Floyd and New Order, the dreamy sounds of The Egg evoke the shoegazing scene at turns and hearken back to pyschedelic rock and new wave. Yet they sound fresh and captivating as ever. We hear they may be stateside soon. If so, don't miss a chance to experience The Egg, as it their set was a beautiful offering at Envision.
On Luna, David Starfire delivered his fire fusion of world beats and heavy bass, getting the dance floor going hard. After reviewing Starfire's Ascend last month, we were pumped to get to experience tracks like "Big Chillum" on the dance floor. What sounded good on headphones felt even better in a crowd, on speakers, sweating and moving in the jungle! Homegirl ill-esha had the Luna Stage sounding pretty sexy as well. Envision hit just before ill-esha dropped Whiplash Recovery (March 5th), plus she's about to embark on a tour (presented by theUntz.com) with Phutureprimitive, so you could say she's hot right now, and you could feel it. ill-esha's courageous blend of live vocals and hip-hop samples over sensuous beats is unlike anything else on the scene and we love the swagger she carries onstage. Make sure to catch her when she and Phutureprimitive bring their innovative and captivating sounds to your city.
It's the dry season in Costa Rica. Tell that to the ominous dark grey masses hanging over the tropical hills above Uvita, and they'll laugh in your face, then unleash a torrential downpour. As we rode back from a local waterfall in the bed of a pick up truck, rain drops fell, ever more steadily. We got back to the festival grounds in time to batten the hatches at camp and witness the madness of a festival in severe weather. People flocked to small spaces, with intimate conversations and excited concern filling the Tea Lounge and Tribe 13's Visionary Art Gallery. About an inch of rain in an hour, falling fast and heavy on a largely unsuspecting mass of folks. As plastic unfurled over sound equipment and stages, and Plan Bs and impromptu meetings cropped up in production, the masses huddled together in protection, then exploded forth in celebration. Some of those in the shelters emerged to join improvised percussion circles. Others never sought shelter in the first place and simply stripped down to frolic in the rain. The Dr. Bronner's Slip N Slide, a big hit during the heat of the day, found new life as a few revelers took turns slipping and sliding. People gathered in song and dance, and even Cinnamon Roll hugs (the best hug known to man).
Somehow, as the rain slowed, production teams kicked into gear and the festival managed to pull back very close to the original schedule. We are incredibly grateful, as Friday's line up was outstanding. In the mud and muck and cool humidity in the wake of the rain, the tribe really got to stepping. JPOD's bobbling bass and glitchy funk, then Love and Light's feel-good brand west coast space bass got the Luna Stage into full-blown dance mode. Sonambulo revved up the crowd on the Sol Stage with their latin rhythms. A little Cumbia, sloshing around in the mud? Sure to put a smile on your face. The environment, alright vibrant, burst open with the rain, with crabs emerging from the mud and water rising. The energy was vibrant and lush and alive, and in this energy Emancipator 's set swelled into a mesmerizing ensemble act. Doug Appling took the stage with Violinist Ilya Goldberg, who nearly didn't make the festival due to visa issues. We are ever the more grateful for his tender and provocative violin. SaQi joined the duo to contribute his soulful trumpet, and the musicians just kept coming. The stage filled with accompanying artists and the venue filled with breathtaking music. Doug Appling is not simply a producer. The man is a composer, and this collaboration provided a truly exquisite sonic experience. The fusion of Emancipator's delicate melodies and impeccable sampling with the live accompaniments created an orchestral feel that, in the end, fit together better than the Envision Orchestra. While Emancipator is known for his chill downtempo compositions, his touring experience (Envision found him between a Winter Tour and a West Coast Tour) has polished his dance floor aptitude. The energy in new tracks like Valhalla, and the sheer force of the musicianship on stage combined with the vibrant energy of the wet night for a very lively and danceable set. We kept the groove going late night with Phutureprimative. Rippling IDM, a sound that resonates somewhere way back in your mind, the Bjork-like vocals from Alyssa Palmer….This was the perfect dripping wet sound for a rainy night. Sliding through the crowd during "Luminous" felt other-worldly. The dream continued into morning.
The festival's sunrise sets made for magical moments. In the first sunrise set of the weekend Desert Dwellers mesmerized and energized in celebration of the rising sun, so welcome after the wet night. We had been told earlier in the week that Desert Dwellers' performance at Symbiosis with Anthony Ward had been life-changing, and truly this was a captivating performance. Anthony Ward performs ritualistic dance centered around flower arrangement. The devotional aspect to his performance and the style of his movement are a solid fit with the Desert Dwellers, themselves innovators in sound and movement. Desert Dwellers are one of the leading influences in the Sacred Bass movement. Their aesthetic fuses sounds from the natural world, which promote serenity and awareness, with global sounds that inspire fluid and celebratory movement. At a festival focused on music, art and sacred movement, this set certainly manifested that intention.
The following morning, it was Random Rab and drummer and healer Cedar who provided for some truly healing and nourishing moments. Sofiah Thom, one of the festival's founders, took to the stage with Shay Butta to drum and dance in beautiful and vibrant expression. A few members of the crowd stepped to the side to sun gaze during "SunWater". It was one of those moments, a moment of union with the natural world, and with each other, through music. On the last morning of the festival, another beautiful phenomenon: as Russ Liquid's set drew to a close, a few members of the crowd drew into a group hug. Without a word, the embrace rippled outward until everyone left on the dance floor was enveloped and began a resounding Om. Much gratitude for the Dr. Bronner's showers after that last bit, but wow…what an experience of love.
There was no mass exodus following Friday's rain. Certainly some people left, and many more re-oriented their soggy campsites, but most persevered…and were rewarded with…more rain. It hit hardest in late afternoon, though it was never as extreme as Friday's deluge. Rain continued to fall throughout the evening, but in most cases it accented an evening of incredible music. Midnite kicked off the evening with reggae grooves on the Sol stage, and BioLuMigen played a tasty little set of his organic tracks on the Luna Stage leading into a slideshow and talk by Alex and Allyson Grey. Disappointingly Gaudi's set was plagued with technical issues, with much of the show played at low volume and a speaker even catching fire. This was probably the most egregious flaw of the festival. There were other sound issues and production dilemmas, but the audience didn't see it hit the surface much. Gaudi is a great and dynamic performer and it was a shame to see him crippled by sound issues. These issues echoes later at the Envision Orchestra performance, which also fell victim to it's own improvised nature.
EOTO managed to light up the night in their old-school style: less heavy on the dub step, groovier and more psychedelic. On a night of a great storm, bringing us all together to stomp in the mud was just what EOTO did with their gitt-down, good times improvised electronic romp. It's follow-up, the Envision Orchestra just couldn't carry that energy. The collaborative vibe was a driving force behind Envision. The Envision Orchestra, inspired by the Sonic Bloom Orchestra and the impulse to come together in pure improvisation, fit that intention. It brought together a broad spectrum of musicians, including EOTO's Michael Travis and Jason Hann, Ilya Goldberg, Santos Sitar, and Andrea Brook on the Earth Harp. Conducted by Jamie Janover, and completely unrehearsed, it worked beautifully in some moments, and fell apart in others, but came forth in a genuine and one of a kind presentation and fusion of artistic energies.
Nonetheless, where we wanted to be was back at the Luna Stage. jOBOT brought the fire with his second set of the fest, delivering the tightly produced glitch-hop we love him for. Then came one of those surreal festival moments, when amongst his intricately layered percussive stylings, Kaminanda dropped "Jungle Boogie" remix. Jamming out to this funk favorite in the rain was the perfect vision of the Envision tribe in revelrry. It was deep primal expression, but with a sense of humor. Andreilien came correct with his funky glitchy sound…one he refers to on SoundCloud as "spun step". Judging by the scene on the dance floor during his set, we'd say that fits. The whole night just felt funky and there was a bouncy funky feel that got laced with just the right amount of bass to keep it sexy. Speaking of sexy, Thriftworks delivered that drippy future sound for the late-night set. In the title track off his new album, a deep voice belonging to alter-ego and album namesake Terry-D asks "how many feathers in yo headdress? lemme get yo address, don't get mad miss". In the humid late night, these lyrics and the slow grind were just right. Cap the night with a mystical sunrise set from Random Rab (and some generously distributed sunrise fruit salad!) and you've got a magical morning to walk into (or hammock to fall into!)
While Envision Orchestra may not have been the peak experience of the festival, the collaborative intention behind that effort was a thriving source of the festival's success. Other musical collaborations, such as Thursday's Sol Stage 'tweener sets (performed on the Earth Harp stage about 30 yards out from the main stage), by The Human Experience with Rising Appalachia. The sultry stylings of these southern vixens, paired with the fresh stylings of David Block's production made for a captivating cross-genre effort. Emancipator's ensemble set, as mentioned above, was another beautiful coming together of musicians. Collaborations also came in the form of the visual and sonic presentations. Musicians were often accompanied by fantastic projection art and movement artists. The majestic Anthony Ward performed his ritual flower arranging as accompaniment to many sets, including Desert Dwellers and one of the Yoga Under the Earth Harp sessions. All around dazzlers Quixotic Fusion not only performed their original music to their own projections, but also captivated the audience with contortionism, aerial arts, and choreographed movements of contemporary dance. Devotional temple dancer Monique Trinity Rose and others graced the ensemble set by Emancipator, and the Luna Stage had two neighboring stages the featured incredibly dancers, fire performers and flow artists each night. Dance troupes such as Kinetic Junglist Movement brought incredible stand alone performances to these stages as well. Throughout the festival, mystical movement ---by day in workshops and by night on the stage and the dance floor--- provided many the opportunity to express and expel energies and strong vibrations.
The vibrant surroundings of Costa Rica's flora and fauna were accented by incredible installation art just as the musical performances were punctuated by captivating movement performances. Many of the performers who accompanied music at night led movement workshops during the day, allowing festival goers to practice what they saw upon stage and deepen their festival experience through learning. Workshops also covered such diverse topics as permaculture, intimate relationships, bodywork basics, and women's empowerment in Latin America. The Tribe 13 Visionary Art Gallery was filled with amazing art from visionaries such as Android Jones, Rachel Mandala and Mugwort. Installations such as the mandalas made from reclaimed and natural materials by Scott O'Keefe and his team, and the fabulous nest brought together by Nature Dreamweaver, brought participants into harmony with their surroundings and inspired participation, reverence and introspection. Live painters dotted every imaginable space, and fun treasures like Danielle Herzog's Photo Booth contributed lots of smiles! Spaces like the Tea Lounge, hosted by Diatomaceous Love, also showcased hidden gems. Tea Service was a welcome ritual, especially after the rain. Here too we found small performances ranging from Kirtan to psychedelic improvisations to experimental and acoustic solo acts, which were some of the festival's best. One envisionary said, of watching Ayla Nereo there, "it was as if I was hearing a soft-spoken angel sing songs of life and love". These kinds of powerful and intimate experiences were a defining element of this festival.
Another defining element was the incorporation of local flavor. It's not often you find a transformational music festival with such a cross-cultural reach. Costa Rican group Calavera y La Canalla were a huge hit, with ink, hip-hop and Latin Rhythms coming together for a real get down, Latin style! Sonambulo, which came together in the circus performing arts scene in Costa Rica, also delivered a blend of African and Latin sounds that draws on traditional and modern influences. This truly international and local feel was a blessing, highlighted by festival co-Founder Stephen Brooks. He asked took to the Sol stage at one point and asked the audience to look around and reach out…Tico to gringo, gringo to Tico. At Envision, Costa Ricans got exposed to all sorts of international live electronic and DJ acts, and visiting Envisionaries got to experience local sounds like cumbia. Brooks highlighted the growth of local attendance…this year Costa Rican's made up almost half of the festival's attendees. One Tica we spoke with said the festival gave her the experience of "just knowing that we are all one, and all beautiful. I knew this was true, I dreamt it. I just had never experienced it until I came here." She thanked us for bringing this experience to Costa Rica. We responded that we are all creating this together though and we owe much gratitude to local communities for welcoming this gathering. This coming together of cultures and exchange of sound and dance and expression is just what festivals like these are about. We're looking forward to seeing if any of these latin influences creep into upcoming releases from any of the electronic artists who performed. Not going to lie, adding some sweet Latin drums to EOTO's performance could be a real good time!
Eco Initivatives also featured prominently at Envision. Trash was sorted at all waste locations, and the Mercado Global was filled with hand-selected vendors in line with the festival's intentions. The Envision Cafe and other food purveyors offered local organic food, much of it vegan and raw. Talking to founder Stephen Brooks about the selection of vendors and the provision of healthy, organic local food emphasized how each choice we make impacts the world which we create. Many envisionaries brought reusable vessels to the food vendors, even forging simple bowls and cups from plentiful and sustainable bamboo. A stroll through the craft vendors also showed a commitment to artisanship and the use of sustainable materials.
As the sun set on Sunday evening, following a beautiful and healing session of Yoga Under the Earth Harp, a soothing line-up tapered us into a breath-taking sunrise and emergence from Envision. Rising Appalachia stunned on the Sol Stage, which was graced by soulful and stirring acts throughout the night. Ayla Nero captivated here, as well as Janover with ReSunator. Meanwhile The Polish Ambassador threw down one last big dance party on the Luna Stage. Late night Govinda did his global groove grind, and Russ Liquid closed things out with liquid and lush sounds.
Envision a world where life is vibrant, expression is free, and love and joy are abundant. Envision dancing so hard and so long that you're not sure whether the bass is wobbling, or your knees. Soaked with sweat and rain and caked with mud, running into the ocean at sunrise. Wordlessly entering into embraces. Learning new ways to heal and express and process. Despite the trials and tribulations involved in attending and putting on this festival, everyone we spoke with affirmed that this was, in fact, a transformational experience. Unifying a community around music and art and movement is a noble cause, and we are honored to have been involved. Much gratitude offered to all of the artists and hard workers who made this all possible.
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