Article By: Meghan Chancy Ledington
Photos By: Brandon Taylor aka Midg_View (www.facebook.com/pages/Midg_View/102015519887051) and Casey Shea (www.highlifephoto.com)
Heading to my first local festival in my new home state of Colorado, I didn’t know what to expect from the 78 artists, including headliners EOTO, Tipper Sound Experience, MALA, and VibeSquaD, scheduled to perform in only 3 days on 2 stages. I figured since I love camping in the mountains, discovering new electronic music, and going to festivals that this would be an awesome weekend. As the music and culture progressed and world’s opened up and collided, it became clear to me Sonic Bloom was a magical celebration of artistic expression in which I was lucky to be participating.
Once we entered the site, the feeling that this venue and culture was on a different level than other electronic music festivals was apparent on the faces of those involved. It wasn’t just the thin air, the fresh breeze, the intense Colorado sun, and the overarching mountains surrounding us on all sides. There was something deeper connecting us here at Shadows Ranch. Just 40 minutes West of Denver along I-70, it had everything to represent the Rocky Mountain life: beautiful woods, shady clearings, a quiet pond, a rushing snow-melt river, plank bridges, a gorgeous cabin lodge, and plenty of space for parking across the narrow road that led to the tiny town of Georgetown, Colorado.
Being my first time at a “once you’re in, you’re in” type of festival where you bring in your gear and leave the car, I was curious about the set-up inside and how far I’d have to walk. As I reached the entrance canopied by the funky Sonic Bloom sign, a middle-aged couple in an old pickup stopped in the road to ask what was going on. “A music festival,” I replied with a smile, wondering what they would say. With an instant excitement, the wife waved at me with thanks, saying, “We don’t want to miss out on the fun!” Suddenly, that creeping feeling smacked my reality over the head. I had entered a time warp and landed in a garden sprouting with two thousand unique flowers dancing together in a cloud, heavy with vibes of love, art, expression, spirituality and oh yeah, heavy, heavy bass lines.
Opening ceremonies began at 4:20 PM on Friday, June 24 with a welcome prayer in the main stage clearing. Then it was time for the madness to begin at the main stage with Denver based dubstep producer Blake Weise aka Dayquill on Dave Tipper’s state-of-the-art Funktion One sound system. Funktion One has pioneered the legendary ambisonic surround sound system for large-scale events to maximize efficiency, achieve the best possible audio quality and give the cleanest, freshest frequencies from the center of the stage arena. It was intense to stand next to these bad boys during sets, but the sound was better than ever, thumping your lungs so hard sometimes it was hard to breathe against the beat.
Zilla, made up of three of the most well known musicians at the festival, showed what experimental fun with friends is like on stage. Festival organizer, Jamie Janover, one half of EOTO and String Cheese Incident drummer, Michael Travis, and Aaron Holstein (a.k.a. VibeSquaD) were reunited for a rare performance by their love of improvised electronic music production. As the sun set on the first night, a fire dancer with Edward Scissorhands-style flames arose on the performers’ stage to the left of the trio as they delved into a trance with Travis lightly tapping the cymbals as Janover and Holstein added enchanting melodies and freestyle bleeps and bloops.
Marty Folb, better known as MartyParty
, told me before his set that his mood going into a performance strongly influences the style of music he’ll focus on that night. When I asked what his mood for tonight was, without hesitation he stated in his intriguing South African accent that he was going to throw a “crazy dubstep dance party”. He figured Sonic Bloom was ready to get down and dirty on their first late night of the weekend, and he was right. Starting out with minimal layers to his groovy, head-bobbing tracks, MartyParty builds one texture over another until suddenly the rhythm, melody, and story changes to a fanatical spree that forces you to move in ways you didn’t know qualified as dancing. His self-described “purple” sound tells a story in 2 minutes with a new layer being added every 8 bars “with the intention of filling all frequencies with music layers until the final 8 bar chorus completely saturates the listener with sound.” It’s no wonder it’s my favorite color!
Friday night showcased a wide variety of music, but after a day of driving around the state, attending the first press conference and getting down to some dubstep, my boyfriend and I went back to our tent and listened to the bass drops coming from the CoDome nestled by the entrance to the campground. The next day, we heard about the delayed flight from overseas that pushed MALA’s set back hours later than planned. We also learned that the dubstep pioneer from the UK put on a sunrise show that left many speechless. I wish I had been among those lucky few who stayed up to witness pure veteran dub-magic instead of having to add him to my must-see list.
Saturday began with workshops-galore, among which Jamie Janover had his own in the CoDome about the Unified Field theory he has studied. He sat in the circle of another workshop going on near us in the shade by the pond that was about choosing love as your spiritual guide to interacting with the universe. Nothing was taboo at the many open discussions that took place throughout the weekend, whether it be religion, appreciation for nature, world-ending concerns, spirituality, space travels, telepathy, or even alien adventures. Poi-spinning, hoop-twirling, fire dancers, and aerialists came together in groups to share and learn from one another as a dozen painters created live artwork on canvases set up beside and in front of both stages.
Tipper Sound Experience, a hugely anticipated spectacle produced specifically to push the powerful Funktion One surround sound system to its limits, attracted one of the largest crowds of the weekend. With thousands of multi-colored lights pulsing above us as he blasted every bass frequency known to man, Dave Tipper gave us a truly unforgettable sound experience. His quiet and calm demeanor on stage contributed to less intensity from fans, but the steady beat kept us dancing while his ambient, funky and even tribal textures thrilled us as he took us for a ride to electronic extremes only experienced by few.
I made my way over to the CoDome during the second half of Tipper to check out Colorado native Reuben Garst aka S.P.E.C.T.R.E.
, who is a regular DJ at Denver’s Beta Nightclub. In the dark dome our small group appreciated his crunkadelic style. Blending hip-hop vocals with crushing dubstep drops and live mixing, Garst raised his arms with us as he dropped each layer of bass, brought it all back for a silent second then dropped it even harder, jumping up before we jumped down with him.
Ready for a one-of-a-kind set from the improvisational electronic drummer duo of Michael Travis and Jason Hann that is EOTO, we made our way back to the main stage and found a spot directly in front of one of the Funktion One speakers. As soon as the first unscripted bass tone came ringing through, we had to steady ourselves to gain back our balance. With fire dancers and sparkling hula hoopers spinning to the constant uptempo beats, the duo kept the crowd on their toes with their live blending of genres ranging from dubstep, house, and glitch to tribal chants and drums. Hann had an inspiring reply to my question at the day’s press conference regarding his intentions when going on stage. “Going on stage... we’re putting it out there, and that truthfulness of where we’re at in our musical lives right now, it translates. I think that people feel that honesty. We try covering the range of emotions too. At some moments, I’m like, screw it, let’s get the double bass drums going, a little ‘fuck you’ going on and then other times, let’s bring it in for a group hug, ya know?” EOTO’s creative and limit-defying sound with live instruments and vocals sampled on the fly with the option to change it all up when they feel like it exemplifies this band’s courage to stand apart in this ever-changing electronic landscape.
Boulder-based Aaron Holstein, aka VibeSquaD, came ready to throw the late-night party that he’s known for on the main stage. His endearing personality and infectious energy drove his large audience to insanely holler their love for him. He blasted his melodic synth textures over his ground shaking drum patterns all while jumping up and down with the biggest smile of us all. My favorite aspect of VibeSquaD’s shows are always his fierce enthusiasm and positivity that he bathes the crowd in as he launches them into an exhilarating high. To the same question I asked Jason Hann, Aaron answered, “I just want to make people feel really ridiculously good.” And that he does.
, the newest member of Pretty Lights Music family, showed his Colorado peeps why PLM signed him. Dennis J, who just moved to NYC from his home in Europe, grooved to his funky, soulful beats with the group of animated EDM lovers surrounding him as they twirled their LED toys and shined lasers on the white backdrop behind his table. With an uplifting can’t-help-but-dance sound, Gramatik fits right in with his PLM crew and is excited for his first release with them on July 12.
Up next at the CoDome was the Bay Area’s own, Heyoka
, who drew a crowd from VibeSquaD that caused a blockage on the narrow bridge between the two stages. Andrei Olenev threw down favorites from his newest release, Mandelbass
, and his whompy bass and trippy vibes forced the crowd to erupt with “oh yeah”s out of chest-pounding pleasure. With long dark dreads piled on top of his head, Heyoka bobbed to his distinctive beats, bringing us into his dimension of alien stylings, psychedelic melodies, and unwavering bass lines. After Andrei’s stimulating show, it was off to bed for me before another day of Bloom.
Sunday night, Dave Tipper gave us another dose of his otherworldly electro-medicine only this time is was a bit more low-key. That didn’t make it any easier to digest though. He captivated us into a side-to-side sway motion with our eyes closed laying in the grass by pond, and we were taken on a journey to another planet and back again to this paradise in the mountains. You really have to experience it for yourself.
, the Bay’s Adam Ohana, has created his own “acid crunk” sound through which he creates dance-inducing mashups of differing genres while adding bass heavy beats. He surprised the crowd with a smooth downtempo combo of Da Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It” and Nelly Furtado’s “Turn Off The Light”, then dropped it low into some wicked dubstep before busting out a crowd favorite remix of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.” Fire dancers taking turns in the spotlight to his right, a LED hooper twirling to his left and a crowd of a dozen costumed friends dancing behind him on stage made this acid crunk dance party a huge highlight on the final night.
Over the raging river in the CoDome, Greg Fisk was starting his own rave in a dark hoodie and headphones. Dancing under the disco ball while keeping his mixes and originals at mid-tempo, he helped bring about a dust cloud in front of his table thanks to the neon-clad girls who were stomping it up and loving their newly dirt-filled air. Ben Samples
came out after Fisk’s set to join him as their duo, Fresh2Death
. Samples took to the mic with his charming personality to ask us if we were ready to get down, which we happily responded with a resounding “Yeah!” Breaking out a brand new song for us that was simple but groovy at first then turned into a dubstep break-it-down beat before adding the vocals “Bang Bang” from one of the Kill Bill
soundtracks. Those of us still around on Monday at 2 AM were ready to dance to any experimental or new stuff these two Denver natives could bust out, especially to their killer dubstep remix of Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack.” Samples was up next for his solo set but seeing him with Fresh2Death had satisfied my curiosity. Fisk and Samples are exciting newcomers that I’ll be keeping my eye on around Colorado. Sonic Bloom represents a new type of artistic celebration for me that I can’t wait to experience again next year at this same gorgeous location with veteran and novice artists that will push the boundaries of musical experimentation and artistic collaboration.
Sonic Bloom: The Unified Field is a reference to creator and producer Jamie Janover’s mission to spread the theory of scientist Nassim Haramein and a set of information that connects all things. Listening to Jamie speak about his views of the universe was intriguing, even when it was a quick response to a question at a workshop. Jamie has said before that festivalgoers are people who like to communicate and exchange information, ideas, and art. We are the people that will change the world. Sonic Bloom was about more than celebrating electronic music, live art and expression. Jamie and those involved in the production of Bloom gave us an opportunity to share in a journey together to learn for ourselves how every living thing is connected.
The content of Facebook status updates from artists and festival attendees describing their experience at Sonic Bloom has been deeper than the average comments after a festival. DJ Mikey Fisher said, “Sonic Bloom left me speechless. Simply sitting here with full body goosebumps.” The Untz columnist John-Michael Afromonk updated, “Sonic Bloom has been beyond words. Mala 4am Sunrise set Friday. NastyNasty did it proper last night. Incredible vibes out here.” Ronnie Weberg aka Unlimited Gravity and VP of operations at Mile High Sound Movement stated, “Last night was the most amazing experience my music has brought me. Not only did the CoDome of Sonic Bloom COMPLETELY fill up, but I got an extra 25 minute set on the main stage after MartyParty! and on a Funktion One sound system! so many dreams come true!” The slew of up-and-comers had full paragraphs and multiple posts describing their gratitude for being involved in this inspiring festival, their love for the supportive crowd of their peers and their appreciation of the atmosphere that they experienced at this magical venue in the Rockies.
An implicit feeling enveloped us as we left Shadows Ranch, that we had all been involved in something greater than the sum of its parts. It was a captivating culmination of sensational experiences and breathtaking moments, moments that leave me in wonder every time I close my eyes and go back there. Until next time, my Sonic Bloom family, may those good vibes and unification through music and love live on within us.