Photos by: Kahla Keegan
Story by: Kendra Blum
The weekend really began on the outskirts of Mariposa, California. There were a lot of cows, and an overall sense of desolation to the whole desert scene. But as we approached the town, within a few miles of Highway 49, the road suddenly began to bob and weave inside of a beautiful tree line and the moon shone brightly in the slowly dimming sky. I was overly excited to have an Early Arrival pass as the line-up for Friday night was stacked and would have hated missing the opportunity to watch some of my favorite artist’s sets.
The ticketing process was smooth and we were directed into a lush area for our RV to set up shop. Kudos, first thing, to the fact the whole area we were camped at was grass. This added a nice touch to the weekend. Not only that but there were bathrooms, with showers conveniently located near us (and all over the venue). After creating our abode for the next three nights my crew and I rushed excitedly into the depths of the venue to see what the production was all about.
This was one of the cooler setups I have seen in regards to stage placement and location. Walking in from RV camping we had the Wormhole stage to our left and the ShadowTrix Music stage to our right. The two stages were located inside and were close enough to each other you could easily run back and forth to see your favorite artists—even if they were playing at the same time. The fact the two stages were placed inside gave them the ability to create their own ambiance and sound. This was a really amazing way for each group to showcase their talents in every aspect: lighting, sound, stage design, artist selection, etc. Back a bit further, located in a cozy nook was the ThazDope stage. It had a wonderful shade cover in the day on its immense dance floor, but also allowed the moonlight to shine through at night. Located in the main arena of the venue was The Untz Stage. I had worries initially walking up to the main stage, seeing as it was going to be located in a dirt arena (and I live in constant fear of mud lung after festivals), but to my surprise they had covered the area with grass. That in itself bumped The Untz Festival up into one of my overall favorite productions I have had the pleasure of being a part of. In between all the massive stage design there were vendors galore—food and swag.
P.S. The food vendors were so on point. They had meat, vegan, vegetarian options as well as delicious slushy drinks and refreshing lemonade. To the dudes making it nasty with The Kitchen Sink, I pretty much based my food life around you this weekend, so thanks for keeping me alive.
But of course, the highlight and main draw to any of these events—the music. I began Friday night (after my in depth exploration of the grounds), watching Thelem and NastyNasty on the Wormhole stage. The performer that really took the cake, though, to no surprise, was The Widdler. His set took me on a journey—captivating me with his old sounds and reeling me back in with his new heaters. He closed the night with reggae and it was the perfect little nightcap to rest my head and prepare for a jam-packed weekend full of monstrous tunes.
Saturday rolled in and I was surprised to learn of a bunch of new artists. SweetTooth started my day off with some grimy dub and his finale was a riddim metal mash-up—Devan Klemm’s SweetTooth name threw me off in comparison to the genres he played, but I would definitely recommend checking him out, though far some sweet he may be.
I made my way over to the ThazDope stage just in time to catch EazyBaked. The ThazDope Stage was exceptional because it had a concrete dance floor surrounded by grass. This enabled people to skateboard and provide an additional show to the music playing in the background. As the sun moved across the sky I was able to enjoy my dude PROKO throwing down from a blanket in the grass (not including all the times I had to stand up and head bang one out). The sky began to cast in orange and gold hues at the sun set and one of our all time favorites, Yheti, flawlessly transitioned us from day into night.
I would say top three best performances I saw throughout the weekend goes to Mt. Analogue. I had only heard him before rapping over Yheti tracks and was very anxious to see his project fully. The moon was shining so big and bright over our heads and his lyrics literally gave me goosebumps. Conscious flow combined with an electronic twist. The night progressed as planned and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to roam freely and be so close to every stage. It really made seeing all my faves possible. The Librarian, Ivy Lab and Of the Trees, completely dominated the Wormhole stage on Saturday night all while ShadowTrix Music threw down an equally heavy line up featuring RudeBoyNoize, PartyWave, Kozmo, and Kowta.
Sunday came in and the heat diminished a little (even though we were happy to spend time under the misters all weekend). I spent a lot of the early part of the day at the ThazDope stage—learning new artists again. Props to ThazDope for introducing me to more new artists in total.
BIPOLAR- FREQUENCIES and CVNDLES held it down for some morning jam sessions. Digital Ethos and Levitation Jones bumped the main stage opening up the decks for Huxley Anne. And let me tell you that girl crushed it. It’s awesome to see female not only killing the game but spinning some of my favorite old school hip hop and new age trap beats. EPROM, none other than the master himself, played a personal set and of course hit all of our beloved highs. Countless times I’ve seen that man play and he never disappoints. My chest was vibrating as the bass carried across the dancefloor up into my body.
The Deep, Dark, and Dangerous Truth, catapulted the night into holy levels as I carried myself from The Untz stage over to the smashers at Wormhole and STM. Benjah Ninjah and Subdocta, Reno/Lake Tahoe locals, played some of my most cherished sets of the weekend. Definitely in the books being my two favorite sets by these legends.
Conrank Conrank Conrank—the praise is never ending for this one. I had to stay up through my exhaustion specifically for his Conrank’s set and man, was it so worth the sleep deprivation. And of course, all plans go out the window for sleep when Yheti is playing his second set of the weekend. The generous man he is bought a multitude of strawberries to hand out during the rise of the sun (unfortunately the strawberries didn’t make it through the heat but bless his soul for thinking of us).
Overall, The Untz Festival was simply one of the best productions I had the pleasure of participating in. From the staff, to the sound, to the venue I give two thumbs way, way up. I encourage anyone who missed out this year to mark it on your calendars right now. This will surely not be one to miss next year. I happily anticipate the rise of this festival and cannot wait to see the directions they continue to grow and the levels they continue to achieve.
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