Photos by: Juliana Bernstein (Get Tiny Photography)
Story by: Merrill Steeg
A festival attendee asks, “If you could describe Sea of Dreams in one word, what would it be?”
Looking up at the electric sky, filled with swirly shaped balloons and giant mechanical blossoming lotus flowers, encompassing it all in one word seemed impossible.
“Loopy,” my newfound friend blurts. “Totally loopy,” he repeats, as a giggly girl with fuzzy neon boots gyrates past us, a blinking hoola hoop circling her hips.
Calm before the storm
The Sea of Dreams festival on December 30th provided a glimpse into the colorful world that would erupt on New Years Eve. In the decidedly mellower atmosphere of pre-NYE, one was afforded more space to groove and to soak in the magnificence of the Bill Graham Auditorium in San Francisco, CA.
A feel-good fest unlike any other. When a man accidently sent a stranger’s newly filled beer toppling to the floor, no fisticuffs were exchanged but, rather a, “My bad dude, let me buy you another.”
Cementing the good vibes was the festival’s opener, Pumpkin, who favors timeless beats fused with hypnotic deep house rhythms.
The crowd was beginning to grow as Break Science took the main stage at 7:45. Bred of hip-hop heritage, the group got the place bumping with, “Who Got It,” a collaborative single with hip-hop legend Redman, that meshed the classic sounds of hip-hop with cutting edge electronic production.
By the time The Glitch Mob took the stage, the night was in full swing. The group, which performs with laptops and MIDI controllers, combines European heavy breakbeat sounds with slick EDM rush. The noisy, bass-driven electro wowed with hip-hop heavy baseline punches, spurring a unique futuristic dance style.
And then there was Pretty Lights live band. Derek Vincent Smith delivered a magical 2-hour performance, only to be rivaled by his earth-shattering set, which rang in the New Year the following evening and left the mouths of music-lovers agape. More on that later.
Abandon reality and rave in wonderland. Wander the crowd with a face of fluorescent paint. Marvel as a blank canvas transforms into stunning portraits of mermaids and centaurs. And if your back starts to hurt, pop into the parlor for a quick rub down. Opportunities, all of which can be found at Sea of Dreams on New Year’s Eve; a marvel of musical, aesthetical, and artistic talent.
At the Main Stage, Lettuce got the night going with a funky celebration that had dreadlocks swaying to the blaring trumpets of Mardi Gras-esque good time jazz. Show-stopping singer Alicia Shakur brought the house down as she closed the act with a gravelly, soulful voice a la Janis Joplin.
In the Trapeze room, Jazzy Fox channeled the spirit of the roaring twenties, inspiring a modernized swing and tap-dance amongst jubilant participants with hip twists on do-wop classics like, “Mr. Sandman.”
As Beats Antique geared up on the main stage, the crowd prepared for a wild musical and theatrical journey that would take them to mystical lands across the globe.
The trio opens with, “Pandora’s Box,” the semi-spooky, crawly remix of classic circus music as an array of eccentrically clad dancers accompany them on stage, with famed belly-dancer, Zoe Jakes, entrancing audience members like a snake charmer would a cobra.
Flamenco, Afrobeat, French Gypsy Jazz, and Balinese beats all wrapped up in an EDM package.
When the soft sitar beginnings of, “Beauty Beats” floods airwaves, audience members channel their inner gypsies and shimmy to sensual, exotic beats of the Middle East, forgetting, momentarily, about the impending New Year’s celebration.
And then the balloons dropped
Trickled, really. Like morning dew, they speckled the seas of bodies, outstretched arms, and locked lips that awaited Pretty Lights, who, yet to emerge, provided a remix of “Final Countdown,” by Europe as a backdrop to the festivities. Friends embraced and squeezed one another’s shoulders, saying, “Here we go, man!” as Pretty Lights transitioned into, “Out of Time.”
Enter LED City. A musically coordinated orgy of spotlights, lasers, strobes, and video stream that certainly earns Smith the name, Pretty Lights. No matter your mood, the musical and visual phenomenon that is Lazer Shark will grab hold of your neurotransmitters and have you grooving to the sound of electro hip-hop soul.
From sweaty 20-somethings dancing their hearts out, to middle aged men and women nodding along to, “So Much In The Dark,” Pretty Lights is both ageless and timeless with its vintage funk and soul appeal.
It seemed like the set would never end, and no one complained. The closing, “I Know the Truth into Yellow Bird,” came on, and many closed their eyes and basked in the neon light, marinating in the sounds, giving it up to the jam gods.
But it wasn’t over yet.
Is the title phrase of Flying Lotus’ newly released album. Donning a mask and illuminated bug-eyed goggles, Steven Ellison summons sounds, raising his hands and dropping them again, controlling trap-ish beats that he slows to a hippie clap.
Ellison stands encased in a high-tech, futuristic cube that dances with projected 3D images of tentacles, eyeballs, and animals. Standout song, “Turtle,” fuses cool hip-hop with nature’s bounty, intertwining chirping birds with the haunting, psychedelic purring of a female vocalist.
During Flying Lotus’ final performance, many began to take seats in the upper levels of the Bill Graham auditorium, too tired to stand. As sleepy heads nodded to the beat, Flying Lotus boomed an incredible bass that rattled every seat in the house and to a realm beyond.
Cheers to the New Year! Welcome to 2015, one and all. Now, let’s boogie!
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