Joshua Tree Music Festival is an Oasis for All

By: Moriel O'Connor

I was in Youssoupha Sidibe's vintage aluminum artist trailer, listening to the Kora and drinking coffee with Senegalese spice. I had lost my voice from singing higher than ever before. Raspy and sandy, I sat in reflection and recognized the greatness of Joshua Tree, California and their amazing bi-annual festival.

Life at Joshua Tree Music Festival.

Life at Joshua Tree Music Festival.

The night before, the rainbow sherbet skies turned to black as the full moon rose. She shined golden over the vista. The air was cold and crisp, yet still my heart was warm. Everywhere I looked, there was an art installation or mural. I realized nobody was fighting and everyone was friends. There was no room for hate. We stepped, swayed, and sang together to gather all the precious moments we could.  

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The festival was all encompassing and unconventional. For 17 years, it has been run without corporate interests or greed. The music fit this mood, with rebellious acts such as Vintage Trouble, Earth Arrow, Cole Williams Band and Trouble in the Streets. The collection of local bands included Gene Evaro Jr, The Adobe Collective, Megan Hutch and more. Dynohunter brought some Colorado funk, and Oliver Koletzki and My Baby flew in from overseas. Much more than a dance party, there were yoga classes, workshops, children's activities, a  healing village and songwriter sessions.

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The Mojave Desert Land Trust was there as well, educating us on the land and park. The town and national park are named after the Joshua Tree (Yucca Brevifolia). This is the largest species of Yucca, and it only grows in the Mojave Desert. The Joshua Tree and Pronuba Moth are in an everlasting relationship. They cannot survive alone. Sometimes called the Yucca Moth, it is the only insect that can pollinate the Joshua Tree. Female moths collect pollen while laying eggs inside the ovaries. Larvae hatched from the eggs, then use the seed of Joshua tree as a food source. From this kinship, I learned life itself is incomplete without one another. This was a vibe felt strongly among Joshua Tree festival-goers throughout the weekend.

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If you missed the spring fest, the 14th annual fall Joshua Tree Music Festival will take place this October. North Mississippi All Stars and The California Honeydrops are headlining.

To see more from Joshua Tree Music Festival, view this photo album.

-Moriel

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

My Baby Spill the Scoop on Their Shamanistic Saga from Amsterdam to Joshua Tree

By: Moriel O'Connor

My Baby, a mesmeric trio from Amsterdam, journeyed to the USA for Joshua Tree Music Festival this year. Electrifying, funky, and bluesy, their music goes beyond reality. If you have yet to hear them, listen below. Read on for my interview with the trio:

So, whose baby is it anyway?

‘My Baby’ is our shared, imagined muse. So 'our' baby has resulted from our combined imagination.

Amazing. How did your band come together?

Daniel (guitar) met Joost (drummer) in Amsterdam while traveling from New Zealand. They formed a series of bands/formations that were fronted by a then teenaged sister of Joost named Cato. My Baby is essentially a three-piece split off from those earlier groups.

How was your experience at Joshua Tree Music Festival?

Joshua Tree was gorgeous; so much fun. The audience had such a great energy, and [it was] in such a beautiful part of the world to boot.

Being based in Amsterdam has got to be fascinating. What's one way Amsterdam's music scene differs from North America?

Amsterdam has its share of great venues and jazz and art scenes, but have to say, [it’s] nothing compared to the music history and tradition of North America.

My Baby.

My Baby.

Seems like you've been all over the globe with your music. What is your favorite country to perform in?

We do a yearly tour to New Zealand (Daniel's a kiwi) which is a highlight for us, but the U.S. is getting up there pretty quickly as the place to play.

What do you love about your music?

We love the expression of freedom it allows us to delve into, and sharing that experience with an audience.

Your lyrics are incredibly visionary. How do you manage to merge music and story so well?

Our music, it seems is primarily focused on creating a particular mood. A particular mood can quite easily be fitted to accompany some type of storytelling. It also comes from a natural urge to create characters in songs that resemble something or somebody important. And [they] resemble something you can relate to.

What does your songwriting process look like?

We often start with improvised pieces/jams/moods which Cato sings melodies on. Then we look through words that fit, or scenes that fit the mood of the music. Sometimes a storytelling lyric has already been written and can be edited to suit a melody from those jams.

Your album, ‘Mounaiki, By the Bright of the Night’ was released last year. Tell me about it.

For this album we decided to develop a story around the MyBaby character from which to base songs around. The My Baby character is introduced, and named Mounaiki by a fictitious shaman, and a plot develops following the hero’s journey, a traditional mode of storytelling.

It’s also a coming of age type story, where a young girl is trying to find out what the world means to her, spiritually or any other kind of way. We like to describe her as, ‘a girl in the '70s fantasizing about being a flapper girl and dancer in the '20s. So the songs are loosely connected to a storyline that follows the adventures the character undertakes over the course of a night.

Your trio presents such a profound, layered sound without the use of computers or samples. What are some of your favorite effect pedals to use?

Playing without a bass player forced us to experiment with bass octave pedals. Also, we use a lot of delay on both guitar and vocals. Particularly, layering rhythmic delays over each other has became a signature sound of ours.

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And your go-to guitar?

Cato uses a sixties Teisco in recent years, or at times a Guyatone LG50, both Japanese guitars. Daniel primarily uses a Fender Stratocaster or a Supro Ozark from the early fifties.

Your music reminds me of Sister Rosetta Tharpe in a way. Just as she did, you manage to bring the sacred to the secular. What inspires you to perform this way?

Music has such a power to connect people. Spiritual music has such an awesome power. It serves a higher purpose. Music in general serves a higher purpose in many ways. The feeling of being part of that in some way is inspiring.

With such soul-stirring vocals and hypnotic beats, you are sure to set your audience into a trance. Do you find it fulfilling to facilitate that transcendence?

If that's where the music takes us, then for sure.

What's next for My Baby? Any upcoming tours or projects?

We are gonna work on a live record this year, and hopefully an extended visit to the U.S. is in the near future.

I think we could use all the moody, world music we can get here in the States. Nothing says the blues like having to fight for our basic rights. Thank God music heals, because most of us can't afford to see a doctor. Thanks My Baby.

Keep up with My Baby here.

-Moriel

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Trouble in the Streets Brought the Beats at Joshua Tree Music Festival

By: Moriel O'Connor

It's 1AM in the Mojave at Joshua Tree Music Festival. On the rim of the crowd, I rest on adobe walls within windows and swoon the moon through metallic umbrellas sculpted above. Shivers. The desert chills are real. Pulling up my thigh-highs, I stand up to move to what could be a soundtrack to a riot.

Trouble in the Streets.

Trouble in the Streets.

Must be Trouble in the Streets. They play the kind of music that makes you feel ready to overthrow the government: Power, Soul, and Rock’n’Roll.

People are stomping up the sand and it smells like liberation. A sparkly hooded creature dances ghostly and gracefully on, then off the stage. Oh sweet mystery. Feeling the rush of my blood and curve of my spine, I wonder, is the earth really shaking? Or is that just the cactus juice? The beat keeps going, and things keep getting weirder. There’s hip hop, punk, neo-soul and more. The sounds are boundless, psychedelic and polyphonic. The crowd is lifted by influential lyrics such as, “Challenge the evidence and take control of your existence.”

This is more than a set, this is a work of art. Nnedi Nebula Agbaroji plays the keys and activates the crowd with compelling vocals. Andy Leonard honors the bass and keys while Bobby Snakes drums for the people. This trio has chemistry, and they are damn not afraid of entropy.

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If you dare, dip into their density, discover Trouble in the Streets yourself. Listen to their Rule Breaker EP then check out Electro Tribe. Be prepared to lose your mind and move your body. Trouble traveled to Joshua Tree from Austin, Texas and is currently touring California with TV Broken 3rd Eye Open. Catch the remainder of their tour this Friday, May 24th at Surfside Venice, or on Saturday, May 25th at WinstonsOB in San Diego. You can also find them home in Austin at venues such as Stubb’s, One-2-One, North Door, or Empire.

-Moriel

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Demi Demitro Of The Velveteers Told Us About All The Eerie Inspirations Behind Their New Record

By: Brody Coronelli

Velveteers frontwoman Demi Demitro reflects on the band’s debut EP, their roots, and what’s on the horizon for this young duo who are already making their mark on the scene.

The only way to get to the stage at the Hi-Dive, a small punk rock venue on South Broadway in Denver, is through the crowd. There’s no door or curtain onstage where the musicians emerge from, dressed in black, wearing leather and ivory boots. Instead, they’re reminded of the tightness, the body heat, precariously shaking drinks, and shallow breaths of the crowd before they come onstage. This didn’t stop The Velveteers from making a grand entrance to their release show for their debut EP on February 9th.

The Velveteers. Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss Photography

The Velveteers. Photo Credit: Sierra Voss Photography

Instead of simply getting onstage, setting up, and starting their set, the band, fronted by Demi Demitro on vocals and guitar, carried in rhythm by her brother John, and aided by their third drummer and relatively new addition Noah Shomberg (who also plays with The Yawpers), set their gear in place and stepped back into the crowd only to confidently re-emerge onto the stage like three rock stars playing the O2 Academy.

This infectious, rock‘n’roll bravado isn’t something the band picked up along the way. It’s been there since the start. Their intense, convicted aesthetic and sonic identity has already brought on huge accomplishments for a band their age. They’ve toured the UK with Deap Valley, playing to massive crowds, played motorcycle festivals in Joshua Tree with sound by Hutch, Queens of the Stone Age’s longtime sound engineer, and they’ve had vinyl pressed of their newest album at the Third Man Records factory in Detroit. Each of these accomplishments spawned from their time spent as a centerpiece in the Colorado and Midwestern DIY scenes.

“Some of our favorite shows we’ve ever played have been at DIY venues. The people in that scene are really genuine, they’re not trying to rip you off, and they’re there to listen. What they do [for younger bands] is important, because I know it shaped who I am as a musician,” frontwoman Demi Demitro said over tea at the Yellow Deli, one of her favorite Boulder haunts.

Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss Photography

There’s an energy to seeing The Velveteers play. Onstage, the band occupies a tangent world of pointed shoes, glitter jackets, bones, and candles. It’s like hair metal if it were born out of Dracula or The Nightmare Before Christmas instead of big hair, zebra print, and leather pants.

“A lot of the inspiration we have for our band comes from places other than music. I’m really inspired by Tim Burton, Walt Disney, and Andy Warhol. The Walt Disney version of Snow White has this gothic-ness to it, and that’s something that really inspired our album,” she said.

The theatrics of these non-musical influences leave a lasting impression. The band’s merch table looks like a séance just took place, adorned with candles and skulls. The face of the band’s new album shows them with blacked out eyes and upside down crosses on their foreheads. Demitro even claimed that a chunk of the album was written in a graveyard.

“When [the song ‘Death Hex’] came out, I had all these Wiccans and Pagans following me around asking me if I was a witch. It’s a metaphor-- I don’t really mean it,” she said, laughing.

Photo Credit:   Sierra Voss Photography

The immediate fear with a band like The Velveteers is that they’re all show. One listen to their debut self-titled EP sends that assumption into the dust. Finding a loud, irresistible, and cryptic balance between the spacious grit of Queens of the Stone Age, the pummeling, percussive thunder of The White Stripes and The Dead Weather, and the sheer lightening of Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the band has crafted a presence built on their own unique visual bravado guided by thundering, melodic songs that aren’t easily forgotten.

The EP, recorded mostly live and to tape at Silo Sound Studios in Denver, CO over the past year opens with “Just Like The Weather,” a driving, aggressive cut that places Demi’s tectonic, rhythm-heavy guitar playing and vast vocal range to the forefront, as the band occupies a musical storm that viciously encircles you until the words have found a way into your veins. The band’s songs have a habit of doing this, often effortlessly. They’re written with emotional sincerity and performed with bombastic assertion.

“When I write, it’s almost like being in a daze. [Sometimes it feels like] I’m not really there when I’m writing, which is this magical feeling. I got that feeling with every song on the album,” Demitro said.

“Anastasia Sings” is another song that takes you for a ride. With a piercing scream kicking things off, the track features some of the band’s most dynamic guitar playing yet, which reaches a jagged crescendo following the chorus.

“[That’s] another one of my favorite tracks [on the album]. That one was really inspired by Iggy Pop, ‘cause I had seen him live with the Post Pop Depression band,” Demitro said.

The band doesn’t lock themselves into a specific sound, though. In similar fashion to their haunting, non-album single “This Love Lasted,” “Darling Beloved” takes the album in a cryptically stripped-back direction.

“I did ‘Darling Beloved’ in one take. Vocals, guitar, everything. That song is really special to us, because it was completely in the moment. One of my favorite parts of going into the studio is when stuff like that happens, and in no way will you ever be able to recreate it,” she continued.

The stripped-back, horrorshow “Darling Beloved” and it’s stylistic sibling “This Love Lasted” aren’t currently fixtures in the band’s live set. Instead, their performances rely on roaring guitar, clamorous drums, and a fuzz that hits you right in the chest. The band doesn’t use a bass player, so Demi Demitro’s guitar playing has evolved into a versatile and rhythmic barrage that covers the low end, high end, and everything in between. The band is a sound to be reckoned with live; they pull the audience straight into their world of dark, irresistible magnetism.

In promotion of their debut, the band recently embarked on a two-week national tour in promotion of the record, have more dates in the works for the rest of the year, and are also set to play an unofficial showcase at SXSW in Austin, TX this March. Listening to their album and seeing them live leaves the impression that this is what the band was working towards all along: a sold-out release show for a triumphant debut record, a national tour (with many more shows to come), and a spot at one of the most popular musical festivals in the nation. Despite all appearances and affirmations of success, this is only the beginning for this band, and if their start is any indication, what’s to follow will be all whirlwind, heat, and flash.

Keep up with The Velveteers here.

-Brody

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Dynohunter Evoke The Depth And Expansiveness The EDM Scene Is Craving

By: Mirna Tufekcic

Boulder, Colorado, a city closely associated with bluegrass and jam bands, is also home to thriving EDM musicians. Born out of the Lotus and STS9 jam scene, Boulder’s own Dynohunter is a hybrid of electronic dance music production and live band improvisation. Pulling electronic influences from house, techno, and electronica, while continuing to be influenced by their instrumental funk, jazz, and jam roots; blending electronic influences with live saxophone, drums and bass, Dynohunter evoke the depth and expansiveness the EDM scene is craving.

Dynohunter.

Dynohunter.

The trio has been around since 2010 and they’ve come a long way in their time as a band. Clark Smith has been keeping Dynohunter fresh with sax, keys, and percussion while mixing and producing the music, Fred Reisen adds the essential drooling low bass grooves, and drops a synth note when appropriate, Nic Thornsberry seamlessly kicks the drums and SPD-SX.  Blend these with tasteful original electronic soundscapes peppered with other organic instruments (like a conch shell, for example) and you got yourself an EDM journey deep into the universe (or jungle, or ocean, or insert your own temperature and atmosphere preference here). You are bound to at least bob your head, if you’re not fully compelled to dance.   

Watch Dynohunter’s recent live session at Knew Conscious:

Clark’s sparking creativity stems from his take on the music genre, “I just feel like EDM, Techno, and House music have so much untapped potential and unexplored pockets that intrigue and excite me. With other music genres, it feels like most avenues have already been explored.”

Dynohunter.

Dynohunter.

Early on in their career, the band played alongside the likes of Sunsquabi, Infected Mushroom, Shpongle, The New Deal, Papadosio and more. They’ve toured the country and have performed at music festivals coast to coast including Summercamp, Joshua Tree Music Festival, Sonic Bloom, and Arise. But along with their successes, the band has also dealt with tough loss. In April 2016, the band’s drummer and dear friend Justin Ehmer passed away after a long battle with cancer. Justin was a key member of the band who poured his heart and soul into the project. Since then, Dynohunter has pushed on, healing with time, but keeping Justin’s spirit alive in their music. A picture of his smiling face still stands behind the drums in Dynohunter’s home studio, a place the band has recently been working hard in.

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Dynohunter’s 2015 full length album The Nomad was well received; since then they have released four EPs, with Rattle the Cage being their most recent. Their fifth and upcoming EP titled Tilmun is scheduled for release on December 13th, with the single dropping December 6th, just a couple of days before they headline The Bluebird Theater in Denver.

Dynohunter at   Knew Conscious  .

Dynohunter at Knew Conscious.

Being a musical experience of their own, Dynohunter is well worth seeing live.  If you can catch them this Friday, December 8th at The Bluebird Theater, you’ll be in for a treat with fresh music right out of the studio and onto the stage.

According to Reisen, “[Dynohunter] sure has a way of bringing that experiential aspect of music to life and if you’re coming into it open-minded, you’ll be taken on a journey of higher vibration; an hour and a half experience that leaves you feeling a little bit better and expanded.”  Spoken like a true Boulderite, Fred!

-Mirna

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Bonnaroo’s Sweet Sixteen: Amish Donuts, Twerkin' with Freedia, Mayor Chance The Rapper, & More

By: Julia Ordog

In case you missed it: Big changes and festival highlights from Bonnaroo 2017. 

It's important to use both hands.

It's important to use both hands.

This year, 65,000 people made the annual pilgrimage to Manchester TN to help Bonnaroo celebrate its birthday with Amish donuts, high fives, spontaneous art, and, of course, a sweet lineup. After 16 years, it’s safe to say that the majority of attendees are a new generation than those that originally formed the first festival in 2002, and the producers have not let this slide by unnoticed. While last year brought a few changes to The Farm that were mostly unremarkable (with the exception of permanent bathrooms, and Live Nation’s first full year at the helm), this year, Bonnaroo got an impressive facelift to keep up with the crowd and meet the younger Bonnaroovians more on their turf.

 "The Other” 2.0

The Other Stage.

The Other Stage.

Throughout the years, it’s been entirely common for stages to come and go and be renamed (Sonic, Who, Kalliope, etc), though the two main stages and three side tents have remained untouched since 2003. This year, EDM fans were given the gift of a remodeled stage in the form of the brand new "The Other.” Previously a tent, The Other had its top blown off and was injected with the spirit of Kalliope (the EDM stage from the last two years known for raging late into the night with the massive VW bug next to it). Now sort of like Which’s electronic little sister, The Other welcomed Big Gigantic, Cherub’s Jason Huber, Marshmello, and many more DJs to the stage this year.

Bacardi Beach 

Bacard's Oasis.

Bacard's Oasis.

In the area Kalliope used to call home, new sponsor Bacardi made its debut with the Bacardi beach- a sandbar complete with fake palm trees, hammocks, a cocktail bar, and plenty of lights to transport festival-goers off The Farm and to spring break. The beach was bumping with DJ sets throughout the weekend, and offered an excellent vantage point to watch shows at The Other without delving into the throng of ragey fans.

Scrims

The new scrims on The Which Stage.

The new scrims on The Which Stage.

All of the bigger stages with the exception of What also got a makeover. This, That, and The Other were all decked out with brightly-colored scrims, adding some decoration to the previously unadorned sets. Anyone who has been to Roo before would have noticed the more controversial absence of the distinct question mark that normally revolves at the top of Which, also replaced by abstract, pastel signage. I myself mourned the loss of the curtains and rotating question mark, and found the stage art to be a bit more cookie cutter than the vibe Bonnaroo is known for, but perhaps (likely) I’m just a sucker for tradition. 

The Weeknd 

The Sunday night slot of Bonnaroo is always saved for the biggest headliner, traditionally a well-entrenched, rock or jam band. Switching it up this year, the spot was given to The Weeknd, a younger R&B/pop star. The rumor mill offered suggestions that the switch was merely due to Bono’s schedule, as U2’s clout far exceeds that of The Weeknd’s, but it seems more likely that Bonnaroo was attempting to reach the younger crowd that normally dips out Sunday morning. The move certainly seemed to have paid off based on the strong crowd attendance Sunday night.

Chance

It would be hard to write about the festival this year without mentioning Chance the Rapper, the reigning “Mayor of Bonnaroo.” For the last few years, whether booked or not, Chance has made numerous appearances on collaborators’ stages across the festival. This year he appeared for Francis and the Lights, led a song at the super jam, and rocked his own set on What, a big upgrade from his last full-set performance in 2014, which was in a tent. The main venue was absolutely packed as Chance made his entrance on a mini-motorcycle, backlit by pillars of fire, and the crowd sang every word as he played hits off Coloring Book, a few favorites from Acid Rap, and other hits. 

U2

It seemed like everyone on The Farm was excited for U2’s second-ever festival performance; the band is currently on tour playing their entire Joshua Tree album front to back. Bono brought his own stage with him complete with gigantic screens and a wild light show, punctuated by the typical headliner fireworks that did not disappoint.

Big Freedia

A New Orleans legend known for her work in “bounce music,” Big Freedia and her team took over the Solar Stage to break down various twerk moves for those of us less fluid with our hips and bodies. During twerk class every morning, I watched the liberation of hundreds of people as Freedia taught them to to “mix it up,” “Peter Pan,” and “toot it up.” The brave were given the opportunity to show off their moves in a giant twerk circle where three people at a time were given the spotlight as Freedia and her crew yelled encouragement in the form of “overdrive” and “ass everywhere, ass, ass, everywhere!” If there’s one thing I learned from Bonnaroo this year, it’s that if you get the chance to go see Big Freedia, DO IT. 

Francis and the Lights

For someone who performed almost entirely by himself on a stage with no background graphics, Francis Farewell Starlite was truly captivating. His mesmerizing synths and big sound were matched by his uncontainable energy and erratic dance moves. Chance the Rapper joined Francis for their iconic choreography of “May I Have This Dance” to extreme fan stoke. And, as if the performance wasn’t already memorable enough, Francis jumped off the stage to run around in the crowd for a bit, and ended his set by doing a back handspring into a backflip that he landed in a split. Mic drop.

Beyond the Music 

In terms of activities, Bonnaroo is offering a lot more to do these days besides going to music. Out in tent city, a few of the pods have been decked out in various themes, offering places to hang out and things to do outside of Centeroo or your campsite. The coffee house and vinyl shop at Pod 7 (The Grind) were in peak form this year, as was the mystical hammock forest out behind it (The Grove). Other holistic programming met a broader audience than usual with record turnouts for things like morning yoga and the 5K run Saturday morning, demonstrating that Bonnaroo has definitely become a more accessible partner that doesn’t require a total departure from one’s daily routines. Activist-central Planet Roo also offers plenty to do and learn, in full-force this year as usual with booths for registering as a bone marrow donor, learning about sustainability, and making your voice heard on various issues.  

Mild weather!

Traditionally on The Farm, temps have left festival-goers feeling like they were melting into a pool of their own sweat that they very well might drown in. While last year brought temperatures that topped 100 (not to mention a thunderstorm evacuation), this year, was all moderate temps and clear skies with a festival high of 89. While at the end of the day, people were hardly less zapped for energy, some of the days were downright pleasant- words I have never used in the past to describe summer in Coffee County. 

Cage The Elephant.

Cage The Elephant.

As usual I lost count of how many bands mentioned it being a dream to play the festival, and of how many artists went right down to their fans and jumped into the crowd, whether it was Dave Bayley from Glass Animals crowd-surfing with a 200-foot microphone cord tether, Cage the Elephant frontman, Matt Shultz, diving into his fans, or Diplo rolling around in a giant hamster ball. The superjam was jammy and super and brought the funk. Fans stormed the venue at two o’clock on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to sprint as fast as they could across the field to get to the front rail for the headliners. The line for Amish donuts was insanely long, people walked around shouting “Happy Roo” to each other the same way people wish each other a Merry Christmas, and people covered themselves in just as much glitter as they did sunscreen. 

Bonnaroo.

Bonnaroo.

There may be details that change from year to year as this festival grows and evolves, but throughout my five trips to The Farm, I’ve noticed that the most important thing stays the same: the vibes. In the utopian world of The Farm, a land that is governed on the principles of good vibes and radiating positivity, and whose name literally means “only the good stuff,” there is no room for racism, travel bans, homophobia, or any of the other damaging ideals that we run into everywhere in the world “out there.” Without straying into the quicksand that is politics these days, I will say that this year was no exception to the typical blissful reprieve that Bonnaroo offers from the negativity and aggression associated with the news and watchful Big Brother’s eye- a reprieve that allows people to tune out the drone of society and to instead truly listen to their hearts. The world of Bonnaroo is a beautiful one, where people are free to truly express themselves and where strangers not only acknowledge strangers, but embrace them, help them, and share with them, always looking for common ground instead of reasons to fight.

As usual, by Sunday, I was ready for a real night of sleep and a break from the sun, but as also usual, I can’t wait to go back. Until next year, radiate positivity and stay true Roo. And as always: See you on The Farm! 

See the full Bonnaroo 2017 photo gallery here!

-Julia

All photos per the author. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Moon Hooch: Transcendence, Dance Music, Saxophones, & Drums

By: Will Baumgartner

The sensational New York-based trio Moon Hooch have generated a huge international buzz with their joyful, intense, explorative, dance-friendly music; a buzz that has grown from their early days a few years back playing on subway platforms in NYC to touring with the likes of Beats Antique, They Might Be Giants, and Lotus, all while selling out their own shows at venues across the nation.

Moon Hooch.

Moon Hooch.

This Saturday, October 29th, the trio will play Boulder’s Fox Theatre, and there are still some tickets here. Currently, the crew is touring in support of their wonderful third album 'Red Sky'. The group, which consists of saxophonists Mike Wilbur and Wenzl McGowen plus drummer James Muschler, create vast soundscapes and irresistible dance party music with just these three instruments filtered through a bit of electronics. Their music is in large part an outward expression of their own spirituality and activism: they all meditate and do yoga, practice conscious eating habits, and are constantly involved in work with organic farmers and other groups working toward social and cultural change. With these things in mind, I sat down with McGowen and tried to gear my questions toward the seemingly unlikely connection between their ass-shaking music and their spiritual and cultural efforts. The result was a conversation that, like their music, was both fun and thought-provoking.

First things first- is there a particular meaning behind the name Moon Hooch?

No, actually there isn’t. It means something, but we came up with the name kinda randomly. One day we were playing in the subway and people started dancing, and we were kinda surprised because we weren’t really planning on starting a band. So a person asked us what the name of our band was, and Mike just randomly said ‘Moon Juice’. We went home and googled it and there were four other bands with that name. We looked up synonyms for juice and hooch was one of them, so we went with that.

Watch Moon Hooch's music video for "EWI":

How has your music changed since your debut album, which came out in 2013?

We started out playing in the subway and that was completely acoustic. When we started playing in bigger rooms, I wanted to use more bass, and that’s why we started using the traffic cones, which we put in our saxophones. It creates a bass frequency that makes the subwoofers in clubs respond more. I also bought a contrabass clarinet, which goes as low as 33 Hz, and we have come up with this intricate system of using electronics as spice but not substance. We produce all the sounds acoustically, and then process them through a computer, and that gives us the ability to emulate the sounds of drops and buildups that are common in electronic dance music.

You've talked about incorporating the energy and activity from your surroundings into your music. What's the difference between doing that in the subway and onstage in front of a paying audience? What are the similarities or constants between these two settings? 

The similarity is that you have to give everything you have and be in the moment. If you’re thinking about something else, whether onstage or in the subway, the crowd will respond less. So I think it’s pretty much the same. Maybe onstage you’re a little more focused because people are there and giving you their attention, whereas on the subway you have to grab people’s attention.

Like more and more musicians these days, you've been very vocal about your spirituality, and publicly involved in activism. How do your yoga and meditation practices affect your music? What are the causes you're most involved with as activists? 

It’s a systemic problem we have: culture has spiraled out of control based on domination, greed, fear, and competition, and that has manifested in so many ways. Anywhere you look, you’ll find a manifestation of that core issue. For example, the fact that forests are getting cut down is because we value trees more as a commodity of profit rather than as a breathing, living organism that helps our planet and our species stay alive. It’s a very selfish mindset that leads to this. And that’s only possible because people have become so hardened; they don’t feel their heart as much anymore, and actually don’t really care.

We have so many layers of fears and insecurities and our own issues that really prevent us from caring about others. In the school system, you can find the same sort of issues. We’re getting trained to be functioning members of society; that’s really the main goal of the school system. It’s not really to help a child explore their own purpose and find out who they really are. Most people coming out of school have no idea what they want to do or who they are. This sort of culture is robbing us of our identity.

I see us as spiritual beings: we are consciousness in human form. And as such, we are actually not that interested in material things! These things are all conditioned into us. They’re conditions of being in a body, and in this culture that we crave money and power and all these things, but our true purpose lies in unfolding our loving potential. That’s what spirituality is for me: a way of navigating through all these negative fears and habits and finding our true selves. You can do that through yoga, meditation, music: through anything that allows you to train your focus and clarify your intention. I think you could be making burritos and have very spiritual experiences. If you’re fully present with the burrito, and the people you’re serving, then you have overcome some layers of social conditioning and have found a peaceful place in your heart. These ideas can be manifested in so many different ways, and we try to do it through our music.

Do you feel that you're making a difference in terms of raising consciousness in your fans? In what ways do you try to spread the word about your causes, and encourage people to embrace spirituality? 

I think a lot of people at our shows actually have spiritual experiences, whether they call it that or not.They have experiences that lift them out of their normal state of being. A state of being is essentially an agreement between the mind and the body, a way we interact with ourselves and our nervous system that feels normal to us, that we identify with. And I think that music can heighten the moment to the point where we break out of that and suddenly experience something beyond what we’re used to. I think many people use this experience to question themselves, question society, and grow as beings. I’ve certainly experienced this transcendental state through music, and thought, ‘Wow, I could feel that way all the time if I learn to find a way to transcend all these forces in life and really be expressive.’ So overcoming these things is something our fans do while listening to our music.

What do you want audience members to take with them from your shows?

[I want them to] realize the experience of being free and in the moment that they get at our shows can always be attained by working patiently and diligently [whether it's by] having a daily meditation practice, daily yoga practice, mindful eating, playing music... Whatever it is, being in the moment is something you can practice. And by creating a new state of being, which is really our old state of being, we can create a peaceful society. I think inspiring others to grow in this way is activism.

The album art for  Red Sky .

The album art for Red Sky.

I’m totally looking forward to being at The Fox show this Saturday, in the moment, and personally dancing myself silly! What's next for Moon Hooch? Do you plan to go back in the studio anytime soon?

Yes, we do! After this tour, we’re actually renting a house in the desert in Joshua Tree, California for two weeks, and we’ll be working on new music there for our next recording.  

Make sure to get your tickets to Moon Hooch at The Fox for this Saturday here. And keep up with the band on their website

-Will

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.