Harmony Festival – Santa Rosa, CA

Ain’t No Party Like A Nor Cal Party…

by Eliza Douglas

The weekend at Harmony Festival was both a fantastic journey into music and art and an eye-opening learning experience for me. I was looking forward to seeing my old favorite Steel Pulse, checking out the ‘tronic area featuring Ana Sia, Marty Party and Mimosa, and of course covering my first event for LiS.

When I got there early Friday evening I was greeted by searing 90 degree heat. Being fresh from the cool coast, I felt uncomfortable to say the least and started working on getting into the show. This was going to be a short journey into Festival Land, and I wanted to make it count. I didn’t end up seeing any of the daytime Harmony Festival, but focused on ‘Harmony After Dark,’ the after-hours party following the last show of the daytime lineup. It consists of Techno Tribal Dance and a separate spot called Harmony Hall.

The Saturday show at Techno Tribal Dance was the main reason I came! Its a sensory spectacle of professional fire troupes, shadow dancers and aerial artists who perform simultaneously with an amazing laser light show while world-renowned DJ sets and bands play. This year it was off the chain amazing with Galactic, Tipper, Lynx & Janover and Ott throwing it down hard into the dawn. There was the most dialed deep-body vibration sound system, exquisite earth mandalas and shrines, 3D volumetric laser light shows, live art installations featuring Alex and Allison Grey and flawless deco!

I had some problems with security and getting access to the places I needed to be. They gave me the wrong pass at first and there was much confusion and a lot of people that couldn’t help. I was saved by Zack Darling, the mastermind of Techno Tribal Dance, who rolled up on a segway and escorted me into Tribal, which was at full swing and full of wild energy. Backstage in magical laminate land, Zack’s assistant gave me a handful of all-access, VIP full-weekend passes with profuse apologies. It had taken an inordinate amount of time to accomplish what I’d set out to do, but in the end I Used My Head and prevailed. I just wanted to see some music and security had been in my face about taking pictures!

At Techno Tribal I catch the end of Brass, Bows & Beats. This is a forty-piece orchestra that takes an authentic approach to hip-hop by fusing the origins of jazz, old and new. They meld electronica, hip-hop, jazz and funk, which is overlaid with flow from Chali 2na from Jurassic 5. It was intense and awesome.

Over in Harmony Hall I caught Marty Party – crunkalicious! His sound is unique and essential to the remix/electronica culture. I love the playful sounding party music that is slammed with hard-hitting bass and blended with hypnotic elements such as ancient tribal chants.

Then I roll back across the fairgrounds (Yes, I must mention that Harmony Festival is at the lovely Sonoma County Fairgrounds) to see my favorite: Steel Pulse. Even if Reggae isn’t your thing, you must see them. They have been playing for 30 years and I was impressed by the updated version of their sound; hella dubbed out, more edgy and heavy on the bass and synthesizer. I jammed out to “Rollerskates” with a silly boy in a bolo hat. There is nothing us NorCals like more than reggae – it is our first true love.

Back at Harmony Hall I see the Mimosa show from backstage. An innovative purveyor of West Coast dubstep, he is in the zone – super high energy with his own unique sound: a deep bass dub-step with a melodious soundscape, heartily sprinkled into carefully mixed tracks, very fresh and clean. I sparked a joint with MartyParty who handed it to Mimosa (who puffed mid-crunk). NorCal love all around.

The sun was starting to come up, and I didn’t want to face the broiling heat that was soon to come. I’m a strange combination of night owl and early bird, so I was looking forward to a morning of driving up the foggy coastline. On the way out I gave my passes to a kid who was completely draped with gigantic hemp ropes – he got props for NorCal fashion.

On my way back North, I reviewed my whirlwind 8 hours of success and frustration covering my first festival. I took comfort in the fact that Bay Area radio stations such as 89.9 play crushing dancehall reggae at 5:30 a.m. which is very NorCal. Just saying….

Check out my pics!

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