We careened up the cliff with a steel aerialist rig lashed to the top of our sketchy white van at about midnight. Not the usual way to arrive at a festival, but after moments of anxiety as mysterious rocks fell from above (most likely hurled by serial killers hiding in the forest) we arrived at Manifest Gathering. Pulling into the venue, even at midnight, there was a sense of peace and togetherness, of people making it HAPPEN. Manifest had had some venue issues, but it all came together in the end and it was clear that everyone who was there very much wanted to be there, and that vibe translated throughout the festival.
Manifest is one of the newest in the rapidly growing Transformational Festival movement which has taken the principles of holistic living, yoga, and spirituality and applied it to festival culture. What has emerged is a set of festivals where instead of going home saucer eyed and feeling like I have a little less of a soul, I go home feeling like I’m all covered in diamonds and straight sparkling. The sense of community and atmosphere of consciousness has made these events into something so much more than a ‘techno hippy party’ as my Mom calls it. They have become experiences that shape us and translate back into day-to-day life. The sense of togetherness isn’t lost, lifelong friends are made, new ideas are shared and collaborations are born all to the beats of some bomb music.
2013 was Manifest’s first year and, for a first year festival, the lineup was stacked not only with great electronic music headliners like BoomBox, The Polish Ambassador, ill.Gates, Russ Liquid, Lafa Taylor, and so many more, but also contained an impressive roster of live music like NVO, Organik Time Machine, Dead Winter Carpenters, and Jugtown Pirates.
Cruising around the grounds on Friday, I got to explore all the little niches like the co-creative mural, which seemed to be constantly packed with a cross section of festival society adding to each others’ work and making it a uniquely ‘manifested’ experience. The hammock village was strung up between sweet smelling eucalyptus trees full of lightly snoring, slightly hung over folk. The tea lounge housed loads of shanti people chilling and crystals strewn about, and the murals that Derek Heinman, Randall Roberts, and Jonathon Solter were laying their magic on.
The day was chill with world bass by Biomigrant opening, followed by roots grooves by Lonesome Locomotive. The music swung seamlessly between electronic and live in a way that many festivals no longer are able or care to do.
The sun set over the rolling hills of Angels Camp as the music intensified, and people flocked to the immaculately designed stage courtesy of Audiowaska. Known for their flowing, organic stage creations and use of sacred geometry, their Meadow Stage was amazing, featuring a Yogi in Lotus Pose with all chakras aligned presiding, with leaves made of wood cradling the DJ booth, and their trademark spinning sacred geometry emblem that is the delight of all the Spunions.
As glowing hula hoops wiggled around swerving hips and poi and staff were lit, Kaminanda blessed it with a surprise performance. With his usual ecstatic dance inspired moves, he blessed the crowd with his beats – definitely a good way to kick off the night.
Next up was Russ Liquid, who 50 years ago would have been blowing his horn in a smoky club filled with shrunken heads and the delicious odors of gumbo down a narrow alley in the French Quarter of New Orleans. However that was not to be, and he has taken his skills with all things jazz and adapted them to meet the onslaught of the electronic music scene. He floats effortlessly between the sax and clarinet, stopping in between to drop the bass, while the plaintive wails of each instrument dance with the deeply purple electronic beats he so masterfully creates.
After Russ was Lafa Taylor, a modern day Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, who proceeded to crush it with his super sexy vocals that make a girl feel like it would be okay to throw her panties on stage just this one time. He threw down his real talk love songs like “Mixed Emotions” and kept it funky and smooth.
When the always effervescent Love and Light took the stage, Matt’s infectious grin threw the crowd into an ecstatic wrath. To put it simply, they brought it. Halfway through their set they announced they were about to play some new music they’d never played before and that they claimed didn’t sound like Love and Light. The new stuff definitely had a more house music tinge to it, as everything seems to these days, but there was enough trademark Love and Light to make it unmistakably theirs. They called up their friend Lafa for a track, and his voice combined with their glitched out sweetness was definitely a thing to witness.
The highlight of the set was Matt announcing the premier of their track “No Bull Night,” which he proclaimed to have been written after taking six hits of acid and locking himself in a room for eight hours. The track, clearly made at a moment close to insanity, brought the listener there in a moment of crunk joy.
Their banging, bubbly style led into the intergalactic bleeps and bloops of Andreilien whose music was accompanied by a troupe of some seriously talented fire spinners. Their flames rippled through the night and spun along perfectly to the alien rhythms we were all shaking it to.
2NUTZ, the dynamic duo of kLL Smith and Atomic Reactor jumped on after and dove right into that Colorado steez. What followed was an hour of pure lazer crunkness with fire darts flowing to the side of the stage and hoops spinning manically as the crowd was whipped further into frenzy.
After the main stage wrapped up, we scurried down the rabbit hole to the aptly named Forest Stage. Fog billowed and through the haze emerged NVO, the San Francisco based live electronic music quartet. Calling up memories of STS9 shows, their intricate jams flowed across the crowd, melding synthesizers and guitar into a hypnotizing algorithm of sound.
The next day, armed with a coffee one of my camp neighbors was selling on tap, I was able to rally for a Saturday Funday at the Forest Stage. With enough shade to make life bearable and a stacked lineup, the area quickly filled up with people chilling and then getting down.
The daytime lineup was the perfect blend of sexy bass and funky glitch. San Francisco’s DJedi opened it up with some shamanic whomp that sounded like aural mandalas spilling from the speakers. His set was followed by another Bay Area buster, Renee Leah who kept it sexy and relaxed while people slowly came out of their day two comas. By 3pm, when Australia’s Goosebumpz took the stage, people were starting to feel funky. I was super stoked because I had accidentally stumbled upon Goosebumpz’ set on the Playa at Fractal Nation and had been totally sucked in by the twangy weirdness. A year, and a slightly different environment later, his productions are still super funky and off-beat enough to keep you guessing what sound you’re about to hear next.
Manifest was held on the summer solstice weekend, and this solstice featured not only the longest day of the year, but also the appearance of the Super Moon, the largest moon the earth has seen in many years. Those vibrations alone would inspire everyone to get a little weird, but combine that with the lineup and the overall positive energy of the festival, and Manifest was humming with a sort of manic energy looking to be released.
Bay area trap producer, MiHKAL set us up with some sexy booty bumping beats that drew people to the dance floor to get a little sweaty and make some contact. (I mean seriously, there was some pretty intense contact dancing going down.) Things got even hotter when ill-esha, who had just driven up the hair pin, heart attack inducing turns of the road to Manifest, took the stage. Ill-esha’s voice combined with her beat-making prowess mean she’s a force to be reckoned with, and whenever I see her live she dominates. Tonight was no different, the emotion each song invoked in her was clearly present on her face, and you could tell that her music is a catharsis for her.
By the time the much anticipated BoomBox was on, the Super Moon was hanging high in the sky and the vibrations of the crowd had reached critical mass. I’d never seen BoomBox before and had been anticipating their set all weekend. With mic’s decked out in feather boas a la Steven Tyler and a fancy top hat, these guys brought me back to the days of a show, before laptops and controllers were the norm. BoomBox is just super smooth and makes me feel like I’m driving in an old Mustang convertible down a country road on a summer’s day… But we were in the foothills of Yosemite and quickly the sound adapted to fit the setting. The fire spinner’s set up directly in front of the stage and went balls to the wall during this performance. Every fire toy you could imagine made an appearance combined with sultry bodies undulating in the yellow light. The impromptu fire extravaganza combined with BoomBox’s heady sounds made it truly a set to remember.
Transitioning from the smooth to the quirky, The Polish Ambassador, decked out in his jumpsuit and characteristic yellow shades took us deeper into the night. The man looks like he just landed from some Eastern European submarine mission gone awry and his unique style of music really sounds as if he’s an ambassador from some other dimension of sound. One of the highlights of the festival was when Ayla Nereo joined Polish on stage and performed live, FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, “Live Inside a Dream.” She may have one of the most beautiful voices out there and their collaboration is nothing short of out of this world. Since then they’ve released a whole album together under the moniker Wildfire which is definitely worth checking out.
Late night things got shanty with the Full Moon Ceremony which featured an “intentional tribal beat,” which had been created by Biomigrant and performed by The Pilot and Jeff Stot. The ceremony closed and the high priest of whomp, Kaminanda, continued the sonic shamanic journey. His set led into The Human Experience and then to Thriftworks. Then around 7am things took a turn for the Bass-y when ill.Gates reappeared with trap (and all things bass) dynamo VNDMG and did a three hour tag team set of some dirty music. Some people were upset due to the loud noise late night, but in my opinion sleep is not a priority at festivals and when ill.Gates and VNDMG want to throw down, you let them.
Sacred Sunday featured packing and listening to The Human Experience and then a solo set by the lovely Ayla Nereo. The music helped us emerge from the post-awesome drowsiness and really appreciate the feeling that Manifest had brought us all together under the full moon to celebrate the music and the life that we love.