Ranchsauce and Lucid Light’s Sonic Bloom 2015 Photo Album:
Surrounded by splotches and shades of grey clouds, faint mid-day sun and blue sky, I pull up to Hummingbird Ranch. A kilometer out in the Spanish Peaks County countryside, a plume of dust hangs still in mid-air above a dilapidated hut flanked by cedars. It was my first day west of the Central Time zone in five years, and my first time experiencing Colorado since I was a child travelling with my family to Denver from Dallas. Sonic Bloom had enticed me ever since 2008, when I learned that there were music festivals where the arts and consciousness raising endeavors were just as commonplace as beer cans and jambands.
My two giddy, seasoned festival companions and I had just maneuvered through a lagging, winding line of vehicles marked by Grassroots flat brims and an indeterminate amount of dreamcatcher tattoos. Turns out, Sonic Bloom’s check-in sat quite a ways away from the festival grounds. Luckily, with this sparkly new location, miles and space are in abundance. In that way, it feels like what I imagine the Playa will feel like for me later this year. That is, if the Burn had tons of grass and a steep Rocky mountain hugging it from behind.
We had been tasked with properly capturing the four day event with our Canon lenses and mind’s eye. The first amplified sounds had begun to ring out from somewhere above us and our media passes called to us. It’s important to note that a certain overworked Digital Vagabond had also been calling our cell phones with vigor to let us know he had begun to sound check the Hummingbird stage as well. After a welcoming and informative introduction from Bloom’s Media Coordinator, Blooming Footprint’s Katie Fox, we were on point. My 3 a.m. wake up time that morning and obligatory jet lag washed away with a gulp of the thin, but sweet mountain air.
After nabbing a solid parking spot near VIP car camping, we decided to hightail it onto the grounds to get a feel for what our timeline looked like for the night. We rounded a grouping of tall teepees and approached the wooden art installation turned Sonic Bloom sign where we were greeted by genuinely kind and excited security staff, making sure that we were not bringing in any restricted items past the gate.
I was really excited about the large bed swing hanging from a tree facing the Bloom stage, and took a load off with some Colorado locals. I noticed many shades of purple, orange and dark red around me, both in the clothes people wore and in the deco. I happily purchased a handmade wooden ring from a vendor engraving wooden art with a soldering gun. Rain became a reality as the linguist and Janover collaborator, reSUNator, performed the festival’s opening ceremony and we set our intention. Biolumigen christened the 2015 Bloom main stage with serene and soothing original bass productions, a super solid choice for an act to ease us into the dancing spirit.
I was only present briefly for Templo and Drumspyder’s sets, as I had to utilize the remaining dusky light to set up Camp LIS/Team New Mexico against the dreamy treeline straddling the prominent and crystal clear brook a la Bloom. We had one of the most primo locations at the festival, with the soothing sound of rushing water surrounding us and ample shade. It was hilarious to watch as hundreds of people would stumble into our camp in search for the entrance to the creek, only to find us wild psychonauts ready with pranks. Revved up after dabbling with the Denver Vagabond fam, we went to work.
Darkness had fallen above us and, with the sound of true dubstep raising as we neared, all around us. The beloved UK bass titan Caspa was trying the Sub.mission stage’s sound system on for size. I swear I saw a gaggle of lizards scatter from under some shaking rocks. Caspa was seriously STOKED, as he hopped around, getting some air beneath his feet. My pupils waxed and waned as they watched, and it was clear that the wrap-around LED panels at the back of the stage were going to entertain and stimulate thousands of people all weekend. From classics like Caspa’s “Where’s My Money” remix to many new hits, it was undoubtedly one of the most proper dubstep sets I’d ever witnessed. Method Man and Redman’s “Roll that Shit, Light that Shit, Smoke that Shit,” along with a puffing gesture from Caspa, was enough to get the crowd in that legally high spirit. Snapping pics in front of the subwoofer, my lips vibrated noticeably harder than they would all weekend. I literally couldn’t think of a better way to kick off my Sonic Bloom experience than rude boi stomping with some of Colorado’s dubstep cabal.
I spent a few hours getting to know the nightlife around the Hummingbird Stage. Centrally located between the Bloom stage and Sub.mission, Hummingbird buzzed for something like 22 hours a day. I must take a second to express my gratitude and affection for the people who made it the hands down BEST stage at Sonic Bloom: Majestic Entertainment, Hedd_sound, The Untz, LostinSound.org, Crystal Wiggins, Ben Easley, Patrick Boyle, Anand, Noah and Jesse and Team New Mexico. A mini-Sherwood forest lay to the right of the dance floor, equipped with all day shade, a cross section of hammocks, and blankets rolled out featuring artwork, jewelry, crystals and a number of shaman healers spreading kindness and inspiration. Centered behind the dance floor and Pickles Visuals‘ VJ hut, one could find confounding art installations nestled amongst the pines and a stunning canopy of trees acting as a closed off tea house sanctuary (yes, take your shoes off before entering from the outside to another version of the outside). Finally, up one of the many paths to the left of stage you would undoubtedly be met by many of the visionary artists in residence. Easels scattered between trees held brand new pieces by collaborating lovebirds Randal Roberts and Morgan Mandala, Krystaleyez, and Andrew Norris Thompson. I often observed Dela, Michael Garfield and Amanda Sage holding a brush and holding court in deep thought with a few admirers.
I got my first real taste of the sweet Hummingbird nectar as Gibbz and DJ Stickybudz laid down impressive sets of original material. I had seen both these acts a few times, but these performances outside of the Northeast and at a high-level event truly peaked my interest. A slight knot of anxiety set in as I talked with some of the homies about the first night’s closer sets. Desert Dwellers, Atyya and Rob Garza were sure to deliver a diversity of uniqueness unlike any I had witness in some time. I laced up my Supras and stuffed my favorite silk scarf deep into the pocket of my rainbow discoball pants, custom made by Janak Tull. My photographer, Anndrea (Lucid Light Photography) was about to experience for the first time with me what I like to call “Crunch Mode.”
Desert Dwellers wore all white everything. There were at least three spectacular aerialists and dancers (all in white) traversing the stage or hanging from long white sheets tied to the main stage rafters. I was entranced by images both natural and unnatural projected onto the space behind them, my favorite being a close up image of fractalian snails. As both Amani and Treavor Moontribe would be throwing down trance sets over the weekend, the Dwellers set was both bass heavy and relaxing, including some notable sacred vocals “Ganesha”-ing. Truly a beautiful spectacle.
Rob Garza filled the back half of the venue with heavy house and moombahton rhythms. A gaudy Patron bottle sat on the table next to the Pioneers, as I was reminded of another element of the dance music culture. The high powered grooves were a nice contrast to the chill atmosphere of the Bloom stage, helping to shake off some of the rust from my knees. Garza pursed his lips tightly as he pulled the reverb and delay back and forth meticulously. Native American tribal images in shades of green and blue flashed upon the LED panels. I hoped that Garza would twirl his mustache between hand claps at least once, but I wasn’t able to stick around long enough to see it.
I noticed the silhouette of a top knot in the foreground of the bright lights of Pickles’ stage design on the Hummingbird Stage. Once I could fully make out the sounds of lush and complex production, I knew it was Atyya. As the fastest growing producer in psychedelic bass culture in 2015, it was only fitting that he be blessed with such a prime time slot. The work that Envisioned Arts has been getting done on his behalf is noteworthy. His music is dark and strange, with stellar audio production. People smiled big and kicked up their feet, as it felt hella good to be at Sonic Bloom 2015. “I love you guys, you’re beautiful,” Tyy Clark said emotionally, “Go spread your love to the entire world.”
I helped the Hummingbird team mobilize and haul steel railings out into the crowd to set up the perimeter for the silent disco sets to go down for the next four nights. Patrick had been up for over 24 hours, so he had long since returned to the campsite to rest. As the sole LIS representative left for the late night activities, I was not sure how things would go. The crowd gathered, looking for a place to get down to tunes. Turned out that the team brought in to operate the silent disco at Bloom was not fully prepared to make it all run smoothly. Long story short, due to some sort of hardware malfunction involving transmitters or flux capacitors or the like, the performers’ music wasn’t making it into the fans’ headphones properly. Once I could tell that I did not have the expertise to assist further, I turned in.
Friday’s midday lineup at Hummingbird featured an array of some of Lost in Sound’s favorite progressive artists. Soulacybin drew the first large daytime crowd, as the sun shone down brightly on the open dancefloor. The Boulder-based organic dubmaster first impressed me with last year’s ‘Gratitude’ release on Merkaba Records, and it was exciting to dance to some of the tunes in that beautiful environment. kLL sMTH performed next, turning the intensity up a notch. Clearly a Colorado crowd favorite, kLL sMTH has continued to impress me more and more with his ability to progress as a producer. Big kLLy style.
After Caspa’s rout the night prior, I had a craving for more. First it was Colorado dubstep ambassador and Sub.mission resident, Dillard, shredding the irie bass on the Sub.mission stage. Taller than I thought, Dillion Gabeheart’s commanding presence on stage and fire track selection makes him perhaps the most important American dubstep producer making moves today. Back at Hummingbird, Mumukshu fed us a serving of his own psychedelic take on that true dubstep sound, keeping it deep and dank. The breaks element of his tunes is the truth as well, making it a challenge to follow the rapid and ever changing rhythm. It was a pleasure pranking around Bloom with this character, we were only missing Arthur Whitebear to make it a real riot.
It’s always interesting and mentally stimulating to be a part of one of Jamie Janover’s talks on Unified Field Theory. I stopped into the quiet and shaded D’OM to stretch my imagination and rational mind, as so many of the ideas he presents are very rich and sometimes hard to fathom. The crowd sat atop a plush floor made up of numerous rugs; some laid on their back to look up at the multi-colored tapestries covering the inside roof of the large dome.
Still buzzing from the higher level thinking of Janover, I quickly found myself in the presence of Wonder Bob (firstname.lastname@example.org), deep into a discussion with another man in the Grassroots dome. Bob is a metaphysician and his notebook was filled with beautiful drawings outlining the ways in which the natural body meets time and space. I watched as he described star meridians, octahedron and the Tree of Life. “Epic needs show up magically and we do the work together,” Bob said along to the sound of “Lambrogini Mercy” pouring from Grassroots California’s Mackie tops.
The Lost in Sound West Coast family has been praising Pumpkin for years, and I had to be sure that his DJ set could really put that smile in my heart too. I ran to meet a growing crowd glistening under the fading sun at Sub.mission. My first thought, style. His swoop hair doo, soul patch and an all black tee-felt in a way, iconic. With such a welcoming face, he does seem to literally radiate a little behind those shades. I quickly connected to the vibe laid down by Everyman, Pumpkin’s best friend, emcee and the second half of their new side project, Little Giants. After a few dance explosions, I noticed that he was able to provide us with little tastes of tunes, often at a fast pace and with real smooth transitions. I knew I liked the guy after I heard him play compelling remixes of “Gooey” by Glass Animals and Chet Faker’s “1988.” Old school Daft Punk and a bevy of soul tunes merged with disco house movin’ sunset bass. Spinning parasols, tall bursts of water and various other beach vibes ensued.
The eight to ten o’clock hours of Friday were eclectic to say the least. After taking in a little of That One Guy’s magic pipe of bass beats, I was happy to go and shout “Bonjour madam!” to the busiest French producer in America, CloZee. This past year, the master guitarist turned producer has been spreading her compositions and sunny disposition all over the place. The crowd at the Hummingbird during her set full of new and unreleased material, made it clear to me that people are no longer wondering, but know all about CloZee and her infectious brand of Glitch-Hop.
Talib Kweli brought a vibe and voice to Sonic Bloom that we would not experience for the rest of the weekend. With truly stellar band backing him, Talib did not disappoint. He is master of performance, hype and style. There is no real way to compare his thoughts and flow to any other hip-hop emcee, he stands alone like all the other greats. It was a thrill to sit on stage and snap shots for the second time while he flew around like a lyrical mma fighter. I hoped that Talib would join STS9 for the band’s first time back at Bloom since 2007, but he was probably on his way back to Denver at that point.
A lot has happened in STS9’s world since the last time they played Sonic Bloom in 2007, so it was easy to reflect back through the years during their two Friday night sets. The band’s new bassist, Alana Rocklin, humble and focused, stands out every time Tribe hits the stage. The variations on classics like “The Rabble”,“Wika Chikana”,and “Circus” were compelling and collected, as the band went for an often minimal and tight take. I like to hear them doing something new with tunes I know like the back of my hand. I was really into the “Only Light Remains”> “Elsewhere”> “Crystal Instrument” movement. It was my first time hearing or seeing “Only Light Remains” and the soulful vocal sample sung by Rashida Clendening stuck with me. I wasn’t blown away by the two sets, but like all of the sets I have seen from Tribe since their reformation, it was special and I didn’t question the band’s effort. Zach Velmer pulled the MVP for me, maintaining his quickness and strength, which always makes for a better showing from the whole band. A long “What is Love?” closed the second set followed by the always passionate “Breathe In.”
I spent the remainder of my evening working to get my bearings down pat, wandering in and out of late night hubs of activity. Beats played at a reasonable level from a system inside of a well built dome housing tall cases of top notch Colorado blown glass. There were a couple of blow torches lit while onlookers stood mesmerized. The infamous style Co-op, Boulder-based UMBA, held a bumping private party beneath the tarps that lined their numerous connected vending tents. Always wonderful to reconnect to my old friends Allie Olsen and Sarah Sparkles (Sparklelicious)!
From the instant that I read the title of Michael Garfield’s discussion, “Human Meta-Organisms: Endosymbiosis and Planetary Culture”, I knew where I would be when I woke up Saturday afternoon. “Always safe, never late,” a slightly sunburnt Garfield said to open the talk. He had done a test run of this talk a week prior at Firefly Gathering down in Flagstaff. In it he helped us to rethink what it meant to be a member of the tribe of the living and the effect that humanity has had on the natural world. “We are living during the Antropocene, or “The Human Age,” he said, “Humanity is a major geological force on the planet. In order for something to qualify as an epoch, or an Age, there must be evidence in the sediment all over the world.” I thought about how wild it is to perceive yourself affect the literal physical history of the world in a nominal but ultimately huge way. As Garfield describes, “We woke up to recognize that we were burning the house down.” We delved into the re-establishment of a healthy global system, the concept of self vs team and then made vs born. “My father’s a very practical man he said, ‘Well that’s great. I love you. But what effect does it have?’ I have sharpened my mind against the stone of that question. I see that we are global citizens participating in the self organized brain of nodes of us.” I chimed in to the conversation, clown nose and all, bringing up the global Federation imagined by Gene Roddenberry for his Star Trek stories. I also read a poem I had written while listening and taking notes in the back of the dome (read “Native Vibes” at the very end of this article).
Mr. Rogers’ set at the Hummingbird really got the people in the Saturday spirit. The night prior he had played a late set with his brother Pharroh as their new project PEGA5U5. Unfortunately I only heard about twenty minutes of it. STYLE ALERT::: these brothers know how to dress fly as hell. Gold chains and blinging shades, kind of a more respectable Riff Raff steeze. I had communicated via the web with Doramey Rogers for years but it was the first time I caught a set and was able to see the man’s spectacular spirit. The Nor-Cal native brought that hyphy bass vibe with a mixture of his own productions and remixes. He got the whole crowd jumping to an Adele remix, enough said.
I had planned to be present for Jumpsuit Record’s own saQi but the vibe Dirtwire put down at the Bloom stage was too infectious to escape. The hot sun had receded and a crowd of beautiful gypsies was amassing. Apparently the tunes created by Beats Antique’s David Satori and the smooth Evan Fraser had really connected with a lot of women (and men) as many sung along to every word. Fraser has a strong and unique voice and is equally as impressive in his instrumental prowess as the banjo boss Satori. I ran into a jolly Michael Kang and Jamie hanging before their set together in The Trancident, before warmly greeting Michael Travis and Jason Hann, who were setting up quietly at the back of the stage.
At dusk the weather was perfect, as was pretty much everything else (minus silent disco). It seemed as though no one wanted for nothing and if anything the only trouble was seeing all of the faces and hearing all the sounds that you wanted at any one moment. Bluetech played his first set of the night at the Hummingbird as Evan Mark. It was another first for me after listening to the more dance oriented recordings from the Hawaii-based legend these past few years. Anthony Ward, a staple at many Bluetech events, provided that extra beautiful and weird floral performance art that is always a huge “+”. It was a pleasure conversing and dancing alongside Anthony all weekend, he is most definitely on the “A” team. Evan’s iconic dip and hop move, as if floating on a choppy current, was in full effect and the crowd went wild. Although I was only able to check into their sets briefly, this is as good a time as any to praise Plantrae, ill-Esha and Thriftworks for their ability to get their numerous fans and the overall Sonic Bloom Saturday night crowd movin’.
There’s not much that’s more fun then preparing to catch a Shpongle set at Sonic Bloom with your fellow Shpongolians, many of which you have just met for the first time. You dress to enter a kind of temporary autonomous zone where everyone inside is experiencing a sensory representation of what it is to be purely free and honest. “Autotuneeee…that’s what Kanye uses,” Simon Posford said with an almost Crypt Keeper-like autotuned voice. He stood behind a mess of xlr and synth wires, always a good sign if a fan is wondering if he will be going all out on the live mix. It was a bass heavy rager, as he seemed to really max out the low end on every song. I sang along in glee with new friends to “Star Shpongled Banner” and partook in my usual freak tromp around the crowd during the plume inducing “DMT.” Simon even did his own vocals a few times. My new partner in poetic crime, Matt Bovard, and I snagged a rainbow sherbert cone before heading back towards vendor road and the Hummingbird. We had to change plans slightly and stick around for a bit longer as the close of the set took a hard turn with a more Hallucinogen style of trance, with the Pink Floyd-style arpeggiator overlay. Samples and sounds flew in and out of earshot chaotically and shit reached a “weird” apex. “Oh! The synth is still on!…that’s all!,” Simon said with a comedic grin.
Finally, I explored the absolutely stunning gallery curated by Colorado Alliance of Visionary Artists (CAVA). Every surface inside the circular space was lined by original artwork hung with detail and intention. Janover and friends arranged an array of world instruments and I was quickly blessed by a horn made two huge tusks. After shootin’ the schnitlz with Simon, Amani and Michael Travis, it was approaching sunrise aka Ranch’s bedtime.
Losing steam and attempting to recover from the dusty day, I quieted my mind and shut off the Gonzo machine for at least a little while. Anndrea and I had decided to continuously swap out one of the Canons so that the other could fall back, rest our hands and be a part of the vibe’s flow. I stood with closed eyes before both Cualli at the Hummingbird and Bluetech at Sub.mission, both of which simultaneously rounded out the night with intention and grace. We are lucky to have our musical heroes be such intelligent and genuine sonic healers. That is unfortunately often not the case for the majority of popular acts in this world, the set might as well just be another 8 hour shift flipping bergs at Carls Jr. I had officially lost interest in listening to the silent disco, and rounded out my evening inside of the crown chakra dome at the Lotus Temple with a group of new friends. We were all assigned a different character from The Breakfast Club that we represented, turned out I was Emilio Estevez. Time flew, the sun rose and it was officially the last day of Bloom.
We had recruited many souls to help gather everyone together at the Hummingbird for a set by Denver-based LostinSound.org resident, Digital Vagabond. I actually got on the mic as he played a downtempo tune for me to read a couple of my spoken word poems (www.ranchsauce.wordpress.com) to the crowd near the Hummingbird stage. Once he began, he kept it roots dub for the beginning and got deep and dubstep towards the end. It showed his range and kept me dancing through whatever tempo. The Vagabond is a big fan of Fat Freddy’s Drop and he got everyone grooved out to the track “Cay’s Cray.” Another fan favorite and sun shine soaked reggae classic, “Give Thanks” by The Twinkle Brothers, put a smile on our faces. It was most entertaining to watch the crowd react to Oxossi’s remix of Jefferson Airplane’s “Go Ask Alice.”
Even a chipotle-seasoned vet like myself falls prey to the sheer size and scope of a four day festival like Bloom. Things like food, sleep, good conversation, nature, shopping and even a haircut from the local festival salon (I also had a little feather thing extension-ed into my goatee) caused me to miss a number of great artists throw it down. I am still kicking myself for not bearing witness to the up-and-coming Australian producer, Griff, and especially for missing a rare Zilla set on Sunday afternoon.
Sub.mission was the place to be Sunday. Andreilien, Kaminanda and Kalya Scintilla feat. Eve Olution back to back to back meant that the entire field and vending area would be flooded with a cohesive, yet dynamic vibe. All three are legends of the international sacred bass and psychedelic electronic community. It was wonderful to have these producers enjoying the event with all of us all weekend, always a good sign that an artist is genuine. Andreilien and Kaminanda’s sets were both a culmination of each artist’s progression. It’s wild how many years I have been seeing these two perform and hearing their music. By developing their own unique sound and image, they can continue to bless us with new albums better than the last. I can’t remember having better soundtracks to my sundowns than I did at Bloom.
Kalya Scintilla and Eve Olution, two of the most beautiful people living today, are always on. Yaygon’s genius compositions always tap into both our left and right brains, getting us to move and contemplate. I wrote down the words of a sample that he played during his Merkaba set two nights prior, “Building chi and releasing when it’s time. Dispersing the energy in the body. Holding and focusing.” More and more I have noticed Qigong paired with dance going down during sets like this, with all the energy available, it just feels right. Eve Olution’s intense, yet beautiful stage presence calls to the crowd’s eyes. The white face paint and feathered attire were truly badass, as she exhibited the kind of calm grace that I wanted to feel.
Random Rab’s Bloom-closing set was marked by the fastest winds and a combination of smoke and dust billowing throughout the Sub.mission field. Rab looked fly and borderline manic wearing these chrome, mirrored goggles that covered half of his head. I wasn’t used to hearing a Rab set that didn’t include a lot of his more sunrise-oriented tunes, like those on Release. Instead, he sang into his trusty mic less and brought more of a crazy heavy bass, dancey vibe. I ran backstage to get elevated to snap shots of the crowd and stage. Anthony Ward, sporting battle armor that reminded me of The Shredder, rummaged around his huge box of tall flowers. “Can you help me real quick?,” he asked me with a raised voice that still sounded quiet. I ended up awkwardly helping him detach his massive vase and stand that he had taped to the stage to keep from tipping over.
I ventured one last time over to the Bloom stage to take in some of the funky, positive sounds that the Colorado crew The Motet laid down. Such energy and delight as the last minute headliners brought the weekend’s music to a banging close. Shout out to the huge Third Eye Pinecones tent, where people were having electric buffers rubbed all over them while they laid on massage tables (stellar idea). I heard a rumor that there was a special guest scheduled to close the Hummingbird, but for whatever reason that fell through. Luckily for all of us, Kaminanda and Kalya schemed up an epic b2b set to bless those who were still standing.
“It’s family, it’s connection, and it’s the original reason we all come together,” ill.Esha said during a round table interview at the press junket about what Sonic Bloom means to her. For me, in it’s 10th year, Sonic Bloom is the realness. A middle ground where the old festival atmosphere and party spirit meets the new gathering vibe and aesthetic of a maturing generation. Janover, Vibesquad, Bluetech, STS9, The Motet. These living legends have lead the charge of conscious intention and creation here in Colorado, at Sonic Bloom and beyond. In a new decade, in a new Age, that leadership and co-creation is spreading to all of us wearing a cloth bracelet. At any moderately large festival there will be young people new to all the excitement, but more and more you will find their mature counterparts setting an example of what it means to experience a festival like Bloom fully while using one’s head. Like John Soulacybin said during his interview, “Be yourself. Embody who you are fully all the time.” I became closer to the community of Colorado and closer to my true self at Sonic Bloom. I realized that we are all native to this experience and this world if we learn to feel and embody it’s vibration. I will leave you with a poem I wrote during Michael Garfield’s discussion:
Settle in and break the seal.
Across holographic fields
spread transcendent blankets
and act in and out and sit.
Do we deserve a story?
Do we deserve a truth?
Do we deserve the glory?
Do we deserve the balance too?
In the human age, we must engage
and stage a space for our Native Vibes.
We the coral reef of all life,
self-organized brain in time.
Holding the ratchet with Descartes.
Teleporting cognition, arrow in flight.
Baseless reality, out-of-mind plight.
Neither seem right. Too tight the sight.
Widen past future perception.
Pass the crucible through convection.