Sonic Bloom: Music, Art, Community, Consciousness
Sonic Bloom Festival: Music, Art, Community, Consciousness
Part of the appeal of Sonic Bloom Festival is how close and easy it is to get to from the Front Range. The festival site is tucked away in the beautiful Spanish Peaks, at Hummingbird Ranch, just outside of Walsenburg, CO. It is an easy jaunt down I-25, a short 2.5 hours from Denver, and then a mile west of the Walsenburg exit.
This is Sonic Bloom’s third year at the Hummingbird Ranch. After years of bouncing around and outgrowing spaces, Sonic Bloom has found their home. Picturesque mountains line the western horizon and looking east is a boundless and beautiful high mountain desert. Although you are just off the freeway, it feels as if there is no civilization in sight. Cell services work ok, but airplane mode is the preferred modus operandi. It’s difficult to “tune in, turn on, and drop out” when you’re getting phone notifications about immigrant children trapped in cages.
This year marks my sixth Sonic Bloom and each year keeps getting better. One of my favorite things about Sonic Boom is that it’s about more than just the music. It’s about community, art, co-creation, and conscious vibration. I know, that sounds cheesy AF, but it’s true. Everyone in our crew was PSYCHED for Sonic Bloom, but when hard pressed as to “who are you looking forward to,” or “what is your ‘can’t-miss set” the standard reply was “I’m just super excited to be here and hang out with you guys!”
It seems counterintuitive, but that dynamic means something. It means people come here to kick it without expectation of some “main stage” headliner and all the associated hype. There is no Pretty Lights, no Bassnectar and most importantly, no singular musical experience that defines your festival experience.
This is not to say that the festival is not stacked with an amazing array of musical talent, it is. However, it means that you inherently become more open, more receptive, and more curious about what’s out there. Spending 10 minutes at an unknown artist’s set is a low-risk proposition with high yield results. You might just find your new favorite thing. Not feeing it? Walk 5 minutes up or down the path, run into a friend, grab a drink from a familiar bartender, and bloom your way to the next stage until you find some bass-heavy beats that agree with your current constitution.
And that is just what we did!
Thursday night our crew’s first notes of the festival were brought to us by Brooklyn based BrassTracks, a duo featuring live drums, production, and trumpet. The music was funky, jazzy, with touches of house, hip-hop, and Rn’B. For many in the crew, it was their first BrassTracks experience. Everyone was getting down and enjoying the show. They also gave a solid shout to JaRule, which probably means that they have a twisted sense of humor and a definite appreciation for old-school hip-hop.
It was a perfect way to start the night.
From there, we wandered up the hill to the Hummingbird Stage. The Hummingbird Stage is arguably the best spot at Sonic Bloom to see a show. It feels like a club in the jungle surrounded by thick trees with onlookers in hammocks on one side, artists painting, and psychedelic light installations on the other. The space feels intimate and immediately comfortable which precipitated the thick vibes in there all weekend.
Hummingbird was the perfect setting for Dynohunter’s deep funky blend of tribal tech house. Their set was hypnotic, polished, and professional. It sounds like the love child of Detroit Techno and that signature Colorado electronic sound. Clark Smith (production, sax) commands the stage and directs the band like a true seasoned pro. There is a reason their name is popping up at big festivals and clubs all over the country.
We managed to catch some Desert Dwellers on the way out Thursday night. There were some cool aerialists and acrobatics going on, but we got restless and headed to camp to stay up late and be exhausted for Friday morning.
What I can say, that first night excitement is hard to contain!
We strolled into the fest to say hi to friends on Friday afternoon. We stumbled into Fleeb rocking out with Philish at the Hummingbird stage. It was phunny to hear Phish covers at an almost exclusive electronic music festival, but somehow, it was phitting.
After seeing some friends, we went to check out Evanoff on the main stage. They were having some major technical difficulties at the time. The keyboard player’s whole rig was down. To their credit, they kept the show rolling. Their production heavy backbeats provided enough ooopmh and groove for JJ Evanoff to shred his 80’s inspired hard rocks solos and riffs. They finally got the keys going after a few songs and were back to business.
The sun was blazing so it was time to head back to camp. On the way home, we stopped two Huerfano County Sheriffs to say what’s up and ask them how things were going. We had a nice chat and asked them to take a picture with my friend who was wearing his “Definitely Not On Drugs” tank top.
So how was the security? It was like that. There was some minor presence to keep everybody safe, but everything was maaaaaaaaaad chill bro, just the way it should be. It was the bearded Sherriff’s fifth Bloom and he was excited to be back!
Friday night Keys n’ Krates was on the main stage as we walked in. We caught a little, but truth be told, our camp was full of house heads, so we headed to Golf Clap, our de facto headliner for the night.
Golf Clap absolutely SMASHED Sonic Bloom last year, so expectations were high. They started strong and bassy then switched to some old school deep house vibes. I’m not sure if they thought Bloom wasn’t ready for the bass, (we were ready!), but it seemed like an odd and unnecessary detour from their strong start. After a few too many songs of more melodic deep house, they finally picked it back up. When they dropped Kyle Watson’s Vice Versa over the super crispy Funktion One’s, the field started to bounce. That’s the Golf Clap we were looking for!
Much to the crowd’s delight, they kept in high gear for the rest of the set. Bryan ended the set by dropping Golf Clap’s recently released remix of Autograf’s ‘Dead Soon’ (feat. Lils & Bonsai Mammal). It was a certified banger and sent us all away smiling, even if snobs like me still had something to complain about!
Nightmares on Wax finished out the night with an impressive live band set. It was more engaging and energetic than I expected, and the stage presence alone won the night. Dude was DJing from the sectional couch, the female singer was in a lounge chair sipping wine and slaying vocals. I’ve never seen anything quite like it! It made the mainstage feel like a living room in the best way possible.
We sauntered into Yak Attack on the main stage and immediately dug in. Although I had heard of them before, this was my first live experience; I was impressed. Unlike many acts at the fest, Yak Attack relies on live instrumentation to form their sound, rather than pre-produced beats with live flourishes on top. Characterized by warm keys, technical Dn’B drums and ripping synth solos, they reminded me of an old school Lotus or STS9. Jordan Polovina, one of the hosts of the RE:Search Wednesdays at Cervantes, sat in on cello, which added some excitement to an already enjoyable afternoon set.
Shpongle’s headlining set on Saturday night was bonkers! The music was flanked by Android Jones on the visuals, and a constant parade of dancers, aerialists, trapeze artists, and everything in between. The music, the visuals, the stage, the sounds, it was mesmerizing. When Shpongle dropped ‘Divine Moments of Truth’ with its insidious vocal sample of “LSD DMT, LSD DMT, LSD DMT” a cloud of DMT enveloped the Shpongle crowd. This, my friends, is what you characterize as the “peak” Bloom experience.
Shpongle’s set was the perfect demonstration of how Sonic Bloom’s artistic side really comes alive at night. We left Shpongle with scrambled brains and headed up the hill for some artistic inspiration of our own.
Have you ever been to an art gallery at 3 am dressed in a tutu hanging out with your friends? No? That’s a shame; you should give it a try. Or whatever else you might fancy. That’s the beautiful thing; Bloom is a place to express yourself, to make your own art among the paintings, and all of the other beautiful humans creating the brushstrokes of our lives. There are no official costumes or themes, but everyone seems to have their own creative swagger and flair.
That’s the point.
Make art, do art, be art, enjoy art, it makes all of our lives a lot more colorful.
Ending out the official music of the night was Late Night Radio. The Hummingbird Stage was jammed to the gills for the set, and we ended up among the paintings and the trees squeezed in with a big group of friends. It may have been crowded but the vibes were sublime.
Late Night Radio’s hip-hop funk was crisp and thumping, just the right amount of dirty and clean. LNR invited Kevin from Sunsquabi (guitar) and Clark from Dynohunter (sax) up for a few songs and they really set it off. There are many artists who are trying to pull off the funk/beats/hip-hop feel, but LNR is at the top of the game. Looking around at all the smiling faces around me it was clear Late Night Radio was the right choice for the late night set.
While the official music may have been over for our crew, the party was just getting started at our camp in RV land. We cranked up the generator, connected the CDJs, and had ourselves a private sunrise set courtesy of the sounds of DJ LubeJob. LubeJob laid down 5 hours of super smooth house that attracted the likes of Adam Deich, Thriftworks, and BrassTracks to come kick it at our camp.
Like many things in life, some of the best events are unplanned, and this RV party will go down in the books!
There was music on Sunday but Jesse “Chi” Chestnutt’s workshop on Polarity was the highlight of the day. Stationed in the education yurts at the far end of the Meadow stage, Jesse addressed 30-40 consciousness seekers discussing how to elevate our vibrations.
Jesse highlighted the need to feed light the light, dissolve the ego, resist the dark spirits and emphasized how our brain is meant to serve the spirit. These are familiar concepts even for the semi-woke. However, the discussion soon delved much deeper than that. Jesse shared about some recent losses and revealed a vulnerability that takes a lot of courage to share in front of a crowd.
Jesse opened up the floor for questions and the crowd was eager to inquire, comment, and share. A 24-year-old girl shared her experience on DMT and tried to interpret the meanings within the group. It was the perfect anecdote to a weekend filled with the smells of mothballs wafting through the air. Jesse recognized that DMT could be a tool but that it can also be an unnecessary crutch in the quest for higher consciousness.
It was a thought-provoking workshop and mind-expanding complement to the music and raging over the weekend.
It would be easy to argue that Sonic Bloom has a Burning Man vibe, but I think it is something entirely its own.
The cultivation of the stellar music, painters, dancers, aerialists, sculptures, light installations, gong domes, education yurts, practical design, and top-notch production was nothing short of amazing. There is no carbon copy for authenticity and the feeling that you have reached your forever-festy home.
Sonic Bloom exemplifies what it means to be a Colorado festival. It has the right amount chill, the right amount trill, and all of the feels in between.
It’s a place to party, but it’s also a place for self-growth, reflection, and expansion. But don’t take my word for it. Go to Sonic Bloom, Be Your Fest Self and experience the magic yourself!