Music festivals have become far more than a gathering of bands and have morphed into a sub-cultural phenomenon that emphasize collaboration, ritual and enlightenment and strive to leave attendees transformed.
This is the rise of the transformational festival, a distinctive brand of music festival that provides far more than just music. And on Aug. 14, Colorado will see a one-of-a-kind festival in Loveland at the 350-acre sustainable Sunrise Ranch.
The first annual ARISE Music Festival runs from Aug. 14-18 and will feature musical headliners like Michael Franti & Spearhead, Xavier Rudd, Kelly & The Keels, Zap Mama and others.
A diverse array of musical guests will perform on the four different temporary stages, and Sunrise’s permanent 400-seat domed theater will host internationally recognized speakers like actress and activist Daryl Hannah and environmentalist Julia Butterfly Hill, according to ARISE producer Paul Bassis.
Bassis, who had taken a break from festival planning, decided to return to the business when the idea was formed with a group of music professionals.
“Many of our team have worked on festivals all over the country,” Bassis says.
The theater will also feature films and workshops. ARISE will be split into theme camps including the Hemp Village, Kids Village and Organic Food and Beverage Village. More than 100 bands, DJs, presenters, artists, activists and filmmakers will come together with, Bassis explains, the purpose of entertaining and empowering.
Cirque-du-Soleil-esque group Quixotic will perform in the evening on Thursday, Aug. 15. Photo: Anthony Magliano at Quixotic
“I think that the intention behind this might go even a little bit deeper than transformational,” Bassis says. “If I really think about what that means, and we have, if you come away from an experience transformed, the real questions is how does that manifest itself beyond the festival.”
Bassis expects that the speakers and documentaries will inspire people, not just at the festival, but beyond it.
One of said speakers is 13-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the youth voice for environmental non-profit Earth Guardians. Martinez will speak about his dedication to the future of the environment as well as his deep connection to the earth, which stems from his upbringing in the Aztec tradition.
“I’ve really educated myself about the environmental issues that are going on today, but with all of this knowledge, I find it very hard not to act,” says Martinez. “People all over the world live their jolly lives while the Earth is falling apart.”
ARISE Music Festival has collaborated with Ozo Coffee to create the ARISE Blend. The coffee will be sold at the festival and its proceeds will benefit the Earth Guardians.
Martinez, who will speak about the negative effects of fracking and GMOs, hopes that his influence will encourage action, but he will settle for awareness.
“I want my kids to walk in the mountains and swim in the ocean, the way I did,” he says.
Sunrise Ranch, the setting of the festival | Photo: Tierro
But Martinez is not the only youth voice that will be heard at ARISE. Boulderite Jaden Carlson, a 12-year-old guitarist and singer, will take the stage with the Jaden Carlson Band.
“I was at a Michael Franti and Spearhead show with my mom and her friend and I looked up at the stage and I said, ‘That’s what I want to do,’” she says. “I got a guitar the next week and started lessons.”
Another Boulder resident, Jamie Janover of Janover & reSunator will speak about the Unified Field Theory of physics and the ways it connects people and cultures to their universe, as well as performing his eclectic mix of acoustic hammer dulcimer and electronic music. He is a devout festivalgoer and has performed with popular festival bands like Phish, Bela Fleck, The String Cheese Incident and G. Love & Special Sauce.
“I think that festivals are actually very important mechanism for society and for our culture to exchange information and evolve,” Janover says. “I like to imagine that we’re pushing our culture toward a festival earth where the whole idea is to have fun and to make everything beautiful.”
University of Colorado Boulder graduate Christopher Caligaris of live instrumental electronic bass project Godlazer is also no stranger to the collaborative phenomenon.
“These festivals are moving toward this immersive kind of experience where it’s also about [the attendee’s] own journey, their own soul, their own evolution as a person,” Caligaris says. “It’s the only way we can create subculture — when do we really come together as a society and hang out? The only times that we do are these big gatherings.”
Caligaris has some qualms with the excessive and dangerous drug use often associated with these festivals, especially electronic ones, but is somewhat optimistic that ARISE will move away from that.
“I don’t know how we can work together to create safer and more enriching festivals but I think that’s what ARISE is trying to do,” Caligaris says.
And perhaps, if ARISE lives up to the hopes of its collaborators, the festival will create a safer and more enriching world by educating, empowering and inspiring action in its attendees.
“Action is the antidote to despair,” Bassis says. ”The ARISE Festival perhaps could provide some of that antidote to the poison of despair.”
The ARISE Music Festival runs from Wednesday, Aug. 14 to Sunday, Aug. 18, at Sunrise Ranch. Visit http://arisefestival.com for a complete schedule. 100 Sunrise Ranch Road, Loveland, 970-679-4200.