5 Reasons YOUtopia Was The Best Summer-ish Festival in Southern California


YOUtopia, the San Diego regional burning man event took place in the beautiful mountains of Pauma Valley last weekend. The experience was unforgettable and truly one for the books. I spent the summer bouncing back and forth between raves, festivals, and one-off events. While every event held their own unique value and gave me chills in their own way - there was something different about YOUtopia. It could have been the people, the music or the art. It could have been the robot DJ giraffe or the hippie hay ride and the connections with people I made on it. Maybe it was even the freedom I was able to have and that I was able to give my child.

Perhaps it was all of these things packed into the Rhino art car and topped off with the Banana Jungle Juice of the Monkey Bar. I may not ever figure out why this event had such a huge impact on my decision to name it the best festival in Southern California this summer (it's 90F... so yes, I am allowed to call October a summer season at this point) -- but here are 5 reasons that greatly influenced the overall thought.

As a community, we proved that you don't have to commit cultural appropriation to have fun or make a statement.

Photo Cred: Seven Playa Portraits by Ben Tang


There wasn't a single Native American bonnet (headdress) seen on the YOUtopia grounds. There was no need for it -- there was a certain level of respect for the natives who venerate their culture, and work so diligently to preserve their traditions. Nobody felt the need to come into the event bastardizing an entire culture in the name of "fashion." Tell me, little ravers. Why does EDM culture feel the need to belittle a tradition that should be held sacred? Why, why, why?Change it up, kids. Take your idea and create something new out of it. Something less insulting, perhaps. This chick obviously knows whats up. Kudos, YOUtopians. You are all winners.

Festivals are not 100% about the music, they're not supposed to be... and that's okay.

Photo Cred: Harmonic Light Photography


Everyone who is still fighting that whole "festivals are ONLY about the music blah blah blah..." battle -- you need to sit down and shut your mouth, now. Please. Here's the deal. Festivals have never been solely about the music. Lineups are not the beginning and end of the world... and DJ's should not be the reason why you chose to get into this lifestyle. The music is merely the soundtrack your experience. Shocking, I know.

Regional burning man events like YOUtopia encompass the reality of a festival -- the people, the art, the togetherness and the bridge over cultural and social divides. Electronic music, classic rock, drums and acoustic instruments made from natural materials were the vibration of the event. And their presence was beautiful and welcomed. But it was not the meaning of the event. The meaning of the festival was the experience we created with one another. Stop complaining about the music, the lineup, and that you are "only in this life for the music." You know it's so much more than that. Embrace it and be happy.

There is no age too young or too old to appreciate electronic music culture... Age is just a number.

Photo Cred: Frank Giustino

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Who says we have to grow up? Who says that our kids can't enjoy the same things we do? We have evolved so tremendously and beautifully as a society -- yet these two subjects are still so taboo. I can't tell you how many times I've been told to grow up. Probably as many times as I've been asked why as a parent I would "subject my child" to this world.

Well... because 1) I'm too awesome to grow up and be a boring dud. 2) My kid is too awesome to skip out on this world. This world where we are not judged by appearances, background or social class. This world where we are encouraged to use our creativity, our imagination and our individuality. This world where we are asked to gift, not to advertise. We are supported through the community instead of put down by it. So I say... Why not?

We came, we loved, we danced, and then we left. Know what we didn't leave? ANYTHING that proved we were ever there. #LeaveNoTrace

Photo Cred: Stephen Paynie Payne


The most crucial principal -- leave no trace. Larry Harvey said it best when establishing the Burning Man principals... "Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them."

If we could repeat this act of community throughout every event -- we would be set! Sure, this concept isn't true to just YOUtopia, at this point it's pretty widespread. But when we can come and play, and leave our space as if we were never there -- that's a huge success. It's at simple as picking up water bottles or cigarette butts you walk across at a rave, a festival or in general. Festival sustainability, pack-in, pack-out and leave no trace practices could benefit us hugely as a culture if we just take the time to do it.

We valued the immediate experience. We fell in love with ourselves and with each other- actively participating with our environment and the natural world.

Photo Cred: Skye Sadjadi &Corrie Novak


What made this event truly special? Everyone there was honestly and fully living in the moment. People weren't there to take pictures of people taking pictures of the stages. They weren't there to prove something to their twitter followers or to try and make the DJ their baby daddy. Nobody came to make physical memories without having a recollection of their physical experiences. We came for the dancing, the art, the community and the positive energy. We came together for love, acceptance and one hell of a party. Everyone should experience this, just once.

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