Among the trees, water, and great outdoors of Northern California and nestled by the banks of the Eel River, Northern Nights got funky, fresh and weird for three straight days. Dust flew, hammocks swayed in the breeze and thousands flocked to Piercy, California for the fourth edition of the festival. Magical experiences like this don't happen often, but when they do the memories are what matters most.
With an all star lineup from top to bottom, Northern Nights was a fixture in my mind since I first laid eyes on the lineup. As a veteran festival attendee, their remains very few artists that I have yet to see or have had the chance to experience for the first time. From my early days at HARD Summer and Coachella, to the transition into more boutique and off the beaten path festivals like Desert Hearts, DirtyBird Campout, Lightning in a Bottle and SnowGlobe, this festival offered something completely different than what I had previously experienced. Now that I am also more prone to the more "transformational" events, I have noticed common threads between what I used to attend and what I currently gravitate to. With an emphasis on the lineup and everything else falling into place, the music dictates the vibes and feel of a festival. With a more forward thinking curation and focus on live acts and underground artists, a more mature and responsible crowd usually is in attendance. This was definitely the case with Northern Nights.
The weekend consisted of nothing but pure and beautiful anomalies and oxymorons, to say the least. After a total of 1,500 miles traveled after it was all said and done, it's safe to say Northern Nights was a trip. Upon arrival we attempted to set up our tent amidst the night and the trees, but adventures were already taking place. In a ditched effort, we made our way to witness mastermind Amon Tobin manifest his Two Fingers Drum and Bass set to a lively and mystified crowd. Amon Tobin has been on my bucket list for a while now and I was truly in awe of his every move.
Up next was a live set from Gorgon City. With only a few thousand people in attendance, this was by far one of the most intimate sets Gorgon City has played and the set remained the talk of the festival for the entirety of the weekend. One giant dance party ensued during their set as live vocalists graced the stage and won us over. Finesse, energy and a driving force exuded the trio of musicians onstage. Stunning precision and execution topped off a memorable performance and it was such a treat to see such a top-notch act in this type of setting. A 3am DJ set at the Silent Disco served as an encore to their live set and yet again they far exceeded expectations. The setting for both of these sets proved to be unlike any other and the rhythm and the bass kept us up all night till the sun came up.
Each day started with a sunrise. This also signaled the end of my day. While Team No Sleep was in full effect and after finally being able to setup the tent, a disco nap was in order on Saturday morning until the mid afternoon. We camped in a prime location among the redwoods and had ample shade to hide us from the heat of the day. Admittedly this was the one festival where I have been able to sleep the most during the day and what a change of pace that was. To be able to rest up without being drained from the heat was essential in carrying the party into each morning.
With Saturday now underway and after some rest and relaxation in the river with SNBRN and Lafa Taylor, the sun began to set and the night began to creep in from the shadows of the mountains.
Live art installations were littered through the festival grounds as was ample merch and food options. My only gripe would be the separation of the main stage from the rest of the festival. This caused some confusion and frustration by not allowing a fluid and easy accessible route to go along with no inside or outside beverages allowed upon entry or exit.
As XYLO graced the main stage, the wine was flowing and so were the vibes. From friends new and old, familiar faces would pop up out of nowhere and you would find yourselves hours later covered in dust and a smile from ear to ear. One of my favorite aspects of the entire festival was the clutchness of the Leafly Tree Lounge. As long as you had in your possession your California 215 medical marijuana card, you could purchase weed, try some free dabs and taste test different strains of herb. A truly inspirational aspect to add to any festival. I believe we need to start seeing more of this.
Saturday night fell and so did the drops of bass throughout the evening. GRIZ was a sight to see as his raw and funky style graced the main stage. Saxophone blaring, the crowd was in unison and agreement of his throw down. Things continued to get weird at the Silent Disco as the red and blue lights from the headsets bobbed and swayed through the morning. Before I knew it, I found myself yet again in the midst of another Northern Nights sunrise as it peaked above the mountain top and onto the festival encampment.
And on the third day the sun rose once more and the final day of Northern Nights rose with it. With TROYBOI slated later in the evening I knew I had to prepare myself. After attaining one or two more disco naps throughout the day, I began to gather my energy and mindset for the night to come. I eventually made my way to the Lemon Tree stage for the sunset. RIXTA had the honor of closing the stage for the weekend and after overcoming some technical issues, delivered a perfect set on the banks of the river. Dubstep rang off the shores of rocks and bounced around off the edges of the mountains and trees. As the sun went down, the moon came out and all the little creatures danced into the night. As I heard Claptone thumping in the distance a few hours later in the comfort of my tent, I fell asleep to the laughter and clamoring of fellow campers who were doused with grime.
Monday morning came in a blur and we packed up camp and headed home. As I drove along the 101 South from sun up to sun down towards Santa Barbara, I reflected on the journey that had just seemed like a dream. The 4 day excursion showed me that life is full of surprises at every turn and as long as you are present, you never know what awaits around each corner.