Three writers. One festival.
Perspective is everything, so when Listen Up Denver! set out to cover the second year of Arise Music Festival, we made sure we were stocked up. The weekend at Sunrise Ranch included more than 100 musical acts as well as 100+ workshops, a deluge of artists, installations and crafters, a barrage of food purveyors, and of course, camping.With such a wide array of sensory delights to document, we thought it best to send a team to convey the full experience of Arise. In truth, we could write a book about all the things we experienced, but after all, we are a music review site, so here’s the long and short of it…
Emma: From the moment we walked through the main gate, there was an overwhelming sense of community alive. The art and craft vendors were aplenty, a woman’s paradise for finding her [organic] goddess dressings and festival attire. Bead For Life, Conscious Alliance and a number of local non-profit organizations were set up for the weekend, collecting donations of all kinds. Last but certainly not least, there was delicious, local food aplenty, prepared to nourish our souls for the long weekend ahead.
Jon: Arise is more than just another music festival. Alongside groovy space-beats, speedy bluegrass and epic New Orleans funk, workshops and lectures enlightened throughout the weekend, incredible art installations dotted the rolling hills in Eden Valley and a vibrant, socially conscious crowd danced together under the glow of a super moon. When we arrived on Friday morning the festival grounds were still sparsely populated with families and festivalgoers eager to make the 2nd year of Arise twice as large as the first.
Emma: Towards sunset, Tribal Seeds brought their Reggae-Dub music to the main stage with some more well-known songs such as “The Garden.” The Dub from the main stage could be heard from all over the festival grounds so I took the opportunity to explore a little further and counted five stages in total. The yoga tent/stage was my personal favorite. From the crowd up there you were overlooking all the other goings-on at the picturesque Sunrise Ranch.
Jeanette: Beats Antique’s set started off on a fairly upbeat note, with a fair helping of their most popular songs mixed with some of their newer material. As far as the stage performance was concerned, Zoe Jakes’ choreography was beyond impressive, and often had a burlesque vibe that was simply fabulous. The first half of their set was uplifting and playful, however in the later half of their performance some of their visual graphics got pretty dark, in a fire and brimstone kind of way, and the music got darker and edgier at times too. Still, the entire set was technically well-delivered and appropriately well-received.
Jon: The Polish Ambassador closed out the main stage with a massive dance party and glowing lights. If you aren’t familiar with the World’s Funkiest Diplomat, David Sagulski, I highly recommend donning a one piece and turning his music on full blast. The party continued in the campground and around the art exhibits well into the early morning hours.
Emma: The music truly never stops at Arise Festival, and Saturday got going early with Durango’s Elder Grown taking over the main stage first followed by YarmonyGrass founder Andrew McConathy and the Drunken Hearts. After us Arise-ers had gotten a day’s full dosage of string music, Denver’s favorite socially-conscious Hip-Hop duo The Reminders took the main stage as a golden hue stretched over the mountains.
Taking my break in between sets to grab a few fair-trade gifts for my mom and sister, I was astounded by the amount of local talent there was at Arise Festival. This ever-growing community of musicians, artists, craftsmen, social activists [and more] is something to be recognized. And, in due time, another community formed right onstage before us, materializing as the Everyone Orchestra.
Jeanette:When the superband Everyone Orchestra came out around 6:45 on the Eagle Stage, the whole festival had convened to participate. Arise saw another lively and funky set from these notorious characters, which, of course, are always comprised of an array of talented local artists that hail from other bands, and is always led by Matt Butler, their fearless conductor/MC/madman. Everyone boogied hard for a solid hour or so, the audiences’ mood got popped up a couple notches, and when it was over we were left itching for more.
Emma:Arise must have caught on to the great idea of the “interlocking” music stages, because each day, as evening approached, the main stage and the smaller stage right next door switched off with performances, and not once did the music stop. After the Everyone Orchestra had taken their leave, right next door the band Stonefed picked up the music swiftly where it had left off.
Jeanette:The highlight of the night, for me, was The Infamous Stringdusters‘ set. As we approached the main stage to find our spot, we heard the announcer gal yell, “The Infinite Stringdusters!” Everyone giggled—not sure if it was on purpose, but amusing none the less. The sky was growing dark and rumbling, and as we waited for the Dusters to come out, lightning flashed in the giant gray cloud in the not-too-far distance behind the stage. After that, we were treated to the best kind of lightshow to accompany any musical performance—the kind only mother nature can provide. Lightning split the sky in quick flashes, spreading across the atmosphere above. The music on stage was equally explosive. The group played famously, as always, showcasing their massive string-plucking abilities. Off the set list, highlights included a cover of the Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower” “Mountain Town,” a very solemn but beautiful tribute to Jerry with “He’s Gone,” and of course, they treated all their fans to a dutiful “Colorado.”
Denver band Yamn took the stage next. The psychedelic Jam band is really getting technical these days—and pretty edgy too. I am always impressed with their musical complexity, but it was a bit intense after the more relaxing sounds of The Stringdusters.
Emma: Headliner Galactic came shortly after onto the main stage, and fresh from the CrescentCity, were ready to party hard. Special guests Lyrics Born and Chali 2na (Jurassic 5, Ozomatli) helped the New Orleans-based band bring the party to full climax, and that they did without a doubt. After a killer cover of Jurassic 5’s “What’s Golden,” the band brought out beautiful and talented Maggie on lead vocals. The Arise crowd flocked to the main stage in mass, and got down to the southern Funk sounds that lasted until well past midnight. For those whose first time it was to witness the greatness that is Galactic, they were thinking, “Wait, who DAT?” And for folks who are well-versed in the music, such as myself, Galactic blew our minds yet again.
Jeanette: Chali was on point—flowing with a lyrical ease that would put most Top 40 rappers to shame in a live setting, and the Hip-Hop element made for a fun twist on the usual (awesome) Galactic.
Emma: We caught some of the set from Bonfire Dub featuring Elephant Revival’s Bridget Law before heading to campsite to pop a bottle of Prosecco in preparation for the dance party that the Magic Beans were to shortly host for us. The majority of the music, known to fans as “Space Funk,” is original-Bean, but tonight the crowd was treated to a groove-tastic version of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf.” The Magic Beans has gained quite the fan following over the past couple of years and thus, their set drew the biggest crowd of any non-headlining band, and deservedly so, since I’ve personally been a lover of the Space Funk since I first caught the Beans a year or two ago – so I get the hype.
Jon: Sunday was highlighted by the appearance of legendary activist and folk singer, Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. After a long night of dancing it was absolute bliss to sit in the Emissaries of Divine Light Dome in the afternoon and hear Peter, his daughter Bethany and Rufus Cappadocia serenade a small crowd with “Blowing in the Wind. “ Peter and family made another appearance later that night on the main stage. Unfortunately, this planned Moment of Unity went way beyond the allotted time and cut into the set for Nahko and Medicine for the People. The dominos fell quickly after that into a frustratingly short set for what was supposed to be the highlight of the weekend in Grateful Grass.
Emma: I’m not sure how or why this schedule mishap occurred, but what I do know is that those looking forward to the Grateful Grass set before heading home for an early Monday morning felt disappointed and frankly, disrespected.
Regardless, Keller Williams is one of those guys who have an unfailingly positive attitude – a guy whose positivity is contagious. So, Williams and the Grateful Grass crew walked onstage with smiles on their faces in excitement anticipating the next hour of music they were ready to perform. The crew, consisting of Allie Kral, Billy Nershi, Reid Mathis and Williams himself, took position in a line across the front of the stage and played through their short but so sweet set. The set went something like, “Feel Like A Stranger,” “Dire Wolf,” Bob Dylan’s “Tom Thumb’s Blues,” “Candyman” and “Eyes of The World.” Beautiful Bridget Law joined the gang, taking her position with her fiddle alongside fellow fiddler Allie Kral. Then came “Man Smart (Woman Smarter),” “Ripple,” and an encore of “Scarlet Begonias.”
Jon: Arise Music Festival is world-renowned for steadfast commitment to sustainability, socially conscious behavior and an unmatched showcase of artwork. The festival has certainly grown from its inaugural year on the ranch and the dedication of the staff and volunteers showed around every corner. I’ve never seen more cleanly festival grounds in my life and the smiles from each and every blessed soul that was fortunate enough to attend this gathering in Eden Valley will stay etched across my mind. See you next year Arise Music Festival.