Collective Kindness And Magic Thrive At What The Festival
August 1st, 2015Guest Contributor
A good music festival provides a momentary escape from the harsh and menial reality of everyday life. A great music festival provides an alternative to that reality. Through a shared experience of music and art, our mistakes and accomplishments are expunged, our fears and dreams set aside, and our prejudices and factory settings reset, leaving us with the uncanny ability to see each other and the world with a resounding clarity. What The Festival showed me a collective kindness, responsibility, and respect that I thought impossible prior to my experience. I met some of the most amazing people, enjoyed fantastic music and interactive art displays, and left feeling refreshed with life lessons that will extend far beyond the festival grounds.
Upon entering the festival, we drove down a dusty, bumpy road to our campsite. Signs along the way explained the basic code of conduct expected of festival-goers, the most important rule of which was the “pack in, pack out” rule. Having never attended a camping festival, I still expected to see litter progressively stack up throughout the weekend. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see a festival-wide, communal respect for the scenic grounds of Wolf Run Ranch. In fact, this rule was so respected that my longtime friend and roommate – who had never been a strong supporter of the environment – pulled me aside to tell me he was going to change his ways. He was so impressed by the collective accountability, that he realized he too could play a bigger part in making the world a better, more beautiful place. With that mentality strongly in play, the festival grounds remained in the same condition throughout the festival.
After getting our camp set up, we entered the festival through what was an orderly and unimposing security checkpoint. As the sun set, we were immediately greeted by an ethereal view of the towering Mount Hood and dozens of vending tents. Although we were excited to get to many performances, we decided to explore and map the festival grounds for our own peace of mind.
Adjacent to the entrance, we walked past the Splash Stage that provided relief from the morning and afternoon heat with its wading pool. Just past the vending area and down a slight hill, the Equinox Stage offered a naturally acoustic arena to sit down, lie down, or otherwise enjoy performances. Back up the hill, we found the Effin and Main Stage; both of which hosted the majority of the headliners amidst a very open and unencumbered space. Between those two stages, the largest disco ball in the Northwest marked the silent disco. Back down a slight incline and through the first of two possible entrances, we walked past the Casbah Hookah lounge and past the beginning of the Illuminated forest trail. The trail took us past a variety of stunning interactive art displays and staging areas including the Starlight Grove, the Dragon Stage, the LOL Stage, and the Shinto A Go Go. Mapping complete, my friend and I returned to camp to start drinking and preparing for the night ahead. Although all of the stages were uniquely entertaining, the most memorable spot for me was the silent disco.
My best friend from college and I have never seen completely eye-to-eye on music. While we both respect and enjoy certain aspects of each others’ musical preferences, he is a hip-hop guy at heart and hesitant when it comes to electronic music. I’ve always told him that there is a niche for everyone in electronic music, you just have to find it. I’m particularly partial to electro-funk, and as my roommate found out, he is particularly fond of trap. What was amazing about the silent disco is that it really represented the range of tastes present at the festival. The silent disco had two channels – the red channel and the blue channel – playing trap and funk respectively. My roommate bounced to the red channel and I grooved out to the blue channel. Despite our very different musical tastes, we got to jam to our own brand of music in the same space. One of the things I appreciated most of all – What the Festival did a fantastic job of catering to different music tastes while simultaneously exposing its festival-goers to something new.
Over the course of the next three nights, I proceeded to have the most magical experience I could have ever imagined. A friend I made in the Illuminated Forest said something that stuck with me, and I think perfectly sums up the vibe of the entire weekend. He said “When you make eye contact with someone, just go over and check out what that person’s about.” With everyone being so receptive to meeting new people and enjoying their experience together, I did just that. The festival culminated on the third and final night, as I stood at the main stage for Odesza. Fucked up, exhausted, and surrounded by dozens of wonderful friends I made along the way, I smiled; feeling more myself than I had in years. If you get a chance, go to What The Festival – it just might change your life.
Written by guest contributor Alex Ross. Photos c/o What The Festival’s Facebook page.