ARISE Music Festival truly blew us away last weekend. I went in with average expectations that were shattered into beautiful bits of surprise, awe and inspiration throughout the weekend. This has become a staple on our festival circuit for years to come. We kept our mind open to a variety of music and experiences, which resulted in a gathering of knowledge we want to share with the world, and specifically the festival community. I highly recommend traveling to ARISE from any region of the country, because this festival is that special. If you live in Colorado and love festivals then there is no excuse for missing this one.
I’ve personally had a fairly slow summer with regards to festival attendance this summer compared with years past. However, each has represented something completely unique and special. In no way could I put one above the other. Coachella, LIB and now ARISE have all resonated with my musical and communal tastes. ARISE proved to be it’s own beast that impacted my life for the better. This is what we learned.
1. The Polish Ambassador is Capable of Delivering a Headlining Performance
This guy brings as much or more energy to a set than anyone in the game. He danced harder than any one of us in the crowd for an hour and a half, and we were dancing our asses off. His set was easily the Day 1 highlight for most people at the festival. People in the festival campgrounds were screaming “Polish!” into the early morning hours of Saturday. This guy has the talent and the stage presence that are worthy of a headlining set at ANY festival. He also led a permaculture action day on Thursday before the festival. He inspires everyone he meets and everyone who has the privilege of attending one of his live shows. Well done, sir.
2. ARISE Takes Care of its People
From Artist to GA attendee everyone felt important at this festival. I personally had the pleasure of beating the daytime heat in a shaded media area just across the street from the festival. This place was a five minute walk from my camp, and it had cold water, internet, couches, and an interview room for media personnel to enjoy. I was personally greeted by both media coordinators on site, Charlie and Amy, who remembered my name and made a point to ask me about my experience each day.
Artists, staff and guests were provided hot meals twice a day in an indoor environment adjacent to the press room. Each day backstage at the main stage artists, staff, and VIP attendees enjoyed free coconut water and a happy hour with complimentary adult beverages just as the festival grounds were cooling off. Water, showers, massages, ice, yoga, and shade were readily available in GA camping where most attendees were camped including myself. Every single person I spoke with from artist to GA fan were impressed with the level of professionalism and efficiency this festival provided.
3. Porta Potties Can Remain Clean Throughout a Festival
You have every right to think I’m full of shit unless you were at ARISE and can bare witness to this statement. This is worth mentioning because I’ve never seen this happen at any festival. At no point in any of my 10+ trips to the portapotties was I grossed out. Each unit had hand sanitizer and a separate toilet seat cleaner dispenser that everyone seemed to utilize. It was eerily clean in these places that usually remind you of what the pits of hell must be like.
4. Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and Larry Keel are a Couple of Talented MoFos
As far as pure musicianship is concerned, these guys stole the show. Larry Keel and his band of all stars that included Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band) Dave Watts (The Motet), Joe Lessard (Head for the Hills), and Emily Clark ran through renditions of Bertha, Franklin’s Tower and Tennessee Jed. The Jerry Garcia tribute definitely left Dead Heads and casual fans alike dancing and cheering throughout the Sunday afternoon set. Here is a link to the full set on Soundcloud Larry Keel’s All Star Tribute to Jerry Garcia at ARISE 2015. The boys from JRAD also brought the class with their headlining performance on Saturday night. Highlights included Truckin and Eyes of the World, but the entire set was noteworthy. It’s a treat to see and hear these groups playing tribute to The Grateful Dead with such class and showmanship. Also, there were no repeated songs between the two sets.
5. Colorado Has a Surplus of Great Music Residing Within the State
Dragondeer, The Magic Beans, Gipsy Moon, Earth Guardians and Mikey Thunder. Have you heard of them? Probably not. Should you check them out the next chance you have? Absolutely yes. I see a lot of live music, you should probably just take my word for it and go see these guys. You’re welcome!
6. Yoga and Other Healing Experiences Draw a Better Crowd
Music festivals in general provide the hardest partiers around a space for getting after it for three to four consecutive days. While ARISE certainly had its share of PACs (Party Ass Cats), it also provided a space for families, yogis, healers, community organizers, and forward thinkers. These people help create a scene that transcends the usual festival scene. Yoga isn’t really my thing, and I didn’t attend one class throughout the weekend. However, I did speak with people who taught classes and attended classes that reveled in those experiences. I appreciate any type of activity that promotes optimism and the idea of improving yourself whether it resonates with me or not. This festival was certainly a more wholesome place with these types of communities having a place on the grounds.
7. Always Catch an Emancipator Set
8. Girls Run The World
Beyonce was right. Rising Appalachia, The Shook Twins, Bridget and Bonnie of Elephant revival played sets that furthered this statement. If you don’t fall in love with these ladies every time their lips get close to a microphone, then you must be deeply in love with someone else. These ladies are musical goddesses and their songwriting captures the listener and sends them on a journey they won’t soon forget.
9. Edward Sharpe was a Sad Sight
The only negative of the entire weekend was Sunday’s headlining performance by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Alexander Ebert seems to be on a downward and disconnected spiral that was visible to even the casual fan. I’ve seen the band four times over the past five years, and Jane’s departure has certainly affected this group’s chemistry, which was virtually non-existent at ARISE as Alexander stumbled around the stage. He was clearly intoxicated (sometimes with a drink in hand), and he failed to connect with anyone from his band or from the audience.
As a fan this was hard to swallow. No one on stage showed even the slightest bit of energy or happiness throughout the set. The band couldn’t even get through their wildly successful track “Home” without Alex stopping them to mumble some nonsense into the microphone. Right now, this group isn’t worth your time or your money. I hope the talented leader of this band gets his shit together soon, because what’s happening on stage currently isn’t fair to his fellow band members or the fans. He’s a disrespectful disgrace.
10. People LOVED ARISE. Including Us.
This is worth reiterating: Local feel, immense talent, and fantastic people! Thank you ARISE! We’ll see you in 2016.