The Ever-Perplexing Paradox of Existence… and Coachella

 

I have just returned from Coachella. These are words I never imagined would dance upon my lips. But, life is funny like that, isn’t it? Things change. You change. Everything is changing.

 

I never once thought I would live in Los Angeles, either. Yet— here I am. I was always under the impression LA was full to the brim of soulless, shirtless narcissistic toolbags.  This notion was based merely on a hunch, having never actually spent much time there.

 

Since moving to LA, I can now confirm this rumor as truth. Though, there is, in fact, a lot of particularly cool shit here capable of elevating your dream life to the next level.

 

And to be quite honest, the same goes for Coachella. Trust me, I know what you’re thinking.  “Ew. What a basic fecking betch!” But I’ll be the first to admit that the infinite sea of poor sweatshop fashion choices tickled my gag reflexes.

 

I watched a woman eat a bag of chips with a fork. I nearly had an aneurysm from the infinite selfie captures. The monstrosity of litter left behind actually made me weep.

 

People were entitled as fuck. Someone eloquently told my girlfriend they were “gonna fuck [her] up” if she didn’t “get the fuck out of the way.” Stay classy, Coachella!

 

This is the type of shit one would expect from attending such an event, perhaps the greatest gathering of trust funds the world has ever seen. Yet, despite the next level of fuckery, no ‘bos were thrown.

 

What did fuck me up in the best of ways, was the overwhelming amount of women and people of color speaking their truth like absolute royalty. It was a strange and beautiful thing to see such diversity in what seemingly was the epicenter of white privilege.

 

In these bizarre times, it seems the empire has fallen. Basic bitches were de-throned. Those once forced to the back of the bus are now forerunners of a movement of empowerment, making and changing history right before our eyes.

 

Leading this crusade is no other than the Queen Bee herself, Beyonce. Yes, I said it. Judge me, hipsters. But- if you saw what I saw that spectacular Saturday night, you wouldn’t dare.

 

The drumline, the twirling, the twerking… the stank faces! Few things excite me more than a beautiful woman unafraid to look ugly. My southern belle-self was transported back to Mardi Gras and football season and I have never been so proud to be from Louisiana. Who dat?! Bee dat!

 

In addition to being utterly mesmerized, an unsolved mystery was decoded this night. I now know the source of Hurricane Katrina to be undoubtedly rooted in Beyonce’s wild and whirling luscious locks. I have never seen anything like it! I was blown away, literally!

 

But more importantly, the testament to black magic and power was of a caliber I have also never had the privilege to bear witness to. The most creative and talented people, all born with less privilege than I, simply because of the color of their skin, were on the biggest stage with an astronomical audience, owning their power more than most… more than any.

 

One would likely not expect this from a stereotypical event such as Coachella. But the thing about stereotypes is they begin to lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. And that simply is the joy of life. Everything is a paradox. Even Coachella.

 

Remember that, the next time you choose to spew hate towards something you may not understand. Because rarely are things exactly as we may think. Tap into your inner queen and ask, what would Beyonce do?

 

As the Queendom rises and tears drip from my cheeks, I am ecstatic to be a woman amongst these potent times. It is our duty as women, as people, to share our truth and empower ourselves and others. In moments of self-doubt and negative talk, look yourself in the mirror and repeat,  “I am the dragon breathing fire. Beautiful mane I’m the lion.” Now go, and release your roar! Don’t be afraid to get dirty, because “a little sweat ain’t never hurt nobody.”

 

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A Total Eclipse of the Heart

What happens when thousands upon thousands of people journey to the forest in the middle of Oregon to bear witness to the celestial spectacle of our lifetime? Magic… that’s what. Having journeyed to many a festival in my day, I must say- nothing quite compared to the Global Eclipse Gathering.

The rumors are true. Teamwork makes the dream work. And this colossal communal experience was nothing short of a wild, wet dream come true. Each of us embarked on this soul pilgrimage, traveling from all over the globe with our unique intentions, varying expectations, yet- all heading the same place. There’s so much beauty in that.

Getting there is no cake walk. In fact, once you’ve made your way through the pearly gates, it ain’t exactly a breeze. It’s more like getting caught in the tailwind of a psychedelic Tasmanian devil. But, this is what makes Symbiosis what it is. Its essence is rooted in chaos. And like Nietzsche says, “you gotta have chaos within to give birth to a dancing star.”  

And beneath those glimmering Oregon stars, I danced more in those few days than I have in years. Shout out to the Moon Stage, particularly  El Papachango, Releece, Tiger Fresh, and a 6-hour Deep Medi Showcase for making my ass do things I didn’t know it could. I was moved, both literally and figuratively, perhaps more than I ever have been in the totality of my existence. And though there may be some, while buried in their heaps of jade, who scoff at the idea of being transformed by a transformational festival, there’s a reason the name reigns.

One needed a doctorate degree to read the schedule, so I immediately tossed the notion of following an itinerary to the wind and fully submitted to the flow. Yee-Haw! Since I was less concerned with where to be and when, and more consumed with making sure I wasn’t peeing on a rattlesnake or falling down a deep ravine, I simply pulled up my swag rag dusk mask, courtesy of Peace Fits, and let my earholes and eyeballs lead the way. My orifices did not disappoint!

An act that blew me away like no other was Pendulum People; PendulumPeople

Brooklyn-based cøsmic crew consisting of Nova Zef, Soraya Lundy, LVDF,  and Justin Conte that take the meaning of next level… to the next level. Amongst a stage made up of vibrant peacocks and butterfly dragon heads, we were instantly hypnotized by the magic these creatures possess. Their astral aesthetic and entrancing beats evoked an expressive exorcism of sorts. Truth bombs exploding from the lips of Nova, a galactic gangstress, high priestess that together with her powerful posse, incited a riot within.

Their choreography and wardrobe are truly out of this universe. With each song came a costume change. Your imagination and inspiration were left gushing for more. Their performance was the epitome of a show, an experience that delights all the senses. At times I laughed, cried, and even howled like a banshee. The wild woman within was woke AF.

With the oversaturation of electronic music these days, many have said artistry is dead. But, these folks straight up performed an expressive baptism on our tainted souls. On that theater stage, I bore witness to the most inspiring form of creative expression I’ve yet to experience.

This was particularly powerful because I felt as though this trippy troupe’s performance was perfectly in sync with what this total solar eclipse symbolized.

As the stars aligned, the sun and moon danced, and the divine feminine soared. This union served as a celestial catalyst to face our shadows, embrace the light and let our truths shine bright. While the sky grew dark, our ego died. The flame of our fears extinguished, making way for our true gifts and an abundance of self-love. For it has been said that a revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having. But, together we dance. Together we rise.

 

Artwork by MerakiLabbe
Photo by 
Cadencia

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

 

Music, like love, is one of those things that has a way of leaving an everlasting imprint on the depths of our soul. It’s there for us when no one else is. It’s there to conduct the vibes for some of our greatest times. Music is a means for us to express ourselves; it carries our minds to other realms, to allow us to feel everything or nothing at all. Music serves as a means of teleportation, since jet packs aren’t a thing yet.

All lovers of music know this. When we listen to our favorite album, sometimes we imagine ourselves in these environments that only our wildest dreams could think up. We start to feel the wind on our face, start to smell the trees or ocean breeze. Enough people must have experienced this, too, and finally got together and said, “hey, let’s create an entirely immersive experience for the music aficionado.” Of course, concerts alone can achieve this at times. But, this is merely grazing the surface. Music festivals take this to an entirely different level. They immerse all of our senses and take us on the ride of our lives.

Festivals have this way of blowing our minds completely open and imagining things we never once before dreamt possible. It opens our eyes to the infinite possibility of this existence and leaves us wanting to push the boundaries like never before. Wait. What? Did I just see a unicorn riding a pirate ship whilst eating a veggie burger and listening to my favorite DJ with thousands of my closest friends? Yep. You sure did. This is a dream you never have to wake up from. It is reality. And it’s awesome.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Festivals are no walk in the park. They can be uncomfortable. And at times, downright miserable. They are typically held amongst rugged terrain, extreme temperatures, dust and wind and all the things in between. You’re sleep deprived. You lost a shoe and your car keys. You’re sweating your ass off one minute and freezing the next. You have dirt in places you wish you didn’t. But it is in this uncomfortability that we are forced to step outside of ourselves, crawl out of our shell a bit, let our guards down and just dive in, head first, to the weirdness. For it is at the end of our comfort zone that life begins. And it is in these moments when we can surprise ourselves the most.

In fact, my first time ever visiting California was to attend Lightning in a Bottle. I was turning 21 and wanted to treat myself to an adventure. I decided to take a Greyhound bus from New Orleans to Los Angeles, where I then hitchhiked my way to the festival. I had no idea what to expect, but I was ready to experience whatever was thrown my way. And my-oh-my what an adventure that was!

I saw things I never knew existed. I heard music that made my body move in ways it never had before. I experienced anxiety when throwing my garbage away because I didn’t know which part of my meal to put into which bin. Reigning from the land of all things fried, I had never heard of compost. The people were breathtakingly beautiful. The food was deliciously fresh. Everyone treated you as family. No matter where you came from, no matter your story, you were home. My mind, body, and soul had been totally set aflame.

I started to completely change my mentality and way of life after that. And no, this was not as a result of the intake of substances. This was pure observation turned into extreme motivation and inspiration. I wanted everyone I knew to experience this. This was the future. This was hope for humankind. I started thinking, if we can live our everyday lives the ways we conduct ourselves at festivals, what a beautiful world this would be. The sense of community, the love, the self-expression. Wow! All the things, full force, in all its positive glory.

The Do Lab are masters of this craft. Their events, particularly Lightning in a Bottle, are seamless. It is beautiful. It is damn near perfect. Despite their massive growth in recent years, they still manage to uphold their ethos. A place where music, art, sustainability, and intention fuse together, magnificently. People come from all over the world to experience the magic they create and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. LIB has a special place in my heart, as it was the first west coast festival I ever experienced.

I loved it so much I kept coming back. It became an annual pilgrimage of sorts for me, a soul pilgrimage. After graduating college and moving abroad, I eventually found myself yearning for that sense of community and inspiration immersion I had yet to experience anywhere else. With time, that desire increased and I decided the only way to cure my craving was to move back to the states and make the west coast my permanent home. And here I am.

Dozens upon dozens of festivals under my belt and hundreds of new best friends later, I am reminded time and time again that humans are awesome. When we come together with the right mindset, we have the capability to create really, incredibly beautiful stuff. Music makes the world go ‘round. Festivals show us that we can, in fact, live in a world based on acceptance and connection. If you don’t believe me, find out for yourself. In the words of Hunter S. Thompson, buy the ticket, take the ride.

Why What The Festival is the Effin Best

What The Festival… perhaps the most appropriately named festival, as there are far too many instances where “W.T.F.” seems to be the only appropriate response… in a good way—the best way.

The journey to get there is something out of a Wes Anderson film. The most beautiful landscapes you’ve ever seen. Little towns you thought only existed in children books. Everyone is cute, and nice, and asks to pump your gas 😉

Taking place amongst one of the most breathtakingly venues in existence, What The Festival is all about the freshness, fresh air, and even fresher tunes. You can listen to your favorite producer in the midst of not 1, not 2, but 3 snow-peaked mountains. THREE! Effin magic.

Musically, What The Festival crushes it. No questions. This is always going to be a matter of taste or opinion, but trust me- they know what they’re doing when it comes to curating a lineup. You’re guaranteed to hear things you’ve never heard before; not the type of thing you’re going to wish you hadn’t, either. The type of thing where you are going to look at your bestie and say, wtf is this?! Proceed to make your way front and center, and head bang, just like the good ole days.

You can do that at What the Festival. You don’t have to worry if your flower crown is crooked or if your glitter eyeliner is running. You don’t care. You’re present. You’re in it. And you’re loving every minute of it.

As soon as one soul-shakin’ set is complete, there’s another one happening right around the corner through an enchanted forest. REAL LIFE. It’s rare that a festival manages to find the perfect balance between quality and quantity. Yet, they seem to have perfected the art.

And speaking of art, this aspect alone takes What the Festival to a whole other level. #nextlev. I’m convinced each of their stages are portals to other realms. This is the only logical explanation. From a fire-breathing dragon to a pop-up club made of illuminated water-filled 3dimensional squares, your senses are on the ride of their lives.

Beyond the stage design, exists worlds upon worlds of exploration. Every nook and cranny are filled with art of some sort; something to tickle your imagination and have you wondering what on earth could you discover next. A ginormous glowing unicorn horn guides your path as you enter the wooded wonderland. From life-size Lite Brite to moonlit Mario Kart, there is something for you. You’re a participant. You’re a player. You matter!

As you continue on your journey, you just may stumble across a place where Miso soup is served from people in furry hats-an Asian themed arousing paradise, sure to tickle all your senses. You just may happen to come across an interactive art installation that resembles an alien womb, perfect for your next cuddle puddle. If you didn’t, you definitely experienced something just as cool, if not cooler. Everyone’s experience is different, and that’s what makes it awesome.

A true gem of the festival experience, What the Festival is the perfect blend of intimacy, immersion, and innocence- bringing out the kid in all of us. There are some lessons to be learned from this interactive treasure chest. As we dance and delve into the world of possibility that What The Festival creates, we don’t know what is around the next corner, but we are happy to find out with open arms.