Sonic Bloom Festival at Shadows Ranch, 6/21-6/24 (photos and review) - Reverb

Sonic Bloom Festival at Shadows Ranch, 6/21-6/24 (photos and review)

Few events encapsulate Colorado’s blossoming electronic music scene like the sold out Sonic Bloom Festival, held this past weekend at Shadows Ranch in Georgetown.

The intimate festival was nestled in a cottonwood grove snaked by Clear Creek, advertised by promoters as “the unified field.” Over four days of workshops, art, and performances by some of the biggest names in electronic production, the festival brought together an eclectic crowd estimated over 3,000 strong.

This year’s musical selection was undoubtedly skewed to the bass-heavy leanings of dubstep, but was not without variety. The festival featured three venues, including a visually stunning dome stage that blasted the insomniacs in attendance with bass until sunrise each morning.

While the main stage was comparatively dormant during afternoon performances that began at 3 p.m. each day, it was transformed into a frenetic dance party come nightfall. Highlights included Thursday’s headliner Bonobo and impassioned sets Friday by West Coast artists Ana Sia and Eskmo. Emancipator played a signature down-tempo set complimented by live violin to jumpstart Saturday night and was followed by a colorful set by the well-known British soundsmith Tipper.

Tipper was one of the few artists who got to play multiple times over the weekend and was alone in bringing his own light show — a massive 3-D mapping rig that swirled imagery with his complex productions.

Though live music was a rarity, a number of bands got the chance to shine on the main stage. A hyped, improvised performance by Zilla (another side project of the String Cheese Incident’s Michael Travis) remained ambient and lacked the energy many were hoping for, while Papadosio brought a progressive brand of dance rock that was as well-received as any act of the weekend. The sax-driven Boulder trio Dynohunter and the math-rock funksters of Jimkata also brought the neglected jamheads out of their tents and onto the dance floor.

Perhaps the most glaring observation of Sonic Bloom was the odd paradox that exists within the subculture. It is a community that embraces the most intense and arguably arrogant style of music on the market, yet also a community as peaceful and harmonious as any group of people you will find. When brought up to many in attendance who identified with Eastern religion, the conversation would quickly come to dualism. A collective Jekyll by day; Hyde by night.

Throughout the weekend, the grounds were alive with organized yoga classes, newfound creek-side friendships and workshops that ranged from the practical (“Edible and Medicinal Plant Walk”), to the intellectual (“Science of Vortex-Mathematics”), to the bizarre (“Galactic Earth: Humanity’s Transition to an Interplanetary Species”).

This year’s festival was also an epicenter of visual art. Over a dozen live painters provided their perspectives during the music and dispersed throughout vendors were art exhibits and sculptures by some of the most impressive visionary artists in the country (Android Jones, most notably).

While the electronic music scene has rightfully taken on connotations both positive and negative during its abrupt rise, Sonic Bloom proves that it can be a movement rooted in love and unity through self expression.

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Nate Etter is a Boulder-based musician and a regular contributor to Reverb.

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