Arise Music Festival distills Colorado fest culture with activismBy John Wenzel | August 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Among the hundreds of shows Kansas City act Quixotic has performed at theaters, museums, rock clubs and outdoor events over its nine years, last year’s Arise Music Festival stands out for a very important reason.
“They actually had a super cool coffee-shop installation with really great DJs and live music,” said Anthony Magliano, artistic director of the dance/music-fusion troupe. “Sometimes it’s hard to find really good coffee at festivals, and our violinist Shane ended up doing a late-night set there, too. He basically just walked around doing late-night renegade sets all over the festival.”
At some fests, that would be cause for ejection. At Arise, it’s just part of the deal.
The event, which returns for its second year at Loveland’s 100-acre Sunrise Ranch Aug. 8-10, is an almost textbook summer-in-Colorado affair. It features not only dozens of music acts such as Beats Antique, Galactic, Grateful Grass, Groundation and Kan’nal, but also yoga, herbalist workshops, a children’s village, art installations, films and plenty of opportunities to connect with social and environmental activists.
It’s part Burning Man — the neo-psychedelic confab that takes over the Black Rock Desert in Nevada each year — and part community potluck.
People camp and bring their kids, but they also meditate and belly dance and dress in elaborate costumes while listening to celebrities like actress/activist Daryl Hannah (last year’s guest of honor) and Sheryl Lee.
“I don’t go to regular music festivals because I tend to run in the opposite direction wherever there’s big crowds,” said Lee, who grew up in Boulder and is known for her role as Laura Palmer in “Twin Peaks.” “But already there are things that I’m hoping to see and do. There’s a famous herbalist who’s teaching an herbology workshop (Brigitte Mars) that I’m really excited about.”
Lee, along with Arise founder Paul Bassis, crafted a poetry program that will feature her work. From her vantage point these days as a California-based natural healer and poet, Arise is one among a wave of events taking a conscious, holistic approach to the usual wall of impersonal noise and overpriced food at most music festivals.
“It does seem like there’s a hunger for this,” she said. “People are doing so many incredible, inspiring, interesting things all over this country and I think that’s where the hope is — seeing how innovative and creative people can be.”
Organizers are expecting about 5,000 attendees for the second annual Arise, which is certainly not alone in offering yoga, spiritual workshops and dance classes next to its raft of jam bands and outdoor art exhibits.
But for Quixotic, which has performed dozens of times in Colorado — including at mountain festivals like the yoga-centric Wanderlust — Arise is an evolution of the concept.
“We stayed on site the whole time last year and got to check everything out firsthand,” Magliano said. “It’s a very community-driven festival. Even the people whose property we were on (Sunrise Ranch) were incredibly passionate.”
Earnest, environmentally friendly events are easy to come by on the Front Range. But Arise founder and executive producer Bassis, a former producer of the Reggae on the River festival in Northern California who now lives in Louisville, isn’t afraid, for example, to jump into the debate on fracking via op-eds to the Boulder Daily Camera.
“The intention of the festival is to facilitate and amplify that inspiration into real life action,” he said via e-mail about the festival’s activist bent.
Quixotic, which plays between 60 and 70 shows per year nationally, has seen it all — bored audiences, inadequate stage setups (given its aerial dance components) and more.
But beyond the stereotypically Colorado feel-good vibes, Magliano sees an intelligently organized event in Arise’s attention to detail and well-rounded programming.
“The support for experimental art and workshops is really quite a production,” he said. “I’m also hoping they have that coffee installation again.”