Discovering the Unexpected Sounds of a Festival

Packed Nook stage. Shot taken from very back capturing the magnitude of crowd.
Photo by Get Tiny

Some of my favorite bands have been discovered by accident.

Usually, well-known headliners are what attract fans to a festival or concert right? Right. Well, I on the other hand prefer to take a different approach to the events I attend. I actually love it when I see a lineup with not a single name I recognize. There is so much more opportunity for discovering all the things!

Take me back to Lightning in a Bottle, 2018 at the Lightning Stage. We enter the crowd as a show is about to begin, and I have nothing but an open heart. Maybe I was living under a rock, but I had never heard of Anderson .Paak. That was the beauty of it, because as soon as he began, I fell in love.

With a voice reminiscent of Bruno Mars, and the fast, funky beats to match, he had the crowd grooving their hearts out. We forgot all about the dust and the heat, and the blisters on our feet.

That same year and at the same stage, I was also introduced to the magic of Sofi Tukker. Her unique accent and singing style paired with her deep voiced counterpart and next level bass created pure joy only to be truly appreciated in person.

Picture of audience in crowd. Man and woman with hands up clearly thrilled with whatever music is playing!
Photo by Foster Snell

Oh, and don’t even get me started on Griz! Deep dubby bass drops and womps produced by man himself really gets the crowd going. And just wait til they bust out the saxophone! The wide array of awesome performers I found that year alone was truly inspirational.

I discovered Beats Antique at High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy in 2014. The groups’ brand of fashion and use of different languages and cultures gave me the chills. If you’re not hallucinating when you first hear them, you might just start to!

Discovering new music is like a spiritual awakening in the form of song.

This genre of music or performing style I would have never found on my own. It took a funky blue-grassy hippie festival to show it to me. And for that I am thankful!

At the same High Sierra, I saw The California Honeydrops perform. I was already semi-aware of their music but had never seen a live show. The Oakland born Blues R&B group were truly inspirational. This is where I discovered the melodica.

Man in cowboy hat playing clear LED piano. Light trails swirling through photo.
Photo by Harmonic Light

Imagine a tiny keyboard piano that’s held in the hands like a clarinet, and then the musician blows into a little mouthpiece on top to make it work. It was kind of hilarious but also so awesome to watch the guy use it, I never knew such an instrument existed.

Now I intentionally look for music festivals who feature less-known artists.

I find the adventure and joy of stumbling upon their epic sets better than hearing a band I already know play. I’m not saying don’t go see your favorite artists perform at a concert or festival, but I am saying to give festivals that don’t have the big heavy-hitters headlining a chance.

If you stumble upon something you’re not vibing with, you can always move on to the next stage or show. Every artist isn’t going to be your cup of kombucha, but at least you can have a more open mind to discovering new groups than if you go in wanting to see a specific performer.

It also frees up your festival experience so you’re not tied down to a certain show at a certain time. It kind of takes the stress out of the situation, and you can just go with the flow instead.

But, if you see a mass of people headed towards a stage, chances are it’s probably a good show and you should head that way too. Sometimes you DO want to follow the crowd. I encourage you to take recommendation. Follow a stranger to that set. Great music is waiting for you!

Photo by Fish Makes Photos

Open-mindedness and uninhibited participation are a core value for many musical festivals and events alike. Your decision to participate in that lifestyle is where many believe true happiness spawns. Willingness to learn, try, fail, and discover are what makes life on this planet earth as a human so beautiful and rewarding.


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