After a magical month long road trip to the promise land of the west coast for Symbiosis and Lightning in a Bottle, our team returned home to prepare for Impulse Music Festival. As it was a first year festival of significant size being thrown in close proximity to our Atlanta stomping grounds, there was plenty of talk surrounding the event during the months leading up to Impulse. Those of us who were fortunate enough to catch Echo Project Festival in 2007 had been waiting for years for Atlanta to get another large music festival with camping, and we crossed our fingers in hopes that this would make a successful enough splash to continue into the future.
Impulse was the second music festival to invite us to set up our Sanctuary installation at their event, and we were pumped to apply all the lessons we learned from our festival debut at Florida’s Aura Music and Arts Festival in March. Adding to our already bubbly enthusiasm was the immense amount of magic and inspiration we brought home with us from the west coast extravaganza. Witnessing the level of production that is occurring at gatherings like Symbiosis and LIB (not to mention the most grandiose gathering on the planet, Burning Man) truly changed our idea of what is possible. The entire time we were there we rambled non-stop about how we would like to apply various aspects from this stage design and techniques from those art installations to Tribal Council’s ever-expanding projects on the east coast.
Edwin getting serious with the jigsaw, proving he can channel carpentry as easily as communal prayer recitations.
After a short few days of grounding, recovering, and handling business in Asheville, we busted a groove down to Atlanta where we set up shop at the Gaar residence for an intense four-day work party. We sent the call for help out to the collective at large and ended up having a different work crew turn out each day. We were wonderfully pleased at everyone’s ability to stay focused on the tasks at hand while maintaining the playfulness and jovial attitude that has always been a defining characteristic of the Council. We’d like to give a heartfelt thanks to Michael Boylan, Andrew Robertson, Caroline Rose, Will Franchot, and Sarah Tracy for showing up and lending a hand. And as always, thanks to Mama and Papa Gaar for hosting the shenanigans and even feeding us hooligans.
I had set the intention to construct a tipi long ago, perhaps after seeing Taytakura’s ceremonial setup at Rootwire 2011. We harvested bamboo from the grove behind my house and sewed the cover out of canvas drop clothes to make a highly respectable meditation tipi large enough to fit four people and a small altar. It was a success.
Wilsun learning the thrills of guestimation work with one way stretch material.
Besides the tipi we made some signs for our domes and experimented with PVC and stretch fabric to make sacred geometry lighting elements. We churned out three tetrahedral ground lamps, but our prize piece was a sweet star tetrahedron aka merkaba lamp to hang in the center of the ceremonial dome.
Caroline Rose reestablished herself as the Head Seamstress of TC with hours of deft gestures hunched over the sewing machine. Here, Edwin and Andrew serenade her in the wee hours of the night during the final stretch of merkaba fabrication. The fruits of her labor were well worth it though when we all rejoiced at the first light of the completed merkaba lamp. As we continue to play with stretch fabric production, we learn more about its challenges and become more confident in our abilities to manipulate the versatile material for all sorts of projects.
If only I had a nickel for every time I was caught on the old smart phone…I’m continually surprised at how much internet and phone time it takes to coordinate Tribal Council’s activity from the backend. I can only imagine what it takes to throw a music festival! At least we have a few years to perfect the art. A big shout out to Asa Dean for graciously allowing us to use the infamous Grok bus to transport the crew and supplies to the site as well as for lending us his 18ft geodesic dome to serve as our first “Wooked on Sonics” sound healing chamber.
With all the materials we had, it sure was easy to just throw it all into ol’ Grok rather than tetris it into cars. The short two hour ride to Impulse brought back many fond (and some not so fond) memories from last year’s summer festival tour when we kept the bus packed with 15 of us hippies for a month of epic adventures. Thankfully we only had four of us on the bus this time.
Despite unprecedented disorganization and lack of communication from Impulse Festival leading up to the day of the event, our team remained focused on the task at hand: to build a sacred space in which we could facilitate transformational experiences for festival attendees. The festival site, Durhamtown Plantation, was very unique as it was a popular vacation destination for ATV and dirt bike enthusiasts with over one hundred miles of motocross tracks and dirt jumps. Although they did shut down one track where the festival was held, the rest of the park stayed open for operation all weekend, which meant the sound of two-stroke engines droned throughout the hot afternoons of the festival.
Upon our arrival, the site was empty except for the two bare stages that had been erected in the main field. It never ceases to amaze how last minute everything comes together on site before a festival. We happened to arrive at the same time as our friends and fellow visionaries of Vision Lab, and we quickly went to work building our own little dome city. Vision Lab’s token 30′ inflatable igloo dome towered impressively over the rest of our geo domes creating a cool skyline of five different sized white orbs all within a stone’s throw of each other (including the Grassroots dome). It looked like a moon colony straight out of a sci-fi movie. All festivals need domes, they are just too aesthetically pleasing!
We were stoked with our location as we were placed perfectly in the middle of all the action where we could hear and practically see all the stages. The festival itself was very small and condensed into a large field where the two main stages were located. On the edge of the field was the smallest stage with 3D mapped visuals inside a barn with a bar and just on the other side of the barn was the Area 51 saddle stage. The vendors lined the edge of the field next to our dome complex. That was the entire festival. You could walk from one end to the other in 4 minutes flat and see everything.
Hanging the new merkaba lantern on a sketchy ladder setup (if you’ll notice, the ladder is free standing besides Edwin and Will holding it at the bottom.)
The weather was excruciatingly hot and humid, but setup went smoothly with mandatory mid-day siestas in the shade. Visitors immediately began stopping by to relax and we quickly made new friends who would soon become our “regulars” throughout the weekend as they made our dome home base and our family their family, because let’s face it, we are all one family truthfully.
The dome looked even better than before as we had enough triangles to cover its entire surface. I never get tired of looking at the flower of life cover.
We were stoked to christen our new tipi and to see it get used by patrons throughout the weekend.
Without a doubt the unique element of Impulse was the impressive lineup crafted to celebrate and showcase some of the best bass music producers of today. Yes there were the household headliners like EOTO and Emancipator who did their thing as always, but the real gems were the artists that the east coast never gets to see. Producers like Gladkill, The Polish Ambassador, Russ Liquid, and Nicoluminous came from the west coast to lay treats for unsuspecting children craving bass drops.
Govinda is another example of a heavy hitter from the west coast festival circuit that rarely ventures this far east. It was down right weird to come from seeing him play for thousands on the LIB mainstage in LA just two weeks earlier to dancing among a mere crowd of 50 at Impulse. Although he was scheduled for a less than ideal daylight set, he still throw it down hard and sexy with his always enjoyable live violin. Extra special was his live female vocalist adding even more depth to his music and the cherry on top was watching dear friends and Councilors Orly Waanounou and Kaylene Siebritz shake tail feathers on stage with them.
Keegan Keel gleefully discussing and sharing one of his favorite things in the world with festival attendees: visionary art.
Perhaps the on going highlight throughout the weekend was sharing our immediate neighborhood space with the Vision Lab crew. Keegan Keel and Adam Barfield, two of the visionaries behind Vision Lab, dedicate their time to setting up a traveling visionary art multimedia experience at festivals. All weekend they welcomed unsuspecting visitors into their giant inflatable dome for a live Imax-like theater show where visionary artwork from the most pioneering artists in the world is projected onto the ceiling of the spherical dome while live DJs spin mind-expanding music.
Outside of the live projection experiences in the Vision Lab dome, visitors could get a more intimate feel for the visionary artwork in their styling geodesic gallery complete with crystal altars and staff on hand to discuss the details of the different pieces of art. For those that had to leave the festival with their own piece of heaven, Vision Lab offered prints and giclee canvases for sale. These guys fully realize the important potential visionary art has to expand people’s minds, shift their understandings of reality, and activate their pineal glands, and they are working hard to provide these tools for transformation to the festival scene. Check them out next time you see them; you will be blown away. And be sure to thank these guys and support their vision to spread light in our community. We at Tribal Council look forward to working with Vision Lab in the future as our intentions are most definitely in alignment.
Impulse impressed me with its lineup of live artists. There must have been at least 15 live artists painting all weekend, including Andy Reed, Michael Garfield, Andrew Wagner, Emily Kell, Christian Jaxtheimer, Chapin Matthews, Sarah Tracy, Allie Azura, and many more I’m having trouble recalling.
Here is Emily Kell’s stunning piece (my favorite of the weekend) with headliner Papadosio in the background ripping up the mainstage with an incredible set. Although there is still some ground that needs to be covered concerning pumping up the “Arts” aspect of east coast Music and Arts Festivals, I’m glad to see events recognizing more and more how much live artists add to the overall experience.
Merkaba = win!
All weekend we enjoyed stimulating conversations with new friends, massage trains with old friends, and a general feeling of connectedness with everyone who decided to spend time in the dome village. Except for some beers on the altars and cigarettes ashed in the sage containers, the public respected and understood the significance of the space. Several individuals made it a point to tell us that the sanctuary was their favorite part of the festival and we heard at least one account of a life changing first attempt at meditation (a trance which lasted quite a long time). This sort of feedback makes it all worthwhile and is an affirmation of how vital these sorts of spaces are to the balance of festival culture.
Area 51’s saddle stage was a sight to behold. With Area 51’s specialization in lasers and lighting, we knew they would have some cool production going on but their newly acquired saddle stage really stepped their swag up several levels. It’s shape and overall aesthetic are so totally unique, people are going to remember Area 51 and will be looking for the saddle stage, which hosted a slew of awesome artists including Vibesquad, EPROM, Nasty Nasty, Russ Liquid, and Sugarpill (above).
Of course with the location of the event, the festival would not have been complete without a full on professional motorcycle stunt show. At least twice, dare devil motocross bikers put on jaw-dropping displays of skill and bravery by performing huge freestyle tricks over a 70ft jump including several back flips. I’ve seen some random stuff at festivals over the years but this definitely took the prize.
Another addition to our installation was the debut of our sand art table. The bright light and interactive nature of the booth consistently trapped spunyons all weekend and it always satisfies when one walks up to it and wipes clean everyone’s picture. It is a wonderful celebration of the impermanence of all creation.
People also loved our new altar centerpiece, a large crystal globe of planet Earth that was generously gifted to Tribal Council by a wonderfully wise and connected Lakota medicine woman in North Georgia during our recent visit with her the week prior. It carries some powerful energy (this giant beetle certainly thought so), and we are so grateful and blessed to care for it.
Dave Heath sporting his flawlessly smooth poi technique.
Late night firespinning jams happened regularly on the late night tip. I would like to share an EXTREMELY important note with everyone who reads this. Sunday night a group of fire performers started playing with their fire fans and fire staffs outside of our domes. I walked over to enjoy their show and was overcome with horror when the guy dropped his staff. I didn’t mind that he dropped his staff. The danger was the fact that he dropped it a couple feet away from their open soak container of gasoline…..and their gallon jug of gasoline…which was also open! This is so so SO dangerous on many levels and should never happen. I grabbed all the gas and moved it around the corner at least 30ft away and shared some words with the performers, who were admittedly newbies. It easily could have been a huge disaster ending in multiple deaths. So please I implore everyone when they see people playing with fire, check to make sure they have the lids on their gas containers (because the fumes can ignite from several feet away) AND that they have all gas containers at least 30ft away in a safe place. Let’s keep our friends and our scene safe.
Just as with AURA Festival, we took our PA out of the small sound healing dome and transformed our camp into the renegade late night stage with sunrise beats. This is quickly becoming my favorite part of our installation as sunrise sets have always been my bread and butter. Although I wasn’t expecting it, I ended up playing a couple sunrise sets for the late night stragglers who were still craving a soundtrack to the greatest show on planet earth, which happens every day. As always, Infinite Geometry aka Andy Reed joined forces with his unique taste for bliss. We are going to be gearing our production to be prepared for this scenario everywhere we go, because if a festival is slacking on sunrise sets, then somebody’s gotta step into service to keep the beats bumping.
Big thanks to McKenzie Eason for leading a gentle morning yoga practice when we finally turned the beats off. Her heart-opening class was a pure delight and just what we needed to put us to bed after a long night of work and play. We are beyond stoked to have McKenzie as a part of the Council and hope she sticks around for years!
Saturday night at sunset we held the largest circle I believe the dome has seen. With Edwin’s help we slipped into a beautiful state of communion and peaceful silence. These sunset ceremonies are perfect for getting grounded before lift off, setting intentions for the night, and connecting the heart space of everyone present. We hope this sort of circle will become a standard every night in the dome.
Sunday night Vision Lab stepped up the sunrise stage in visionary style as can be expected. They moved their projector outside to project visuals on the outside of the dome while Andy played a timeless set that seemed to last forever. And in the wee hours of the morning Ployd stepped behind the decks to close out the festival. Purrrfect!
All in all, Impulse was not quite what we were all hoping for. There was no question about the music or the production behind the music; it was all top notch. The main disappointment was the fact that nearly no one showed up due to a variety of reasons. Luckily, all of the family showed up from all over the southeast though, so in the end it was a crazy party for the Atlanta-Athens-Asheville community on someone else’s dime. Blessit! Will it become Georgia’s new hot sauce music festival, or will it even happen again? We’ll see…
A big shout out goes to the REP crew for crushing it as always and a special thanks to Nick Weinberg for being an all around boss and going the extra mile amidst the chaos to make sure Tribal Council had a spot to set up.
And while we are talking about promotion…y’all know about this festival coming up in Boone, NC called Gnarnia right? Thrown by OG Asheville family, this will be a good one guaranteed. And they are obviously doing promotion right, as the picture below can attest to….
Three weeks off until TC starts our epic 5 week run starting with Transformus, our very own first outdoor gathering, a flow arts festival in Penn., Gnarnia, and Rootwire. Ahh, the quiet before the storm. Until next time, y’all keep it cuddly <3
Photo Credit: Nicole Gallagher