Contributing Writer/Photographer : Brooke Kettering aka B-rookie, your Kali Kinect
Wanderlust Music Festival
Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, CA
July 30-August 1 2010
Wanderlust was a festival I had been anticipating for months. Yoga all day and music all night, in the same place, for three days! As luck would have it, I broke my arm the Sunday before the festival…changing my plans for the festival weekend drastically. Still, it was wayyy worth the 30 hours spent driving to and from.
It was my first time at Squaw Valley which is a beauuutiful, picturesque little mountain resort with Alpine-looking lodges and restaurants. There was no on-site camping so my friends and I booked camping about 10 miles away ahead of time. We weren’t able to get to the venue until mid-day Saturday (halfway through the festival weekend). This meant that we missed Moby’s DJ set and Pretty Lights (major bummer). Still way worth it. I heard that Pretty Lights killed it, even from people who were solely there for the yoga classes and completely unfamiliar with electronic music. We made it to the venue just in time for Moby’s 4:00 acoustic set. But first things first.
We had to drive to the resort which was good and bad—it meant we’d have to drive home but also meant we could bring our own food and booze which we could have easy access to all day and night! We approached the resort entrance, beers in hand, with trepidation. Much to my surprise, we discovered that we COULD WANDER LUSTFULLY AROUND THE RESORT WITH OUR OWN BOOZE…and WATER! The conversation went something like this. Me: “Can we walk in with these?” Wanderlust volunteer, “Ya!”. Me: “So I could, like, bring a bottle in…and walk around… and drink it?!” Volunteer, “Uhh…yep!” I was impressed already. Though there technically were some rules and restrictions (like no booze in the main stage area), security was so lax it didn’t seem like it. Another thing that contributed to the weekend’s blissful atmosphere…it smelled of Palo Santos wood EVERYWHERE! If you are unaware of what that is I suggest finding some and burning it. On top of that, the valley was crawling with bright-eyed, smiling, hard-bodied yogis and yoginis, cultivating a laid back, laissez-fair vibe to the whole thing.
After perusing the many yoga/fitness related vendors we made our way to the Yogi Tree tent where Moby was performing his acoustic set with a woman named Kelly Starr. I had never heard of her but am definitely a new fan. Everyone filed in the concert area, laid down their yoga mats and gracefully sat down. There was a very casual, sing-along vibe from the get-go. All attention was directed stage-ward, ears wide open. The backdrop of the stage was the beautiful mountains that cradled our wonderful weekend haven. It was pretty breath-taking. Moby and Kelly opened with a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”. They went on playing in an impromptu manner, playing unrehearsed songs that sounded just as lovely as their fine-tuned ones, including “Porcelain”, “South Side”, and “We Are All Made of Stars”. They even included the sound guy on stage as the fuglehorn player (Google it). The most heart-warming part of the set was toward the end, when Kelly Starr played her lullaby song, Neil Young’s “Helpless”, to her son upon Moby’s request. Moby sat himself down with the audience, front and center with Kelly’s adorrrable son, who was comically more interested in the jelly beans he was snacking on than the angelic voice of his mother. Audience members were visibly moved, many shedding tears and left even more zenned out than they had been upon entering.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER PHOTOS!
After Moby we explored the venue some more. I was pleased to see the familiar Om Shan Tea setup in the Anusara Village area, which is a staple at Do-Lab productions, where I became familiar with them. Om Shan Tea is a tea house that operates on donation only, so whenever you’re cold or tired at a festival you can go to their bohemian, Buddha-inspired layout for some tea…even if you’re broke J. By the time we were done sipping tea and conversing with like-minded, kindred spirits it was time for the Yard Dogs Road Show performance!
I’ve seen Yard Dogs before and they were just as entertaining as ever, with their trombone playing beauty, tap-dancing accordionist, flapper dancers, and over-the-top emcees. These people really know how to entertain and are certainly a sight to be seen. They’re a unique bunch of talented troubadours who never break character and are pretty much unclassifiable…you just have to check ‘em out for yourself. Up next was the highlight of the weekend…Bassssneccctarrr!
As the sun went down during the Yard Dogs’ set the Beat Freaks began to trickle in. It was pretty clear that many people in attendance either snuck in or came just for Saturday night’s show as the audience grew exponentially. I think there were more people in the crowd for his set than there were at the whole festival all weekend. The whole Pulse Stage area (the main stage) was shoulder-to-shoulder Nectarphiles, with curious new initiates intermixed! Lucky for me, I got to rock out in the media pit the whole time which was clutch for two reasons—I could protect my broken limb from the throbbing, thrashing crowd and, more importantly, I could stand right in front of the sub-woofer J. I’ve spent a good amount of Bassnectar shows front and center and even I, healthy limbs or not, would probably not have subjected myself to the unavoidable compression of that highly coveted spot. There were some technical difficulties at the beginning of the set, causing a slight delay, but Bassnectar’s fans waited patiently knowing they would soon be treated with bombastic beats. Sure enough, he opened with some new material and got right into Bass Head. I had just been at a Bassnectar show exactly one week before this performance but the set at Wanderlust was entirely different from the previous one. He played songs I had never heard live, including his remix of DJ Cheb I Sabbah’s “Alkher Ill Doffor” along with other parts of his non-album stuff. He also mixed in some Missy Elliott and threw down his newest release—the remix of Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy”. A couple things stood out to me during Bassnectar’s set. For one, and I mean this with the utmost respect and appreciation, there were old ass ladies gettin DOWN! Even in the chaos of the front row, right alongside their now not-so-different raver contemporaries. The other aspect of this set that stood out, which I’ve witnessed at previous Bassnectar shows, was that the energy of the audience escalated and descended in complete synchronization with the beats. There seems to be a sort of mind-body dualism between the man behind the laptop and his sea of zealots. It’s hard to distinguish, at times who is leading whom…whether Bassnectar mixes in response to the vivacity of the congregation or if the crowd’s energy is being manipulated in time with the knobs on the mpc’s. In any case, as soon as things would begin to approach mosh-pit level madness, the tempo slowed and the harangue of writhing Wanderlusters were coddled back into a tranquil acoustic trance. One thought occurred to me…I wonder if they’ve ever considered setting up subs and speakers toward the back of the audience so people wouldn’t cram so tightly toward the front and could give each other more room to move freely. Bassnectar was obviously the brightest of the zillion shining stars of Squaw Valley for the weekend. Security seemed to basically give up on enforcing anything, which worked well for attendees. They probably weren’t prepared for the drastic shift in age, intoxication level, and wardrobe that characterized the contrast between the day and night event-goers (I even met a couple guys backstage who had just walked right into backstage, accidentally, as they were trying to figure out where to buy their tickets). Bass Heads were feeding off each other’s prajna, or life-force (had to throw that in there) and, thus, were buzzing with exhilaration throughout Bassnectar’s set and well into the night. Lucky for us there were more bass-heavy beats to be heard by the beneficence of the beloved Ana Sia!…At least until the event’s early ending time of 2 am.
My excitement to see Ana Sia DJ was soon snuffed out…seems everyone at the Bassnectar show had the same idea and the bar/lodge she was DJing at rapidly reached capacity (despite the fact that it was strictly 21+) right after Bassnectar’s set ended, with a huge line already manifesting. There was some other electronic music projecting somewhere but I was pretty set on seeing Ana Sia’s set, since I had already missed the one she had the night before, so I hung around at Om Shan Tea until the line died down. I was able to catch the last half hour of her set. My friend described the setting like so, “it’s like a really dope, really bug house party.” Summed it up pretty well. Everyone was groovin, creating about a 30 degree temperature difference between inside the lodge and outside. This was definitely the place to be. Ana Sia was DJing alongside the soulful voice of live singer Erica D., creating a surprisingly well-entwined, creative collaboration. The place was packed and spirits held high. Though it would’ve been nice if she were set up at an outside tent so more people could listen in, the bar served as a nice (and warm!) change of scene and filtered the bass-mongers into a slightly more mature, toned-down audience. End of a fantastic, free-spirited day.
Sunday brought even more, unexpected delights! Ana Sia was kind enough to give me some of her time and agreed to set up an interview. Her manager had requested that she find a serene, quiet place for this to occur. What better a place than at 8,200 feet elevation, poolside, over-looking Lake Tahoe, which could only be reached by an exciting, awe-inspiring ten minute gondola ride up a mountain!? What a lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon! We chatted for about a half hour, she revealed to me in her nonchalant way that she actually is as cool and down to earth as she seems. She brought the chick who had been singing over her mixing the night before, Erica D., as company and to graciously videotape the interview. Ana had to take off for other endeavors so I decided to stay at High Camp (the location of all the activities that could only be enjoyed by regular festival attendees after an additional $25 payment to get there) and hang by the hot tub while my friends took their yoga classes, which also overlooked the dazzling Lake Tahoe. A few things were reported back to me about the yoga classes…mainly that they were hard as fuck…challenging in the way a great yoga class should be.
The poolside turned into a Sunday afternoon rager with DJ Leif supplying the tunes. People were moving their rock-solid bodies either off on the outskirts doing inverted scorpions on top of boulders, gyrating, drinks in hand on the dance deck, or whirling around the whirlpool. We pulled ourselves away in order to make it to The Pulse (main stage) in time for Beats Antique. It felt sort of odd seeing them while the sun was still up but it was still an awesome set. Zoe Jakes was sexy as ever. I’ve seen better shows of theirs, with more contributing band members, but this one was good nonetheless. Band member David Satori sarcastically asked the audience if our kundalini had been ignited yet. They played one of their most recent recordings in addition to their older, more well-known material. The next and last performance we saw was Brazilian Girls. I LOVED LOVED LOVED them, especially the lead singer. She’s interesting, funny as hell, and beautifully comfortable in her own skin. She spoke directly to the audience throughout the show, at times to specific people. She smoked cigarettes on stage (American Spirits only) and shared words of wisdom. One particularly memorable quote was when she said, “We must get together and rebel, and once you start rebelling, don’t stop!” She kept emphasizing how we are all the same, all loving and suffering the same. She reached out to audience members and made sure everyone was shakin their ass. At one point she commented on the fact that, despite everyone illegally downloading their previous album for free, they’d soon be releasing another. Even though I had never even heard Brazilian Girls until this performance, I felt bad realizing this is true on many levels for many of the performing artists that festival-goers appreciate and regard so highly. Whether it’s downloading an album or sneaking into concerts, music fans seem to have forgotten that their dollars are what allow such talented people to come out and entertain us, and that they DESERVE it.
After reflecting on all the beauty of the people, music, and environment of the weekend I decided something: all of us music aficionados need to prioritize and direct our budgets less toward personal ‘party favors’ and more toward supporting the artists that make these incredible events and experiences possible.
All in all, Wanderlust was a legit festival. Security was chill, there was a great sense of freedom, they supplied drinking water, we could use the lodge’s toilets, the weather was perfect, and the music was phenomenal. Only way it would’ve been better is if The Do Lab had put it on J.
B-rookie, your Kali Kinect