Envision Festival | Rancho La Merced, Uvita, Costa Rica | February 26 – March 1 2015
Vive La Experiencia
On a beachside ranch near the small town of Uvita, Costa Rica, the Mecca of all boutique music & arts festivals takes place. The fifth annual Envision Festival sold out for the first time this year; from the music, to the performances, and from the workshops to the inspiring people, it was easy to understand why.
Envision isn’t just another music festival among the hundreds of events popping up everywhere right now – but offers exponentially more than what’s expected. It definitely takes going the extra few thousand miles to understand why so many make the pilgrimage from all over the globe, and into the jungle. Envision boasted 5,000 strong this year. It is a festival that inspires its patrons – encouraging attendees to think consciously about their place amongst the world and its community. It is a place for one to embody love and compassion, and to make a positive impact during the precious time we have on this Earth – all whilst dancing along to the stellar artists & performers that graced each stage.
Heart of the Crystal Coast:
The first day of the festival saw the entry-line stretch longer than a kilometre as ticket holders waited as patiently as they could in the humid conditions. Vendors were still setting up during the afternoon, as were the two main stages: Sol (Sun) and Luna (Moon). The layout of the grounds was well thought out, with the market and food vendors placed in the middle of the festival, while the stages and access to the beach fanned out behind the central hub. The food offered at Envision was healthy and generously portioned, considering the price (unlike what we tend to see in North America). Keeping in line with the festival’s prominent green attitude, there was a strict reuse policy and disposable plates and cutlery were not on the menu. Instead guests put a deposit on any utensils they needed, and returned it to be washed. Considering waste is one of the biggest issues facing every music festival, it is a system that many up North should look at employing.
Bamboo and palms canopy the five-minute walk to the beach, with locals selling coconuts and vendors peddling more of their assorted festival wares. The tide was out on Thursday and the stretch of beach is littered with sandy and sun-kissed attendees. Diving into the warm ocean for the first time was cathartic, and symbolised the cleansing and renewing energy that would be our mantra at Envision. By the time the music and performances had started that night, the line of people from that morning was still trickling in. Envision is a family friendly festival and there were quite a number of small children attending for the weekend. This is a hot topic amongst festival culture, many deeming it an inappropriate environment for a child. Yet those who came childless were respectful of the space they shared with those younger and did best to avoid exposing them to any of the debauchery that is associated with a festival environment.
Betty and Kora had the incredible chance to attend an invite-only waterfall party that was happening an hour outside of the festival, hosted by Art Gimbel and the rad Fest300 crew. It was a fantastic opportunity to see the Costa Rican countryside and its natural beauty – not to mention the beautiful acoustic performance from Argentina’s Lulacruza – and more than anything – a great chance to cool down!
Partying in Paradise Comes at a Price:
As with every major festival, there are always hiccups that happen and opportunities for improvement as things continue to grow. The festival was temporarily out of water on Friday night as the reserve of water for the entire town had been exhausted, which isn’t uncommon in remote parts of the country. A major issue for any large group of people, this is amplified in a festival setting and a big Code Red when running an event that involves extreme weather, drugs and alcohol. Murmurs of the water outage could be heard throughout the festival and each stage kept its audience updated with what was happening until the issue was resolved after a few hours.
Other frustrations felt throughout the festival pertained to camping in such unfamiliar weather conditions. Envision did explicitly warn its patrons that they encourage radical self-reliance; being prepared and informed of the festival and it’s location, and packing and planning accordingly. This can of course be difficult, with many finding it hard to sleep in the heat despite being prepared. Sunburn, heatstroke and sleep deprivation were the three most common health problems of festival goers throughout the weekend.
Mind, Body and Soul:
“Stretch your limbs into the earth while giving back through the expression of the beauty that you are” – Meghan Currie
Plenty of food for the mind, body and soul was on offer at Envision in many forms. World-renowned yoga instructors came from far and wide to inspire and awaken the jungle’s Gods and Goddess’ sleeping within all of us. A Friday morning yoga class held by Canadian Meghan Currie at the Karma stage saw those committed to the practice sweltering under the midday sun, a workout for even the most accomplished yogis. Currie makes it a point to add an air of lightness and humour to her teaching, encouraging her pupils to be lead by and find answers in their breath.
Envision’s magic was often felt at the most impromptu times, such as during a tea ceremony held at the pirate ship. Guided by the wonderful tea Goddess, participants were encouraged with each sip of their tea to let go of something that no longer serves them, set a positive intention for themselves, and determine a way to achieve the former. The ceremony’s power could be felt as the moon slowly became fuller every night. Leaving you feeling inspired, re-charged and ready for anything the jungle might have to offer.
Mother Nature as a teacher and healer was often discussed throughout the weekend. We were lucky to learn about the incredible healing and energizing properties of Cacao as a medicine. In a peaceful circle lit only by the moon and a bonfire, the intimate group of 40 participated in prayer to the Cacao, chanting and singing songs. Drinking the warm brew together, everyone was encouraged by the Goddess of Cacao to feel its power as it made its way down the throat into the body.
Performing is an Art: La Musica
There was a plethora of interactive art happening all around you at any given moment at Envision. Whether it was someone hand painting a beautiful iguana on a blank canvas, spray painting a giant mural whilst dancing to The Polish Ambassador, or a dancer twirling effortlessly on her hoop through the air, Envision was literally a canvas for creation.
Lafa Taylor was argurably Thursday night’s musical highlight. His emcee, beat-boxing, and DJing capabilities roused the crowd and got everyone charged-up for the weekend ahead. At a number of points during his set, Taylor focused everyone on the beauty of their surroundings and reminded the crowd how lucky we all were for being able to experience Envision. Love was definitely flying in every direction!
Friday night’s music started off dominated by Cali based Ayla Nereo and The Polish Ambassador, who performed sets independently of each other, then together, as their collaborative entity Wildlight. Playing the opening slot of the Sol stage, Nereo was straight-up captivating as she effortlessly looped her vocals, played guitar, and sang in a way that can only be described as otherworldly. The goose bumps she evoked could be felt rippling amongst the crowd. This energy transferred to her performance in Wildlight, which inspired you to groove along to the ethereal beats provided by The Polish Ambassador. Standout track of the couple’s 75 minute set was “Oh Love” off the album Hers Was As Thunder. This back-to-back of dreamlike soundscapes left us feeling as if heaven had landed here on Earth. Theirs was a tough one to top, and it was only 9:00pm.
Coming upon the Luna stage for the first time was a thing to behold. Stage designer Tigre Bailando and his team had created nothing short of a miracle. The Vishnu-esque driftwood panther backed with large projection screens had a commanding presence on site. The Polish Ambassador had relocated here for his solo performance and had things well and truly kicked into party mode. Taking a seat on the bamboo bridge structure that circled the back of Luna’s dance floor was the perfect platform for watching the heat rise off the bodies in the crowd and the live graffiti artists and painters create their works, all the while “On and On” by Erykah Badu (The Polish Ambassador Remix) fuelled the collective’s energy.
Closing the Sol stage was the first of two Emancipator sets that weekend, who were a crowd favourite of the festival. Humble and unassuming, Emancipator played with grace and precision, beautifully mixing each track with the accompanying, subtle and complimentary violin of Ilya Goldberg. “Elephant Survival” sounds even more incredible live in the jungle heat – with a crowd dancing in harmony – then it does in your bedroom during a West Coast winter. Acrobats hung up in hoops, spun elegantly to the music and received just as many rounds of applause and hoots of appreciation as Emancipator, whose music complimented their performance.
The sold-out attendance of the festival grew more apparent Saturday night as vendor lines and the crowds at each stage grew. The number of Canadians at Envision also became more clear as the support for West Coast homies Stylust Beats and Stickybuds, both playing the Luna stage, could be heard loud and clear. Stylust Beats rocked the crowd from 10:15pm-11:30pm, bringing that hard-hitting sound he’s built a career around. He gets down with what he’s spinning, which is infectious to watch and his music compliments the amazing performers and their routines well. Ending on a high note, things keep going with Kelowna native Stickybuds who’s distinct sound blends, funk, d&b, reggae, and breaks into a perfect mishmash. He dropped his massive Envision-appropriate track “Clean Air” and rounded out his set with an unreleased Askillz collaboration that had all of us begging for more.
The last day of Envision had come too soon. People started packing up their campsites throughout the day to save the hassle of a sleep-deprived Monday morning struggle – as we could all sense that Sunday would be a big night. Everyone was savouring his or her last moments on the grounds that had become home for the weekend and with the people who had become family. As the sun began to set, there was a migration to the beach for the last Envision sunset and chance to be held weightless amongst the waves of the Pacific Ocean. The man with the best hair in Portland, AfroQben blessed the crowd that ebbed and flowed with beach attendance, with his funky beats, hot guitar riffs, ample amounts of cowbell and the lyrical delights of buddy Lafa Taylor. Reminding us just how hot it was, Qben had prepared a heavy little remix of “Feeling Hot Hot Hot”.
The sun had well and truly set by the time the Envision Orchestra had set up and started absolutely killing it at the Sol stage. Entirely improvised, the conductor would write down each note and motion for each section to play, but to each musician’s own interpretation. Singers, horns, percussion, and guitar- everyone had their sound locked down and the synchronicity was perfect. It is refreshing to see live musicians and performers in their element and showing off their craft at a festival where majority of the music, especially at night, is DJ based. Skipping over to the Karma stage we managed to catch the last few songs of Latin America’s shamanic electronic trio, Lulacruza. Barefoot and eyes closed, vocalist Alejandra Ortiz softly yet powerfully weaves her vocals through the intimate crowd gathered.
Arguably one of the biggest sets of the weekend came from hometown heroes The Funk Hunters, who had flown in that afternoon from the Caribbean for the festival. Never once lacking in energy or stage presence, the duo had the Luna stage on fire. Break dancers dressed in clown attire, fire twirlers, clowns on crutches in pink sparkly short shorts and an array of other performers all took their turn moving to the funky soundtrack and receiving just as much love as the boys from BC. It was the second year in a row playing for The Funk Hunters who showed their love by dubbing Envision “one of the best music festivals in the world.” The sunrise on Monday morning was welcomed by the sounds of Emancipator’s second set for the weekend and a crowd that had hardly dwindled. Everyone was moving much slower, choosing to sway to the mellow tracks that had taken a warm, yellow tone as they carried across the Luna stage and to the sky through the jungle. Exhausted but with full genuine smiles people were embracing each other, in love, in goodbye, in pure happiness of the experience the weekend gifted to us all.
The human eye see’s more shades of green than any other colour here on earth. Envision Festival was magnificently splashed with hues of jungle green, ocean blues, and blood orange sunsets. The luscious dense tropical canopy provided the perfect shady playground for healing, listening and moving. Breathing in Mother Nature’s delightful tropical scents and exhaling deeply for one last time Monday morning, you do not leave Envision as the same person who came. If there is one phrase we could leave you with after this magical experience it would be Pura Vida. The direct translation of this is ‘Pure Life’ and Envision Festival encompasses just that. Hasta pronto Envision.
WORDS: Lauren Young & Kora
Edited By: The Lion at Large