WORDS: Lauren DeGaine
PHOTOGRAPHY: Phoenix Flash Photography
Being a part of Astral Harvest’s remote, intimate environment is an experience that travels with you like a bright comet, radiating from your heart to touch your life beyond the festival. The weekend is a colorful supernova that can blast away self-doubt, ego-trips or other cobwebs that might be clinging to your soul. “Power Take Off” was a fitting theme for this year: the event’s focus on personal transformation created beautiful moments from take-off to landing. Here are some of them.
NADA DEVA AT THE MAIN STAGE
After walking from stage to stage on Thursday, feeling out the sounds and energy of the festival and getting accustomed to the layout of the grounds, we made our way to the MainStage by following our ears to where
the packed dance floor was getting down to some dope, banging deep house.
Aboard the stage we saw Nada Deva, a duo consisting of Edmonton locals Francesco and Jen. Their set was the spark that the festival needed to begin the weekend. Making our way to the front of the dance floor, we saw
the incredibly talented performers of Transflowmation spinning everything from poi to dragon staffs to batons to a giant cosplay sword to a new one I had never seen that the flow artist called a “force leash” (a modified LED light saber/levitation wand). Their skills and stage presence combined with Nada Deva’s musical treats created a MainStage party that unleashed the momentum of energy and fun for the weekend.
BODY, MIND AND MUSIC
On Friday morning, I had the privilege of teaching a yoga class at the main stage, accompanied by a live set from Collectivision. Before class, I sat on my mat drinking tea with honey and warming up in the sun. A sweet joy trickled into my soul as I saw sleepy morning faces come to class, one by one: people without mats, people who had never done yoga before, and people who had committed to 4 classes a day. I was impressed by how many showed up to the 10am class, knowing it would enrich their festival experience. The perfect playlist of rhythmic bass music combined with a peaceful morning flow resulted in a vibrant class like none I’d ever taught before.
After class, while chatting with some of the attendees, a friend approached and pulled me into a giant bear hug. We walked away with our arms around each other, talking about the mind and the ego. He had spend the night having brand new experiences, and said he’d never felt so open or accepted for who he was. It was one of those lovely moments when you realize the power of these types of communities.
JPOD’S SUNRISE SET
After a Friday of music, yoga, dancing, mud, vodka & juice, and making friends, my Team and I were sitting around the fire, giggling like schoolgirls about god-knows-what, when the sky began getting light.
“Oh shoot!” I said, “JPOD’s set!”
It was almost 5AM, which meant the set was just about over. We abandoned our hot dogs and sprinted to the main stage.
When we got there the sun was starting to brighten the morning, and JPOD was onstage beaming his huge, happy smile at an adoring crowd of muddy dancers. His set should have been over, but the crowd was begging him to stay, and they continued to hound him even after a few encore tracks!
“I don’t have anything else to play!” He said, laughing incredulously. The crowd seemed to think he should figure that out! JPOD jumped down into the crowd and danced with us while continuing to mix from his iPad, and started one of his signature group hugs.
After heading back to the stage for a song, the man of the hour attempted a stage dive… but, as graceful as it was, the crowd was a little too far back. The Podster was met with the Main Stage Mud Lake, a giant mud-puddle at the front of the dance floor that sucked and spat out many a good soul throughout the weekend. Realizing resistance was futile, JPOD did a few mud-angels, and after another song or two, he skipped out the back of the dance floor into the morning mist, leaving us with uplifted hearts and tired dancing feet as we headed back to our tent to fall asleep smiling.
LADIES OF THE HARVEST
The topic of gender equality in the electronic music scene is something that I care about, especially because I fangirl over so many incredible female musicians and producers. When I see an article on the subject, I read it. When I watch festival promo videos, I notice the ratio of females to males that are interviewed or featured. When I hear someone discussing the topic, I lend my ear (and, okay – maybe an opinion or two).
Even though I refuse to be surprised when I discover a new talented DJ or producer that also happens to be a lady, I was impressed by the amount of times I would follow my ears to where the music was really exciting and find a woman on stage, like Shylow Love, Mistress Mangladesh, one half of Nada Deva, Wadjit, Tianna J and Kali Yuga just to name a few.
Even though I refuse to be surprised when I discover a new talented DJ or producer that also happens to be a lady, I noticed that this happened more at Astral Harvest than any festival I’d attended before. The inspiring stage presence of these women was a source of empowerment throughout the weekend.
NO EDGES, JUST LOVE
It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting on a bench by the main stage, jotting down some notes in my journal.
“Would you ladies like to join us for some Wild Greens?” I hear behind me.
“Sure!” someone answers, and I join the group and chat about their experience of the festival.
“Nobody has an edge here,” a fellow tells me. This might be the quintessential thing that makes Astral Harvest special. Sure, it’s got incredible production and a great lineup. Sure, PK Sound rocks your body all weekend. 100%, the vendors are great and the workshop lineup is on point. But the culture of community, kindness, and respect takes the universe of Astral Harvest, straps it onto a rocket full of love, and blasts it off into another dimension.
IT WAS LIT
Other highlights of the weekend included:
Skiitour’s set at Wakah Chan (and their surprise second set at the MainStage!)…
the hip-hop showcase…
the incredibly uplifting Pumpkin tribute (we’ll be rocking our heart-shaped sunglasses all summer long)…
….that one night we saw two planets,
the ladies of Illusia and their incredible costume design and dancing…
the Transflowmation fire show and fire flow jam space…
The Haven sanctuary spot AND drug testing (with a mass spectrometer!)…
the fact that most attendees respected the land and cleaned up after themselves…
and everyone saying “YOU LOOK GOOD” to each other all weekend!
Basically, the festival was lit like a flaming ball of star power blasting through the heavens, where the rave gods looked down on us and nodded their regal heads in approval.