Words: Miguel Holekamp | Photos Courtesy of: Roco Newson & Ali Parker
All summer I’d been looking forward to attending atmosphere for my friends 30th birthday bash. What better way to celebrate than a full weekend of sun, music, dancing and getting properly weird with friends and strangers alike. Going into the weekend the weather looked amazing, forecasting sunny days and starry skies. Being the first night of the festival, the roads were packed as non-camping festivalers made their way towards the event and the positive energy was palpable. Once we got through the gates, our posse dispersed in different directions with the plan to meet-up at the main stage. At this point it was dark and the light effects throughout the festival were on full display so we set off to walk the grounds and check out the night’s acts. For those who’ve never attended, the grounds at Atmosphere are a cross between bohemian and some type of mystical fairy universe. The large white-canvased tents mixed with fluorescent light projectors makes anyone walking the grounds revel in the fun and psychedelic atmosphere.
The main stage performers Friday set the tone for what promised to be a rocking weekend but the night belonged to the DJ Clozee’s performance. First let me explain the Big Top Tent as it’s where I had my best times and will feature prominently in the rest of the story. As you’d walk the grounds, a large red and white circus tent served as the central object from which all other direction giving and meet-ups could be based on. It also helped that come night time even from a hundred feet away you could hear the bass and beats resonating out, just teasing you to poke your head in. On the inside, the best bet was to kick off your shoes, enjoy the grass between your toes, and get your mind blown by the sounds and lighting effects pulsing from the center stage. Clozee rocked! She had the entire place jumping from start to finish and as the lights flared you got to appreciate the epic outfits people were sporting on night 1. It was obvious that night, as I bounced back and forth between our b-day posse and the rest of the high-flying neon party folk: People came to play!!
Oh god! I’m waking up. Time to check the vitals: No headache, check. Stomach, been better but nothing some grease and coffee can’t fix. Ears, thanks to my new favourite discovery – ear plugs during DJ’s – no ringing, major high-five to Kora on that one. Verdict: Vital signs are good I’m ready to hit day 2.
I live in Cumberland so last night’s commute home was mellow although I went through some serious FOMO as friends loaded onto a party bus. I kept repeating to myself, “It’s going to be long weekend, pace yourself!” but until I ascertained that it was a mellow late night and I didn’t miss anything epic I’d remain a little anxious. So it goes. After I hopped on my cruiser bike and grabbed my lady and I breakfast, it was time to find a water source. The temperature in Cumberland felt like it was already in the mid-twenties and without a cloud in sight, all of last nights festival-ERS were doing the same thing: hitting the town for food and coffee, laughing and reminiscing about last night, and planning the day’s events with some sort of mandatory cool-off. Of course what makes it so much more awesome is most of these people are dressed as furries, or some motley mash of hats, shirts, skirts, cutoffs, and all the other stylistic bizzareness we love and adore at music festivals.
We ended up regrouping and spending the day washing away hangovers in the pristine pools and rapids at Nyphm Falls. Floatie toys, tunnel swims, and salmon spotting all featured prominently in our sunny excursion which, combined with a few cold bevies, had our crew primed for the night ahead.
We made it into the festival before sundown which made the main stage and setting sun backdrop all the more idyllic. As the evening’s acts progressed, the crowd at the main stage grew in anticipation of the headlining performance from Half Moon Run. For those of you who don’t know, this was a homecoming for certain band members and Kora had inside word on how reved up they were for the opportunity to play in Cumberland. Personally, having yet to see these guys live, I was ecstatic to be with such a great group of people to watch these amazing young performers. In fact, I had such a good time that when they played their last call, I couldn’t believe how fast the time had come and gone. It felt like the whole experience just blended into one steady riff, with ebbs and flows that at times had the crowd transfixed in calm sways before getting the entire place jumping arms raised towards the stars. Maybe it was the gummies, maybe it was the epic day, maybe it was their presence but the tone was set and there was only one place to follow it up: Enter circus tent!
Stylust Beats, I just want to take this moment and give you a proper shoutout: You had a couple of my friends dancing like they were possessed! In fact, it’s probably good we were in a tent because the noise and shaking produced inside that night might have caused structural damage to any solid structure. Don’t know what else to say, Saturday rocked! The entire walk out was nothing but laughs as we recounted hilarious moments and favourite songs and to top it all off during an impromptu night cap before the party bus pickup, we even had a little freestyle performance in the parking lot. Shoutout to the amazing lady rapper with the curly hair!
Oh god! I’m waking up. Check vital s– oh screw it! Bring me coffee and let’s hit the lake. Might be paying for last night a little more today but we shall persevere. Day three and the end is in sight and we got our friend’s band to enjoy and another sunny sunny day. Let’s hit it!
First, I need to skip ahead. Astrocolor played midday and for me personally it was the best show of the weekend. It might have been because we were partying with the lead singer. Or it could have been because it felt like the entire weekend’s fun was culminated in that day-time set. Maybe it was simply because I ate one of the yummiest lunches I’d ever had from Dragonbowl right before. Maybe it was all of the above. The why isn’t important, so let’s talk about the how. Those guys absolutely rocked out. Everyone at the festival, young and old came out to groove in the sun, chill in the shade, or a bit of both – people were stoked. Not only did they play every song in their arsenal, when they were allotted more time they started freestyle jamming. It’s shocking how you can tap into some fifth-wind energy reserves during marathon weekends like this but that’s where the music comes in. It fills you up with fun-fuel until all you want to do is do it all over again.
Before the show I felt it was my due diligence to walk around the grounds and get a sense of the festival from the perspectives of campers and tent operators. Without fail everyone I talked to spoke about how well Atmosphere was organized. While this is a relatively small boutique festival, from the campsites to the activities laid out it made for a welcoming environment with lots to do. I saw families visiting different kid friendly sections, yoga and shade tents, awesome food and a variety of musical acts to keep everyone entertained. The place was full of families, rednecks, hippies, and the medley of people who crossover between all three, and in a lot of ways that’s the overall community vibe in Cumberland. The town seems to embrace the downtown chaos of hosting such an event and people respond respectively in kind. For a place that thrives on trendy shops, outdoor activities, restaurants and fun nightlife, Atmosphere Gathering is a perfect addition to the summer events and I look forward to going again next year. Bring the kids! Plan a stag! Plan on having a good time, it won’t disappoint.
Full Album Roco Newson: