Sonic Bloom has a special place with the hearts of dance music fans in Colorado, and we here at Electronic Colorado are no exception. The collective memories we’ve shared, the smiles we’ve exchanged, and the sunburns we’ve endured are a testament to the unforgettable times we’ve had there. This year we were lucky enough to mob deep down to Hummingbird Ranch, with a whole gang of talented photographers, writers, friends, and most importantly, great people. The following words and photos are our efforts to encapsulate the wonderful experience that Sonic Bloom is, and put it onto your screen. We hope that you enjoy our recap as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Until next year…
–Philip Trippe, Owner
by Eloise Reyser & Austin Williams
Eloise: While many people opted for EDC Vegas for their summer festival fix, a few brave souls made the journey out to Hummingbird Ranch for Colorado’s Premier music experience, also known as Sonic Bloom. Since I happened to be one of them, I am here to recap my experiences, as well as to offer up some advice about how to make the most of a weekend in the Unified Field.
Austin: There are moments in our lives that bring momentous joy upon remembering. With its peaceful tranquility as well as adrenaline pumping adventures, Sonic Bloom 2016 will forever be one of those moments. Nestled into the foothills in Rye, Colorado, Hummingbird Ranch made for the perfect habitat for this incredibly unique festival. The sky was free of clouds, allowing Mars and Venus to be seen in the night sky alongside a full moon, and, with the final day being the summer solstice, it was a cosmic alignment that made the 11th annual Sonic Bloom all the more magical. Over 4 days we replaced handshakes with hugs, fast food with trail mix, and streets and cars with trails and bare feet, all the while forming deep bonds with those around us.
Austin: The festival was prefaced with a 3 hour drive down i25 from Denver. This gave the group ample time to disconnect from civilization and begin connecting with one another. Soon everyone in the camp will be a family. Tip: Make sure you bring enough supplies and enough cars. It’s hard to stuff five people and their gear into a hatchback, and it’s best to pack everything one might need. The whole drive butterflies flew frantically in my stomach. The days prior were like running off a cliff over water, and now we had jumped. There was no turning back; we could only enjoy the ride. A short drive past Pueblo and a few minutes off the highway, we hit the line of cars. It was a massive conglomeration of people in the middle of a vast natural expanse, all of whom were just as giddy and excited as we were. The line moved slowly but steadily, providing a perfect opportunity to meet the community we would be spending the weekend with. Hacky sack circles sprouted up while a symphony of dance music boomed from subs scattered throughout the sea of cars. Once inside it was a short drive to the campsite. Without any further delay, we were welcomed into the ranch, and the festival was ready to begin.
Eloise: The first thing that I feel compelled to acknowledge, is the amount of time it takes to get to the festival. My group left Boulder around 3pm, and due to the lines at check in, and again before the campground, we didn’t make it to our campsite until around 8pm.
Eloise: By the time we arrived, the campground was already dark, and a foreboding wind had picked up, tearing relentlessly across the wide expanse of the front range, making the process of setting up our camp the most depressing moment of my festival experience. Luckily, after we had set up our tents, canopies, and (most importantly) the beer cooler station, the remainder of my time spent at camp improved exponentially. My best advice for this festival is to get there early, or at least come prepared to pee in front of several slow moving lines of traffic while you wait for your car to get searched.
Austin: Camping was a structured free for all. We had four cars with camping passes, so sticking together was vital. One road led into the car camping lot on which cars cut in on a whim. Spotters directed cars into lanes as best they could, allowing fifteen feet behind each car for camping. Small groups of cars and tents formed circles to block wind and create a spacious environment. The population exploded and quickly turned the area into a cozy village; clearing cacti and setting up their nomadic homes. People set up vendor tents, tipis and even trampolines. We had neighbors, streets, landmarks, block parties, flags made out of tapestries to aid in finding home and soundtracks provided by those who brought speakers strong enough. Tip: Bring a pop up shade and plenty of ice. There is no natural refuge from the sun or the wind if you’re car camping, so it is imperative to bring some with. As people rushed to set up before the music started, pin vendors meandered by offering sales, trades, advice and friendly conversation. More and more we started seeing familiar faces, slowly creating a deep sense of comfortable familiarity.
Austin: With camp set up, we set off to explore the surroundings. The air was electric with excitement. A natural hum of social energy was heard wherever we went. Soon enough we were hit with a barrage of delicious smells as we made our way through a hall of food vendors. They were serving everything from pork and kale tacos to delicious Indian dishes. This scrumptious hall of tasty snacks led out into the massive field that was the Bloom Stage: outlined with vendor tents, speckled with artful décor and large public works of art, and centered by a cozy wooded nook that was bedded with hay and shaded with lofty trees. This main stage featured a beautiful sunflower that made up the backdrop. At night the center of the flower would act as the main projection screen while ambient lighting hit all of its petals. A hummingbird adorned each top corner of the stage with hexagonal patterns strewn about them. It was refreshing to see a main stage focused on art as opposed to the typical massive banners with the festival name shamelessly plastered all over in large font. Up past the top vendor tents was a forest littered with hammocks and tapestries. It was a wonderful place to relax, meet people, and stay out of the sun during the hot days. On the other side of these cozy woods, surrounded by live painters, sat the Hummingbird Stage. This stage featured a white back drop of tessellating triangles that would be manipulated by the projections at night. It also had a breathable, artistic canopy that provided shade from the sun during the day, while also letting a breeze roll through. We kept hiking up past gorgeous art collections until the path opened into another large expanse. We had reached the Other Stage. This stage was a wide field covered in canopies, bringing together the great aspects of the other stages: shade and space. It was bordered with a mixture of live painters, vendor tents, VJ’s, glass blowers, the yoga dome, and the Lotus Temple. All of this hiking brought us to the top entrance and the edge of general camping, of which I saw far too little. Next to the brave souls who hauled all of their belongings up from the bottom entrance, sat probably the most natural attraction at the festival. A small stream trickled through the woods, which had also become home to many a hammock. Mostly about ankle depth, the water was easily traversed and enjoyed. This made the shady area another great social hub. People could stay for hours, relaxing and meeting new friends, or just stop by for a few minutes to hop in and cool off. With a decent understanding of the venue, we were all set to start basking in the music and soaking up the vibes.
Eloise: Of all the areas that Sonic Bloom shines, the venue is by far the most notable. In all seriousness, I would attend the festival just to spend time wandering through the beautifully lit forests, art exhibits, tents, canopies, stages, and demonstrations spread across the festival grounds. At night, the whole venue comes alive with colored lights, brightly painted canvases and light dancers. The main stage is set in an open field with enough room for everyone, however the two subsequent stages are placed in more secluded parts of the venue where smaller crowds can experience a more intimate setting. I recommend exploring the shaded areas around the stages. There are lots of great places to set up a hammock for between shows, or even to cool off in the afternoon when the sun is busy scorching the hopes and dreams of anyone foolish enough to think sleep is an attainable goal.
Eloise: Unlike many larger electronic music festivals that attempt to wrangle in as many artists as possible to appease an ever-growing crowd, Sonic Bloom succeeds at selecting artists that fit into the distinguished Colorado electronic experience, while also offering enough variety to make the festival accessible to anyone.
While most people weren’t afraid to admit that Tipper was at the top of their list of priorities, the lineup never really faltered, even during the times when I didn’t feel the need to be at any particular stage. For me, the standout acts were the Opiuo Live Band, Tipper, Justin Martin, and Phaeleh. Luckily, Kalya Scintilla brought an excellent set after Ott was forced to cancel his performance last minute. Overall, I have no complaints regarding the lineup.
Austin: For Austin’s day-by-day breakdown of the 2016 Sonic Bloom lineup, click here.
Eloise: The community of people that makes Sonic Bloom the kind of magical festival that it is are characterized by their generosity and commitment to making the festival fun for all. I cannot recall meeting a single angry bro the entire weekend, and there were several instances where I was taken aback by how kind and helpful people were. The group that I arrived with quickly made friends with the people camped around us, and we spent most of the festival organizing trips to the nearby creek, cooking, and making glow stick totems.
Austin: This is a long story to tell, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. I was able to experience the gong bath which was a unique and gratifying experience. Everywhere you turned there was a smiling face just waiting to get to know you. The talent was palpable; not only from those working the festival, but also from those just wandering about. Sonic Bloom is where those who have something inside of them that they want to share with the world come to congregate and appreciate one another. On the first day we were strangers looking for a fun weekend, and after four days of eating, drinking, showering, dancing, sweating, laughing, crying, living and loving with one another, we were a unified people.
Eloise: I will admit that I was a little skeptical going to Bloom for the first time this year. I was mostly concerned that the lineup wouldn’t make up for the hellishly hot afternoons that I would have to survive prior to sundown. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this festival is far more than a lonely campout with stages. Not only was the music great, the people were great. Sonic Bloom truly is a transformative experience for anyone looking for a weekend of music, art, hammocks, glow sticks, and new friends.