As part of our coverage for the ten year anniversary of Sonic Bloom, we will be featuring a few different artists that will be performing, leading up to the event. The focus this time around is on the multi-talented Michael Garfield. A true jack-of-all-trades, Mr. Garfield will be performing a “psych-western electronic guitar set”, doing live painting, giving a workshop on human-technology co-evolution, moderating a panel discussion on live painting and visionary art, and officiating a wedding at the festival!
This year’s Sonic Bloom will be Michael’s sixth, and the fourth as the only person bringing BOTH music and visual art to the event. As a musical artist, Michael has received praise from The Untz, and has had gigs at over a hundred festivals alongside the likes of artists such as Papadosio, Taylor McFerrin, The Floozies, Random Rab, Rena Jones, Sidecar Tommy of Beats Antique, DVS*, and many more.
At Gratifly Festival 2013, Michael made history as the first musician to stream point-of-view video from Google Glass through a projector on stage, letting the audience see the show through his eyes. In addition to his artistic feats, Michael is also the editor for for Globalish.com, “a new media company exploring what the seeker’s path and awakening to non-separation looks like on the digital platform”. For more insight into this modern day renaissance man, check out our Q and A with him below.
ELCO: You’re a six year veteran of Sonic Bloom, and for the fourth year you’ll be the only person bringing both music and visual art. Safe to say you’ve experienced Sonic Bloom from a one of a kind perspective. In your opinion, what separates Sonic Bloom from other music festivals?
Every year Sonic Bloom has to wrestle with how they’re going to manifest the noblest possible goals in the face of the hard realities of the business, and throw a party that inspires people and opens them up and offers them the opportunity to go really, really deep and make a lasting change in their lives, AND do this all in a way that the festival can survive and sustain all the hardworking people involved so we can do it all again next year. This is an olympian freaking challenge. And it’s a microcosm of what we as human beings have to solve right now: how DO we keep this party going sustainably and really thrive without losing ourselves along the way? That tension is palpable, both at Sonic Bloom and throughout the festival community, and it’s awesome how the folks involved keep throwing themselves back into the ring to put the lessons they acquire into practice every year, and live in service to this greater thing.
You will be putting your musical talents, visual art, and speaking talents to work at this year’s Sonic Bloom. Is there one that you favor over the rest, or do you enjoy them all equally?
But man, I was singing and playing guitar and tweaking looping pedals long before I ever took up live painting or started giving these freestyle philosophical performances. I get into a flow while playing music that nothing else provides, and being able to move all that air and transport an audience with sound – to get up there cutting a “one guy with guitar” profile and then just taking people into another dimension – that’s the cherry on top of my life, that’s the wind in the wings of my soul. If I knew that I could make it work just playing music every day forever, I would do it.
And luckily we have more of a live music emphasis at Sonic Bloom this year, so I’m not the odd man out so much as I was in the past. I make a lot more sense on a lineup with That 1 Guy, Lynx, STS9, Random Rab, and Xerephine than I did back when it was almost all dubstep. I expect the crowd is going to reflect that and appreciate what I am offering them this time around.
You’ve described your upcoming Sonic Bloom set as “psych-western electronic guitar”. What goes into a Michael Garfield live set? What kind of gear is involved?
Doing that all live with no pre-recorded sounds and minimal gear has been my challenge and my delight now since 2005, and every year I get a little closer to the mark. I spent about five years just improvising every show, but this year I have finally integrated all the fancy live production with some songs that take the cyberdelia to even deeper places. My rig right now is still amazingly laptop-free – a rolling duffel bag of guitar pedals, a mahogany Taylor 322e acoustic, and the throat my parents gave me.
You will also be officiating a wedding at the festival! Tell us a little about that. Who are the lucky bride and groom and how did you land that gig?
It’s not my first Sonic Bloom wedding…oddly enough, this will be the third wedding (of five total) I’ve officiated at this festival. So it’s kind of turning into a tradition! I’ve never met the couple – Chelsey Robertson, the bride to be, had posted in the Sonic Bloom facebook group asking if someone knew a minister. It just so happens that I was ordained online in high school and my friend Michele Beyer, whom I’d married at the festival in 2013, tagged me in the comments. Festivals are a fine place to get married, if you ask me. Everyone’s in a great mood and the reception is already taken care of…!
You’ll be hosting a workshop about “human-technology co-evolution”. Can you give us a brief preview about what this discussion will entail?
Technology (meaning anything we use: language, techniques, tools) is something humans do. But technology shapes us as well; it’s a part of the environment we all grow up in and live in, and we internalize it. So there’s really not a clear boundary between us and our technologies, but to the extent we want to consider it separate it’s evolving with us; there are feedback loops between the environments we invent for ourselves and the selves that those environments produce. I used to be a paleontologist and then I studied a little bit of developmental psychology before I dropped out of graduate school, and the hot topic right now as far as I’m concerned is whether or not we’re going to manage to settle on a healthy integration of the ancient biological realities and novel, artificial, almost god-like powers we’ve created for ourselves. Human-technology co-evolution is the question of the day, as far as the story of life on Earth is concerned.
You’ve done live painting in a variety of places ranging from NASA’s Ames Research Center to New Year’s raves in the Costa Rican rainforest. Do you have an all time favorite location? What location/event is at the top of your bucket list?
I don’t really have a list of places I would like to paint, but man, if given the chance, I would love to go back and do another event at NASA. I was an embryo when I got that chance. I’d like to get a second pass now that I have some clue at all of what I’m doing.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing perform at this year’s Sonic Bloom?
More on Michael Garfield
“Michael Garfield writes passionate and visionary music for the head and heart – intelligent, emotional performances that reward repeated listening. Captivating audiences by any means available, he avidly explores new methods and technologies – both reveling in vocally athletic balladry and intricate percussive fingerstyle guitar technique, and pushing looping pedals into new terrain, creating and then deconstructing lush and atmospheric compositions on the fly.
Alternately tender and apocalyptic, simultaneously chill and energetic, his intensely technical yet vulnerable music is a potent reimagining of folk and psychedelic rock alike, updating “solo artist with guitar” to suit an age of existential wonder, cybernetic systems, and emerging planetary consciousness….read more“