A Decade Later, The Unified Field Is Still Blooming

Jeff Hawkins © Electronic Colorado

by E.P Pirt, Jr.

A week ago, Sonic Bloom wrapped up its ten year anniversary, or as it was appropriately dubbed, its ten year family reunion. The fest celebrated the occasion in a brand new location, cozied up against the Spanish Peaks, about half an hour southwest of Pueblo. To many, this new location was the highlight of the weekend, and understandably so. It had a little bit of everything. Sweeping plains to the east as far as the eye could see. Dramatic, towering mountain peaks looking down on the festival from the west. A luscious creek that flowed throughout, and shady patches of inviting woods sprinkled about.

The man-made elements were almost just as impressive as the natural ones. The Hummingbird stage was simply beautiful. Slightly resembling a page out of the Electric Forest book, it was tucked away almost secretly in the woods, with an incredibly artistic stage set up and “roof” that complimented it’s natural habitat. Gravity Glue’s rock towers and formations were awe-inspiring, as were the resourceful and creative natural-looking decorations throughout the festival. The quality output of the live painters and artists that were also there was astounding. Throw in a ton of sunshine and beautiful sunsets, and you had yourself quite the festival experience.

Highlighting the music was a special back-to-back performance on Friday night by STS9 that did not disappoint. Leading up to the headliners’ two set performance, it seemed as though the other acts were simply opening sets, paving the way for the most anticipated two sets of the weekend.

That’s not to take anything away from artists such as Tatanka, who provided some chill reggae vibes under the hot Colorado sun. Pumpkin was another set worth noting, as his trademark remixes, mash ups, and originals certainly got the crowd at the Sub.Mission stage loose. Pumpkin was followed up by that one guy….you know, That 1 Guy?

That 1 Guy’s sound was certainly a little more off the beaten path, but no less entertaining. His homemade stand up…..uhhh, bass I guess, was really cool, as was his musical sock puppet. Whatever you want to call that thing, he had it down to a tee, and he fit right in with the Sonic Bloom vibe.

By the time That 1 Guy was finished, it was only an hour until STS9’s first set, and Talib Kweli was half an hour into his. Widely considered one of hip hop’s elite, Talib’s lyrical prowess was on display for the large crowd at the main stage to see. I’ve personally seen Talib a handful of times in a variety of ways, from small clubs with just a single DJ, to larger venues with a full band, and of course, with the equally respected Yasiin Bey, aka Mos Def, the two of whom make up Blackstar. While his SB performance wasn’t my favorite, it certainly was the most impressive from a pure production standpoint.

Once Talib had wrapped up his set, anticipation for STS9 was at a high. The crowd, which had to include almost every Bloomer that was there, let out a roar as their beloved “Tribe” took the stage. The band got right into it and didn’t look back until it was time to take an intermission at 11:45, an hour and fifteen minutes later. After giving the fans half an hour to catch their breath, they took the stage once again and dazzled the massive crowd for another hour and forty five minutes. By the time all was said and done, we had been treated to three total hours of Sound Tribe Sector 9. It was a successful Friday.

On Saturday, some noteworthy Colorado acts were getting things heated up early, with Kruza Kid taking the Sub.Mission stage at 1, and Miss Jaedha handling the decks over at the Hummingbird stage. We caught most of the latter’s set, which was a harmonious blend of some deep, crisp, and heady basslines coupled with melodic synths that ranged from happy to sad. Miss Jaedha also made a beautiful tribute to her recently passed brother, a few poetic spoken verses that moved everyone in the crowd.

By Saturday, the heat was being talked about as much as the music, as temperatures rose into the 90s. Crowds gathered around the river, under easy ups in the campsite, and lay strewn about in hammocks in the woods. Shade was everyone’s best friend. But once the sun went down, the music again started heating up. Lafa Taylor was the perfect host to take us into the evening, as he put on a high-energy set under a beautiful Colorado sunset. DJing, rapping, singing, and playing what appeared to be some kind of electronic drum pad, the man of many talents was demonstrating why artists such as Bassnectar love working with him.

Up next on the Sub.Mission stage was Colorado favorite Half Color. The dynamic duo of Michal Menert and Paul Basic, each of whom always draw a large crowd in this state, were at the top of their game. The Pretty Lights Music / Super Best Records label mates put on a clinic that combined live elements with traditional DJing. Their hype set was the perfect segue into the night.

The talent continued to flood onto the Sub.Mission stage and we saw no reason to leave, as The Funk Hunters took the stage, joined by hip hop legend Chali 2na. I’ve now seen this dream team a couple of times, and each time it has left me wondering why this collaboration didn’t happen years ago. Ok, I guess The Funk Hunters are young and Chali was doing that whole Jurassic 5 thing, but point being they sound so good together. Chali’s fine-tuned flow and lyricism only adds to the clean, bassy, high-energy electronic funk that The Funk Hunters are making a name for themselves with.

After watching the beginning of Thriftworks and getting sufficiently pumped up by the last few artists at the Sub.Mission stage, we moseyed our way on over to the Hummingbird stage to catch the end of the always on-point ill-esha, a Denver favorite of ours. We were treated to some new tunes off of her latest album, Hyperbolic Space Crochet, as well as some classic bangers. If you haven’t checked out ill-esha’s latest stuff, do yourself a favor.

Following up ill-esha was another Denver favorite, ProJect Aspect. Well, technically it was another Denver favorite, Unlimited Gravity, because ProJect Aspect let him play the first half of his set, in exchange for Unlimited Gravity letting ProJect Aspect play the first half of his on Sunday. Got it? Regardless, both of these guys brought the bass, and brought it hard. Unlimited Gravity’s set was right up there with some of the best dubstep and bass music sets I’ve ever seen, and ProJect Aspect successfully took the baton and kept the party hype well past midnight.

Once again, we jetted back to the Sub.Mission stage to catch some of the ambient and ethereal sounds of Bluetech, before rounding out our night at the main stage with Shpongle and The Sonic Bloom Orchestra. Shpongle’s set was intense, a nonstop dance party that apparently was created using 28 channels of audio and live mixing. The orchestra was utterly impressive. An all star cast that featured EOTO, Evan of The Fungineers, Lafa Taylor, Simon Posford (Shpongle), Jamie Janover, and Lynx. Way more than just a group of talented musicians jamming out, which was basically what I was expecting, The Sonic Bloom Orchestra looked more like a well-rehearsed band that had been playing together for years. The chemistry was undeniable. EOTO provided the bassline and the beat, while the others improvised appropriately, taking the crowd on a sonic journey of spaced-out dubby jamming, that was heavier and less predictable than your typical jam band, and much more eclectic than your typical DJ set. It’s worth pointing out that Lafa Taylor brought a whole other dynamic to the set, as he played a sort of hype man/frontman hybrid role. All in all, the orchestra was one of, if not my favorite sets of the weekend.

Unfortunately for us, Friday and Saturday were the only days we were able to attend, but they were more than enough. Spending the whole weekend at the unified field would have been nice, but with the amount of love and talent that was packed into each day, we’re just glad we got to experience it at all. Huge shout out to Jamie Janover and everyone that has made Sonic Bloom possible the last ten years. Here’s to the next ten.

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