The planes. I think that is the first things I noticed as I pulled up to Carson Creek Ranch late on that Thursday night. It almost felt like I had never left in that moment. The moment when I heard the engines of a large plane coming in for landing at the airport only a few miles away. It was a surreal experience being back at Euphoria Music Festival. A place where only a year ago I had met a family of sorts. Where myself and one of my best friends mourned the loss of his brother, and were welcomed warmly by a community of individuals. Now though, I was back and this time entirely alone. Even though I was alone pulling up to Carson Creek hearing the planes over ahead gave me a sense of home coming immediately. I may have come by myself for the 6th edition of Euphoria Music Festival but in that moment I knew I was not alone.
Euphoria Music Festival had a busy off season to say the least. The initial line up was announced early and phases continued over the next couple of weeks. The line up was wonderfully curated; featuring acts of all genres. This can always be a risky move for festivals. Just ask Mysteryland USA which had to cancel their event this year due to outcry against a more diverse line up. Euphoria though made changes that fit perfectly with their demographic. This is a point I will continue to make throughout this review. Euphoria is in touch with its fan base, it constantly has its ear to the ground. This fact is the reason why Euphoria 2017 trumped 2016 in so many ways. It transcended the level from regional festival to nationally recognized event, all while still maintaining a community vibe and atmosphere that was entirely authentic.
I stopped by the box office which was a shockingly short walk from the parking lot and was greeted by helpful and kind individuals despite them already having worked a long day. Before I knew it I was back at my car and getting ready to trek to the camp grounds. If I had one issue with Euphoria 2016, it was the absolutely insane walk from the parking area to the camping grounds. The festival listened to its patrons concerns and eliminated this issue. The camp grounds were next to the parking lot. Literally just 20 feet away. I want to take a moment to applaud Euphoria as it is so rare for a festival to make a drastic improvement over just one year. Again though, this is just another reason why Euphoria remains community based despite its constant expansion.
I set up my camp site and was welcomed with kind ‘Euphoria Vibe Tribe' volunteers who offered to help me set up my belongings. This was amazing as I was alone. At this point I also learned that a certain out door store totally played me and I bought an aggressively small back packing tent. But hey, you live and you learn. I met my neighbors and immediately was back into the head space of Euphoria community vibes. In a weird twist of fate I found myself camped next to Aleks, a friend who I met and camped with last year. Euphoria is filled with small moments that go beyond coincidence. It is all part of the magic of the event. After a long night of introductions and conversation about the coming days, I crawled into my tube shaped tent and eventually knocked out.
Waking up at a music festival is an experience unlike any other. I don't mean that in a good way. Usually it involves being shocked awake by intense heat as the morning sun has turned your tent into an oven. Of course Friday came as such and I scrambled out of my tent in order to breathe cool air and was greeted by the flutter of activity that is unique to the early morning of music festival camping. Music played in the distance, people walked to the bathrooms and showers, and returned to their camp sites with coffee and supplies from the general store. The electricity in the air was palpable. After talking with the neighbors and relaxing for the morning and early afternoon the gates finally opened and it was time to see the grounds for the first time in 2017.
The Grounds and Stages
The entry points were updated in 2017 and made much more sense to the layout of the festival. The location of the vendors was moved to a row by the food trucks while the center of the grounds where they once were located now belonged to the official Euphoria store and bars. The mystical Dragon Fly Stage received a gorgeous fractal based canopy over heard to only make the amphitheater next to the Colorado even more captivating of a scene. The Elements stage also received its own beautiful canopy upgrade as well as a massive addition of a fox head sitting atop the stage. Behind the eyes of this fox were visualizers casting visuals of everything from eyes to lightening bolts depending on the mood of the music being played below. The main stage stood proudly with the addition of new screens on the side walls as well as updated lasers and visualizers.
Leaving the festival from the main stage side of the grounds you could enter one of the most captivating parts of Euphoria – The Art Outside Village. An oasis from the main grounds, the Art Outside Village featured art in countless forms, workshops from their Ecophoria Initiative to Yoga, and of course the magical silent disco.
The Ecophoria Initiative was another piece of what made Euphoria keep its community atmosphere amid expansion efforts. The festival went green in so many ways I honestly had a difficult time keeping track of them all. Instead of paper maps the festival opted for a smartphone app, which actually performed very well. They also hosted a river clean up in the morning, workshops on going green, as well as compost and recycling bins being featured next to trash. Euphoria has environmental concerns weaved into the fabric of its being. Adam Straughn of ATS Photography inspired a large scale clean up through the Bassnectar community last year, leaving the grounds flawless after Lorin's performance. This year the spirit lived on and each night the grounds were picked clean. Appearing that a festival never even took place. It was one of the most inspiring things I have witnessed in my many years of covering these events. Check out this picture from Kelly Maresh after the first night.
The music of course was unmatched. The first day featured the incomparable sets by the likes of Chet Porter, The Disco Biscuits, Unlike Pluto, FKJ, Pretty Lights, and so many more. Chet Porter stood out as a favorite of many due to his upbeat remixes, inspired originals and a vibe that helped fully bring spring into bloom. The artist even debuted his remix of D.R.A.M.'s ‘Broccoli' which has now reached smash hit status with hundreds of thousands of streams since it's inception. Pretty Lights and his live band closed out the night with a brilliant set of classics with varied intensity. Two songs in, came ‘I Know The Truth' and as the planes cruised in overhead, their vibrations mixing with the bass of the set, I slowly began to realize that I was finding my Euphoria.
Day 2 started just as Day 1 did, with the roar of a jet engine and the morning sun. Saturday brought more musical variation in the form of Alesso, CID, Young Thug, Alan Walker, Ganja White Night, Bakermat, and Oliver Heldens. Ganja White Night have taken over the mid scale festival circuit of America. The two Belgian's signature brand of wobble bass brought the largest crowd of the weekend to the Dragon Fly stage which shook has thousands head banged in unison. The juxtaposition of which occurred on the main stage has Bakermat brought the crowd to a fever pitch of Euphoria. His set started off with a bang to a thin crowd, but as the saxophone rang and his euphoric sample inspired vibes poured out over the grounds within minutes the crowd packed in to take part in the musical healing that was coming from the stage. Watching the crowd pour in with their hands in the air, seemingly able to touch the planes which continued their ever constant arrival/departures to the sweet gospel sampled melodies I continued to realize that I had found my Euphoria once again.
Day 3 is always bitter sweet. The connections that were made must be broken in the physical form. The neighbors and festival buddies that have become commonplace over the last 60 hours must fade in Facebook friends and memories…until next time at least. Euphoria 2017 wrapped up to the soundtrack of Wiz, Zeds Dead, Chromeo, Moby, Yotto and Grum. Yotto and Grum, the two members of the Anjuna clan to bring their talents to Austin ultimately left their impressions on the base of the Colorado. The music played and the river flowed, paying no mind to the chaos and celebration around it. Friendships were made, unions were sanctified in marriage, and life in every form was celebrated…all as the planes kept coming and the river kept flowing. Euphoria is an oasis in nature, set on the borders of a metropolis – featuring the largest acts in EDM, Jam and Hip Hop – a massive event and financial endeavor which promotes community and environmental policy above all. In many ways those descriptions make no sense, and are entirely contradictory, but Euphoria can't make any sense as words will never do it justice, you really just have to be there. Until 2018 Euphoria Music Festival.
Special Thanks to everyone who made Euphoria Music Festival possible, particularly Mitch Morales for his interview with us, Chad Shearer and all of Caren West PR, Rachel for being a wonderful festival buddy, and of course Sam, Katie, Frank, Corina, Aleks, and Kam for being all I could ask for in neighbors.