Sonic Bloom 2022: 5 Surprises From My First Camping Festival

Music festivals have always served as an escape from the daily stress of the real world.

They tend to exist outside of time and space, embracing the weirdest, quirkiest elements of our semi-functioning society. I’ve always heard whispers, and sometimes shouts, of festival lore — the crazy pop-up renegade sets, outlandish antics, and ridiculous outfits — that define the festival experience. However, after two years of being a professional music journalist, I’d still never been to a legitimate camping festival until last weekend’s Sonic Bloom. The pandemic made sure of that. Thankfully, festival season is in full force once again, and I’m happy to say Sonic Bloom provided a weird, unbound inauguration into the festival community. 

Photo Credit: David Cohn

Sure, insane gusts of wind ripped tents and canopies out of the ground. Sure, I could feel the dust scratching my cornea and coating my lungs. Maybe the portapotties weren’t taken care of the way they should have been. But none of that ruined my adventure. I wasn’t looking for a clean, easy experience. I was looking to get down and dirty, fueled by incredible music, art, and like-minded people. After four days, I left the Sonic portal feeling a refreshed sense of self, purpose, and spirituality. The music was always great, accompanied by a carefully curated display of visual and physical art that dove deep into psychedelia. What really spoke to me though, was the community. After all, isn’t that what music is all about?

Here are five pleasant (and unpleasant) surprises from my first camping festival at Sonic Bloom 2022.

Tipper and Friends

Headlining this year’s Sonic Bloom was Tipper and Friends. I’ve always heard people talk about their Tipper experience like they were seeing God for the first time. Admittedly, I never understood the hype when listening to his music through my headphones. Of course, that sort of music is designed to be experienced live. I knew that. What I didn’t know was how that music could be utilized to create a sonic journey into another dimension.

Walking to the Bloom Stage ready to get tipped in my cow-themed jacket, dusty sandals, and oversized mushroom pants, I remained excited but skeptical of the high expectations people had all around me. I couldn’t see how Tipper could live up to the pedestal he’d been placed on. We got to the main stage a few acts early to catch Tipper’s “friends,” Seppa and Resonant Language. Immediately, I could see what people were talking about. The music was only a small part of the creative experience, accompanied by carefully curated visuals that were as psychedelic as you could possibly imagine. Even still, the energy exploded as soon as Tipper took the stage.

Everything I’d heard about Tipper was true. The music served as a guide through a portal of insane visuals (curated by Fractaled Visions for his Sonic Bloom set) and sound design. Opting for a heavier set with lots of hip-hop influence, his performance was less “dreamy” than some of his fans might have expected. It was a welcome change of pace though, made obvious by the dancing frenzy that took control of the crowd throughout the hour-long set. Question marks popped up everywhere, jumping through the crowd in unison with insane sounds that served as an alluring black hole of musical showmanship. The crowd was lost, and then found, and then lost again as we slipped in and out of a Tipper’s psychedelic trance until he eventually guided us back to reality.

A Blooming Festival Community

Photo Credit: David Cohn

When I’ve heard friends talk about festivals, they don’t tend to focus on the music. Instead, they say things like “I met the most amazing people there” and “. I’ve always believed that people are at the core of great experiences. Sure, good music is amazing. The natural world is breathtaking. But experiencing these things in the absence of good company leaves usually leaves something to be desired.

Every person I talked to at Sonic Bloom had the best intentions. On the second day, I struck up a conversation with someone in line to get food. I noticed her bracelet, black and purple beads designed with mystical keys and heart amulets, and told her how beautiful I thought it was. So, she gave it to me. It was the only one she had, but she said I deserved a totem to remember my first festival.

Small acts of kindness like this may not seem like much, but they all point towards something greater — a shared love and appreciation for the energy we create as a collective. The Sonic Bloom crowd, staff, and artists functioned as healthy cells in the wider organism of humanity, all existing in a container away from the stress of everyday life for just long enough to let your troubles wash away with the sound of music.

Artists painted freely. Vendors showed off their creations with enthusiasm and a grateful demeanor. People freely offered up water and food to those who needed it. It was an intimate example of what “community” really means. At the end of the day, it’s not about the journey or the destination. It’s about the company. And Sonic Bloom had the best company the world has to offer.

The Yoga Dome and the Sound Systems

Photo Credit: David Cohn

During the day, the Yoga Dome functioned as a sobering space for beautiful yoga workshops, sound healing meditations, belly dancing, hooping lessons, and every other hippy activity you could think of. You could see the hangovers fade away after deep breathing exercises as people escaped the sun under the Yoga Dome for some much-needed rest and relaxation. You might not assume that this quaint, calming space housed a Funktion One (F1) sound system that was patiently waiting to blow your face off when the sun went down.

While the Hummingbird Stage, Meadow Stage, and Bloom Stage went with a more traditional set up — Funktion One speakers installed on the left and right side of the stage — The Yoga Dome had speaker stacks installed around the perimeter of the dome in surround sound style.

Funktion One sound quality has reached legendary status as a pinnacle of high quality audio throughout the past decade. Some people insist that Funktion Ones are the only proper way to listen to bass music because few other systems can reach the level of clarity necessary to experience the deep frequencies of the genre.

The Funktion One sound experience is always great. But there’s nothing that compares to the Yoga Dome’s 360° bass vortex blasting Kyral x Banko’s “Forget About Dre” remix and MeSo’s “Big Facts.” Thankfully, you didn’t have to be dancing inside the dome to enjoy the music. Tons of people migrated behind the Yoga Dome to take a seat and enjoy the music while their bodies decompressed from eight straight hours of dancing. Even from behind the dome, the music was loud and clear and the vibes were immaculate.

Photo Credit: David Cohn

Canopy Graveyards

It wasn’t obvious at first how detrimental the weather would be to the camping experience. It wasn’t until night two, after being away from the campsite for 10+ hours, that people realized their lack of preparations against the elements. Walmart brand camping gear is just not designed to withstand the shifting winds of the Front Range, although some nicer tents from REI and North Face were spotted in the graveyard of broken gear scattered throughout the campgrounds too.

No canopy was left unturned as wind uplifted stakes and bent metal poles into an unrecognizable web of destroyed structures. Food went flying, tables were overturned and tapestries floated through the air with no destination in sight. Without the comfort of shade and a propper festival campsite, hanging out at your tent became a different experience, but not a bad one. These things happen, you adjust and work with what you’ve got. Thankfully, we had a sturdy 10-person tent with a blowup couch inside that functioned as a great safe haven against the dust storms. Others weren’t so lucky. By the end of the weekend, construction lifts and excavators were collecting the damage in 20-feet tall piles of broken dreams and twisted metal.

The Creek

The creek at Hummingbird Ranch isn’t exactly a secret. Sure, it’s not “technically” on the GA festival grounds. Yes, there’s “security” that sometimes stands by the creek and makes sure only VIP attendees are allowed in. But after the first afternoon, none of that mattered. The staff had bigger fish to fry, and the creek became open to everyone very quickly.

The creek isn’t much, but it’s enough to dip your lower torso, rinse the dirt off and cool down from the beaming sun. There were all sorts of activities happening at the creek at all hours of the day and night. Hammocks hung above the stream, people ate sandwiches on picnic blankets. Naked festival goers bathed without shame. You never knew what you were going to see there. Regardless, the water was always rejuvenating.

Through it all, Sonic Bloom 2022 was a great introduction to the festival scene. It had everything you could ask for: great music, great art, and most importantly, great people. The weather wasn’t ideal, but that didn’t stop me from embracing every moment. As I gear up for the rest of this festival season, Sonic Bloom 2022 will always have a special place in my heart.

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