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Solasta 2017: A First Year Festival Review

You know those moments where you see something beautiful subtly emerging in nature, like with the blooming of a planted flower or a miraculous awe-inspiring sunset? These miracles are the coming together of a very specific set of conditions within nature that express a harmoniously layered moment, a transient moment; and therein lays the beauty: an astonishing form manifesting from the ether for a brief, visceral spark, an ecstatic flash in the proverbial pan before dissolving back into the formless. This was Solasta; A conjoining petri dish of wonderful, open, creative and loving individuals, coming together under the most fertile conditions to bump molecules and experiment in art, connection, and consciousness. Like all of the circumstances that have to come together for a planted seed to sprout up out of the ground, each bit of the universe came together in the sacred offering that was this festival. Nestled in the voluptuous rolling mountains of northeastern Tennessee, a short drive from music-centric Knoxville and the hippie haven Asheville, North Carolina, Solasta festival was held on property relatively fresh to the scene, Spirit Crossing Farm. A beautifully manicured paradise, graced with soft grass, wonderful rolling hills, a river to float in, shady hammock spots, and a bamboo grove, Spirit Crossing Farm is a festival-goers dream. The land is tucked away from any major residential areas and heavily based in river-cleanups and a very serious leave-no-trace policy (The signs read “Pack it in… Pack it The Fuck Out”). Focusing this kind of intention on keeping the area clean, healthy, unobtrusive, and sustainable should allow festivals, like Solasta, to continue to sprout up on this blessed mountain-cradled land. Solasta started out small in numbers. The two-day festival began on Thursday for a remote few -- the workers, production crew, artists, and a handful of early-arrivals. It being our only festival of the year, my wife and I were beyond giddy to soak up the vibes so we arrived around sunset on Thursday evening to watch the set up and fully expunge into the grounds. We were greeted with warmth and love at the gate and given some knowledge on the lay of the land, how things were going to unfold, and also discussed the necessity of mood-lighting, which they pulled off exquisitely. After an initial scope of the setting, we decided to set up near the bamboo thicket halfway down property by the river. The bamboo provided shade and the flowing river provided a gentle relaxing trickle. This was a tent-camping festival (no cars except in the lot), so I would recommend bringing a wagon, which is helpful to cut down on trips to the car, but due to the size of the grounds and lazy-day atmosphere, not entirely necessary. We set up camp in an awe-inspired whimsy as a neon magenta sunset glowed behind the dark silhouetted mountainscape, encapsulating the scene in a fortuitous glow. Well into the night, as we bopped around and explored the various art installations being constructed, the moon rose in glory over the mountaintops, crossing its path directly over the farm, and shining a steady glow upon the grounds. We learned that each night, seemingly curated with the rise of the moon, a low hanging fog would saturate the scene. It created an attractively eerie glow from the orbing colored lights of the various installations and stands, but it also saturated everything in a thick moisture. It was so common, so beautiful, yet mildly inconvenient and inescapable, that my wife and I jokingly entitled it "The Dampening." This happened like clockwork nightly, so I highly recommend bringing extra shoes and socks to this festival. A couple chats with the staff, some run-ins with other early-arrivers, a little food, and some shared beverages, led to a soft and easy slumber to the sound of the trickling river, and a very relaxing wake-up to the Sun’s lifting of "The Dampening." As a small amount of festival-goers started seeping into the grounds, inevitably finding somewhere along the wooded edges of the property to set up camp, we decided to explore the now-completed stage area, along with the various pieces of art and cozy nooks that had sprung up overnight. A circle of teepees with soft padded couches had arisen, along with comfortable, shaded seating around the open dome of the stage area. The stage itself was maybe my art highlight of any festival I’ve ever been to, the front of which was built into what I affectionately referred to as “The Altar.” It was a swirling chrysanthemum of nature, curated together into a hypnotic merging of the elements earth, fire, and water. This was a whimsical sigil of mother gaia, created of natural adornments fused into a brightly flowered nest with running fountains and a lit fire at its center. The altar would be the center stage for all music that happened over the weekend, which made it feel like we were all taking part in some sort of spiritually-fueled, tribal-based, neo-archaic ritual, which in essence, I guess we were. The sensory gratification did not stop at ocular satiation, though, as over the weekend, our ears were blessed with the drippy beats of some of electronic music’s best acts. Artists rare to this region like New Zealand’s psy-focused producer Grouch, who performed 1:00 a.m. sets each night, mixed with local mountain modular wizards like Earth Cry, and world famous acts like the constantly spinning RJD2, created a diverse, all-encompassing atmosphere. An intrinsically fun and raw opening ceremony by Sirius Colors, yoga in the morning by Aurora Taylor, astounding nightly fire performances by Asheville’s Peace, Love, and Fire, and music-based intensive workshops which brought artists and fans together in an open forum, would prove to open pathways of connection both inside and out. They say “the real world is unspeakable,” and this holds true to Solasta. I can keep going on about the groovy aesthetics, the astounding picturesque mountain setting, the mind-blowing, pineal-gland-oozing beats bumping all weekend, the whimsical yet moist glow of "The Dampening," the intensive workshops, floating in the river under the sun, the beautiful art installations, and the ceremonious altar, but these will never be able to touch the real true connection we all felt with the other festival goers that were able to share Solasta’s first bloom together. All the conditions were right, and under the stars, we celebrated creativity, love, and existence. That is the real heart of a festival, and this small festival had the biggest heart. Sunday morning, as DJ Bowie’s set rose with the sun, lifting the veil of "The Dampening," there was something in the air, an essence beyond words, beyond the mind. It’s not something you can grasp. It grasps you. The essence was the ecstatic, warm, encapsulating love of a new-found family. Like sleepy bees on a mountain flower, blissing out on the ecstasy of the beauty of the bloom, we were home.

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