Backwoods Music Festival stakes its claim on Mulberry Mountain [EVENT REVIEW]

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When Wakarusa announced it would not be returning to its magical setting nestled in the Arkansas Ozarks, attendees were filled with as many questions as they were with shock and dismay. Why would a landmark festival gathering be coming to an abrupt halt during its prime? Was the production company behind Wakarusa facing legal and financial troubles? Would there ever be another chance to return Mulberry Mountain?

That was 2015, and as answers have since become woefully clear, there remained a glimmer of hope for Wakarusa attendees. Thankfully for them, a humble grassroots festival out of Stroud, Oklahoma made the key business decision to pick up the reins. After two years of steadily growing attendance, and building a Midwest festival following akin to the Wakarusa crowd, the folks at Backwoods Music Festival took a year off to regroup, reorganize, and prepare for their debut at Mulberry Mountain — a lush landscape filled with scenic 360-degree views of sprawling Southern mountains, waterfall trails around every bend, and rich spirits.

With headliners STS9GRiZ, and The Floozies gracing the 2018 bill, Backwoods was rich with the authentic energy of Wakarusa in its early infancy. Interesting enough, attendees even went as far as to fondly dub the festival “Backarusa” and “Wakawoods” throughout the weekend. The festival subsumed a relaxed, familial vibe that welcomed Backwoods and Wakarusa veterans alike — as well as many newcomers — into a melting pot of live interactive art installations, roaming performers, and one-of-a-kind stage designs.

Fresh off last weekend’s conclusion, we’ve compiled a few reasons why Backwoods should be on your festival bucket list.


1. The stages

After making the shift from a Labor Day festival to a spring time event, Backwoods selected April 20th-23rd for their coveted weekend slot; and with April showers come May flowers. Despite pouring rain conditions halfway through the weekend, the stages held up supremely well during this rain or shine event.

The festival’s main stage, dubbed The Motherland, was a tree house of fun and flow arts as performers moved across four different platforms perched atop the stage’s front end. GRiZ delivered a polarizing Friday night performance; Sound Tribe Sector 9 went for an extended 2-hour set in the rain, playing much of their Universe Inside album; and, perhaps most notably, was the closing Sunday night performance from The Floozies duo, who got their very start on Mulberry Mountain. In addition to the headliners, the Motherland stage served as a “Who’s Who” of heavy bass and jamtronica, boasting stand-out sets from Papadosio, Figure, Snails, Space Jesus, Emancipator, Sunsquabi, and a special farewell set from Zoogma.

Perhaps Backwoods’ most intriguing stage was the Globe Theater, which hosted a uniquely curated list of folk, bluegrass, rock, and electronica acts. Adorned with charming, Shakespearean-inspired woodwork, the stage was hand-crafted by a DIY troop of artists and builders belonging to The Imagination Nation. Upon entry, performers acted as gatekeepers into the humble abode, asking each attendee to solve a short riddle. Those who solved the puzzle were then invited backstage to co-mingle in a secret speakeasy, complete with a bevy of prohibition era characters and a flapper bartender serving complimentary Old Fashioned cocktails. From this point, a back trail opened up into the woods leading to the Space Station, which hosted the Untz traveling bass stage.

The Space Station sat at the foot of a steep, grassy hill to host the festival’s most underground and experimental bass music acts. Erected as a psychedelic pyramid lined by subwoofers along its base, artists like Yheti and Jade Cicada could be seen demolishing the decks from inside the structure’s peak point. ThazDope Records also hosted late night sets — with a roster of impressive free form bass music artists in APLSOZ, beardthug, Brainrack, Cut Rugs, and more — as attendees lined the hill in their tree hung hammocks enjoying sets until the wee sunrise hours.


2. The vendors and live art installations

The DIY ethos was alive and thriving at Backwoods 2018. Upon roaming through the shady forest camp grounds, attendees could stumble upon a psychedelic playground with live interactive art experiences, live painters and graffiti artists, and tents filled with canvases for sale.

This space also housed the many consciousness-raising activities and sacred healing workshops throughout the weekend, including several forms of yoga, aerial and flow arts, sound therapy, and guided meditations. Take a short walk over the vendor row, where famous smells from the Grilled Cheese Incident (a Forest favorite) consumed the senses, as attendees shopped at all the popular festival apparel companies.


3. The grounds

As any Mulberry veteran would tell you, the weather conditions on the mountain are not for the faint of heart. Past Wakarusa events included tornado warning conditions and mud up to the ankles and shins. While Backwoods enjoyed two full days of sunshine, with torrential downpour beginning late Saturday evening, it became quickly apparent that roughing the cold wilderness conditions was apart of the late night fun. Attendees pulled out the ponchos and stomped around in their sponge-soaked footwear without an ounce of care.

For the outdoor gurus, attendees could lace up their hiking boots and take the hour-long trek down the mountain to spend time at multiple waterfall stops. Along the way, it was not uncommon to find selenite clusters hiding in the dirt or quartz pieces floating down the river bed. With such a supremely beautiful landscape, and not nearly enough time to explore every nook and crany of the mountain, attendees could opt in for helicopter tours with aerial views of the festival and scenic detours into the foothills to view the mountain’s many majestic waterfalls.

Upon departure from the festival grounds, taking the 30-minute drive winding down two-lane mountain roads, life begins to slow down and one is filled with the overwhelming sense of hope and gratitude instilled by Mulberry. If not for the expertly-curated line-up of top-notch national, regional, and local acts, Backwoods is one festival you experience for the spirit of the mountain. As the festival grows from it’s infancy, do not be surprised at seeing some colossal headliners in the years to come.

Featured photo courtesy of Jamie Seed, additional photo credits: Sergio Zuniga, Braden James, & Aaron Bradley.

Austin City Limits unveils staggering 2018 line-up with ODESZA, Childish Gambino, REZZ, and more

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Austin City Limits is one massive annual event that every devout festival goer ought to check off their festival bucket list at least once. The two weekend Texas throw-down wrangles a staggering herd of talent year after year that brings the best of electronic, pop/rock, and hip-hop to Zilker Park, ACL’s host venue on the banks of the Colorado River with scenic skyline views of downtown Austin. Sitting atop this year’s festival billing is the legendary Paul McCartney, Metallica, Childish Gambino, Arctic Monkeys, Travis Scott, ODESZA, and The National.

Running from October 5–7 and October 12–14, ACL’s expansive 2018 lineup features over 140 live acts, providing a truly cross-genre, mega-festival experience. From Khalid and Shawn Mendez, to Deftones and St. Vincent, and Lily Allen, Børns, and Sylvan Esso in between, the C3 Presents-produced event delivers the full sonic spectrum to satisfy a range of musical tastes. With live performances by Marian Hill, Sophie Tucker, and synth pop rockers CHVRCHES, along with key electronic acts in Justice, Illenium, Rezz, San Holo, and Gryffin, Austin City Limits continues to be at the pinnacle of festival curation.

Tickets are now on sale for both weekends here.

Featured image courtesy of ACL.

Relive your favorite sets of Ultra Music Festival 2018

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Photo credit: aLIVE Coverage.

Festival season is officially in full swing as Ultra Music Festival (UMF) has officially wrapped its 20th anniversary event in grandiose display. The ever-expanding franchise recently announced its acquisition of Winter Music Conference, along with their expansion into China with Ultra Beijing and Ultra Shanghai.

Living up to its promise to “expect the unexpected” in 2018, UMF capped off a lofty Miami Music Week with a number of attention-grabbing acts from dance music’s top tastemakers, including David Guetta, Kaskade, Eric Prydz, and Above & Beyond, along with an illustrious cast of newcomers in REZZ, Jauz, and Virtual Self. The most exalted act of the weekend came in the form of a highly anticipated reunion from Swedish House Mafia, who filled the surprise guest slot to close out the festival. Marshmello made his main stage debut and premiered his newest collaboration with Lil Uzi Vert, The Chainsmokers put the naysayers to bed with their high-energy performance, which included four unreleased tracks and a flaming drum solo, and Sir Carl Cox delivered a high-powered spectacle in his Resistance Megastructure.

Other notable moments came care of DJ Snake, who brought out Tchami, Malaa, and Mercer to debut their new collaboration, “Let’s Get Ill;” Axwell Λ Ingrosso, who opened their set with a captivating new track ID; Tiësto, who invited out his new fiancé, model Annika Backes, to the stage; and Steve Aoki, who assembled Daddy Yankee, Elvis Crespo, and Play-N-Skillz for a live performance of their recent release, “Azukita.”

For those who can’t count themselves lucky enough to have witnessed the live weekend spectacle, DA has compiled a comprehensive list of streams from UMF 2018 to relive the festival’s most magical moments.


DAY ONE

Armin van BuurenMain Stage

Armin van Buuren, ASOT Stage

DJ SnakeMain Stage

HardwellMain Stage

Steve AokiMain Stage

Oliver HeldensMain Stage

Axwell ^ IngrossoMain Stage

NGHTMRE & Slander present Gud VibrationsWorldwide Stage

QuintinoUMF Radio

Pete TongArcadia Spider

KungsMain Stage

SlushiiWorldwide Stage

Carl CoxCarl Cox Megastructure

Hot Since 82Arcadia Spider

BlasterjaxxUMF Radio

REZZUltra Worldwide

Virtual SelfLive Stage


DAY TWO

AfrojackMain Stage

Alan WalkerMain Stage

The ChainsmokersMain Stage

TiestoMain Stage

Tchami & Malaa present No RedemptionLive Stage

San HoloLive Stage

MarshmelloMain Stage

JauzMain Stage

Benny BenassiUltra Worldwide

Jamie JonesCarl Cox Megastructure

Carl CoxCarl Cox Megastructure

Dubfire b2b Nicole Moudaber b2b Paco OsunaCarl Cox Megastructure

Cheat CodesMain Stage

Danny TenagliaArcadia Spider


DAY THREE

Swedish House MafiaMain Stage

Above & Beyond

Eric Prydz

What So NotUltra Worldwide

David GuettaMain Stage

GhastlyUltra Worldwide

Andrew RayelA State of Trance

Paul OakenfoldA State of Trance

Gabriel & DresdenA State of Trance

FlosstradamusUltra Worldwide

Julian JordanUMF Radio

Pan Pot

Sick Indviduals

Quix b2b WukiUMF Radio

Benny BenassiUltra Worldwide

Keys n KratesLive Stage

Valentino KhanUMF Radio

OokayLive Stage

Cedric GervaisUltra Worldwide

Salvatore GanacciUltra Worldwide

MatadorArcadia Spider

Manila KillaUMF Radio

Frank WalkerUltra Worldwide

Photo credit: aLIVE Coverage

BUKU Music + Arts Project – photos by Christian Miller and Dianna Shelley

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Photo credit: aLive Coverage

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Sending it to The Big Easy: BUKU Music + Arts Project in Review

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BUKU2018_0309_231137-1877_ATW

Additional words by John Flynn.

The smell of lobster po’ boys and boiled crawfish is thick in the air, as crowds of festivalgoers make their way down Magazine Avenue towards the entrance to New Orleans’ Mardis Gras World. The venue is a one-of-a-kind urban promised land, whose grounds are home to the Big Easy’s iconic Mardis Gras Day parade floats and an abandoned early 20th Century power plant that has become the official backdrop of Winter Circle Production’s BUKU Music + Arts Project.

BUKU’s position at Mardi Gras World is perhaps its biggest prominency. The destination provides the ultimate unique locale for festival organizers to craft a singular experience rooted in the spirited history of one of America’s oldest cities. Located on the banks of the Mississippi, its outdoor stages are set in plain view of a rusted-out power plant. The festival’s newest stage, dubbed The Wharf, is quite the intriguing addition, with wooden shipping crates standing as it’s center piece aesthetic. While BUKU veterans were initially disappointed in the organizer’s elimination of the boat stage, their apprehensions seemed to melt away as they danced their hearts out to the house beats of Green VelvetWalker & Royce, and Bonobo, among others.

Photo credit: aLive Coverage

Photo credit: aLive Coverage

As festivalgoers from many walks of life scurry through the grounds with grins on their faces and all sorts of potions in their hands, one can see the minute mental moments of reflection of their faces, where they pause briefly to take in the Mississippi River air, contemplating the performances the next two days has to offer. The seventh annual edition of BUKU, it seems, thrives off of the palpable hype pulsing through the veins of wide-eyed 20-somethings seeking total sensory assault.

The festival is a match made in heaven for such a demographic, offering up some of the biggest names in EDM and hip-hop — from Bassnectar, Porter Robinson’s new Virtual Self  project, and the goddess of Neptune, REZZ, to Migos and Lil Uzi Vert — along with a plethora of other styles for those looking to forsake sonic overload for something a bit more subtle in SZA, Sylvan Esso, and MGMT.

It is this sort of eclectic line-up that the festival prides itself on. One might be dancing to the hypnotic builds of Honey Dijon and, upon a turn to the left, see the Mississippi River as freight boats glide by. Turn to the right, and the gutted power-plant provides an industrial backdrop to Illenium and Gryffin‘s feel-good soundscapes. BUKU’s premier indoor stage, the Float Den, is set inside a 300,000 square foot working warehouse — the very one where the city’s elaborate Mardi Gras floats are created and stored.

Beyond dance music, Friday night brought an abundant array of more popular spectacles. Two stalwarts of contemporary hip-hop/R&B, Migos and SZA, made and appearance, while hitmakers MGMT brought a taste of indie flavor. As the beginning synth from “Time To Pretend” sets in, swells of festival goers could be seen rushing to the stage to catch the band in action. Their booking helped fill a niche for attendees that existed outside of the EDM and hip-hop dominated culture.

BUKU

While Migos’ performance was cut to a mere 30 minutes due to their tardiness, SZA’s surpassed all expectations. Despite an ankle injury cutting her set ten minutes short, the artist hit her notes in stride. At a time where SZA is quickly becoming one of Generation Z’s largest pop stars, her elegance on stage made for something downright magical. As far as Migos set goes, you’d have to ask one of the thousands of panting kids that exited the stage promptly after, but it goes without saying the Atlanta trio put on a spectacle of a performance.

Friday also marked the debut of Virtual Self’s US festival performance. As the Porter Robinson alter alias descended on the festival, surges of fans flocked into the Float Den to catch the performance. Given his set time and location on the more intimate stage, his set was a huge success. As the melancholy tinged synths from “Ghost Voices” bounced off the warehouse’s walls and the dance floor hit peak movability, it became clear that the alter ego has nearly equated Robinson himself.

BUKU

What Robinson has crafted in this current reiteration of his live performance is painstakingly artistic and novel. With lights shooting up in parallel lines from the stage’s see-through flooring panels, to the multitude of lasers so perfectly timed to his uncanny drops, Virtual Self’s set stands as a fully immersive visual and auditory spectacle. Even if his IDM, jungle-infused, era-accurate trance, early hardcore, and j-core blended sound doesn’t tickle everyone’s ear drums, one simply could not walk away from the set without an immense respect for what the Robinson is doing — that is, recycling early electronic sounds into a rollercoaster journey of new-wave sounds.

Saturday’s diverse range of sets made for a great follow up, with artists like REZZ, Isaiah Rashad, Sylvan Esso, and Illenium drawing large crowds. Bassnectar also made a welcome appearance, slamming his most sought-after tracks upon his audience — from “Raw Charles” and “Cozza Frenzy” to “Hologram,” and “Lost In The Crowd.” He also paid homage to the city of New Orleans in his deliverance of his bass-bolstered remix of Buku’s “Front to the Back,” while making time to drop in a tune by NOLA-based bass music duo, sfam, so as to promote rising local talent. However, it was REZZ who molded these bass worshipping disciples into pure balls of energy with her hypnotic performance. No longer human, the audience transformed themselves into slow moving entities at the hands of the Niagara Falls native’s industrial-tinged rhythms set to the frequencies of the planet Neptune. Indeed, the slotting of REZZ to close out the festival after Bassnectar was a bold, deliberate, and keenly-astute decision by organizers.

BUKU

The most notable aspect of BUKU fest was the organizer’s intentional booking of strong female headliners — a highly laudable move that deserves recognition in an age of the #MeToo Movement, where female artists and consumers have begun speaking out against sexual assault at the hands of powerful male industry professionals. With additional lineup support from Alison Wonderland, Bishop Briggs, No Name, and Clozee, it was clear that the Bukweens were out in dominant force. Their presence transformed the festival vibe into a refreshing modality of equality and empowerment, further spotlighting how the music industry masses are waking up to the fact that females are disproportionately represented at the top tiers of dance music.

As BUKU thrives and grows with each passing year, the Winter Circle-produced event has earned a reputation as the South’s premiere outdoor, urban, spring time festival. It’s become clear that these organizers know what they are doing as they expand the venue seamlessly, create insane stage productions, and curate cutting-edge line-ups. If you haven’t experienced the magic of Mardis Gras World already, you’ll want to make sure to include BUKU Music + Arts Project as the kick-off event of your next festival season.

Photo Credit: VibeSmith


All photos by Vibesmith, unless otherwise noted

Lollapalooza announces 2018 edition with The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Vampire Weekend, ODESZA, more

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lollapalooza

The Midwest’s premier music festival, Lollapalooza, returns to Chicago’s Grant Park August 2–5 with a newly announced lineup for the behemoth, 4-day affair. Topping the 2018 bill are The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Travis Scott, Logic, and ODESZA, and, most notably, Vampire Weekend — the band’s first live performance in four years.

Other high-profile acts include Tyler, The Creater, CHVRCHES, LL Cool J, Portugal. the Man, and Brit superstar Dua Lipa. The festival’s electronic and dance music bookings are just as thrilling, with a comprehensive roster of veteran and rising acts: Zedd, ExcisionDillon Francis, Galantis, Illenium, REZZ, Chromeo, Hippie Sabotage, Tycho, Zomboy, WhatSoNot, Malaa, Valentino Kahn, Petit Biscuit, Ghastly, Chris Lake, Herobust, and Space Jesus.

Lollapalooza also boasts an impressive undercard with Gucci Mane, Lil Pump, St. Vincent, and Aussie one-woman band Tash Sultana, who rarely tours the US.

With over a hundred names set to appear over the weekend, Lollapalooza truly has become an American institution with something to satiate everyone’s musical tastes. GA and VIP passes to Lollapalooza can be found here.

Superfly’s Denver-based mega-music festival will be called ‘Grandoozy,’ line-up to follow

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grandoozy

Superfly Presents — the organizers behind festival titans Bonnaroo and Outside Lands — have been working for over a year with the City of Denver to bring a brand new super festival to Colorado. Last August, Denver’s city council voted 10-3 approving the festival for 2018.

In a recent press conference, Superfly has now announced Denver’s newest festival will officially take place on September 14-16, 2018, and the name has been revealed as Grandoozy Music Festival. The best news, however, is that the monstrous line-up announce is only a few weeks away with a reveal slated for March 20th.

The three-day festival will bring 30,000-60,000 attendees to Overland Golf Course, located just south of downtown Denver, and is projected to generate $2 million in ticket sales. Attendance is expected to double in the festival’s second year.

The festival will not host a camping site, but will include culinary, art, beer and outdoor experiences in addition to it’s multi-genre music experience.

The city’s approval granted Superfly a five-year contract at the golf course. If all goes well in its first year, the mainstream festival experience will be something Coloradans can look forward to every September.

5 artists not to miss at BUKU Music + Arts Project 2018

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BUKU2017_0310_184107-8244_DVS-1024x576

Attendees will encounter live musical acts from all along the electronic, indie rock, and hip-hop/R&B spectrum upon entrance to the urban playground, which is set against the backdrop of an abandoned early 20th Century power plant and a warehouse featuring the city’s most iconic Mardi Gras floats. It’s a difficult feat to single out a mere five must-see artists, given the plethora of incredible talent slated to perform for this year’s sixth edition. Indeed, while there are innumerable exceptional artists which are not on this list, here are five artists Dancing Astronaut recommends making a point to see.

Tickets for BUKU are available here.


Walker & Royce

Photo courtesy of Walker & Royce.

With releases on Relief, This Ain’t Bristol, Pets Recordings, and many more, Walker & Royce join the BUKU line-up after the recent release of their genre-defying debut album Self Help, out on Dirtybird Records. Their iconic live DJ sets invite listeners on an out-there trip through the quirks and quips of an act on the tip of modern house music’s tongue. The result is a journey whose stops are as fit for introspection as it is for peak club moments. Head to BUKU’a new riverside stage, The Wharf, and arrive ready to be lured into deep contemplation with club-ready grooves on top.


 Jade Cicada 

After developing tendonitis in his arm from years of viola playing, underground bass producer Jade Cicada took it as a sign to put down the strings and pick up the laptop. His music is a reflection of a few spiritually-attuned ideals, as well as a constant homage to those who have inspired him.  Jade Cicada’s name implies virtues like wisdom, peace, and rebirth, and he brings these to his experimental sound design that utilizes break beat, lo-fi synth work, and low tempo bass lines. He’ll be providing an immersive bass experience to fans at BUKU’s iconic Float Den.


 Virtual Self 

Photo credit: Steven Lawton/Getty Images

Virtual Self is a bright new act that needs no introduction. As the brainchild of Porter Robinson, the quirky dance music project authentically incorporates IDM, jungle-inspired drum breaks, era-accurate trance super saw sections, early hardcore and j-core elements — all morphed into something that sounds robust and thoroughly produced. Exposed, vindicated, and honest, Robinson is poised as a tastemaker to influence dance music trends. Come experience Virtual Self’s US festival debut before Robinson brings his brand new headlining act to every major festivals across the country, including Spring Awakening, Bonaroo, and many more.


 Black Gummy 

BlackGummy began as the brainchild of Los Angeles-based electronic music producer Iman Marouf, who “discovered” the entity seen in his performances during a trip to the Middle East and Asia. He spends almost all of his time locked away in his studio, crafting new productions that attempt to lend a voice to the enigmatic persona that is BlackGummy. When he’s not in his studio, he is either performing alongside “the idol” in nightclubs and venues, and second, to search the four-corners of earth for more clues into his alter ego’s vague origins. Catch BlackGummy at BUKU’s VIP Back Alley stage.


 Illenium (Awake Live) 

Illenium performs at Bonnaroo Arts And Music Festival , 2017. Photo credit: FilmMagic.

Illenium‘s prolific outpouring of captivating remixes and haunting originals has garnered him a devoted following and has seen him rise quickly in the ranks of the dance music community. He has distinguished himself from the future bass herd through his unrivaled ability to create an immersive emotional experience of highs and lows that pulls on the heart-strings and leaves listeners awestruck. Bringing his Awake Live tour to NOLA this March, Illenium’s stunning live performance will incorporate a keyboard and drum pad framed by cutting-edge lighting and visuals to immerse listeners in captivating melodic bass. Illenium headlines the Power Plant stage on Saturday, March 9th.

Shambhala unveils REZZ as first of 2018 headliners

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When REZZ made her extraordinary debut appearance at Shambhala Music Festival in 2016, her beloved performance was widely regarded as one of many breakout moments in her, at the time, short career. The mau5trap signee was also among Shambhala’s most anticipated returning artists among organizers and attendees in 2017.

Sadly, REZZ was instructed not to travel to last year’s event when the festival faced imminent cancellation due to raging wildfires in the area.

Now, less than 200 days out from Shambhala’s return, organizers have made a special, unexpected announcement that REZZ was the first of the 2018 headliners to be announced.

Affectionately known as “Space Mom” by fans, the Canadian-bred female powerhouse talent tweeted to her cult following over her shock and gratitude at the sudden festival announcement.

Shambhala will return to Salmo River Ranch near Nelson, British Columbia this August 10th–13th, 2018. Tickets and ShambhaLodging camping packages are available online.

Photo cred: Rukes

 

Stream deadmau5’s set as techno alias Testpilot on Holy Ship! 11.0

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