Review: Apache Lake Music Festival

When I found out a music festival including my favorite Arizona bands was occurring on my birthday, I knew I had to go.

Apache Lake Music Festival was Friday, October 1st and Saturday, October 2nd, but I only went on Saturday.

This won’t be much of a review of the show because I didn’t catch all of the bands, but I’ll share bits of my experience from what I did see.

(This was our breath-taking view for a majority of the ride.)

After driving through an hour of soaring canyons and jagged rock formations at elevations of 1,900 feet along a cliff’s edge, we made it to Apache Lake around 4 p.m.

We were able to catch the very end of the Sugar Thieves’ soulful set. (Good thing they play in Tempe frequently so I can catch them again soon.) As the set was ending, the light drizzle turned into thick raindrops and everyone frantically moved the equipment inside. Thankfully the bands were able to continue playing inside. Inside they were also able to play longer sets. So even though the outside stage was set against a beautiful backdrop, being inside wasn’t too bad at all.

Black Carl, the first band to play inside, broke it down with Emma Pew’s raspy powerful voice. They finished their set with a badass beat boxing rap about all kinds of fabulous gangsta activities.

I was too busy enjoying myself to even remember where I placed my camera. I retrieved it for What Laura Says and snapped these pictures:

What Laura Says

What Laura Says

What Laura Says

What Laura Says

What Laura Says

Once again What Laura Says captured my body into a dancing frenzy. (If you couldn’t tell by the movement in the pictures.) They opened with two songs from Bloom Cheek, “Training” and “On the Fence” (Same as when I saw them a week before. Check out that review on my other blog here.) played an upbeat whirl of psychedelic rock songs throughout and then finished with two covers.

I almost lost it when they played my favorite Beatles song, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” This was definitely my favorite part of the night.

As they closed out with a rock-induced version of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” everyone couldn’t help but belt along. I definitely was able to be myself so thank you What Laura Says.

After that I only caught bits of Dry River Yacht Club’s set and Strange Young Things’ set. I’ll admit– I was too busy celebrating my birthday at the bar and meeting people outside.

But overall it was a really great festival filled with a great atmosphere, great energy, good vibes and good people. Wherever you went people were waving, smiling and saying hello. A festival with the sound of laughter, feet stomping and tunes vibrating is a good one to me.

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GrassRoots: 2009

During my second semester of my junior year (around February 2010) I submitted a non-fiction essay about GrassRoots to The Blue Guitar Magazine. The issue’s just been published online. Check out my essay and the other wonderful writing here. My essay’s on pages 50-51.

My essay’s about my GrassRoots experience in 2009. I just got out of a serious relationship, and I was in a really broken place. Going to GrassRoots and being surrounded by so much love helped heal me in so many ways.

In case you don’t venture over to the website, here’s the essay:

Healed by the Beat of the Drum

“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.

This is power, it is glory on Earth and it is yours for the taking.”

— Agnes De Mille

Waking up in the same pajamas I’ve been wearing the past five days, I have no desire to leave my bed even as the afternoon sun beats down outside my window. My whole world had come to a crashing halt when my boyfriend confessed he’d fallen out of love with me. Even my bedroom in the house I grew up in — surrounded by pictures of friends, bands and art — couldn’t offer any comfort.

I needed to escape the prison of loneliness, so I fled to my favorite music festival: GrassRoots. Held in upstate New York, GrassRoots is a four-day spectacle of partying, camping and listening to bands from all over the world. The eclectic mix of music ranges from Native American folk and Peruvian electronica to rock, bluegrass, soul, reggae and rockabilly. Because the camping is in tight quarters, festival-goers share food, alcohol, blankets and all other belongings. By the end of the festival, neighbors become family, and strangers become lifetime friends.

Noises in the night

Lying in my tent, I can’t fall asleep, even after an exhausting day of dancing and drinking at the festival. Shrieks, screams, howls, drumbeats and laughter erupt from the woods. The noises call to the wind, to the world, to the wild. A rush of electricity buzzes in my brain. One more “I yi yiiiii!” stabs into my ears, and I leap up. I need to join the people creating the noise.

It’s the first night of the festival, and everyone’s welcoming the darkness with music. As I walk barefoot into the woods, a couple greet me: “Hi friend! Happy GrassRoots!” They share the shine of their flashlight as we drift from campsite to campsite.

People I’ve never met smile and hug me when I walk by. They’re eager to share their belongings. “Hey friend, great to see you! Have a glow stick.” “Hi beautiful, would you like any food?” Their kindness is overwhelming.

As we approach the drum circle, I understand why everyone is still awake. A painted naked woman holds a tambourine with one hand and claps her fingers to her mouth with the other. Her knotty hair sways as she sits cross-legged on the dirt. Next to her, a man attacks the bongo drum with his fingers.

Glancing at the crowd, I realize these people are no different than me. They too have work on Monday. The guy dancing naked hollering in the drum circle will be in a suit waiting for the Metro on Monday morning.  They too have jobs in cubicles, work the monotonous 9-5, cook meals and wash laundry. They too could be suffering broken hearts.

But at this instant, none of that matters. For these stolen moments they have a chance to really just be.

The power of music

In the morning the sun pierces my tent. Crawling out, I stretch and change into my rainbow-hued bathing suit top and wrap a blue sarong with bright sunflowers around my waist. I place my favorite hat from when I was 7 on my head: a pink-and-red beaded veil with long white lace that falls down my back. I head to the festival to prepare for the Happiness Day Parade.

At the festival grounds I look for Ryan, the artist who’d painted my body the year before. He’s in the same spot, next to a maple tree outside the Happiness Day Parade headquarters, a barn filled with medieval costumes and capes for anyone to borrow.

Smiling as he sees me, Ryan says, “Come here, you goddess! Let me paint you.”

With a brush, Ryan splashes lines of blue and green across my shoulders and down my arms. He presses a small dish drainer around my forehead and airbrushes pink against the holes. In the middle of my forehead he sticks a silver-colored gem. With an assortment of other kitchen instruments and metal scraps he airbrushes the rest of my upper body and draws a lime green heart under my collar bones.

“Now that you look beautiful, you better get out there and dance like crazy,” Ryan says.

“Oh, I will,” I reply. Thinking, you have no idea.

After the parade I meet up with friends from home, and we’re instantly pulled to the sound of loud bongo drumming. We run right up to the main stage and see four African-American men shining in long, bright blue dresses. It’s the band Samite of Uganda. The frontman Samite wails tribal African songs as the percussion section bloomswith conga drums, bongos and native African madinas and kalimbas.

My body starts to move in ways I can’t even comprehend. My arms propel up and down, left and right. I bend close to the ground, spin on my toes and plunge into the air, all the while swinging and stomping to the beat of the drum. Sweat slides across my face, in between my knees. Paint drips down my forehead. My heart thumps louder and wilder with every beat. The music rattles my senses.

People around us join our circle. We just look at each other—laughing, smiling, twirling into a perpetual state of bliss. The 6-foot-tall man in front of me dances in his huge black top hat and long, sparkly wizard cape. The girl next to him, feathers and flowers in her hair, spins in her bright purple, orange, yellow and blue dress.

On the stage I see Ryan dancing and laughing with his friends. Our eyes meet. He jumps off the stage, shimmies over to me, eyes fiery with excitement, and shouts, “You’re doing it! You’re doing it! You’re getting crazy!” He grabs my hand and pulls me on stage.

As we dance next to the band, euphoria rushes through me. My body no longer belongs to me—some other force takes over.

Nothing matters except that moment. I am infinite.

My wizard friend dances on the other side of the stage. He pulls off his hat, shakes his head and dreadlocks tumble out down to his knees. The crowd roars.

As the music stops, I can’t even breathe. Floating in a trance, I walk off stage and bump into the wizard.

“I saw you dancing up there, getting down!” he says.

“Yeah, I saw you shaking out all your dreads.”

He looks at me, snaps his fingers side to side and starts singing, “Life just keeps getting better. Life just keeps getting better.”

A smile sprouts in my heart and conquers my whole face. All the loneliness from the break-up with my boyfriend disintegrates. Laughing wildly, I join in: “Life just keeps getter better. Life just keeps getting better.”

And even if for a moment, I knew it would.

GrassRoots: The Music

The music at GrassRoots ranges from reggae to zydeco to rock to folk to sitting-on-your-front-porch-drinking-a-beer-bluegrass. For the most part it’s all feel-good, get off your butt and dance kind of music for all ages. There are two main stages, a dance tent and a cabaret stage in a building that’s similar to a barn.

Here’s a playlist with some of my favorite performances from this year. The options on the search engine were pretty limited, but press play to gain an idea of the sounds of GrassRoots.


Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Read about my favorite performances while you listen:

-Donna the Buffalo:

A five-piece band infused with old-time music, mountain music, blues, rock, reggae, Cajun, folk and bluegrass. After every song, the female vocalist changes instruments: scrubboard, accordion, fiddle, guitar. I’ve never seen someone get as lost in the music as Jeb, the frontman, does. His eyes close, his mouth opens, and he’s in another world.

To quote from the GrassRoots program, “Like the herd’s trail across the prairie, Donna the Buffalo will make her mark in your heart.”

Favorite songs they played:

“Positive Friction” lyrics:

“Positive friction, under the upper crust/What does all this Hollywood really have to do with us/True grit, timeless love/There’s no reason to pretend/Lets get together and become natural once again/Natural once again…./There is a certain vibe, circulating in the air/Cast from all the energy that emanates from everywhere”

“Locket and Key” lyrics:

“There must be something in the moon and stars keeping it together when we’re falling apart.” <there must be 🙂

Check out their website here.

-Arrested Development

We were hip-hoping all over the place to their positive tunes. Most of our camp was together to watch them so it was even better.

Favorite songs:

“Ease my mind” –I need some time to ease my mind, I need some time.

“Tennessee” lyrics: “Take me to another place, take me to another land, Make me forget all that hurts me, let me understand your plan.”

Dear Arrested Development, watching your set, I forgot all that hurts me, and I was most definitely in another land. After their set, we shook hands with the whole band as they reached into the audience.

-Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad

“GPGDS combine the hypnotic sounds of Jamaican music with their own conscious vibrations and eternal truths. Live in the moment, let it happen…you’ll be healed and uplifted, and that’s a guarantee.”

Check out their music here.

-The Makepeace Brothers

Very sing-along, feel-good, grooving tunes. They interact with the crowd and make sure everyone’s having fun. At one point they called contestants on stage to have a twist contest. Most of our camp was together while watching them so it made their performance much more fun.

This performance isn’t from GrassRoots, but this was their last song. Just imagine me and all my friends pointing to each other and thanking each other with every line.

-Kevin Kinsella

Another favorite reggae performance. The reggae really won me over this weekend.

Kevin’s son was at his side for the whole set. He kept singing, dancing and breaking it down. It was the most precious thing. Kevin kept singing to him and playing with him, too.

-Sim Redmond Band

One of my favorite bands. They sing pretty little simple songs that can pull anyone’s heart strings. Their songs can bring you back to a certain moment, can make you yearn for that true love, can dig their way into your heart. We watched from the second row and then moved to the back half-way through.

Favorite songs:

“Arms Around the Sun” lyrics:

“I feel strange and I feel cold/and I’m afraid of growing old/and I’m afraid if I look back/I might find a crack/or a hole in my soul…./I’ll wrap my arms around the sun.”

Their songs provide me with some deep satisfying feeling of understanding. The connection hits my heart everytime.

-Oliver Mtukudzi and Black Spirits

As this band was starting on the Grand Stand Stage, everyone in our camp found each other in the dance tent. Once we saw the light pouring from the Grand Stand Stage, we ran to them. It was so incredibly beautiful. Oliver is a best-selling artist in his home country of Zimbabwe and it’s clear to see why. Listen to them here.

-Samite

Last year while watching this band I had an out of body experience. His hypnotizing music brings me to paradise. When looking around at the audience, it’s amazing to see all the joy Samite brings to everyone. To his spiritual, compassionate music, everyone twirls, spins and smiles. During his last song it started to rain and everyone went wild. When dancing to Samite’s music I turn into a wild animal. He brings out something inside of me I’ve never felt before. Check out a video of his last song in my previous post.

-Chiwoniso

Another beautiful band from Africa. More and more I’m beginning to realize that I need to go to Africa. The drums and chants call to me like nothing else.

After their performance I saw my friend Ryan and he asked if I’d see them. When I told him I caught some of their set, he said, “I woke up crying to their song. It was so triumphant.”

Couldn’t have said it better.

GrassRoots: The Experience

Refreshed. Replenished. Nourished. Complete.

A handful of words to explain how I feel right now- after GrassRoots.

Oh GrassRoots…how do I begin to write about such a festival?

When I think of GrassRoots the first thing I think of is love. An overwhelming sense of love. Love between families, parents and children, couples, friends. There are no strangers at GrassRoots.

The feeling in the air is better than anywhere else. Everyone is just happy to be alive, to live, to love, to feel the energy, to feel the power of the moment, of the music.

It’s the best escape from reality. You are free to just be.

In the words of The Makepeace Brothers, “Leave your fears and your worries behind.”

Life, life, life is screaming at you, “Here I am, come get me! Take me! I am yours for the keeping!” and you grab it, grasp it, taste it. By the magic in the air and the smiles on everyone’s faces, you can see that everyone does the same.

Every time I’m there, the music speaks to me. It latches onto my veins, pours into my blood and takes complete control of my body. With each step, spin, and shake, I obey whole-heartedly.

Here’s a video capturing a small slew of how fantastic it is:

(p.s. last year while watching this band I had an out of body experience.)

What other papers/people have said about GrassRoots:

“But for the thousands of attendees, GrassRoots is far bigger than any particular musician, and for many the festival has done more than bring a world of music to town. Now in its 20th year, GrassRoots has forged lifelong friendships for some, served as a standing family reunion for countless others, and for a younger generation of music lovers, helped to put the town of Trumansburg on the map. Attendees enter a place where the line between audience and participants are blurred, and where the fairgrounds feel less like the site of a concert than of a community.”                      –From Ithaca.com

“There are so many folks who get together it becomes hypnotic, there’s such a sense of expansive well being,” Jeb Puryear, of Donna the Buffalo noted. “This is how people feel the love.”        –From Ithaca.com

“At the end of the day, the significance of a festival relies not on the caliber of its headliner but by the quality of its constituents. It is the milieu, not the marquee that makes a gathering memorable; community rather than celebrity. Try to conjure up a mental image of Woodstock: for the most part the focus would surely center on the crowd and not the stage. “It’s not really a concert for famous bands,” Jordan Puryear said. “It’s nice to have one or two, but it’s really a certain type of band, a certain type of music that makes sense.” A considered mix of the global and the local, the festival elucidates connections between zydeco and reggae, hippies and Touregs. At GrassRoots, all music is dance music, and it’s dance music from every nook and cranny of American culture. Dropping by Trumansburg this week answers the question not only what the next American music will sound like, but what community can feel like.”                                                                                                                                                                –-From Ithaca.com

“For me Grassroots is four days of people sharing their lives within the moments experienced surrounding music, dancing, peace, harmony and fun. It puts a smile on my face and keeps me smiling through the year. Enjoy life!”               –-From the GrassRoots Program

“Jeb, one of the festival’s founders, said it was very much a family affair, and in some cases a reunion as regulars and long-time volunteers reconnected in the fields and the dance tent. As he left the stage following a performance with Bubba Hots, he had to keep pausing for hugs from friends and strangers alike, with one woman saying “thank you for providing us with music we can groove to, that helps to forget the ignorance we experience in this world.” He said the event was like “a study of the capacity of people to really be in a loving space” and that he hopes attendees take that attitude with them when they leave and apply it to their daily lives.”   –From The Ithaca Journal

Bonnaroo: Highlights Days 3 and 4

All of our headdresses came out to play

 –Saturday: The day of the most beautiful harmonies. Great day to be a music fan. 

Brandi Carlile. We knew it was going to be a great day when this was the first song we heard: 

(The video isn’t the best quality but once you hear the song, you’ll understand.)

-Then we let the music take us and came across The Sonic Stage: a small, intimate setting. Big Sam’s Funky Nation got all soulful and we all got down, way, way down. We set up our blanket and danced all over the grass. They turned ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ into ‘Oh when the saints, win the Superbowl’ And I felt like they just won the Superbowl that day. 

Mumford and Sons. Again, the harmonizing took us up, up and away. As they sang, ‘Rain down, rain down on me,’ during ‘Thistle and Weeds’ the skies listened and the rain fell. The universe was working in full force that weekend. Sophia Bush and her boyfriend, another One Tree Hill cast member, also walked right past our blanket during this set. 

Stumbling upon the Ford music tent and seeing Dawes play an intimate, acoustic performance. The band was sitting on stage and there were probably only 30 other people in the room. 

Our Savior

 –The Magic Mushroom. This was a highlight of the whole weekend. This thing literally saved our lives. 

 -Tennessee Sunsets: My new favorite time of day. Just as the sun was setting, it spewed out pinks, oranges, blues; a glow like no other. 

Seeing Stevie Wonder (Even if I only caught the very end of his set, it was still awesome to see a legend) 

Jay-Z. Similar to his performance at Coachella (check out what I had to say here) but he’s still my main man.

After Jay-Z we caught the end of Thievery Corporation’s set. They called all the ladies up on stage to dance. I ran to the front, climbed over the bar, danced in the section before the stage, tried to climb on to the main stage, but got pulled off by a security guard before I made it. Still loved it though. 

The community. Again, this was a highlight of the whole weekend. I had a blast with the group of friends I went with, and enjoyed getting to know our neighbors. Because of the tight quarters, everyone is basically forced to cozy up with their neighbors, which is a definite good thing. We met some really cool people. And everyone was willing to share and help out whenever they could.

Us and two of our neighbors

My wonderful friends

John Butler Trio at the Sonic Stage. 

John Butler Trio

 As they sang, ‘Good Excuse’ I fell in love with the lyrics, ‘Go take a step outside, see what’s shaking in the real world.’ They jammed for at least 10 minutes in the middle of this song. All around it was just a good-feeling, happy, sun-shining set. 

-Our Gift Exchange. All five of us brought gifts to give each other during the weekend. On Sunday when we were just jamming and hanging out before DMB, we passed our gifts in a circle like hot potato and eventually yelled stop.  

 

 

 

Dave Matthews Band 

Lanterns took over the sky during DMB's set

A great finish to an incredible weekend. 10, 15, 20 minute jams spread out over a few songs. Dave’s scatting, and free-styling throughout songs, the non-stop dancing and grooving and feeling-good. In the middle of ‘Jimi Thing’ Dave started saying, “All the sexy mother fuckers shaking that ass, shaking that ass, shaking that ass.” My friends and I just looked at each other in disbelief: “Is this really happening!?” As he kept repeating those lines, we kept shaking our asses.

Bonnaroo: Highlights Days 1 and 2

Settling into our new home. We had two tents, (one for sleeping, one for storage) a blanket area for lounging, and a kitchen/dining room/shade area under the canopy. 

Our campsite

Shade Area

Relaxing After Our 6-Hour Wait

 -Starting the weekend off with Neon Indian. Great group to get us ready for the dancetastic weekend. (This was not a highlight but a sidenote: During their set a guy right next to me started closing his eyes and bopping his head-but not in a groovy way- he passed out. After his friends caught him he looked up and said, “I’m fine. I’m fine.” Then they left the crowd.) 

Two words: Silent Disco! We stumbled upon this magical tent after leaving Blitzen Trapper. When you walk into the small tent you’re handed a pair of headphones. A first glance inside provides a swamp of sweaty bodies moving and shaking all over the place to what appears to be no sound. But then, aha, the golden ticket: the headphones you’re holding in your hands. Take another look around the tent and you’ll see a DJ set against the side wall. Place your headphones over your ears and voila! You’re sucked in. You fell down the Rabbit Hole, got pulled into a vortex, and it’s the best thing that’s happened. You’re free to dance however you want to whatever rhythm you want as everyone around you does the same. Take your headphones off and the world around you seems like a lie, a fallacy. Put em back on and everything’s right again. Everyone’s smiling, laughing. People are dancing alone, dancing with strangers. Needless to say we spent a lot of time in this place. 

-Jamming at our campsite. Everyday we busted out the guitars, tambourines, shakers, and whatever else we could conjure up. On Friday we had a nice, smooth jam session to ‘Wagon Wheel’ by Old Crow Medicine Show. Later our neighbors thanked us for playing that song and told us that on their car ride down, their friend Mike said, “All I want this weekend is to have a jam session to Wagon Wheel.” Mike missed it, but we sang it plenty more times for him to hear. The universe was spreading the same ‘Wagon Wheel’ thought in everyone’s minds. Mumford and Sons played a cover of it on Saturday. It was officially the song of the weekend. 

Ed Sharpe and the Mag Zeros

-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Seeing one of their performances is more than just watching, it’s being apart of it. They’ve been one of my favorite bands for a while now and every chance to see them live sends me shivers all over. We swiveled to the third row behind the bar and ended up on the bar for some songs. 

JadeWhile they forget their lyrics and were disorganized, I surrendered to their spirits, to their overwhelming energy on stage. They’re constantly laughing and prancing around stage. Alex Ebert, the frontman, shook so ferociously at times it looked like he was having a seizure. My favorite was their last song: Om Nashi Me. 

When we all re-entered Centeroo at night without a plan we ran, galloped, jumped, danced and swirled to the first tent that music pulled us to: Eclectic Method at the Rave Stage. 

-Caught the very end of Michael Franti and Spearhead’s set. Guided by Franti’s voice we ran to the stage to see his last song, the song I wanted to hear most, ‘Say Hey, I Love You’. My friend Siserra and I danced like wild woman to those last three minutes. 

Flaming Lips. This band is a must-must-must-see for anybody. For about 45 minutes they performed their own songs and then they performed Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ During their performance the sky rained confetti and huge multi-colored balloons. When they sang, ‘I can be a frog,’ we all became different animals with every line. Thanks to Wayne Coyne’s suggestions and guidance, I gave peace to the world and all my love to the universe. The whole crowd also sang Happy Birthday to a band member. One of favorite songs: ‘Do You Realize??’ The whole set was the magical mystery kind. I went on an acid trip without any acid. 

-Lying down by the Ferris wheel at night. The lights constantly went from blue to yellow to red to purple to orgasmic flashes of every color. Brittany’s new friend gave us 3-D glasses. I could have watched the Ferris wheel for hours with those things on. While we were distracted by the Ferris wheel, Alex Ebert from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros walked right by us with a girl on his arm. Brittany leapt up, ran after him and hugged him. We still couldn’t believe we saw him just casually wandering around.