I’m glad I didn’t have something better to do

“I was driving home in Detroit one day, and Brendan Benson, who is a singer in this band, asked me if I could stop by after lunch and help him with this song. I said okay because I had nothing better to do. This is a warning to anybody who has something better to do. The great actor Johnny Depp once drove his friend to an audition. His friend did not get the part, but the director said, ‘What are you doing?’ and Johnny Depp starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Well I’m glad he didn’t have something better to do. Albert Einstein was a Swiss Patent Clerk who was expected to crunch numbers all day. In his spare time, well, I guess he just explained to you why you’re here. I’m glad he didn’t have something better to do. I gather that some of you are in college right now…I hope you pay attention because even if you become some sort of businessman or lawyer or something like that…I hope you think about this sentence, ‘I’m glad I didn’t have something better to do.’ Can you agree with me on that? No matter what happens tonight can we at least agree on that?” -Jack White during his headlining Bonnaroo set Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Do you really have something better to do? Or are you just making excuses?

 

It’s okay to be private; it’s okay to cry.

Some days I just need to hear this song.

These words have comforted me, encouraged me, made me cry, and inspired me.

Expression is okay. Sadness is okay. Loneliness is okay.

Thank you, Ayla Nereo for oh so many things.

I release so I can recieve

I manifested a sexy man to make out with at Envision Festival. But he ended up being a jerk. Then I learned to be more specific in what I ask the Universe for.

Let’s just call him “dream body.” That’s what I told my friends, “I met my dream body.” As soon as I saw him I knew Continue reading

The Death and Evolution of My First Love or My Changing Perspective on Music Festivals

***This post has been published in a slightly different version at elephant journal! Read the article here.

There’s something you need to know about me: I love music festivals. I love folk, world, bluegrass, indie rock, psychedelic dance, weekend-long, week-long, camping, non-camping, you-name-it music festivals. But recently this love felt different. I attended one of my favorite music festivals and didn’t feel the all-encompassing, “oh my goodness my life is altered,” riding on the waves of bliss kind of love and pure joy that I usually feel. Instead Envision Festival left me feeling jaded, sad and heartbroken in ways that I couldn’t quite understand.

Envision Festival is a four day camping, music, yoga, art and movement festival in the Costa Rican jungle alongside a beach. Over the past few years there’s been an emergence in music festivals that are centered on conscious community and transformation, Envision included. Throughout the day at Envision there are multiple yoga classes, permaculture discussions and healing workshops. At night and through the sunrise hours there’s live music (mostly electronic).

I love music festivals because of moments like this: a group hug at Random Rab's sunrise set.

I love music festivals because of moments like this: a group hug at Random Rab’s sunrise set.

This year I went to Envision straight from living at the Mystical Yoga Farm, an intentional yoga community in Guatemala. It was my first time leaving the lake and leaving the farm for more than 24 hours. It was also my first time in a long time being around thousands of intoxicated people.

Many magic moments happened at Envision. Nahko and Medicine for the People’s set fueled me with energy for days. Ayla Nereo inspired me to not waste time in following my heart. Suzanne Sterling’s yoga class brought me to my knees in prayer, love and tears.

Suzanne Sterling's class. Photo courtesy of Envision.

Losing ourselves to ecstatic dance in Suzanne Sterling’s class. Photo courtesy of Envision.

Running into the ocean naked revitalized and invigorated me. I made connections with people who helped me to see with clarity. I connected with my tribe of festival friends from around the world. I overheard a toddler call to their friend over and over, “I love you so much. Bye. I love you so much. Bye.” These words echoed throughout the night.

Many beautiful things happened. But I didn’t feel cradled in community. I didn’t feel supported. I connected with people when I needed, but those were mostly fleeting connections. I was slightly overwhelmed by all that was going on. I saw the warped connections that occur once it gets dark and people start taking too many drugs. Especially since I’ve been living at a drug and alcohol free community, I felt ultra-heightened to these bizarre hours of the night and day when shit just gets weird.

I didn’t feel jaded because of my personal experience (more on that in a different blog post), but overall something seemed missing. I came to realize that what I really felt was a lack in overall intention. The Envision program reads, “Together we are here to celebrate our spirits, heal our bodies and minds, and revitalize our souls…” Yes, I do think Envision provides a space for that, but it also provides a space for people to partake in and possibly abuse drugs and alcohol. Depending on the music festival, drug and alcohol use are going to occur, but I think there can be a stronger balance with drug use and wellness. Even though there were yoga classes and there was a healing area, I’d like to see a greater space devoted to wellness and connection at these types of events.

After Envision I spontaneously landed at Tribal Alliance Retreat, a visionary leadership immersion in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle. Once Tribal Alliance was in full swing I realized why Envision left me jaded and upset.

At its core Tribal Alliance was a journey into the heart of community, sacred celebration, regenerative culture, rites of passage, empowerment, and embodying the vision of a new Earth. All this and more at an alcohol-free event with limited participant space and three vegetarian meals daily led to an intimate, inspirational gathering. At Tribal Alliance people were united in their intentions to be vulnerable, to go deeper, to build and maintain lasting connections and to remain centered on ultimate wellness and love. Focused on the more engaging, learning, grounding aspects of community, Tribal Alliance bridged the gap between music festival culture and tangible aspects of health, wellness and permaculture.

Where music festivals provide a plethora of options to partake in at all times, Tribal Alliance provided one workshop at a time. Where music festivals provide multiple stages with multiple musicians playing at once, Tribal Alliance provided one stage with one band playing at a time; there were no overlapping sets. Where music festivals provide a space to be pulled in a million directions, Tribal Alliance provided a space to be grounded and to be a part of community.

Another important aspect to Tribal Alliance: the food. The event included three vegetarian meals a day, and we all ate together. Eating with others and connecting over a meal is a beautiful bonding experience. I love being able to share the joy and fortune of food with others. There was live music every night, but it ended at 1 a.m. It was easier to rest when I didn’t have to worry about missing any late night music or have the remnants of late night partyers stomp through the campground.

Meal time at Tribal Alliance

Meal time at Tribal Alliance

I still think there’s a place and need for music festivals and I always will, but my personal needs are changing. As my life becomes more focused on health and wellness, I find myself questioning how nourishment fits into being at a four day party without getting the best rest or eating properly. As I become more myself, my values are changing. I value getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, looking people in the eyes, mindfully eating, learning who people really are, practicing yoga daily, connecting to people without the influence of drugs or alcohol and carrying an awareness while remaining grounded.

The more immersed I am in community, the more I realize how important a support group is. The more time I dedicate to yoga and health, the better I feel in every way. I want to live life as intentionally and mindfully as possible without fogging my perspective with drugs or alcohol. But at the same time, I love live music. I love dancing all night until past sunrise. I love the magic that can only occur at music festivals. How does all this balance? Where does it fit? At Tribal Alliance I felt the balance. I experienced how nourishing, healthy transformational events are possible.

Right after Envision I realized I was slightly heartbroken because at Envision a piece of myself died, a piece of myself who I’ve been for years, a piece of myself that was so intertwined with my identity. At Tribal Alliance I realized it didn’t die; it evolved.

So will I always be in love with music festivals? I can’t say for sure, but I know I’ll always love them in a special way. They’ve shaped my life tremendously. I’m constantly growing more into the person I want to be, more into the person I am. I’m recognizing what I really want out of life and how events like Tribal Alliance combine my interests in the most positive, meaningful way. I want to bring concepts and ideas from events like Tribal Alliance into music festival culture. I want to attend and be a part of events where ultimate wellness involving mind, body, spirit, land and community is the root.

This is my last blog post under the name ‘aprilsfestivals.’ I’m keeping the blog, but I’m ready to make the official transition to Smile and Be Free. Smile and Be Free represents the evolution of my love of music festivals and my ideas on life.

What are your thoughts on this emergence of “transformational” music festivals? Where do healing, yoga and permaculture fit into music festivals? How can we foster lasting positive change at these events? How do you remain present, grounded and mindful at music festivals when the chaos spins all around you?

Please Bring Positivity

This past summer was another whirlwind of campgrounds, music festivals, rest stops and skylines. I spent another summer working for the Clean Vibes Trading Post, educating festival-goers about the importance of composting and recycling. When I wasn’t working at music festivals, I was road-tripping across the United States in my comforting and stately Subaru.

After traveling in Costa Rica for five months it was enthralling to embrace the places my home country has to offer. From almost getting caught in a tornado in Nebraska, to eating fresh Salmon jerky in Northern California to waking up in the redwoods, I fell more in love with the world around me.

I said farewell to summer and danced in the beginning of Autumn at Symbiosis Gathering, a celebration of life with music, live art, permaculture workshops, yoga, dance, and much more.

Symbiosis was filled with magical moments, and I wanted to share my favorite one.

Just before sunrise on the last day of Symbiosis I peeked into a small geodesic dome where a group of friends were all cuddled together in a circle. They invited me in, and I instantly felt warm, welcomed and accepted. As I drifted to sleep a song started playing in the background. “We are so blessed,” one of the friends said. Everything about the moment was so beautiful that I couldn’t help but cry. Light was approaching in the sky so the friends left to watch the sunrise. But first they put a pillow under my head and tucked me in. “When she wakes up she’s going to wonder if this was all a dream,” one of them said as he kissed my forehead. It’s a moment I’ll never forget. Thank you so much Chakra Activation Portals for providing a space where magic can happen.

I hope this song reminds you of the immense joy and healing music brings.

Envisionary Enlightenment

Attitude of Gratitude:

I’m thankful that I’ve been spending the winter at various beach towns away from snow.

I’m thankful for strangers who lend me their computers so I can blog.

I’m thankful for every single thing that happened to me since leaving the La Fortuna area.

Sometimes in life things happen so fast that they don´t even feel like they´re happening. After three weeks of volunteering at Rancho Margot I left to venture to Envision, a music, arts and movement festival in Bahia, Costa Rica. I didn´t have a ticket and I wasn´t registered to volunteer, but I knew I didn´t have anything to lose. Sometimes all you have to do is show up. I don´t think we give ourselves enough credit for showing up. If one thing doesn´t work out, something else will. As long as we enter situations with an open mind and an open heart, things will be all right.

The day we left the ranch (I tagged along with another ranch volunteer who was set to volunteer at Envision), we spent most of the day traveling to Jaco. When we passed through San Jose I felt like someone picked me up and dropped me onto a spinning top. After weeks of solitude at the ranch, the movement,  litter and concrete of the city was overwhelming to say the least. We arrived in Jaco around sunset, ate, slept and caught the 6 a.m. bus to Uvita. When we arrived to Envision, I lined up with all the volunteers to sign-in. I asked them if they needed any extra help, said I was willing to do anything and they signed me up for the Envision Cafe and Tea Lounge. I was ecstatic with the way things were working out.

As the festival went on it quickly became one of my favorite festivals. Part of Envision’s mission is to elevate people to live a more conscious lifestyle through education, music, art and sacred movement. Throughout the day there were countless yoga and dance classes and all sorts of informative workshops on topics like healing plants, building community and feeling empowered. The music (mostly electronic) started at 5 p.m. and went on until 7:30 in the morning. The crowd was a mix of like-minded travelers, festival lovers, Burners and ticos. It was set deep in the jungle with multiple types of palms outlining the grounds  and the nighttime hum of cicadas.

Envision highlights: showing up without a ticket and being able to volunteer, serving people at the Envision Cafe and Tea Lounge, Random Rab’s sunrise set, seeing Rising Appalachia for the first time, discovering a divine love for jackfruit, taking a contemporary dance workshop with the performers of Quixotic, the question and answer session with Alex and Allyson Grey, randomly running into friends from the States and recieving some of the best hugs I’ve ever had.

After Envision I spent two nights in Bahia then joined the rest of the Envisionaries in Dominical which quickly turned into an Envision after-party. The street along the beach usually has typical beach vendors selling towels, jewerly and art, but after Envision many craftsmen joined the vendor row. People camped right behind the vendors and on various spots along the beach. Post-Envision transformed into Occupy Dominical. At any given moment interesting characters swayed and stumbled along that vendor road.

We arrived just before sunset, found an open room for the two of us that transformed to six in Bahia and went straight to the beach. I’ve never seen so many people on one area of the beach for sunset before. Three of us sat close to the water and meditated as a man played his trumpet and the sun sank below the horizon. Everyone clapped and cheered. People drummed, hooped, spun fire, threw sticks, danced.

Dominical

Sunset

French loves

IMG_9083

I spent the next few days falling in love with everything and everyone around me. I had so many great conversations with people I just met. And the beautiful people were everywhere: on the streets, on the beach, at the supermarket, at the hostel. After the festival it was so nice to still see festival friends. It was a chance to get to know them outside the festival while letting go and sayin nos vemos at the same time. A slow, easy transition back to the “real world.” Even though for most of us traveling the real world is a bit like festival life. The festival just gave us a gathering space to merge together.

After Dominical I went to San Jose to regroup while visiting a friend and now I’m writing this from an island in Panama. Life has been filled with so much sweetness.

On The Beach Hurricane Relief Music Please

On The Beach PosterLast night I went to ‘On The Beach,’ a Hurricane Sandy relief concert at Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ, featuring: Preservation Hall Jazz Band, My Morning Jacket, River City Extension, Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem, Nicole Atkins, The Tangiers Blues Band, and more.

For more information about benefactors and producers of the concert check out this article by Asbury Park Press.

My Morning Jacket and Preservation Hall Jazz Band were phenomenal to see live, but the most pleasant surprise of the night arrived in one of the opening acts: River City Extension.

This eight-piece from Toms River, NJ, delivers power-packed progression with strong song lyrics about forgiveness, letting go, and moving forward. During any given song expect a trumpet, melophone, mandolin, organ, banjo, tambourine or any combination of them.

Sidenote: I’m a sucker for bands with five members or more who pull it off with precision, good lyrics, good foundation and groove. Just knowing bands like this exist makes me really happy.

Seeing River City Extension was refreshing in every way. It instantly transported me back to my college days of prancing around the local music scene in Tempe, AZ. Since then I haven’t been able to feel at home in a music scene. While I’ve gotten a glimpse of that feeling with NJ bands Indian Princess, Only Living Boy and Quimby Mountain Band, River City Extension wrapped me in.

They reminded me why I love local music. They reminded me what I love about discovering new music that transcends generic radio rock. They reminded me what I love about discovering in general.

Until you discover a town’s local music scene, you haven’t grasped a true feel of that place. Local bands are hidden gems of small towns. They’re best kept secrets longing to be shared. When I lived in Tempe, I flirted with the idea of moving back to New Jersey so many times. For the longest time I didn’t feel like I belonged in Tempe. Then I discovered the local music scene, and I fell in love with the place. River City Extension sparked that feeling in me again.

It’s never too late to check out the line-up at your town’s watering hole. Find out what bars have live music. Go to a show even if you’ve never heard of the band. If you’re stuck in a rut, tired of the town you live in, or think you’ve explored every angle of a place, explore the local music scene. Go beyond the radio hits and what you’re used to. Step outside your comfort zone and go to a bar you’ve never been to. Sometimes the best discoveries happen that way.

Definitely do yourself a favor and check out River City Extension. Here’s the link to their website where you can listen to their album “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger.”

Fun fact: “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Anger” was produced by Brian Deck, who produced one of my favorite albums, “The Moon & Antarctica” by Modest Mouse.

Here’s River City Extension performing live at Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2011. Watch how the song progresses.