At times, the music industry can seem like a viciously preposterous environment, kind of like a Sharknado movie sequel only with amplified instruments and egos, laptop computers and seven-dollar plastic water bottles sucked into a funnel cloud with the slimy sharks. But every now and then, a musician emerges from an overseas humanitarian mission or a music promoter decides to plant trees for each ticket sold to an event, or a festival books performers based on integrity as well as talent and name recognition. And in the state of Colorado all of those can be found in the confines of one event, the Arise Music Festival, held last weekend August 4-6 at the scenic Sunrise Ranch near Loveland.
“It’s not called the Wake Up Festival for a reason,” piped up festival co-founder Paul Bassis. “We want to bring in as many people and performers who are already awake.” Organizers and staffers of the Arise fest set an intention of blending entertainment with community activism, consciousness-raising workshops and thoughtful environmental stewardship in a way that they hope separates their event from the rest. The festival’s moving opening ceremony featuring Native American dances, African drumming and prayers offered an immediate and rousing example of that intention.
And the Arise message seems to be getting out to the public. Last weekend’s event sold out for the first time in their brief five year history. One music group, Rising Appalachia, split a European tour in half just so they would be able to make a return appearance to Arise this year. Alan Bartram, the stand-up bass player for bluegrass music favorites the Travelin’ McCourys, was impressed with the number of workshops offered over the weekend. “There was even a workshop on how to hula hoop with your elbow,” he commented with a baffled expression.
Though the festival’s rust-colored mountain valley was raked by a daily series of rain and windstorms, the spirits of brightly colored festifarians remained buoyed by a wide ranging lineup that included EDM favorites like Tipper and rap musicians like Brother Ali. Fans of folk and bluegrass flocked to sets from Ani Difranco, Rising Appalachia and the frenetically improvisational Jeff Austin Band. Austin’s band joined with the McCourys for a spirited bluegrass tribute set to the Grateful Dead as well. The performance talent wasn’t limited to the musician sets either. Acrobatic acts like Fractal Tribe and Lunar Fire combined grace, athleticism and captivating aerials along with live music and fire performances throughout the weekend.
The Arise festival sets a unique tone and atmosphere that is both fulfilling and fun. And its participants long for what surely will be a whirlwind of a sequel next year.