As we move into a new era of Colorado festivals the focus has been shifting as the tastes of Colorado music fans has been shifting as well. While the formula of big names + camping + various visual gimmicks = ticket sales has more or less stayed the same from festival to festival, ARISE has tapped into something missing from the others; cleanliness.
ARISE is about a lot of things but it mostly all revolves around environmental consciousness and activism, and their bottom line is fracking. Fracking is the biggest environmental issue Colorado faces and for the last three years ARISE has tasked themselves with raising awareness by bringing together some of the biggest names in the festival circuit.
Last year there was the unshakable feeling that their protest against fracking was an uphill battle as the industry was bringing Colorado millions of dollars towards education and infrastructure and it’s hard to argue with that kind of money. Coupled with the setting of a music festival where many in the crowd are solely there for the experience, we often found the likes of Peter Yarrow shouting for their message to be heard over the sound of the party. This year, there was less shouting (still plenty of Peter Yarrow) and more example setting.
A noticeable difference was the big increase in security, which was kind of a buzz kill at first. What was once just a standard bag search is now a full empty-your-bag-on-the-table-and-look-for-your-secret-pockets kind of thing. Overall though, it created a much more sober environment around the main stage, a nice change from the previous years where overindulgence is putting it lightly to the amount of LSD, molly, and ketamine I witnessed be consumed. Sometimes there is nothing more frightening than looking someone in the eye as they’re headed down a pretty wicked K hole.
The highlight for us was when the BandWagon was asked to moderate a press conference about woman in music with Shook Twins, Bridget Law of Elephant Revival, and Bibi McGill Beyonce’s guitarist/yoga instructor. McGill was asked at what point was she able to start making demands on venues and promoters to be more environmentally conscious during her performances? She simply replied, “I don’t make demands, I lead by example.”
McGill has been touring the world with Beyonce and her band for nine years all while living a healthy and conscious lifestyle eating right, wasting little, and practicing yoga, which was met with a certain degree of skepticism by the band and crew (but not Beyonce herself because B don’t play that judgment shit). After six years, they noticed that while everyone on the tour was stressed out and unhealthy McGill was her usual content self. As a result she was asked to share her habits and practices with the crew and suddenly her lifestyle didn’t seem so strange to the people unfamiliar with it.
It was at this moment that I was able to pin down ARISE year three. While the importance of their message was still present, just like McGill, the people of Sunrise Ranch and ARISE met skepticism with proof that it’s possible to maintain healthy conscious living at a music festival when the expectation is that people will simply take drugs until they pass out dancing and trash the place. Even when the message is lost in the noise, to win in the long run the best way to go is lead from the front.
Photos by Dylan Adams