By Billy Thieme, Marketing Campaign Manager at Naropa University
This year’s ARISE Music Festival, which took place over three days from Friday, August 4th through a rainy and otherwise dismal Sunday, August 6th, filled up the beautiful landscape that is the Sunrise Ranch near Loveland, and definitely offered up more than your average summer music festival fare. Sold-out crowds of ecstatic fans loved nearly every minute of it. Until the rains came, anyway – sort of.
Beautifully colorful, sometimes overwhelming sets from electronic/dub/EDM bands like Beats Antique, Tipper, Desert Dwellers, Wookiefoot, Templo and so many more were met well with more traditional – but no less innovative and satisfying – sets from bands and performers like Ani DiFranco, Pandas & People, Rising Appalachia, The Broadcast, The Symbols, and local stars Intuit. These acts were fantastically matched by hip hop artists like Brother Ali, the JuBee Live Band, and rising stars Xiuhtezcatl & Isa – and this was only about a third of the performances throughout the weekend.
Musical highlights included a brilliantly eviscerating set from Brother Ali, where the rapper led a rabid crowd through deeply engaging poetics and angry sentiment, followed on by earnest statements of love, peace, and community. The Minnesota activist – and notable recent member of the Department of Homeland Security’s persons of interest cohort, in response to his criticism of US human rights disgraces in “Uncle Sam Goddamn” – unleashed a volatile call for peace and justice in troubled times, perfectly matching the energy of the festival.
Rising Appalaicha took over the festival with their intense, complex, down-home southern folk music, perfectly endemic to the mountainous region from which they get their name. Acoustic guitars, bodhrans, and beautiful vocals meshed with a tight rhythm section for nearly an hour, inspiring dervishes throughout the crowd.
Xiuhtezcatl & Isa – associated with Earth Guardians and always controversially conscious – led an hour of wild, young hip-hop, filling the festival with furious calls for social justice and personal responsibility over a solid beat. The lineup went on, each set attended by massive crowds, through Friday and Saturday night. Sadly, Sunday was less active in terms of the teeming crowds, because of a never-ending rain, but the music remained triumphant.
Aside from being such a beautiful musical phenom, Arise floated through the three days on a cloud of positive, creative, encouraging energy that seemed to lift spirits of fans from the moment they passed through the gates. Hundreds of campers covered the hillsides of the Sunrise Ranch, tents and bags closely aligned and packed into impossible configurations, and there was rarely – if ever – any sound of dissent, unless you count the universal discomfort in conversations about issues like climate change, social injustice, racism, etc. that flowed through the pathways between all the homesteads.
Arise – now in its fifth year as a major summer festival in Colorado – has certainly come into its own, and seems to create its own energy, vastly different than any other summer fest. With sunrise yoga sessions, communal meditations, panels that addressed issues from “Right Livelihood,” to racial injustice, to permaculture and more dotted the schedule, and raised both hearts and minds with a unique sense of consciousness and community. And this, it seems, is just the festival’s beginning.