While many festival goers tend to focus on the big budget productions such as Outside Lands or Electric Daisy Carnival, there is a bustling scene of boutique music festivals that are unfortunately often overlooked by those looking for their next event to attend. Not only do these boutique festivals feature stellar performances from some world-class artists, but they also include a number of other attractions to add to the experience as well. Most recently I had the pleasure of attending Northern Nights Music Festival, which in my opinion is one of the best boutique festivals you can find on the west coast.
Tucked away in the luscious Richardson Grove State Park at the Cook’s Valley Campground, Northern Nights Music Festival already had us in awe on the drive up as we soaked in the sheer beauty that Mendocino/Humboldt county has to offer. What I thought was going to be an exhausting nine-hour drive up from Los Angeles turned into a nature exploration as the dry deserts turned into pure green forestry. We arrived to the Cook’s Valley Campground to be met by the other festival attendees, all of whom had brought their best vibes with as everyone hung out anxious to get set up for the great weekend that was awaiting. Despite the small size of the festival, the NNMF staff got everyone into the campgrounds with relative ease and all the people both working and attending had great attitudes that helped set the tone for the weekend. After scoring a spot in the gorgeous Redwood Grove we got set up and immediately went to take a power nap in the hammocks conveniently shaded by the enormous redwood trees.
Wandering around the festival I noticed how small the venue was which honestly added to the experience as you were always only a short walk away from anything you wished to check out. If you’ve ever been to any massive festival then you definitely know how draining the walks between stages or to your campsite can be. We made it over to the River Stage which was conveniently located by, yes you guessed it, a river that you could swim in to escape the heat while enjoying the music from the stage at the same time. After soaking up the sun and good vibes for a while, Teklife took the stage alongside The Era Footwork Crew to put on a mind-bending performance of juke beats along with some of the world’s best footwork dancers to give a complete, authentic experience of Chicago’s unique style of music and dance that has been catching on in many other parts of the world. Just as I got my fix of the complex juke rhythms, Daktyl then hopped on to put on a profound live performance that was just flat out great on a number of levels. If you have never seen Daktyl perform, I highly recommend checking out this video to get a taste of what this man is capable of.
One thing that I found so great about Northern Nights Music Festival is that the music was either playing at the River Stage during the day, Main Stage in the evening, or the Silent Disco at night which meant that there were no set conflicts at all. That being said, I made my way to the Main Stage to witness Machinedrum shred the crowd up with a perfect blend of hip hop, juke, and drum n bass all soaked with the unique sound that Machinedrum has crafted over many years. Amon Tobin/Two Fingers then went on to throw down an equally trippy DJ set which I was also very impressed by. Following up was Gorgon City performing a live set as the headlining act to finish off the first night. Gorgon City performed with an unbelievable amount of energy and I could not imagine a better headliner for the opening day of the festival. One thing that stood out to me about their set was the power of the lead singer Lulu James, who dominated the stage with her killer vocals and intense stage presence.
We started off our second day at the festival exploring the many other interesting things that Northern Nights had to offer. Walking around we stumbled upon the many sanctioned renegade stages that offered oasis experiences for the hundreds who stumbled upon them. The Grove also featured a number of performances including artists such Horses Heaven, Object Heavy, Zera, Metamorphosis Ballet as well as late night performances by Govinda, Stephen, and MOONZz, all of whom stunned their audience with intimate sounds, reminiscent of a night in your friend’s living room. The Grove was also home to The Burlesque Ensemble who put on a show every night of the festival for all to enjoy. On top of the many performances going on throughout the weekend, Northern Nights also featured plenty of breathtaking art installations and mindful meditative yoga sessions throughout the grounds of Cook’s Valley’s ethereal landscape. Taking things a step further, Northern Nights Music Festival also partnered up with Leafly to present the first ever Medical Cannabis Zone at a music festival. If you’ve ever heard anything about Humboldt county then you probably know that it is home to the best weed in the world so it only made sense for a music festival in the area to take advantage of this. While I have heard many stories of how great the medicine is in Humboldt I needed to experience it for myself before passing judgment. After trying out all the free samples being given out by the local growers I walked back to the general festival area very impressed and very medicated by what I can now personally confirm to be the finest bud in the world.
The last night of the festival proved to be the most exciting for us in terms of music but we still had plenty to check out before we could say we experienced Northern Nights to its fullest. We went around exploring the many vendors that came to showcase the interesting goodies that they had to offer. We got to check out everything from beautiful ancient pine cones to unique crystals to even a variety of bamboo accessories from WoodStalk, who so kindly gifted us with one of their signature bamboo blunt tubes. We then headed to the main stage to get our minds blown by the legendary TroyBoi, one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend. Following an insane set of wonky trap beats, Claptone then went on to close out the Main Stage for this year's festival. Claptone's set was followed by an emotional closing moment lead by the festival’s organizers who praised the attendees for the good vibes and great sense of community that I always look forward to at these boutique festivals. Northern Nights Music Festival 2016 is one of my favorite festivals that I have had the opportunity of attending. Everything from the community, the weather, to the many art exhibits and side stages was perfect and I can only hope that other promoters take this festival as an example of how great a boutique festival can be.
Tickets for Northern Nights Music Festival 2017 are already available for purchase here.
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