To say the second annual Northern Nights was a colorful festival would be a sore understatement. To even remark that it was brilliant would also be slightly unfair. I've attended festivals since I was a wee lad, so I've long been immersed in festival culture—its colors and characters and sounds. And growing up in southern Ohio, the first festivals I attended were tucked away in the hills, void of corporate injection, and had a far more prevalent sense of freedom than the (still fun) bigger and more renown festivals. Northern Nights reminded me of all the reasons I fell in love with fest culture to begin with.
Northern Nights takes place at Cook's Valley Campground—a private property off Highway 101 in northern California, nestled along the Humboldt/Mendocino County line, bordering the Eel River, and in the midst of what's known as the "Redwood Curtain." Camping is available along the river—or, the preferred option—in a redwood grove not far from the main stage, the Silent Frisco tent, or the river stage. The proximity between the camping area and the stages make visiting your campsite throughout the day and night painless. We ventured back multiple times each day and night to change, refuel, rehydrate, and regroup.
Featuring local brews and wines and affordable food, the festival has no hint of corporate fingerprints. Pizza went for $2.50 a slice and local wine just $6 a cup. The festival grounds were also heavily adorned with colorful touches. Dreamcatchers hung from ancient tree branches, sofas were scattered throughout the redwood grove, covered in throw pillows and surrounded an area used for daily yoga, explorative workshops, and late night events like calming Spanish guitar and wild burlesque.
Sustainability is a huge focus of Northern Nights, with a committed focus to remaining traceless. Bins are conveniently located in every direction, including bins for recycling and composting. It's vital to return the landscape to her former glory, and these cats make sure it gets done.
A beautiful landscape, affordability, sustainability, and an art-centric set-up—what more could you want? Badass music, of course. Northern Nights' lineup this year included a perfect mix of well-known EDM and hip hop artists as well as an amazing roster of up-and-coming artists. Zion I closed out the first night of the festival, leaving a crowd wildly dancing and heading directly to the Silent Frisco to continue a till-sunrise silent disco set. Saturday and Sunday included amazing shows by Fort Knox Five, Dimond Saints, Beats Antique, Little People, The Floozies, Giraffage, Odesza, and Mr. Carmack (among many others).
Between sets, artists roamed the grounds. David Satori, of Beats Antique, joined the river patrons for a float while electronic acts rocked the river stage. Meanwhile, Zoe Jakes, the face of Beats Antique, grabbed vegetarian fare alongside festival-goers while Fort Knox Five raged in the background. Dimond Saints performed their mix of Dirtwire's Taïga and the party continued till sunrise Monday morning, following the last Silent Frisco. The festival closing after Odesza, where its founders, his parents, and all its employees joined the stage for a giant thank you to the crowd, was one of the most beautiful festival moments I've experienced. And by the sounds of it, the festival is on par to continue being an incredible scape for music lovers for many years. Northern Nights 2015 is already in the planning phase. And, I've already decided I'll be there again.
By Ashley M. Halligan