At two years old, Northern Nights is one of California’s youngest festivals. While this can be a trying time for some, it was clear to everyone in attendance that this event is bursting with potential. Northern Nights is set in the scenic Cook’s Campground, located directly on the border between Mendocino and Humboldt counties. Although less iconic than San Francisco and Yosemite, this area is definitive of Northern California beauty. Ancient groves of redwoods stretch high into the sky; providing some much needed shade, while the Eel River snakes it’s way long the venues eastern border. Although just off the highway, Cook’s still manages to maintain a feel of being isolated from the “real world”.
The festival had a very balanced feel to it. There was an intimate family vibe as well as the production values of a larger festival. There were offerings such as yoga and courses without a focus on being “transformational”. There were a bunch of different types of music, none of which really felt out of place.
Community and Camaraderie
I’ve always loved meeting new people at festivals, there are so many different types of fascinating, hilarious and eccentric personalities out there. If you’ve ever been to one of these events, it goes without saying that many people in the community are very friendly and accepting. At Northern Nights, I felt even more genuine friendliness than usual. My friends who lived in the area told me, “that’s just how things are out here”. While this may be true, I found myself blown away by the number of people who told me they had flown across several states to experience this little festival.
It seemed like everywhere you went there was some sort of art installation. A gallery shaded by a redwood grove held some really great pieces, including some that were a little different than the standard “visionary artwork” we are used to seeing at festivals. Other popup galleries and sculptures were found in pockets of the grounds. Live art was being worked on all over throughout the weekend. By the main stage, the art collective “The Union” worked late into the night on their collaborative piece, ever transforming over the three days. Even the alcohol vendors were painted in a funky neon 90s graffiti style.
I have come to really appreciate festivals that can bring out a wide variety of electronic music as well as acts that are doing something a different, but still relevant to the audience. Northern Nights did a great job bringing a really diverse lineup. Names like Lindsay Lowend, Wu Wei, Mr. Carmack, EPROM, and Hypha brought me out to the festival, but I was equally as impressed with acts I was less aware of who added R&B, Funk, and Hip Hop into the mix. While not a frequent listener of House Music, it’s also worth noting that NN brought out some strong talent from this area; Justin Martin, Christian Martin, Viceroy, Pumpkin to name just a few.
Amp Live played a short set of his own before bringing out MC Zumbi to complete the Zion I duo. They were joined by surprise guest and occasional collaborator, Duce Eclipse. The set was highly energetic and interactive, Zumbi and Duce were striding back and forth across the very front of the stage, slapping five with the front row and free-styling about the beach balls bouncing through the crowd and just about everything else.
Lindsay Lowend played a fun daytime set on Saturday, mixing his original tracks with artists with a similar summertime happy-feel like Wave Racer and Lido. After his set, Lindsay and I sat down for an interview where we discussed new and old side projects, video games, and what the festival scene is like in DC.
8th Grader is a three piece band fronted by vocalist Jayson Martinovich, alongside a drummer and sax player. Self-described as “part Prince, George Michael, Frank Ocean, and Janet Jackson”, the group plays a sensual mix of R&B, Funk and Pop music with a dash of humor. This San Francisco act was a great way to kick it in the shade during a long hot day.
I first discovered The Floozies through their “Tell Your Mother” on Griz’s label, Liberated Music last year and was really excited to see them on the Northern Nights lineup. Their sunset slot was full of juicy, funk infused basslines combined with some forward thinking electronic music production. Incorporating live drums and guitar into their act, these brothers play indisputably great dancing music sure to please bassophiles.
San Francisco’s Giraffage proved that sometimes you don’t need a lot of hype to have an amazing set. He performed without bravado, letting his music speak for itself. His music was ideal blend of uplifting and relaxing for those of us who had been dancing all weekend.
Seattle duo Odesza closed out the festival on Sunday. Continuing with the mood of Giraffage; their beautiful melodic sound was a perfect way to wind down the main stage. Comprised of Catacombkid and Beaches Beaches, this act shares a similarity with Northern Nights for being impressively accomplished for being founded two years ago.
I’m really impressed by what the Northern Nights crew has accomplished in the past two years and look forward to see how this festival matures with age. I’ll be back at this one next year for sure!