Sitting indoors on one of California’s first real rainy days in longer than I can remember, I can’t help but think of warmer times, hot summer days in the sun, dancing all night, sleeping in a tent…One of my favorite such adventures this year was at Once Upon a Festival, a fairytale themed gathering for pirates and fairies to celebrate their everlasting youth. Returning in it’s second year, OUAF has expanded, continuing to show promise as a new name on the transformational festival circuit.
Location – East Park Reservoir is a gem of a venue hidden away in the central valley of California, an area not generally known for it’s beauty. While hot during the day, nights cooled off to perfect temperatures for dancing into the wee hours. Each evening, dusk brought us painterly sunsets. The reservoir was completely full this year, an improvement over last year which allowed for better swimming and a bigger floating stage. Due to it’s somewhat remote location, OUAF was also able to get 24 hour sound permits, which seem harder to obtain these days. The venue is also huge, which means there’s tons of room for this festival to grow and still keep this spot.
After two years of a repeat experience, I think it’s worth mentioning that local law enforcement handles itself in an incredibly commendable manner. I truly feel like they are there only to keep us safe. They are generally smiling and seem to even be enjoying the assignment and hippie watching.
Collaboration – I think anyone who has attended a music festival can see how many people are required to produce an event. It takes so many different skills and personalities to pull off a successful festival. Once Upon a Festival’s production team takes this idea to the extreme by brining together several crews who already have successfully established their own festivals, Burning Man camps, and more. Combining the powers of Enchanted Forest, An-ten-nae, Raindance, Desert Hearts, Sacred Spaces and Lucidity, OUAF is the sampler platter of festivals, giving you little tastes of what the culture has to offer.
Each of the participating crews focuses on a featured area that offers everything from healing services to education or entertainment. Because of this, nothing felt like an afterthought and each space was built ornately with intention and care. Enchanted Forrest brought their shaded land of squish, The Nectar Temple, which had massage therapists, a sauna, and tons of pillows and carpet to sprawl out on at that time of the day when napping was necessary. Sacred Spaces brought the knowledge with their domes dedicated to movement and educational workshops. After dancing for several hours on Saturday night we wondered into the Hookah Dome which offered a super mellow place to lounge on pillows, puff some shisha and eat a bite of turkish delight, while chill music played quietly in the background. Branches Art Gallery brought their beautiful mobile gallery constructed from bamboo with some of the best art from names like DELA and Mark Henson.
Music – The stages were just as artfully designed, while also keeping on theme: one of the stages was a genuine pirate ship made from a seaworthy boat, flanked on each side by a fleet of Voids. House acts such as Mark Farina, Desert Hearts Crew, Sabo, and Tony in Orbit played on deck amongst the sails. The Lost Boy’s tree house stage put the DJs high above our heads. The stage was designed by the Audiowaska Productions team using surrounding branches and plant material. Hosted by An-ten-nae, Enchanted Forrest and Envision festivals, the treehouse stage was the place to be for fans of bass music which oozed from it’s Funktion-Ones from sunset till sunrise. A wide range of bass was curated for this stage, from Sweater Beats and STWO to Digital Rust and Funk Hunters, to an inspiring Emancipator sunset performance and even a traditional West Coast festival Random Rab sunrise set. During the day the floating stage offered an ultimate swimming/dancing combo experience.
There’s something very exciting about having experienced this event from the beginning. Many great festivals have started as a vision of just a few people, Once Upon a Festival is a vision by many great people, and I expect to see amazing things come from this event!