Category - Events

Alberto Puts a Damper on Sunset Music Festival

SMF 2018 Day 1 Marshmello

Just over a week before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center began tracking an area of low pressure in the western Caribbean Sea, which eventually formed into the first cyclone of the season: Subtropical Storm Alberto. As the week progressed, Alberto tracked up the Gulf of Mexico, making a beeline from the Yucatán Peninsula to the Florida panhandle. Leading up to Sunset Music Festival, it looked like the Tampa Bay area would miss the brunt of the storm. On the first day of Sunset Music Festival, the weather mostly held off. It was cloudy all day, with some occasional drizzle, which gave attendees a reprieve from the typical Florida heat. For the most part, the weather was gentle and Day 1 went off without a hitch.

Aside from the weather, SMF rolled out some significant changes for 2018. In previous years, SMF hosted a wide variety of artists, hosting themed stages specifically for trance, house, bass, and mainstream music. However, SMF seems to have pivoted this year, favoring a very bass-heavy lineup that featured artists like Rezz, NGHTMRE, Slander, Excision, Illenium, JOYRYDE, Zomboy, Herobust, Borgore, and many other heavy-hitters. There was also the fan favorite, marshmello, as well as a mix of house artists like Destructo, Anna Lunoe, Wax Motif, and others. While there was a bit of variety of music, the focus on bass artists was undoubtedly obvious.

Additionally, in previous years, SMF had three stages: Sunset Stage, Eclipse Stage, and Horizon Stage.  In 2018, they added two new stages: Corona Electric Beach, a tropical-themed stage sponsored by Corona, and the Cool Down, Get Down stage, located inside of the Cool Down Tent. While the Cool Down Tent was present in previous years, this was the first year that SMF hosted a full lineup of artists inside the tent. The two additional stages were an odd choice, given that there seemed to be less variety in music this year, and it appeared that the production from the three original stages had been scaled back to allow for two more stages.

SMF 2018 Day 1

Gray skies do little to slow the party down. Photo by Rukes.

Although Alberto brought cooler temperatures and cloudy skies on Day 1, Day 2 was ultimately canceled, before doors opened, by the Tampa Sports Authority, in conjunction with the Tampa Police Department and Tampa Fire Rescue, due to a Tropical Storm Warning that was in effect until 5PM that day. Attendees were naturally frustrated, but the frustration was exacerbated by the fact that Sunday turned out to be a pleasant day with mostly blue skies. The silver lining is that artists and promoters across the Tampa Bay Area went into overdrive, quickly finding venues across the Bay Area to throw alternate parties. The Ritz hosted most of the Day 2 mainstage artists, including Excision, Illenium, Alan Walker, Ekali, 3LAU, Bonnie x Clyde, Zaxx and Warez. Bonnie x Clyde made an epic tour around Tampa Bay, hitting multiple venues and house parties. In addition to the parties, Sunset Events released their Refund Policy, which allows for 50% refunds on two-day tickets and 100% refunds on Sunday-only tickets.

Sunset Music Festival 2018 will undoubtedly be a memorable year, for better or worse. Although the weather put a damper on the festivities, organizers across the Bay Area pulled together to put on some alternate shows at the last minute. Aside from the weather issues, however, it seemed like Sunset Events made some questionable decisions with spreading the stage production thin and cutting back on music variety. They certainly have their work cut out for them in 2019, when they will need to breathe new life into the festival and ensure they have attendee confidence in the ability to make 2019 a more memorable year.

Goldrush Announces 2018 Phase 1 Lineup

Goldrush 2018 Lineup

Phoenix, AZ (May 31, 2018) – After stepping out strong, tapping Deadmau5 and Steve Aoki as the first headliners for the second annual Goldrush Music Festival, Relentless Beats has released the first round of artists for 2018. Returning to Rawhide Western Town in Chandler, Arizona, September 29 and 30, one of 2017’s best received new festival experiences pushes further into the Wild, Wild West with a goldmine of electronic dance music and hip-hop talent from across the globe. #CanYouDigIt.

With Illenium joining Deadmau5 and Steve Aoki as headliners, the Phoenix-based dance music and EDM promoter has also added a collection of Special Guests, including: Kevin Gates; Vince Staples; Black Tiger Sex Machine and Slushii. Additional artists on the lineup are: Chris Lake; Jpegmafia; Juice WRLD; Liquid Stranger; Matroda; Medasin; Said The Sky; Tokimonsta; Wifisfuneral; YOOKiE and Yung Pinch.

Also adding to the Goldrush Lineup is Relentless Beats’ premiere house, techno, and underground brand, RBDeep, which will host a stage with performances by Born Dirty; Claptone; Guy J; Leftwing & Kody; Max Chapman; Moon Boots; Prok | Fitch; Sacha Robotti and Yotto. New to the Goldrush experience is the Desert Hearts Takeover, featuring: Mikey Lion; Lee Reynolds; Marbs and Porky. A second round of artists and will be announced in the coming weeks.

“The energy and excitement behind Goldrush are unlike anything we do,” says Relentless Beats founder Thomas Turner. “As the lineup continues to grow, I have no doubt we will be attracting a new group of fans to join the Goldrush family.”

Goldrush 2018 Girls Dancing

Attendees dancing at Goldrush 2017

Following the success of the inaugural festival, which saw over 25,000 prospectors rush upon Relentless Beats’ blend of the Wild West, year two will dig further into the musical amalgamation of styles, tastes and energy- further embracing the unique setting of Rawhide Western Event Center Situated on the Gila River Indian Community, Arizona’s largest 1880s western-themed entertainment venue is located just south of Phoenix- a mere 20 minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Chandler, AZ. The venue hosts several marquee Relentless Beats events, including; BOO!, CRUSH AZ, Decadence, Global Dance Festival, and other major artist concerts.

General admission passes are now available, starting at $139 for a two-day pass, plus fees. VIP passes will be available at two levels: Standard VIP, including everything that a GA ticket provides plus express VIP entrance, a commemorative lanyard, access to VIP lounge, access to VIP viewing deck, premium restrooms and passed desserts in the VIP areas. Platinum VIP includes everything that the Standard VIP pass includes, plus: complimentary drinks, side stage viewing at the Golden Gorge stage, access to artist hospitality lounge, steakhouse quality dinner, exclusive festival gift bag, and festival concierge. VIP options are available starting at $219 for a two-day pass, plus fees and you must be 18 for Standard VIP and 21 and up for Platinum VIP to purchase. Table service will be available at the Golden Gorge stage. Tickets are on sale now and are available online at www.relentlessbeats.com. Goldrush is an 18+ event.

Goldrush is produced by Relentless Beats, Universatile Music and Global Dance. Visit www.goldrushfestaz.com for the most up-to-date information. Stay connected on Twitter and Instagram at @GoldrushFestAZ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GoldrushFestAZ.

Suwannee Hulaween Releases All-Star 2018 Lineup

Suwannee Hulaween 2018 Lineup

Suwannee Hulaween continues to impress after releasing another all-star lineup for this year’s event. Suwannee Hulaween is a three-day music and art festival that takes place along the picturesque Suwannee River in Live Oak, Florida, October 26-28, 2018, with an additional pre-party day on October 25. The festival is the brain-child of The String Cheese Incident and features a variety of music styles including jam bands, rap & hip-hop, reggae, funk, electronic, and everything in between. This year’s event will feature three nights of The String Cheese Incident; as well as headliners Odesza (having just wrapped up their incredible A Moment Apart Tour); Jamiroquai, the British jazz-funk band currently on their first US tour since 2005; and R&B/hip-hop singer and rapper Janelle Monáe. Meanwhile, the underbill includes a slew of other artists like Tipper, Vulfpeck, STS9, Rezz, Gramatik, NGHTMRE, Action Bronson, Lettuce, Stephen Marley, Emancipator, Snakehips, Manic Focus, Clozee, Break Science, Sunsquabi, and many more.

Hulaween is a unique festival that combines set and setting with an incredible diversity of live music that attracts all sorts of music listeners, combined with a plethora of art installations, allowing attendees to get lost in an artistic wonderland for a weekend. This is one festival that you will not want to miss.  Tickets are still available from the ticketing website.

Imagine Festival Releases 2018 Lineup

Imagine 2018 Initial Lineup

Atlanta, GA (May 8, 2018) – Once viewed as a burgeoning new festival filling a void in the Southeast, Imagine Music Festival now celebrates its 5th Anniversary as one of the nation’s most anticipated electronic dance music events. Preparing for its biggest year to date, Imagine has released the first phase of its lineup which includes some of the biggest and most exciting talent from around the globe. Returning to Atlanta Motor Speedway in Atlanta, Georgia on September 21 through 23, 2018, the first round of headliners for the highly-anticipated music and camping festival include: Armin Van Buuren, Alesso, Galantis, RL Grime, Zeds Dead and special guest: Adventure Club. With still more headliners to be announced, this initial collection of top tier names are joined by over 40 additional artists.

Featuring four main stages, with more stages and artists to be announced, Imagine’s immersive aquatic fairytale will permeate the grounds of Atlanta Motor Speedway – from the infield to deep into the early morning in the camping areas. Additional artists on the 2018 performer lineup include: Oceania Stage: 12th Planet; Bear Grillz: Liquid Stranger; Riot Ten; Zaxx; Eddie Gold; Kevin Flum; Leah Culver; Midnite Panda; Ra; and Sunday Service. Amazonia Stage: GRiZ; ZHU; Cashmere Cat; Shpongle (Simon Posford DJ set); Ekali; Eoto; Lotus; Jai Wolf; SunSquabi; Higher Learning; Juju Beats; Levitation Jones; Protohype and Zen Selekta. Disco Inferno Stage: Green Velvet; Oliver Heldens; special guest: Noisia; Boogie T & Squnto; Chocolate Puma; EDX; Joker; Koan Sound; Shlump; Walker & Royce; Wax Motif; Afro Acid Block, with: Salah Ananse and DJ Kemit; Ariel; Exit 9; Halogen; Ployd; and White Rhino. Aeria Stage: Paul Oakenfold; Gabriel Dresden; DJ Dara; IV Lab; Bryson Taylor; and DaddyDough.

“Topping the prior year’s lineup has undoubtedly become a bigger challenge each year.” says Iris Presents founders Glenn and Madeleine Goodhand. “Through many special requests, our fans and the Imagine Family have helped to curate another dream lineup. Our fan support has been an integral part in this festival’s growth and we cannot wait to welcome you all back for our best year yet.”

Returning to Atlanta Motor Speedway for a third straight year this September 21-23, 2018, with early admission available on Thursday, Imagine continues to grow into the expansive venue further embracing the aquatic theme that runs throughout. Never ones to rest on their laurels, Imagine will be presenting fans with increased upgrades, based on feedback from its 2017 attendees. Imagine will continue to improve on the guest experience with more camping activities and services, additional entry and exits gates, improved VIP area, more custom stage designs and overall improvements to the site that will create better flow and shorter wait times. Throughout the aquatic wonderland there will be no shortage of aquatic creatures, dancers, cirque acts, art, workshops, the return of the Imagine pool and of course an even bigger and better lineup. As one of the country’s last remaining independent festivals, Imagine creates an all-encompassing, 360-degree sensory experience that blends music, circus troupes, performers, dancers, art, workshops, classes and more.

Tickets are available now starting at $219 for a 3-day pass and $285 for a 3-day pass with camping. VIP passes with express entry into festival, exclusive viewing areas, VIP bars and lounges, and private air-conditioned VIP trailer restrooms start at $360 for a 3-day pass and $479 with a 3-day pass with camping. Several lodging packages are available, including GA Camping, VIP Camping, RV Camping, Unity Travel Qube village and Hotels. Tickets are available online at www.imaginefestival.com. Imagine Music Festival is an 18 and over event.

Imagine Music Festival is produced by Iris Presents. Visit www.imaginefestival.com for the most up-to-date information. Stay connected on Twitter at www.twitter.com/imaginemusicfes and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/imaginemusicfestival.

Behind the Scenes at BUKU: 4 Features That Made BUKU 2018 Standout

Bassnectar Performing at BUKU 2018

Pictured above: Bassnectar at the Power Plant stage at BUKU 2018

These days, you could be forgiven for looking at a festival lineup and confusing it with another festival, as the market becomes saturated with festivals, with each one trying to out-gun the others with massive lineups pulling in slews of headlining artists. As a result, some festivals end up booking many of the same artists as their peers. However, it’s beyond the music that really makes or breaks a festival; the little things that add flare and make a festival truly shine, like set and setting, art installations, location, environment, and the community of people that pull together to make it all happen.

BUKU Music + Art Project is a two day festival taking place at Mardi Gras World, along the Mississippi River in New Orleans, LA, which took place this past March 9-10, 2018. While the festival is often lumped in the same category as other EDM festivals, the BUKrewe always manage to pull together a healthy mix of musical variety, ranging from heavy bass artists like Bassnectar, Rezz, and Snails, to hip-hop and R&B artists Flatbush Zombies and Sza, house artists Green Velvet and Bonobo, and everything in between. While the music in and of itself is a joy, it’s the artistic extras that provide an immersive environment, creating a seamless experience as attendants move from stage to stage and explore the BUKulture.

Raven
Much of the BUKU production can be attributed to Raven, a New Orleans-based audio/video vendor that “cultivates a boutique design” for events that they work. The face of the company includes partners Chris Berends and Melinda Cohen, with president James Dufrene playing a more behind-the-scenes role, Marco Apostolico and Will Nemitoff working fabrication, and Jason Starkey and Ben Lewis in charge of production. The company is divided into different departments of Design, consisting of Chris, Melinda, and other architects, and Production, which is responsible for the stages and fabrication.

Raven VIP Viewing Area at BUKU 2018

VIP Viewing Area built by Raven at BUKU 2018

Raven has been around since 2009, with the artistic aspect having been around for about seven years. The company does sponsorship activations for Electric Daisy Carnival, Hangout Festival, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, and Voodoo Festival. However, the festival Raven contributes the most to is BUKU. As Chris explains, “We actually met as partners at BUKU in the first couple of years. So our company is almost kind of constructed by the beginning of BUKU.” Expanding on that, “I was a street team member for Winter Circle when I was in college. When they said they were going to do a music festival, I pulled together a group of architecture students and we built some of the art installations for them and it kind of just capitulated from there.” For Raven’s contributions to BUKU, Chris explains:

“For the past seven years, we’ve been designing art installations for BUKU. All the art installations that you see on site, from the totems on the Wharf Stage, to Fort BUKU, the stars out in the field, the tree, all of those are built in our shop. Our team designed them. We also designed the Float Den Stage, the Wharf Stage, previously the Back Alley Stage and provide A/V solutions for a number of the different stages and components. We also started the Graffiti Gallery in year three.”

Many in the Raven crew came from architectural backgrounds, like Chris, who worked internships, but felt that he “had been beaten down by the corporate feel of a lot of architecture firms. It’s pretty depressing. Music festivals gave us an avenue to explore more of the fun side of architecture and build things like the stars and stuff.” Melinda adds that the exciting thing about music festivals, compared to traditional architecture work, is the pace of projects and modular design. Festival projects work on a much faster schedule, so that a design could go from inception to fabrication at a festival in a matter of weeks. On top of that is the extra consideration of mobility. As Chris points out, “It’s a different way of thinking about everything. Everything has to disassemble quickly and reassemble quickly.” The fast pace makes for long days, as in the case of BUKU teardown, a process which must be completed in 48 hours; the festival ends Saturday March 10 (technically Sunday, with the last stage closing at 1AM), and the site must be cleared by Monday night. Raven starts dissembling immediately after BUKU, running multiple teams 24-hours a day for two days; as soon as the festival ends, crews are already working on teardown.

You can check out more of Raven’s work on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

NOLA Projection Mapped Art Installation
The art installations at BUKU are a significant feature that drive the intimacy of the festival, serving as interactive installations throughout the venue. One of the recognizable installations are the NOLA letters, naturally representing the host city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Located outside the Ballroom entrance, near the Mississippi River, the installation uses light projection mapping to illuminate the letters and the area, and often serves as the backdrop for group photos of passers-by. And for much of the weekend, a local band, New Thousand, served their “cinematic booty-shakin’ music” just steps away, pulling in crowds with their violin-infused music.

The NOLA art installation is a solo art project and the creation of Brennan Steele, a New Orleans local. After attending architecture school, Brennan dove into the world of festival art in 2012. He uses his architecture background as a foundation for art projects; it allows him to first design projects on a computer and then fabricate the final work with a solid blueprint.

NOLA Projection Mapped Art Installation

NOLA Projection Mapped Art Installation by Brennan Steele

Currently, art installations serve as a side project for Brennan, but he mentions that he would like to do more of them: “Art installations are something I do on the side. They are a great way for me to develop new techniques and concepts outside of my day job, which has led me to doing commissions, like a small art cart for Burning Man this year.” When he’s not working on festival art installations, he’s working in his company’s studio: “Day-to-day I’m a float designer, and I make Mardi Gras floats for a living. I operate a giant KUKA robotic arm that sculpts props  out of styrofoam.”

Brennan’s creations have made appearances at other festivals, like LUNA Fete, a festival that showcases light-based art, like projection mapping and LED art. However, BUKU is a natural draw for Brennan, as the festival takes place at his place of work. He elaborates:

“BUKU’s festival grounds are at my place of work, Mardi Gras World, so it’s kind of hard for me to not be part of BUKU. Like right now we’re having this talk in my office, which is kind of nice because we’re having a bit of respite from the festival. I like doing art and this is one of the cooler festivals in town to do it.”

When asked about his artistic motivations, Brennan comments:

“I’m inspired by a lot of art that I see at other festivals, like Burning Man. I kind of reverse engineer it and figure out how I can do it on my own and in my own style. I like incorporating all sorts of technology, like projection mapping and computer aided design. The robot I operate opens all kinds of possibilities. Really just pushing the envelope and doing cool new stuff, learning all the different trades, and using all those trades to make unique experiences that people will enjoy.”

If fan enjoyment is something that drives Brennan, then he is succeeding, without a doubt. For the entirety of the festival, lines of people formed in front of his NOLA letters, waiting their turn to capture a memorable moment at the festival.

Mobile DJs
The music never stops at BUKU. You can travel from stage to stage without an interruption in music, thanks in no small part to the mobile DJs, which include setups like a shopping cart and large tricycle decked out with lights, speakers, and DJs. That’s where guys like Graham Holly and Tatum Neill come in, two friends that operate the DJ Trike. The DJ Trike was built by Peter Stanley and is owned by the Organ Grinders, a New Orleans dancing troupe. For the entirety of BUKU, the DJ Trike is operated by Graham and Tatum. Graham got his start with mobile DJing on a shopping cart made by his friend Finn Stormo. It has 10” rubber tires on it, making it possible to traverse a variety of terrain, and it’s the same shopping cart still making the rounds at BUKU, inspired by Graham’s friend Mike Feduccia. As Graham notes, “It’s just kind of run in the family of friends to start doing this mobile DJ thing.”

After DJing on the shopping cart for some time, Graham got the opportunity to DJ on the tricycle, which holds four times the number of speakers. He enjoys it, because it’s “fun to roll up in the street and meet a bunch of people” and “have a bunch of people that don’t know you, just dancing with you and following you all evening,” the best parts being the “serendipitous moments” of running into someone he’s met before in a similar fashion. Describing the scene at BUKU, Graham explains: “at BUKU, it’s fun, people don’t expect it. Most of the time, right now, this year they’ve just been kind of passing by. We’ve had a couple of good moving dance parties, but it’s just something for in between. And we’re having a good time doing it.”

Graham doesn’t stick strictly to mobile DJing. He also followed in Brennan’s footsteps by working on art installations. For other festivals, Graham has built two effigies and participated in a deep-forest rave called Cinema Paradiso at the Louisiana Regional Burn called Engluf.  There are multiple light projections in the woods with Graham stepping in as a DJ.

Graham’s effigy building methods stem from his visual effects career. After studying business in college, he later learned post-production visual effects in New York, which led to his work with Flame, a visual effects program, leading to his involvement with effigies and the Burning Man scene. As far as DJing goes, Graham picked up those skills by teaching himself, first using Serato, and then later adding in Pacemaker, an iPad toolset that allows him to DJ mobily, away from his equipment. It adds an extra feature to his performance, allowing him to more easily move around, similar to how a singer might use a wireless mic for extra mobility.

Regarding his involvement at BUKU, Graham notes that he enjoys the festival because BUKU draws a certain crowd of people specifically there for the music. He likes DJing in the streets, which is “what makes it so fun. This is like a concentrated version of Mardi Gras.”

His excitement in DJing comes from the authentic reactions he gets from others when they make a music connection, through curating and sharing. As Graham adds: “when people are pumped about what I’m playing and excited about a set I did, there’s a lot of dopamine released in the brain. It’s like one giant Instagram like.  It’s nice to connect with people in that way.” He also adds that the connections he makes with others while DJing translate to confidence in the studio. Graham’s goal is to get more involved in music production, so the positive reactions from his listeners are reassurance that he’s working in the right direction. Of course, it also helps to have good peers. Graham points out:

“My buddy Tatum, he DJs with me, and he’s a great DJ too. He’s kind of why I started DJing, like one of the people in my life that was already doing it. We lived together in New York for a while and I would play with him every now and then. I just found a different way to do it. It’s nice that we can do that. We’ve been friends since we were toddlers basically. We grew up around the corner from each other, so it’s nice to be back in New Orleans from New York. Doing it in our hometown.”

Tatum Neill and Graham Holly at BUKU 2018

Tatum Neill & Graham Holly with their DJ Trike at BUKU 2018

Bassnectar Ambassadors
While Bassnectar Ambassadors are not exclusive to BUKU, any festival that books Bassnectar also invites the Bassnectar culture, which often includes Bassnectar Ambassadors. Ambassadors are part of an expansive network created and managed by the Bassnectar Crew, which includes groups like the Bass Network; the new community group Love Here; and Bassnectar Interactive, the new community organization that aims to “catalyze giving back to the world around us.”

Love Here is a Facebook community group created by the Bassnectar Crew as an experiment in positive interaction. The goals of the group are to “Celebrate what we enjoy,” “Share love & kindness” and “Nourish & enhance the Bassnectar Community & the world around us.” Love Here serves as an online sanctuary for Bassnectar fans and the general public to share their love, art, and charity with like-minded individuals. The group has been growing at a tremendous pace; started in early 2018, the group recorded about 7,000 members at the time of BUKU, increasing to currently over 10,500. The success of the group speaks to the eagerness the Bassnectar Community has to promote positive connections.

On a similar note, the Bassnectar Crew recently unveiled its newest community organization: Bassnectar Interactive. Although still in its infancy, expect to see Bassnectar Interactive serving as a platform for making a social impact through some of the social and political groups and campaigns that the Bassnectar Crew are passionate about.

Bassnectar Ambassadors at BUKU 2018

Bassnectar Ambassadors at BUKU 2018, with Raven art installation in the background

Although Ambassadors are not specifically connected to Love Here or Bassnectar Interactive, there is a lot of overlap of people and goals between the two groups. Like many other features at BUKU, Ambassadors help make a large festival more intimate, while also promoting safety. It’s especially important for large events that Bassnectar is playing, where crowds can be as big as 10 to 20 thousand or more. They promote health and safety by passing out water, ear plugs, and checking in on attendees to ensure that people are in a good space and being mindful of themselves. Ambassadors are tasked with creating projects to contribute, which can include things like art projects, community service, creating connections, and making memories. They are present at every Bassnectar-produced event, like Bass Center and New Year’s Eve. When possible, they make appearances at festivals like BUKU.

Mindfulness of the community is particularly important when it comes to Ambassadors. One of the ways they strove for that goal at BUKU was their Power Plant Stage cleanup; after Bassnectar closed out the main Power Plant Stage on the last night, Ambassadors gathered volunteers to pick up trash and debris that accumulated during the day, ensuring to leave the festival grounds trash-free as they left. The community projects are a regular fixture of Ambassador involvement. Ambassadors reach out into their local communities outside of festivals; they’re encouraged to give back and participate in things like beach cleanups, homeless outreach, and more. The daily practice of looking out for others extends into their festival presence at BUKU, serving as friendly faces in the crowd.

BUKU does a great job of booking a unique and diverse set of artists, ranging from up-and-coming to sell-out headliners, with lots of room to explore in between. On top of that, however, BUKU cultivates a unique Kulture by populating the venue with a number of art installations, interactive environments, and mobile music. While the music in and of itself is great, the extras ensure that the BUKU experience is an immersive one.

Happy Ears with OTOjOY at Phoenix Lights 2018

Pictured above: Gramatik at the Invasion stage, photo by Phil MacDonald

Earlier this month, Phoenix Lights touched down in Chandler, Arizona, April 7-8, 2018. The festival name is a nod to the original Phoenix Lights incident of March 13, 1997 when there were widespread reports of UFO sightings in Phoenix, which were later identified as flares from military aircraft. The two-day music festival pays homage to the original incident with its extraterrestrial-inspired stages, dancers, and décor. This year’s event featured artists from a spectrum of genres, like hip-hop acts Gucci Mane and Travis Scott, to dubstep/bass artists Zomboy and Seven Lions, instrumental-infused sets like Gramatik and Goldfish, and EDM artists like Diplo and Martin Garrix, just to name a few. It was the first time Phoenix Lights took place at its new venue, The Park at Wild Horse Pass. In addition to the new venue, festival producers Relentless Beats welcomed a service designed for people who are hard of hearing, provided by a company called OTOjOY. The goal of the service is to provide better listening experiences at festivals and beyond, a relevant goal as the world celebrates International Noise Awareness Day today.

Founder Thomas Kaufmann and Outreach Specialist Micah Thomas at Phoenix Lights

OTOjOY Founder Thomas Kaufmann and Outreach Specialist Micah Thomas at Phoenix Lights

OTOjOY Founder Thomas Kaufmann and Outreach Specialist Micah Thomas were available to fill in the details of the service:

The technology is known as an assistive listening system. This particular one is called a hearing loop. It was originally meant for people who are hard of hearing – either people who were born hard of hearing or people who have lost their hearing throughout their lives – to enhance their experience. They really need that clearer sound and they need amplification that hearing aids provide for their specific hearing pattern. With this technology we’re getting a direct feed, direct audio signal from the mixing console and we’re sending that to people’s ears. 80% of all hearing aids in the market today and all cochlear implants are compatible with this type of technology. People can use their existing devices and just press a button on it and they’re tapped right into the sound system. They essentially get better sound quality than anybody who just uses their ears and loudspeakers. It’s interesting because it was meant for people who are hard of hearing, but it can really provide a benefit to anybody who has ears. We’re in the process of making that shift towards serving the general public with this, and not just people with hearing loss.

OTOjOY Accessible Area at the Mothership Stage

OTOjOY accessible area at the Mothership Stage, photo by Thomas Kaufmann

Attendees with hearing aids or cochlear implants are able to connect to the OTOjOY hearing loop within about a 10-yard radius of the sound booths for the two largest stages at Phoenix lights, the Mothership and Invasion stages. Headphones are also available for anyone without a hearing device wanting to listen in. Thomas elaborates on the wireless technology used for the hearing loop:

The way it works is we have an amplifier that connects directly to the mixing console and gets that direct feed. From there, we have a wire that is embedded in the ground and acts as an antenna. The current that flows through the wire creates a magnetic field that emanates into the space. As soon as you’re in that zone inside the wired area, you can pick up the signal. It’s very directional. You essentially have perimeter control over the sound. Once you step outside of it, you don’t hear it anymore. You can even create areas that are relatively close to each other and you can step outside of one and the sound fades out, you walk into the next one and it fades in.

While using OTOjOY’s technology, one of things a listener might notice is that there is no latency between the audio from the stage speakers and the OTOjOY hearing loop. Thomas mentions that the reason for this is the tried-and-tested technology he’s using that dates back decades:

The fundamentals of this technology have been around since the 1930s. The first patent for an audio frequency induction loop system was filed in 1937. That’s how long this stuff has been around. Not with the fidelity we have today, but in essence the same principle. The actual transmission from our amplifier to the hearing device or the wearable headset receiver is analog. That’s why we don’t have any latency. Whenever you go to a digital transmission, you need to encode the signal, you need to have data packets and then you’re potentially crowding the frequency space and might end up with interference with other devices, connectivity issues, and latency. If you strip it all the way down to just the analog audio transmission, there is no delay whatsoever. You put on the device and then you just melt into the sound.

The concept of OTOjOY might sound somewhat similar to another feature common at festivals: silent disco. At a silent disco, attendees enter a fenced off perimeter where they are handed a pair of headphones, connecting them to the audio feed of the artists performing. The only audio output available are the headphones; no speakers are playing. Thomas describes the difference:

At a silent disco event, you’re somewhat isolated in your bubble with your headphones on. You can’t really communicate with the people around you, whereas with this, depending on the device you’re using, you still perceive your environment like you usually would. Then, you get this augmented layer of clear sound on top of it. That’s really what makes the difference. We call this an “open fit,” where your ears aren’t plugged up or what we call “occluded.”

In addition to the augmented audio, users of the OTOjOY app have access to real-time closed captioning via automatic speech recognition provided through the app. For an example of OTOjOY’s technology in action, including the real-time closed captioning, take a look at one of their videos.

The vision Thomas has for OTOjOY’s future is providing experiences where an event could have the volume of the loudspeaker system turned down slightly, but augmented with individual hearing devices. This would have the benefits of protecting people’s ears from being damaged and solving the issue of audio bleed-over between stages, all while giving listeners more personal control over the volume and equalizer settings to customize  their experience. It also has the added benefit of potentially solving noise ordinance issues with local communities, as a result of the lowered main volume.

Originally from Germany, Thomas founded OTOjOY because of his extensive background in music and physics, getting involved in the world of electrical engineering when he was only 7 years old: “I built my first electromagnet when I was 7. My dad is an electrical engineer. That fascinating experience fueled my passion for electronics. I started soldering circuit boards when I was 12 or so. Then music came into play.”

He started DJing at parties with friends around the age of 13, landing his first paid gig when he was 15 years old. When he was 18, he started his own DJ booking agency and began performing at corporate events for companies like Audi, IKEA, and T-Mobile. Physics, electronics, and music began to mesh for him once he studied at the graduate level, completing a graduate program in physics at the University of Bonn in Germany, spending a year of research on magnetic resonance. He later moved to Santa Barbara to pursue a PhD in chemistry, continuing his work on magnetic resonance. One and a half years into his studies, he started OTOjOY, and half a year after that, he decided to leave the PhD program with a Master of Science degree in chemistry instead in order to run OTOjOY full-time. Thomas credits his international background as being a motivation for his work in the United States:

It’s interesting having that international background and the perception of how this technology is widespread in Europe and how in the US, we’re so behind on that. The infrastructure is a lot more established in Europe, leading to a bigger market for our consumer products. In comparison, here in the US, there are lots of opportunities to transform the market. Not just in the music world, but also in audiology when it comes to hearing aids. In the US, hearing aids are sold in a medical environment, where you make an appointment with a doctor in a medical suite and people feel like they’re being treated for a disease. In Europe, especially in the Netherlands and German-speaking countries, it’s all in a retail environment. You walk into a store that has the appeal of an Apple Store and it feels much more like purchasing a lifestyle product, something that enhances your quality of life. It’s a completely different perception and approach.

He breaks the US audiology market down into three segments: health — hearing aids and cochlear implants; lifestyle — personal sound amplifiers and smart earbuds, which can be similar to inexpensive/introductory hearing aids; and entertainment — headphones and earphones. He sees these markets merging into one, so that eventually, they will all provide a similar set of features and experiences. He notes that the convergence between the medical and entertainment worlds is already happening. For example, some high-end hearing aids can now stream Bluetooth audio from smartphones or media players. On the other hand, his LoopBuds incorporate features that were traditionally only found in hearing aids. However, one of the biggest hurdles Thomas sees is that hearing loop technology needs to become more widely adopted and available throughout day-to-day life:

You can think of theaters, places of worship, and movie theaters, those are the obvious ones. But, you could also use the technology at airports for gate announcements or any other type of public transportation or at ticket counters. Really, any situation where you have a glass window and people communicate through a microphone and a little loudspeaker that I can’t hear well most of the time. You could use hearing loop technology at retail stores, bank teller windows, drive-ups for fast-food restaurants, check-outs at grocery stores, their meat counters, fish counters, customer service desks. You name it. Essentially, we could create this fully integrated experience into your day-to-day life, where you wear a “hearable” all day long. Whenever you walk up to a place that features the technology, you get that clean sound and not the distorted DMV experience. ‘Now serving G zero two five at window number 12.’ I think my vision lies something like 5 to 10 years in the future, when this could really become transformative on so many levels.

Watching Zomboy perform from an OTOjOY accessible area at the Mothership Stage

Zomboy performance from an OTOjOY accessible area at the Mothership Stage, photo by Victor Tranfield

Thomas sees the festival environment as a place to grow awareness and propel hearing loops into the mainstream. For now, the issue is that not enough people know that this technology even exists. Micah, the company’s Outreach Specialist comments:

If there’s an opportunity to make the system available on a larger scale, it would be fun to see how it would change things. Where we are now, not enough people know about it and people don’t know that they could have such a better experience at a concert. People put up with what concerts have become. They put up with the sound bleeding over from different stages. They put up with not being able to hear lyrics. They put up with having a ringing in their ears after a show. All those things are problems we can easily fix.

Thomas reiterates the importance of more awareness of hearing loops: “A lot of times, the need isn’t even perceived, because the people that need it aren’t aware of the technology and then don’t speak up to the promoters or the venue operators that would provide it.” He’s thankful for Relentless Beats’ early adoption and support:

Relentless Beats are one of the first promoters who are embracing and really pioneering this technology. They’re open to it, they see the importance of providing a better experience for the people who are hard of hearing and have the need for better sound quality and they’re really curious about seeing how this could be applied on a larger scale. They’re helping us push the boundaries and I think they are seeing the future.

OTOjOY has become a regular fixture at Relentless Beats events. After providing service at Phoenix Lights, OTOjOY made an appearance at ODESZA’s Phoenix stop of their 2018 A Moment Apart Tour. ODESZA have also been an early supporter of OTOjOY, and the service has made appearances at festivals like Coachella, Lightning in a Bottle, and Bonanza Campout.

For more information on OTOjOY, checkout some example videos or read what Thomas has to say about his journey to creating OTOjOY.

Phoenix Lights Day 1 Photos
Phoenix Lights Day 2 Photos

Relentless Beats Announces the Return of Goldrush

Goldrush 2018 Pre-sale

Phoenix, AZ (April 18, 2018) – Relentless Beats is excited to announce the return of Goldrush Music Festival, one of 2017’s best received new festival experiences, taking place at Rawhide Western Town in Chandler, Arizona, September 29 and 30, 2018. Following the success of the inaugural festival, which saw over 25,000 prospectors rush upon Relentless Beats’ blend of the Wild West, year two will dig further into the musical amalgamation of styles, tastes and energy. The fully immersive two-day festival will welcome electronic dance music and hip-hop fans from across the country to discover and experience world class DJs, across four expertly curated stages. The lineup will be announced in the coming week, with further details to accompany it. In the meantime, let’s go back and experience everything that makes Goldrush the can’t miss festival of the Fall. #InGoldWeTrust #CanYouDigIt

Rawhide Western Town & Event Center is situated on the Gila River Indian Community and is Arizona’s largest 1880s western-themed entertainment venue. Located just south of Phoenix, the venue is a mere 20 minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Chandler, AZ. The venue hosts several marquee Relentless Beats events, including; BOO!, CRUSH AZ, Decadence, Global Dance Festival, and other major artist concerts.

A limited number of pre-sale general admission passes will go on sale Friday, April 20, at 10 a.m. MST, starting at $119 for a two-day pass. VIP passes will be available at two levels: Standard VIP, including everything that a GA tickets provides plus express VIP entrance, a commemorative lanyard, access to VIP lounge, access to VIP viewing deck, premium restrooms and passed desserts in the VIP areas. Platinum VIP includes everything that the Standard VIP pass includes, plus: complimentary drinks, side stage viewing at the Golden Gorge stage, access to artist hospitality lounge, steakhouse quality dinner, exclusive festival gift bag, and festival concierge. VIP options are available starting at $199 for a two-day pass and you must be 18 for Standard VIP and 21 and up for Platinum VIP to purchase. Table service will be available at the Golden Gorge stage. The general on sale will begin on Friday, April 27 at 10 a.m. MST. All ticket types are available online at www.relentlessbeats.com. Goldrush is a 18+ event..

Goldrush is produced by Relentless Beats, Universatile Music and Global Dance. Visit www.goldrushfestaz.com for the most up-to-date information. Stay connected on Twitter and Instagram at @GoldrushFestAZ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GoldrushFestAZ.

Shambhala Releases 2018 Lineup

Shambhala 2018 Lineup

The 21st annual Shambhala Music Festival returns to Salmo River Ranch in British Columbia, Canada this August 10-13, 2018. This year’s lineup features an extensive and eclectic mix of music, featuring artists like Adventure Club, Brasstracks, Buku, Feed Me, Gramatik, Joker, The Funk Hunters, The Glitch Mob, and many more.

Shambhala is a four-day camping festival held in the woods of British Columbia, with a unique set of artistic stages and backdrops like The Amphitheater, Fractal Forest, The Grove, The Living Room, The Pagoda, and The Village. Shambhala is a 19+ alcohol-free festival, choosing instead to focus on the extensive selection of music and art available.

General Admission tickets are currently on sale for $420 CAD (not including taxes and fees), which includes basic tent camping. Additionally, there are a variety of early entry options available, ranging from $50-$150 CAD (not including taxes and fees). Early entry passes must be purchased at the festival. However, patrons that purchase any of the ShambhaLodging packages will receive complimentary early entry for two guests.

Sonic Bloom Releases 2018 Lineup

Sonic Bloom 2018 Lineup

Sonic Bloom has released their full lineup for Sonic Bloom 2018, taking place this June 14-17, 2018, featuring a funky mix of live electronic bands and DJs, like Shpongle (Simon Posford DJ Set ft. Live Visuals by Android Jones), Keys N Krates, Nightmares on Wax Live Band, Liquid Stranger, Eoto, Break Science, Desert Dwellers, and more.

Sonic Bloom is a four-day camping festival at Hummingbird Ranch in Spanish Peaks Country, Colorado. Tier 2 GA tickets are currently on sale for $199, not including taxes or fees. Car camping is an extra $99, while parking is $44, and to enter early on June 13, an additional $40 ticket is required. Tier 2 VIP tickets are on sale for $440, which includes early entry on June 13, and a reserved car camping spot.

Camp Bisco 2018 Lineup

Camp Bisco 2018 Lineup

Camp Bisco has announced a jam-packed 2018 lineup for July 12-14, 2018, featuring many Camp Bisco alumni, as well as new-comers ranging from jam bands to dubstep and everything in between. Naturally, The Disco Biscuits are headlining with six sets all weekend. Other artists include Bassnectar, Excision, Tipper, Bonobo (Live Band), Illenium, Lotus, STS9, Big Wild, and many more.

Camp Bisco is three-day camping festival at Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Camp Bisco does not offer car-side camping, so come prepared. They note:
“There is no car side camping at Camp Bisco. There is wagon service to get you from the camping parking lot/gear drop off area to the campgrounds and ability to have a vehicle drop your gear off as close as possible to your campsite. We provide a large number of shuttles, all-terrain golf carts and staff in order to make it the easiest camping experience possible on Montage Mountain. There is continuous, expeditious valet service throughout the weekend but we still encourage Camp Bisco campers to pack light and bring something with wheels to transport gear in (think utility cart, not a radio flyer).”

If you intend on camping, make sure to buy a camping bundle, as the default festival option is for the festival-only and does not grant access to the camping and RV grounds. Early-bird GA tickets are currently on sale for $169.50 for festival only or $209.50 with camping, taxes and fees not included. Early-bird VIP tickets are on sale for $399.50 for festival only or $439.50 with camping, taxes and fees not included. Additionally, there are also glamping options and a 3-installment plan available.