Finding Your Euphoria In Austin
Prior to attending Euphoria Fest, I researched everything there was to experience at camp. Workshops in the Art Outside Village started at 10 AM and the first musical acts took to the four different stages mid-afternoon. There were over seventy acts on the four-day lineup and shows frequently overlapped each other. Even with a carefully planned schedule, I wasn’t able to see everything I hoped for last weekend. Although, one thing I'm grateful for not seeing is the man who was arrested for masturbating in a crowd.
Thursday afternoon we headed to Austin in hopes of getting camp set up before dark. Getting our passes and unloading the car took about two hours and the security lines at camp ate up more of our time. By the time we were set up at camp, most of the Thursday night bands had already played, but we made our way to the glowing Art Outside Village in time to catch Manic Focus. This campers-only night had the close-knit feel of a much smaller festival.
The next morning we ventured back down to the Village and caught the last half of Sanctuary Yoga. An introductory hoops class was scheduled after yoga and many of the yogis stayed for the workshop. Music started at 2 PM on the Dragonfly Stage and the shows didn’t stop until at least 2 AM. Carlyle and Flamingosis started simultaneously, so I split my time to see a little of each set.
Magna Carda was already in full swing when we got back to the Dragonfly Stage, and this Austin-based hip-hop group had everyone’s attention. After seeing Slice Gang and Tennyson, we headed back to camp to refuel for the rest of the night. There were plenty of food trucks to choose from if you didn’t want to leave the festival, however, the options were incredibly limited for those of us with allergies.
Disco Biscuits ended up performing a surprise second set, which made it possible to fit more bands into the schedule. SPAG HEDDY and Mija had the Elements Stage amped up and ready to party. To finish out the night, Pretty Lights and Knife Party kept everyone dancing for hours. During the last sets of the night, the fire dancers lit up the night with torches, fans, and even a flaming jump rope.
After walking around all day in the April heat of Texas, I had no trouble falling asleep that night even with the noise around me. Earplugs are typically a necessity at festivals and this one was no different. The ranch was right under the flight path to Austin Airport and planes flew over consistently. You get used to it after a day or so, however it's jarring at first.
Saturday's schedule was just as jam packed as the previous day. We spent a little time enjoying the various activations around the festival. ENO was set up with at least ten demo hammocks to rest in the shade. Tito’s Vodka, a local company and the main vodka offering during the weekend, set up their copper Airstream trailer near the ENO booth and offered additional seats in the shade. They were conveniently arranged relatively central to the three main stages and a working art gallery was arranged close to the Dragonfly Stage. Artists worked on their paintings and offered body painting for those bold enough to use their skin as a canvas.
Everyone I talked to was excited for Alesso and Young Thug, but it was the earlier acts of the night that caught my attention. Grammy-award winners, Bob Moses, artfully blended electronic music with live instrumentals and vocals for a fresh take on dance music. My favorite show of the night, Bakermat, reeled in the crowd with a vibrant fusion of jazz and house music.
The last morning at camp was quiet as a cool breeze swept through camp. The Wildflower School hosted a native plant walk along the creek and our group spent an hour learning to identify native poisonous plants. The plant walk was followed by a beekeeping workshop at the Art Outside Stage. Courtney and Aaron hosted an interactive workshop that introduced campers to several varieties of honey and the growing importance of bees in our agricultural system.
Back at the campgrounds, tents and EZ-Ups were being packed away as many of us had to leave that night. The energy was calmer today, yet faces were still exuberant. Sunday’s schedule was busy though not as crazy as the previous two days. Euphoria Stage opened with Turkauz, a 9-piece funk band from Brooklyn. This colorful group got our Sunday going and was followed by Dumpstaphunk, a soulful jazz/funk band from New Orleans.
Hiking from stage to stage, I took in over ten different shows and still was not able to see everything. The variety of musical genres at Euphoria was remarkable especially with the EDM overtones of the festival. By day four of the festival, all the shows seemed to run together in one big burst of sounds and colors. Sunburnt, dirty, and exhausted from walking over ten miles a day; I felt the mystical peace that’s brought on from a major dose of good vibes and heady tunes.
Find your joy. This seems to be the biggest motivation as people don wild costumes and lose themselves dancing to their favorite bands. What I experienced at Euphoria Fest reminded me of the common bonds we share as music lovers and festival goers. In our rushed society, talking to strangers and receiving a positive reaction can be sadly uncommon. At every turn in the weekend, I met someone radiating positive energy. Tell yourself that you are happy and you will be. Affirmation leads to recurrent positive thought which is correlated to a positive existence. The idea of Euphoria seemed to have an almost blanket effect. Through long security lines and the heat of the day, the smiles and joy were contagious. I found myself smiling and dancing all weekend. Until next year, I’ll be working on finding my euphoria.
Photos by Stephen Dempsey for Bullet Music