In an oak-laden grove where acorns lay, a gurgling creek was splashed by loaded cars decorated in bumper stickers that displayed a love for music festivals, national parks and Bernie Sanders. As festivalgoers flooded in, lugging coolers and crates of camping gear, a sonic blur of various styles of electronic music thumped in the distance while a rainbow of lasers glittered through the leaves. There was no trash on the ground, no beer gardens, no designated camping areas marked by chalk lines.
This is Lucidity Festival, a family-friendly, anti-corporate underground music festival that categorizes itself as transformational. Set at Live Oak Campground in Santa Barbara last weekend, the event lured people from as far north as Oregon and as far east as Colorado.
"Lucidity is such a special place for me,” says Evan “EVeryman” Shafran, who performed a tribute set for his late friend, DJ Pumpkin, at the festival's Nomad’s Nook stage on Saturday, April 8. “You get to really see a mini-universe where people from all walks of life are able to showcase their crafts.”
Established in 2012, Lucidity was created with the goal of unfurling a narrative arc over the span of six years that followed mythologist Joseph Campbell’s fabled “Hero’s Journey.” This year’s event marks Lucidity’s sixth and final chapter, titled Eudaimonia, a Greek word that translates to “human flourishing.” What happens with Lucidity’s story in 2018 is currently being written.
Co-founded by self-proclaimed narcoleptic lucid dreamer Jonah Haas, Lucidity is not based around consumerism like its diametrically opposed desert cousin that takes place the following weekend. Lucidity fosters the ever-growing transformational festival community, a group that prefers underground music over pop stars and psychedelics over depressants. Here, the patron’s money is going into the pockets of a small group of independent festival producers whose goal is to create a microcosm where people can party safely and consciously.
“I have been going to Lucidity since the beginning and have been going to [Live Oak Campground] since LIB [Lightning in a Bottle] was there, so it's such a magical location for me personally,” says Brian Crain, who goes by Lou E. Bagels and was also part of Pumpkin’s tribute set. “Watching a festival grow with integrity is an amazing thing, and I think that the Lucidity team has done a great job with that.”
Education is one of the aspects that makes Lucidity unique. While the musical lineup consists of underground electronic, folk and hip-hop artists who draw in a large crowd, the carefully curated workshops and courses are equally important to many attendees. The festival even offers classes and workshops in the week leading up to main event, where they encourage participants to “come for the classes and stay for the festival.”
The educational activities at Lucidity cover a broad range of topics, from the history and technique of the pop-and-lock dance style (with instructor Adrian Lobo) or what kind of edible plants promote lucid dreaming (with instructor Chloe Bee). For the early risers, there's an 8:30 a.m. Kundalini yoga class; for the dawn greeters, there are 5:30 a.m. acoustic sunrise sets.
This focus around learning and self-improvement is part of what makes the atmosphere of Lucidity so enriching. Parents can feel safe bringing their toddlers and teens; although drugs are present, as they are at most music festivals, they are not blatantly used or abused. The vibe consists of respectful people connecting, teaching and helping one another, picking up trash, laughing at everything and dancing in droves.
“I love the forest landscape and the different stages,” Shafran says. “It is run so smoothly and everyone seems to leave it better than when they arrived. It's a little haven for festival families from all over the Southern California scene — I saw friends I had not seen since last year, and I was blown away by the response to our tribute set for Pumpkin.”
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Workshops are rewarding, but what really brings Lucidity together is the music. The main Lucid Stage offered a gut-wobbling array of sticky, glitchy bass music, while the smaller Nomad’s Nook stage played a range of electronic music from dubstep to house. In addition to the various side stages peppered throughout the event, the Nest matched the Lucid Stage in size but featured live bands such as “swamptronica” power trio Dirtwire and folktronica songstress Ayla Nereo.
With the recent controversy behind Coachella’s homophobic, anti-environmental owner, Lucidity and other so-called transformational events are opening new doors for festival lovers who like knowing that their ticket purchase isn’t going to some big corporation that may not share their values. Nevada’s Burning Man was the pioneer of this concept, with transformational festivals being the smaller, more affordable offspring of that annual desert gathering. Lucidity, among others, practices many of the Burning Man tenets, which include participation, self-reliance, decommodification, leaving no trace, gifting, inclusion and radical self-expression.
“I can feel my own growth within this community — personally and musically,” Crain says of the transformational festival scene. “I love the variety of experiences they offer their community. The fact that they have taken a music festival, which has been typically known for play, and created a space for learning, growth and real soul work, just adds to the magic.”