At a moment when outdoor music and arts festivals have achieved unprecedented popularity — witness the apparently effortless doubling of this year’s Coachella to two sold-out weekends — Live Oak Campground, lying just over the pass from Santa Barbara on Highway 154, represents one of the state’s prize locations. And on Halloween Eve weekend, October 26-28, a bold crew of multitasking adventurers will attempt to tame the competing interests of sensation seekers and the community of Santa Ynez, within whose jurisdiction the electronic music and art event known as Lunacy will take place.
Last spring, years after the departure of the Do Lab’s extremely popular Lightning in a Bottle event, a group of relatively untried producers, promoters, technicians, and visionaries committed to programming Lucidity, a weekend-long festival that pitted itself against the first weekend of Coachella. In the face of both a sold-out crowd and torrential rain, the Synaptic crew of Satory Palmer, Stanley Cui, Ryan Williams, Ryan Moray, and Eliot Winder held strong and delivered a memorable weekend that left both the participants and — perhaps more importantly — the neighbors ready for more. As Palmer told me when I met with the Lucidity principals a couple of weeks ago, they’re “not interested in getting run out of town.”
This is no small matter when you are rolling up on one of the Santa Ynez Valley’s prime camping spots with two full Funktion One sound systems in tow. These state-of-the-art outdoor speakers are the weapons of choice for electronic dance music deejays the world over, battle-tested and proven in fields and on stages everywhere from Ibiza to Prague. For Lucidity, the Synaptic team unleashed two of these bass-breathing monsters amid nature’s own sound-and-light show of thunder and lightning. Ryan “Rhymo” Moray freely admits that at points during that initial weekend last spring, “the electrical grid was in question,” but, given the enormous capacity and efficiency of these towers of sound, neither the attendees’ sonic experience nor the neighbors’ ability to sleep were ever in doubt. “None of us had done this before,” said Williams, “but we surrounded ourselves with the kind of staff who fix problems — not necessarily professional forklift drivers or sound guys, but rather smart people willing and able to stay with a situation and make it work.”
This renaissance DIY work ethic also characterizes the programming at the upcoming Lunacy Music & Arts Festival, the lineup for which represents a significant departure from both Lucidity and Lightning in a Bottle, which focus more tightly on the kind of deejays who are regulars at Burning Man. “We’re opening up the space to other arts for Lunacy,” said Palmer. “We want to include more live music than in the past, so we are dedicating one of the Funktion One setups to expressing that.” “It’s open source in that way,” Rhymo added, “we are offering an olive branch to creative people from every area and approach.”
What does this all mean in terms of who will be appearing? Let’s start with the headliners, who are impressive. EOTO, the electronic duo of Michael Travis and Jason Hann, are a perfect example of the new music that’s bringing together an ultrawide swath of progressive listeners and groovers from across the spectrum, from jam band fans to devotees of moontribe-style trance. Hann and Travis, who were once in the rhythm section of jam legends the String Cheese Incident, weave together live instruments, dubstep electronics, and inspired improvisation, creating a seamless groove that’s been road-tested 200 nights a year in front of giant crowds.
Less well-known but equally advanced in his mastery of 21st-century sonic mayhem is Bay Area deejay Adam Ohana, who performs and produces under the name An-Ten-Nae. He’ll bring his block-rocking bass bombs to the scene with what is sure to be one of the weekend’s more exciting sets. Expect low-end explorations à la Bassnectar with a good measure of crunk thrown in for maximum bounce and elevation.
As for the live-ness, fans of such top Santa Barbara acts as Howlin’ Woods, Whiskey Piss, Rainbow Girls, Saint Anne’s Place, and Boombox Orchestra will get a chance to catch their favorites under the stars and hear them bringing their music to a new audience through a crystal clear sound system.
And, as if that weren’t enough, there’s guaranteed to be plenty of spinning, stilt-walking, body painting, and hula-hooping when this crowd gets together. Expect major efforts from such festival art stars as Gerard Minakawa of Bamboo DNA, trippy installations like the Turquoise Portal and the Peace Wall, and dynamic performance art from Wandering Marionettes, the Fairy Hoopers, and Faeryn Fire. The organizers of Lunacy look forward to working with classical musicians and ballet performers in the future, explaining that they see their mission as “incubating an audience of people who are open to celebration, regardless of their chosen style or media.”
Lunacy Music & Arts Festival takes place Friday-Sunday, October 26-28, at Live Oak Campground. For tickets and information, visit lunacyfestival.com.