Thumbnail image by @gudvibesphoto
For some people, a festival is just another festival is just another festival. But in anticipation for Northern Nights, many of my close friends boasted about how “Northern Nights is the best festival” and for some, even their “favorite” festival. I was skeptical – I go to a lot of festivals – how could this one be so great?
Well. Okay – now I see…
The Location – there is a weird geographic anomaly about Piercy, CA. Locals say there are some places where water runs upstream, gravity is “stronger,” and supposedly, a compass will flutter heavily at true North due to an overwhelming magnetic force surrounding this area. Not sure if any of this is true, but once you arrive at Cook’s Valley Campground at the Mendocino – Humboldt County line, you can certainly feel a sense of belonging. The grounds are beautiful. The trees are so majestic that if you look up at the tallest branches, you can basically travel through time. The overall sense of welcoming was incandescent.
The River – the river was probably my favorite aspect of the entire weekend – partly because it was almost 100 degrees and it kept most of us from dying of heat – but also partly because it was a fun-festival-sea-of-floaties. I saw everything from swans, peacocks, and flamingos to donuts and popsicles. As a matter of fact, an entire group of friends each had a single slice of pizza to form one large pepperoni pizza (squad goals AF). Huge unicorn islands dominated the river, while rafts with built-in canopies and coolers floated by too. A river dragon made its way through smaller floats which made way for the gigantic rubber ducky. An incredible sight for sure. The river stage was strategically placed right along the riverbed so you could hear the music while you lay there chillin’… What other festivals even offer that?
The People – there were soooooo maaaaaaany peopleeeee. Organizers say this was the largest crowd EVER. It was insane the number of festivalers who attended this thing. And to be honest, I recognized a lot of faces (and totems) from previous festivals this summer, but everyone’s squad seemed to be bigger than before – including mine. The whole weekend, everyone I met was so extremely kind. Neighbors peaked into our camp to say “hi” and introduce themselves. People passing by stopped to compliment our setup. Some of my crew came all the way from Tahoe and attracted other Tahomies. Someone let me take over our camp’s aux so while I was blasting Mac Dre, pretty girls stopped to get a little hyphy. Even people working the festival made a lasting impression. From the guy who guided us to our camping spot (and then was so patient and flexible when we asked to move a few spaces over) to the lovely lady who took her smoke break at our camp in the shade after picking up trash all day in the scorching heat. Yes – the people. You will NOT find these genuine people at any other festival.
The Vibes – needless to say, with the environment and the people on level 100, the vibes were beyond outstanding. Obviously, the music speaks for itself (no need to include how great it was – you saw the lineup!) There was yoga, a forest full of hammocks (perfect for mid-day naps), a cannabis area, a silent disco, art galleries, and tons of things to spend money on: vendors, plenty of food options, and a general store stocked with everything you forgot. I’m not sure what consumes one’s soul when going to Northern Nights, but even the shyest people seem to have the courage to come up and tell you how beautiful you are. Sometimes you just need that kind of energy and Northern Nights was just that. The vibes at the Bunker Stage were the strongest. I saw the sun set and rise from various spots at the Bunker. Weird-5am-shenanigans took place there, but during that time in space, it was anything but weird.
A New Family – so many crews linked up for this. I had my crew (who started festival season off at Serenity Gathering and kept screaming “Serenity Day 91” all weekend), my crew had their LIB and Buku crews, those crews had their friends. My friends ended up knowing their friends. My SnowGlobe squad reassembled… Never in my entire festival-going experience had I ever been in one place with so many loving people. Like it was impossible to get lost when everyone knew where to return you. I went with about 25 friends, I left with about 25 more, and I gained about a million new memories.
All music aside – now I see why everyone claims this to be the “best” festival ever. And while some of us are still not unpacked, still a little sunburnt, our voices barely returning – we so anxiously await next summer when we return to do it all over again at the 7th Annual Northern Nights Music Festival in 2019. See you all on the river (or at Bunker). Peace out, festie fam.
All photography by Kristina Baky @kristinabaky.
To be honest, it was intimidating as hell walking into an amphitheater full of powerful women… Until I realized I was a powerful woman too. As I looked around the room, I thought about a book by Toni Morrison called Home, where a young black girl named Cee works as an assistant to a doctor. Lack of knowledge has her convinced he is a hero because he helps the sick regardless of them being black or poor. But really, he is a doctor practicing eugenics, which involves the manipulation of human breeding, often by sterilizing people without their consent. Long story short–her physical and emotional recovery is aided by several strong women. Women who “took responsibility for their lives, and for whatever, whoever else needed them.” These women are described as having “no excess in their gardens because they shared everything [and] there was no trash or garbage in their homes because they had a use for everything.”
The New Parkway Theater in Oakland was home to the Women In Music Festival’s Panel Day where several phenomenal women in the industry came together to share insight on: Women in Live Music, Women in Artist Marketing, and Women in Media. The panel also included a Live Artist Interview with female powerhouse: Rayana Jay.
It was refreshing to hear some of the conversation around topics and ideas I struggle with. And I felt less alone knowing that other women around me dealt with the same things.
Here’s some notes I jotted down from the Live Music panel:
- Practice process over perfection
- Stay confident
- No person is too high up to reach out and say hello
- Go after it–regardless
- In your come up, bring other women up with you
Things I took away from the Live Interview with Rayana Jay:
- You don’t need to move away to a “big city”–just travel
- Be your own marketing team
- Do business with your girls
- Find your lane and stay in your lane
- Be your own biggest critic
Artist Marketing panel take away:
- “You’re only as good as your single is”
- As important as sisterhood is in this industry, recognize your big brothers because there’s just some shit women shouldn’t deal with
- Stay curious and always seek knowledge
- If you’re the only woman in the room–boss the fuck up
- Don’t be that bitch on the studio couch
And lastly, from the Media panel:
- Be creative in your own style
- Don’t let middle-aged white men tell you that you can’t
- Organize your ideas and thoughts so they are easily accessible to you
- Men need us–remind them if you need to
- Organic traffic over everything
Listening to all of this, I realized something…
In my role as Urban Music Director at 90.5 FM KSJS, I am constantly surrounded by men. At the panel they referred to radio a “boy’s club”. And I laughed because it’s very true. Thankfully, I’ve managed with hardly any problems getting what I want or need… and although I’m shy around other women, “LET ME TALK TO A DAMN RAPPER,” is usually my attitude when doing business.
Epiphany: maybe other women feel this way. And maybe that’s where things get weird… The women-to-women interaction needs to be less frightening and more welcoming.
The Women In Music Festival sparked a lot of conversation about other themes: race, gender, homosexuality, oppression, equality. But it was comforting knowing that my feelings of empathy were being reciprocated. We were all feeling. And that was special.
The festival didn’t just focus on the panel discussion, in fact, it lasted a total of four days and had a variety of events ranging from an intimate DJ workshop in collaboration with Serato on Thursday, to a discussion showcasing four women from distinctly different parts of the industry, at the Pandora Headquarters on Friday.
The Oakland Museum of California was host to the first ever Women in Hip-Hop panel in conjunction with RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom Exhibit–the under-recognized story of one of the most influential cultural and social movements of the last 50 years–which is ongoing on every Saturday and Sunday from now until August 12. To top it off, this event was garnished with the typical First Friday arrangements: food trucks, cocktails, and live music.
Saturday morning was about self-care, which was a huge reoccurring theme throughout the event. Shakira Scott lead yoga classes that incorporated meditation and mindful vinyasa flow to 90’s R&B, alternative music, reggae, jazz with a splash of meditative sounds.
Saturday night, I attended the Women in Music Concert at Starline Social Club. In a judgement-free zone, we danced to music by Tiffany Gouche, Raveena, B-Side Brujas, Ah-Mer-Ah-Su, LadyRyan, Sweetest Threat, and Rayana Jay. While DJ Red Corvette was on the turntables, Fela Kutchii hosted the party. What can I say about this? Nearly every women in attendance came from an earlier festival event so we had nothing but good vibes among one another. It was an amazing bond to share with other women in the industry.
Sunday entailed a “Boss Brunch”–breakfast, mimosas, and women speaking about their wins, losses, and what it really takes to be a girl boss in this industry. Afterwards, an “Eat, Shop, Talk” marketplace went down which showcased local female entrepreneurs, business owners, and queen-ran services like nail design, tarot card readings, and henna artists. Art, fashion, jewelry, and beauty vendors were present alongside food and dessert vendors with sounds by Chulita Vinyl Club and Climaxxx. A seemingly wonderful way to end a weekend full of influential femininity.
Whether you attended one event or all of the events, the Women in Music Festival successfully empowered hundreds of women and intentionally brought awareness to the idea of sisterhood.
We needed this. Thank you ❤ ’til next year.