Anyone who doesn’t know about the burgeoning transformational festival scene in the U.S. would have gotten a solid taste of one of its best examples at the third annual Firefly Gathering.
This year’s festival was held at Soggy Bottom Ranch, just minutes off of old Route 66, and the breathtakingly beautiful setting was blessed by dramatic clouds and intermittent rain. Working with the ranch’s owners, and the owners of adjacent properties, the hard-working organizers of the festival, with a small army of enthusiastic volunteers, turned the forest and meadows into a microcosmic village complex of cooperation, co-creation, celebration and love.
Part of a larger and fast-growing movement, Flagstaff’s version, while more modest than festivals like Silverado, California’s Lightning in a Bottle, is an exceptional representation of the phenomenon. Affordable and close by, it’s a unique opportunity to partake in the experience … and make the world a better place. The event’s founders say it best, on their website, www.fireflygathering.com:
“Through our intentions and festival environment, we feel that Firefly brings an opportunity for each of us to participate in the ‘Tribal Village’ that we each lack in today’s global society. By practicing life within a conscious, creativity-based culture, even if for only a weekend, we awaken an important part of ourselves that needs nurturing for the changes that are to come. Experiencing how our world could be in a creative, co-operative society can be a transformative experience for anyone!”
Christopher Blessit BonZani conducted the opening ceremony, leading a large circle of hand-holding festival-goers in a meditation, followed by a beautifully spoken reminder of why we’re all here together in this time and place.
Two stages offered three days of music that ranged from “paleontologist-poet-philosopher” Michael Garfield’s looped acoustic guitar wizardry to the glitch-hop/laser-crunk of kiLL sMiTH and psychedelic dubstep/dirty bass drops of Nico Luminous.
The occasional rain shower kept the dust down, and Saturday night’s amazing set by Stephan Jacobs featured a steady downpour that turned shoes into leaden blocks of moist volcanic clay, and feather boas into bedraggled, soggy masses. The exuberance of the crowd was undiminished by the storm, and the twin gas jet towers of the Firefly Stage would rhythmically erupt during bass drops, lending brief bursts of campfire warmth to the sodden dancers.
Friday night’s 8 o’clock set by sAuce was not so fortunate. In an overwhelming show of local support, it seemed that everyone was at the Namastage enjoying Circus Bacchus’ performance, while sAuce entertained a solitary dancer, who said that the set “was really good, but I felt bad for the DJ, because I was the only one there.” The Namastage coup was a one-two punch of local talent, as Flagstaff’s R3DF0X (Adam Neville) performed in the 7 p.m. slot, assuring a crowd lock down with his upbeat, joyous and smile-inducing original tracks. He ended his set with a straight-up version of Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line” so that he could join in the dancing with the audience, as it was his birthday, and he’s awesome like that. As the festivities rolled into the night, Firefly Stage wrested the crowd’s attention back with blistering sets by kiLL sMiTH, Nico Luminous, and Gladkill.
Other standout performances were Dela Moontribe’s gorgeous, sacred and sensual mixes, all accompanied by her beatific smile and graceful swaying behind the DJ stand. She radiated a peace and warmth that intertwined with her deft beats and ephemeral melodies, as if she was holding the crowd softly in her arms and rocking it gently.
Endoplasmic’s Saturday night set at Namastage was attended by a boisterous bunch. The band’s triple guitar (and a keyboard) instrumental jams offered a sweaty hands-on alternative to the predominantly laptop-based music. That, and one of the three guitarists wore a skin tight unitard and a pair of toe shoes. The effect was … striking.
Away from the music stages, Firefly was set up as a cluster of themed villages, each with its own flavor (or to be precise, vibrational frequency). For the kids, and there were plenty of them in attendance, scampering about, hula hooping and flying kites, there was Li’l Bugville. Crafting activities, play spaces, movies (complete with popcorn) and a comfortable family vibe made this a fun spot for the tykes and their parents.
The Shrine of Virtues was a zone of interconnected shrines and altars, meticulously laid out with great care and devotion. Lit, as much of the whole festival was, by a variety of solar-charged or battery operated LED lights, the Shrine was a place where visitors could admire the artistry of mandala, or pray, meditate and leave offerings to whichever entity they were interacting with. An incredible amount of work went into it, and there was a palpable feeling of sacred charge present there.
The Giving Room featured healers of all kinds, with massage, yoga, energy work and more. Nearly all services were freely given, and remarkable stories of transformation and healing came out of this village, perhaps most notably the early evening shamanic healing of a young woman who was effected by a conglomeration of energy workers who were left shell-shocked with amazement and bliss after the powerful experience, one Reiki practitioner saying that she’d never experienced anything so intense and confounding in her life.
A Sunday afternoon group meditation to open a fifth dimensional portal and surround the planet in pure light, led by Adrian Lobo Miramontes, actually did just that. Without any objective corroborative data to confirm how much terrorism was averted, hatred mitigated, wars ended, conflicts resolved, disasters quieted, or spontaneous planetary shift into a profoundly higher vibrational state was initiated, let’s just say that those who participated had some emotional tales to tell of visions and feelings that this expansive meditation invoked in them. Peoples’ voices broke as they quietly related what they had experienced, and there was a sense that something real, potent and repeatable had been achieved at a deep, energetic level.
On a personal closing note, infinite gratitude and love to all who worked so hard to bring this magical gift to Flagstaff, and to all who participated. See you next year!
Additional photos for this story:
A quadrupedal Firefly attendee, Midas the Goat. Photo by Dean Bonzani
A central focus of Firefly, the Shrine of Virtues, was an intricately built spiritual zone. Photo by Dean Bonzani