The Envision Festival community travels great lengths in time, space, and within their respective lives, all to attain the Gift – a blessing to make a pilgrimage of sorts to Uvita, Costa Rica. Envision is a gathering of progressive thinkers, dream-weavers, and seneschals in serendipity. It is easy to point out what it is not: another festy to crush, or rave to rage…there is indeed nothing ‘on par’, nor at all ‘for the course.’ Yes, at its core, Envision is still a music festival, yet the event stands for – and to achieve – so much more than merely entertain its patrons. It assembles an organic, globalized, mobilized think tank of seven thousand-plus dreamers and doers under one jungle sky, providing the tools and resources for a convention in progressive ways of life to take shape. Envision’s best efforts set the bar for what is possible when human beings come together for the holy matrimony of art, culture, and ceremony: this is the joy of living personified.
By situating itself where the jungle meets the beach, on the Costa Rican southern Pacific just beyond Dominical, the festival is far enough away that it takes a tremendous effort to get there for the less seasoned traveler; yet attainable enough for people with the will, and a way. While the associated expenditures of getting to the heart of a Central American jungle are somewhat higher than getting to any festival on US soil, Envision offers a life experience that can transform you into your superhero self – a concept hard to ascribe a monetary value. The inspiration to integrate these improvements back into your own default-world existence is equally inestimable. Envision is a transformational festival, though not in terms of genre description, but in the language and action, of cause and effect.
Boasting a menu of world-class yoga, as well as leading permaculturists, teachers, and community organizers – all hosting a plethora of educational workshops – Envision is actually a few small festivals operating within itself. The Eco team, the creative installations that were the by-product of its builders and staff members, the progressive ideas spewed at every workshop, and the overall festival consciousness and sense of presence is among the highest and most evolved I have ever encountered. Pair all of that up with a smorgasbord of international visionary artists and diverse, trend-setting musicians from across the globe, and Envision Festival is a standard bearer on the interplanetary stage.
“The Envision Festival immersion is true Jungle Magic… It’s roots are so deep that it connects us directly to the source of Mama Gaia. You can feel her through the sweetness of the land, the animals, the food and the people; and the eclectic world music brings us all together in unrivaled revelry.” – KaytiBunny Roberts
This photo and more appear courtesy of ATS Photography and MASS EDMC. A full gallery of can be viewed here.
By day, a full spectrum of interactive workshops, lectures, talks, and communal gatherings sprinkled their wisdom all over Rancho la Merced, the sprawling landscape that hosts Envision. The topics were as diverse as the experts who shared their knowledge: Self-proclaimed “health, eco, natural beauty expert”, and “superfoods rockstar,” David “Avocado” Wolfe made his presence be felt throughout Envision, lecturing on a variety of topics, including topsoil, diet, and a controversial flat-earth concept. Local yoga goddess Sofiah Thom hosted a Temple Body workshop. Dance visionary Elana META Jaroff shared her META Method, inciting a flash mob throughout the festival grounds. Rhea Meta shed light on superhuman nutrition or Caribbean dance, while musician David Block discussed accessing creativity. Eamon Armstong of Fest300 hosted a panel on storytelling before giving his expertise talk about festival communities. There was more than a little something for everybody. This was an all ages, all-inclusive event for the people, by the people, of the people!
We stopped by the Eco-Hub and checked in with the warriors that lead the charge to Leave No Trace – a group that not only practices what they preach at music festivals, but in their daily lives. The team effort of sorting, recycling, and guerilla composting was beyond admiration. Most impressive was the latest in functional composting toilet technology, and the ladies’ moon pod, a revolutionary idea to offer women a sanctuary for their moon cycle in an environment otherwise unforgiving.
Permaculture is an enormous part of the Envision DNA. Leading permaculturists from around the world came together to discuss this burgeoning movement of natural eco-systems. Envision founder Stephen Brooks spearheads this effort, valiantly disseminating the evolving concepts and principles to next generations, and the yet-to-be-awakened. Dinaz Stafford then spoke on how we can take these ideas home for integration. NuMundo could be found inspiring and informing folks from all over the world, expanding their global database of intentional communities, as well as hosting a mycelial mixer for a new fungal colony filled with Envisionaries.
“This year the Eco crew gained a lot of momentum; we relaunched our compost toilet project, introducing 52 compost toilets, 12 female nature urinals and one moon pod for women on their menstrual cycle during the full moon week when the festival took place.The fact that this festival believes enough in permaculture and proper waste management so proudly as to allow us to broadcast these important ideas on their media platforms, that shows their integrity with getting the positive messages across.” – Jill TrAshley – Envision Eco Crew
Another remarkable entity onsite and providing services once again was the Zendo Project. A “Zendo” is a Japanese meditation hall; this Zendo was a collective of volunteers providing psychedelic harm reduction offering specialized care and a supportive environment for cosmonauts out-of-orbit, as well as folks just dealing with the stress of a festival itinerary, or maybe in Envision’s case, the oppressive heat. I serendipitously met with Patti from Zendo one evening. I had meandered over and sat down unaware I was at the Zendo table – only minutes earlier Akae Beka had prompted the Rasta spirits to visit me, bearing some heavy correspondence. Patti offered an irie vibe, a booming smile, a soft voice, an ear to listen, and a calming aura: These folks do good work, good for the soul.
The magic of Envision allowed you to attend a workshop on a topic such as “Healing with the Ancestors”, or go directly to the source. I ventured over to the drums thumping around the Sacred Fire, an alchemical circle where Tico elders shared wisdom and lessons dating back centuries. The stories were in Spanish, but somehow I was able to receive these precious downloads clearly. There was another type of Wisdom Series, “Ways of the Witch,” where people connected deeply with a shaman or priestess.
Most evident among the workshop circuit was Envision’s rightful place as a world-class destination event for yoga culture. Yogis from around the planet descended on Uvita for an award tour through the widest variety of styles and practices of yoga. There number of notable yoga superstars teaching and speaking throughout the weekend at Envision is worthy of it’s own feature article. One must acknowledge the influence and effect yoga has on the collective energy of Envision. Reports have international yoga teacher Rachel Brathen’s “Down & Dirty” class pulling the biggest numbers of the festival. But domes, tents and communal areas were buzzing morning and afternoon, alive and vibrant with every genre and style of yoga imaginable.
Raw cacao ceremonies at every turn, Planting trees on behalf of Costa Verdes’ efforts to restore the coastal forests of Costa Rica. Jungle spa experiences complete with blue clay skin treatments straight out of the rainforest. Ride an awesome wave, surfing on the beach, and stop along the Tico Shakedown scene that lines the pathway to the break. Introduce yourself to the exotic delicacy known as breadfruit. Legitimately delicious vegan burgers, thanks to Luv Burger! Too much bliss… please don’t ever stop, Envision Festival.
Not enough can be said about the superhuman efforts to build the amazing Envision Festival grounds, villages, and magnificent art installations that doubled as projection-mapped music stages. The gargantuan Luna Stage was once again conceived, created and built by Carey Thompson and the Galactivation team – a massive butterfly with the latest in mapping technologies on display. The smaller, equally impressive Lapa Stage was no joke either: a love nest of bamboo, bolts, and wood structures amidst a kaleidoscope of day-glo color. The live music-focused Sol Stage could also be seen dripping and dissolving into visual madness all week long, courtesy of the efforts of Zebbler Studios and Peter Berdovsky.
“Building out at Envision Festival in Costa Rica, we have limited resources, and use mostly locally found materials. To create and lift the Luna Stage we used a lot of “primitive” skills and man-power, building this way, in the conditions of the jungle, brings me back to the roots. It demonstrates what we can accomplish as a team; as a community. I’m always inspired by the work we do here at Envision. It is a great honor to be a part of a group so dedicated to the process of creating space for people to connect.” – Caryle Anne Cannon, Galactivation: The Art of Carey Thompson
Rancho la Merced was imbued in art projects, installations, paintings, and global jungle street styles. Among dozens of other equally talented cats, visionary painters like Blake Foster, Hazul, and Jessica Perlstein were throwing up colorful, avant-garde magic in every direction you looked. Performance artists like the hilarious and witty Bijoulette Airlines performed a variety show ‘tweeners amidst the intimate Village Stage musical sets, keeping people laughing while they sweated out their smoothies. At nearly every music performance, flow artists superstars such as the Sparkle Twins: Ali Luminescent and KaytiBunny Roberts, were steadily astonishing festival-goers with out-of-this-world hoop, circus, clown, and dance antics.
Beyond the effort it takes to actually make it to the sold-out Envision Festival, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge what becomes somewhat painfully obvious within a day or so at the festival: It is definitely NOT all fairies and unicorns at Rancho la Merced. Unfortunately, there are harsh realities beyond just the heat when attempting to create a pseudo-utopian state in the Costa Rican jungle. The issues ranged from serious, such as a string of robberies off site and nearby, to people accosted on foot, and victimized by coordinated home invasions – business as usual in Costa Rica, and certainly not native to Envision per se, but still a dark underbelly nonetheless. Like they told us back in Little League: Keep your head on a swivel!
Dangerous: there were two serious, debilitating illnesses that were hard to define as air-born or acquired in some of the food. A small but noticeable percentage of people fell ill over the course of the event and its aftermath. The environs, coupled with the DIY ethos of the build itself, lend itself to naturally occurring, if avoidable, afflictions such as viruses and flus. On a much less drastic but still disappointing note, organizers were forced to close the beach just before sunset each day. With high tide coming in close to dusk, the beach could not hold thousands with an increased risk of rip tides. This is notable if only because among the most legendary and special attributes of Envision through the years, are its epic beach sunsets, attended by hordes of ravers and Ticos alike. People still enjoyed the beach in the morning and afternoon, but I’m well aware just how much it pained the staff to make an executive decision to shut down the beach at 4pm.
No festival would earn its place in history without a little controversy. A small but vocal protest calling for “No Mas Envision” bubbled up on the main road in Uvita, blocking traffic for some time. The protest was but a small hiccup in the egress, yet for the people who created Envision, it represented a badge of honor well-worth sporting. One of the event producers broke it down for me in so many words: Costa Rica is a traditional Catholic nation, who six years ago saw the explosion of what they feel is an cultural invasion. Costa Rica, and Dominical/Uvita particularly, did not have 1960’s social revolution. No Grateful Dead, no hippies, no Haight-Ashbury, no Acid Tests, no ’68 Democratic convention, no Kent State shootings, no Dylan songs like “The Times they are a Changin.”
So this is their Burning Man, this is their Summer of Love: Envision is the Furthur bus filled with Merry Pranksters, barreling into town, with Kesey on the horn. Naturally, the natives are restless. Envision Festival, as an organization, clearly sees this as an honor, neither a detriment nor a scarlet letter. Founder Stephen Brooks reportedly asked to address the protest respectfully, but was regrettably denied the chance to extend the proverbial olive branch.
Envision’s producers see things a little differently. There are several community projects that Envision facilitates and contributes to, working towards improving local infrastructure as well as public safety and schools. Founder/Producer Justin Brothers recently explained to the local newspaper Tico Times:
“We are developing Casa Envision, which is a school in Uvita that was abandoned. The community let us come in, and we cleaned up the yard, put new sinks in and painted the walls. We are developing it into a youth center, for youth empowerment. This lets them learn how to run a center, how to run a business and develop programs, and how to push their own creative ideas forward as well.”
On that note, and without any further ado, we may now move on to why so many of us ventured to this playa-jungle place- The Music! Like with anything at Envision, or for that matter any other music festival worth its salt (or rainforest clay), it was impossible to take in ALL the prodigious talent on the various stages over the course of four days and nights. That being said, these are a few of my favorite things from Envision Festival 2016. Behold the glory!
Day One: Thursday February 25th
Brian Hartman kicked off the Envision 2016 dance-music vibes at the Lapa Stage on Thursday just before sundown. The Nevada City, CA HeartBass Svengali uncorked things type-proper with his evolving brand of deep house drenched in world music riddims. Hartman wove a delicate balance between his styles, tying things together with panache. He injected the Lapa crew with a dose of funktastic energy. Hartman brought the island vibes with some potent Dub Cumbia records, and then really set it off with a tasty Michael Jackson “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” edit that fully transmitted the lovesexy to an international massive.
Cruising by the quaint and artsy Village Stage after the torrential Thursday evening rains, the lovely and talented California songstress Cheraki performed a serene set, including songs from Elegant Soul and the just-released Shades of She. A highlight of her performance was the Feral Fauna/SaQi collaboration “Tincture,” an Envision-appropriate selection for certain.
Later on, the Village Stage saw a grooving funk band called Holy City Hooligans bring a bit of throwback to this new-age collective. Swells of horn blasts and frenetic funk refrains kept the soggy masses engaged, a different kind of dance party ensued. Yet it was the fantastic VIR Jam that truly wowed, led by Vir McCoy (Hamsa Lila, Dogon Lights) a luminary in the Northern California scene. Ably assisted by Tommy Cappel (Beats Antique) on drums, Luigi Jimenez (Santos y Zurdo) on bass, Evan Fraser (Dirtwire), and accompanied by a kora player among others, Vir’s totally improv jam session was a definitive juxtaposition to much of the other music on display at Envision. This band took chances, and wrought emotion and joy from within themselves and their wild audience.
Day Two: Friday, February 26th
Among the most enigmatic and colorful artists, and that’s saying something at Envision, the inimitable Lafa Taylor took the Luna Stage on Friday night to much pomp and circumstance. A complete and total “Game Changer” at his second consecutive Envision, Taylor showed and proved his incredible versatility by DJing, producing, singing, rapping, and conducting. The place was surefire LIT to the extreme when Medium Troy came through for the high and mighty collab “Out Here.” The Polish Ambassador jam “Forever Lost” saw people break out into a furious frolic – the funky, familiar vibes incubating the party. Like he’s known to do, Lafa the selectah dropped the timeless OutKast anthem “SpottieOttieDopaliciousAngel” at the moment things reached a fever pitch. Christopher Boa blessed us with buoyant live saxophone, and brought a beard to match: this was the sound of future jazz, with Taylor a modern-day Cab Calloway. Not just a “Speakerbox” demo sesh, as Lafa kept it moving with ill rhymes and slick crooning on the microphone. Something was in the air on this night, and we most could definitely feel it: “We Got It” was pure, uncut 808 glory. The gentleman Lafa Taylor came down to the jungle to do one thing: move the crowd. I’m here to undoubtedly report – that’s an affirmative.
Akae Beka took the Friday night Sol Stage, appropriately at the midnight hour. Vaughn Benjamin lead the band through a set rich on traditional Jamaican vibes, with a slight nod to the UK reggae styles that came later. Familiar faces to Midnite fans included bassist Ras L, guitarist Kenny Byron, and Suren Fenton on keys, as well as the always roots-rockin’ Sly Molina-Curet on drums. Haunting chants and deep dubby bass grooves were meditative in the Uvitan moonlight, as reggae remains the first language of Envision and Costa Rica, and probably forever will. Akae Beka culled from Midnite classics and tracks from their debut record Homage to the Land. The name Akae Beka is in reference to two oaths taken by an angel, who was tasked to watch over and protect humanity. The first oath revealed the many secrets of heaven to mankind whilst the second enlightened him on the secrets of the Earth’s cycles. The band is the living incarnate of this pair of sworn allegiances, complete with jazz elements and a bulbous, multi-layered sound palette that organically sounded at home next to the bass gymnasium taking place on the Luna Stage.
With his eccentricities, dread-wrap, and sheepish-yet-domineering presence, Andreilien took over the Luna Stage late into Friday evening with an aggressive run through his patented, warbling bass-driven glitch-hop. This artist’s mind-boggling production prowess continues to shine in the live element, impressing even the most jaded and sophisticated Aphex Twin nerds. His new-age mining of analog modular synthesizers, along with custom Reaktor synths, and an array of plugins, adds up to something wholly original; these are slabs of sacrifice to the Church of Fractal Bass. The wobbly, gurgling basslines make for truly psychedelic, dub explosions. Pulling many of the tracks from his recently released Ergot Curry, Andreilien has transitioned from his Heyoka past, and completely reinvented himself and artistic identity. Charging, ravey, aggressive builds dropped into the weirdest, and murkiest sub-bass – a new era of jungle boogie was now officially underway. Despite the new angles, Andreilien has not forsaken the ragga-dub roots of his inspiration, and Dub Iteration style; the island skanks and buried upstrokes are still interwoven into journeys-down-the-glitch that Andrei Olenev persistently chaperones.
Day Three: Saturday, February 27th
Santos y Zurdo took to the Sol Stage and delivered a thrilling performance to an enormous audience. Veterans of six Envisions, this exceptional band rolled out a brand of psychedelic shoegazer rock set to electronic drums and some super-funky bass. Santos unveiled layers of color with supernatural sitar, while Zurdo handled the uptempo rhythms and set a galloping pace. Unsung hero and Envision rock star Luigi Jimenez – clad appropriately in a zebra shirt and snakeskin pants – was the absolute truth, holding down the bottom end and leading the charge at the same time. The steady stream of acrobats and dancers that took center stage only added to the psycho circus on display. Santos y Zurdo will forever be a can’t miss engagement so long as the good people booking the Sol Stage continue to serve the needs of the people.
Donning a white tank-top emblazoned ACID, Bay Area bass icon an-ten-nae returned to Envision on a mission: Medicine Crunk vol.3. And boy did he ever deliver: tweaking and retooling his own personal genre of sexy post-trap, to a teeming crowd that was chomping at the bit. Predator stepped on the Luna Stage, leading a pre-game meditation ritual; this set up the shanti-vibe up proper; soon thereafter, an-ten-nae rained down the righteous ratchet in devastating doses. Beginning with a spooky, subsonic nod to the Thin White Duke (“Ground Control to Major Tom”), an-ten-nae ablaze in Bowie. The notion of taking a Saturday night headlining night slot, and using it to unveil a completely new set and sound; this was indeed an ambitious aspiration. an-ten-nae took this challenge and met it head on, mixing cosmically adventurous 808 drum-programming with new-era bass gymnastics and his knack for pop sensibilities.
The reworking of Babbit’s “Painting Greys” was a luscious love chunk of concentrated yum-sauce; the ominous tones and ethereal vocal from M.I.A. on “Borders” set the table in vintage Medicine Crunk style. When dude dropped a slightly edited version of “Arrows” (What So Not and Dillon Francis, featuring Dawn Golden), the crowd mushroomed into a fit of total madness. Constantly innovating on the fly, an-ten-nae was unleashing patterns and grooves previously unheard, magnificent selections and song reinventions dripping with original flavor. Judging by their rabid reactions, the people got themselves a lesson in crunkalogic science. Adam Ohana took us all on an intergalactic journey to the moon – and back again- furthering this medicinal mission for its opulent third installment.
(Check out a link to Medicine Crunk vol.3)
“Envision was an amazing experience, playing in the jungle to all those beautiful souls. A perfect environment to record my latest Medicine Crunk mix. Feeding off the energy live! The only thing I planned was a rough idea of the songs I wanted to play and how I wanted to begin the set.” an-ten-nae
Tara Brooks, the reigning queen of West Coast desert tech-house, took the Lapa Stage decks at the 1:30 hour and proceeded to up the proverbial ante on deep-pocket groove. The Los Angeles dancefloor sorceress took no prisoners, giving nary a f*ck as the teeming masses continued to swell and spill out into the jungle with more bounce to the ounce. Ever-steadily becoming a household name, Tara Brooks showed everybody just what the fuss is all about, dialing in a well-received two-hour excursion, on the heels of a formidable set from her Desert Hearts compadre Lee Reynolds.
Both were essentially warming up the spot for the Lapa Stage’s main course: the Brooklyn-born, Robot Heart-bred melodic deep house duo Bedouin. From 3:30 until nearly 6 in the morning, the dynamic pair delivered purified, intravenous sexy. Building up haunting melodies and driving home basslines patiently, Bedouin kept kicking it into overdrive when the people were panting just hard enough. Nomad lads Rami Abousabe and Tamer Malki channeled Middle Eastern heritage, as the dancefloor reacted to the aural eroticism in a non-stop whirling dervish of beauty and bountiful booty. The word of the hour was tantric; the scene, the vibe, the dancers, the beats. Bodies pumped and gyrated furiously, in no way hampered by the oppressive heat, instead emboldened by sensuous and provocative sonics. Bedouin mixed in tasteful takes on minimalist deep house heaters, alongside their own carefully curated mixes and edits; the sum of these parts crowning the tech-house kings unadulterated Pura Vida royalty.
Cowboy hat on tilt, and bespectacled in his trademark steez, six-time Envisionary Random Rab provided a heavenly service to greet the Sunday morning spun. With focus almost exclusively on material from newest release Awoke, opening with the driving “Ganymede”, Rab created a set that didn’t rely on the familiar, and instead took chances by introducing Envision to an evolved, tranquil and meditative sound. As with Envisions past, Random Rab was again accompanied by powerful performance art; most notably by way of two inspirational femme fatales: Sofiah Thom and Elana META. Both women interpret Rab’s music with disparate, if equally-breathtaking styles; each possesses a passion and conviction that emanates through their body movement, and deep into our own. Sofiah set the bar on temple goddess movement years ago, it was a revelation to see her graceful, balletic flow once again, as she wowed with fire-dancing. META is a revolution, the LeBron James to Sofiah’s Michael Jordan, and Elana absolutely mesmerized the faithful with her indominable B-Girl ethos, infused with capoeira warrioress.
Although slightly taken aback by the void of sing-along classics, the haunting and beautiful music evoked the spiritual truths within, and collectively we connected to one another. Rab could be seen seamlessly flowing, back and forth between singing and programming the decks, at one point joined by Cloudchord for some divine downtempo, Rab’s rich mix was filled to the brim with warm samples. On “Dilection”, the droning bass tones hypnotized, later on “Kalide”, we were a nation and a species in lockstep-love. The Church of Rab was yet again blessed with a life-affirming seance, the congregation shining in the first sun-rays of another jungle day.
Watch Sofiah Thom dancing to Random Rab at Sunrise:
Day Four: Sunday, February 28th
After a long tune-up, the patient people of the Sol Stage were treated to a masterful performance from the Colorado based, five-piece acoustic wonder Elephant Revival. Songs weaved in and out of moods, pace, and energy; vocal harmonies glorious and instrumentation virtuoso. Djembe drums, washboard, funky bass slapping and breezy melodies were in the air, as Bonnie Paine and Daniel Rodriguez matched voices and told stories of yesteryear. Violins, banjos, acoustic guitars, and songs about gardening all the while promised a better tomorrow. A beautiful acapella “Raven Song” during a lengthy string change, riveted the transfixed, if fatigued, Sunday night audience. With a nod toward their 2013 album These Changing Skies, the sing-alongs were vibrant between this beloved band and their international audience. A personal highlight for this writer was the tremendous, transcendental folk-rock take Jefferson Airplane’s original hippie anthem “White Rabbit.”
At the end of the set, Envision founder Stephen Brooks thanked the Sol Stage massive in both English and Spanish, declaring that “live music at Envision will never die!” He then marched onstage the team of producers and major players that are responsible for making Envision possible. It was a heavy, heady moment in time; one that everybody present will treasure for some time to come.
After Sidecar Tommy zapped the Luna, electro-acoustic duo Dirtwire tossed up a spirited celebration on the Sol Stage directly thereafter. A distinct blend of new and old world music, David Satori (Beats Antique) and Evan Fraser (Stellamara) created natural sounds and stirred them up with new-age electronic production, mixing material from the fantastic RipTide along with older jams, as well as a brand new remix “Mueve en el Sol”, made just for this most special of occasions. Acoustic and electric guitars, banjo, accordion, harmonica, and an assortment of percussion were sipped, shaken and stirred into globalized romps. “Damn Rooster” was a stompin’ ole-hoot; but their whistlin’ take on Sudanese music legend Abdel Karim el Kably’s “The Beauty in You” was full-on weeper. People broke out into hugs and laughter, strangers stopping strangers, dancing rings around one another to stuttering rhythms and violin-kissed melodies.
Just when Envision’s energy levels and collective mojo were waning, after four days of relentless heat and the unforgiving nature of a festival set deep in the Costa Rican jungle; somehow, the organizers just knew to save the best for last. Three of the festival’s finest hours took place on Monday, Feb 29th – the leap day that wasn’t technically even on the schedule. Dimond Saints took the stage appropriately just after the midnight hour, and here I am, nearly five thousand words into this report, finally at a loss to describe what we bore witness to. The Bay Area masked avengers administered the medicinals we needed to tap into a new portal: this was the final frontier. It was a shot of intravenous dopamine that flooded everybody simultaneously in a scene that could only be described as Biblical. The raw human bodily expressions were erotic, if at times Kafkaesque; definitely unlike any other this writer has ever been privy to.
Early in the set, the duo blessed us with classic Dimond district jams like “Indian Summer Bloom,” Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love,” and Zhu’s mammoth “Faded.” Lorde’s sinister take on the timeless Tears for Fears tune “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was reworked with tuba and trombone blasting-basslines – think Odezsa worshipping at the Church of Satan. LAYLA’s “Smokestacks” given the Saints treatment, had people howling at the moon to ominous strings, serene piano, and an ever-thumping kick drum. When the duo broke out their edit of Lemon’s “Friends” it was pretty much Sodom and Gommorah on the dancefloor; and by that I mean sex. The most basic instincts revealed themselves, powered by unrequited bass worship, and a Prism in the Dark. “Midnight,” “Signs” and the early-era chestnut “Voices in My Head” were each dipped in diamonds, and adorned with 808 pearls. Envision had reached its stretch run, and Dimond Saints unleashed a set that mined the primordial essence of feminine verve, and we surrendered to the forbidden impulse. This force of nature was among the most beautifully harrowing, sensual, and fantastically frightening experiences I have ever lived. No matter what your Envision 2016, we will always have Dimond Saints.
While CloZee delivered a penetrating two-hour set that saw an audience at once empowered to dance, yet transfixed to a stare, personally it took me hours to recover from Dimond Saints’ magnum opus. However, when British Columbia phenom AtYya assumed the Luna Stage throne at 4am, the post-trap purveyor of shamanic meditations-in-bass unveiled something phantasmagorical. Once again, a jungle dance orgy broke out to the caliginous, foreboding sonic textures, as Tyy Clark dispatched a customized set of nocturnal dragon’s blood. Mixing a bevy of unreleased sojourns cloaked in staggering, addictive drum patterns and primitive, minimalist synths, the music reverberated through the acacias. This was art born of a Western Canadian taiga, transmitted live and direct to our labyrinth. Along with the gang of brand newbies, tracks from AtYya’s supreme work with Goopsteppa were interspersed with material found on 2015’s Aurical. “This is the sound of the universe talking”, a Rasta elder implored in domineering patois, atop gooey, ethereal, ritual bass; as the final hours of darkness set upon these torrid, broiling dancers, a search for new land in psychedelic soundscapes was underway- with our captain AtYya at the helm. Harnessing the vibe of the earlier sensual excesses, the producer demonstrated why he was afforded this coveted time slot. He rewarded the festival’s loyal dedication to the dance with a mouth-watering collaboration with Ixchel Prisma (of Shaman’s Dream) to close out his sumptuous, imperial offering.
“David Block is on fire. As a human being I see him growing mentally and spiritually- which translates to his creativity. If he’s not having a Human Experience, then I don’t know what that is.” – Elana META Jaroff
If there was a musical soundtrack to the Envision community in 2016, in this writer’s opinion it would have to be The Human Experience. David Block’s presence at the event was inescapable and unquestionable, as he delivered six sets of music –and a lecture – over the course of four days. His afternoon Lapa Stage sets on Friday- as shamanic-house alter-ego Cats Pajamas, as well as the debut of electro-folk project Gone Gone Beyond (with guest vocalist Danny Musengo), were exemplary, exquisite performances.
But it was his festival-closing, Monday morning tour de force at the Luna Stage that will go down in Envision lore. This was, quite simply, the stuff of legend. Block’s masterful catalogue was unrolled into one long, gushy, love fest: the perfect sayonara to our utopian dream weekend. As the festival came together one final time to sway, sweat and dance in unison, The Human Experience delivered a mighty journey inward, all the while lacing a collective jubilee. The substantial setlist is a soundtrack to our lives, and he furnished a career-retrospective for the ages.
This was Envision 2016 theme music, starting with GGB tunes like “Ain’t Givin’ Up on Love” and the club/house-pop rapture of “Carnival.” The hits just kept on comin’: the otherworldly “Soul Visions” collaboration with Rising Appalachia, “11.11.11”, “Oppression,” “Chan Chan,” “Rosa Parks,” the SaQi collaboration “Drippin,” the uber-sexy bass cocoon of “La Calaca.” It’s easy to forget just how diverse a sound that David has created over the years. Christopher Boa emerged to bless the morning massive with charismatic flute, and Danny Musengo returned for an encore bow. The strategically-placed, spiritually-sublime “Dusted Compass” was its usual tear-jerker self. “LionHeart” and “La Medicina” remained beloved. However it was the Soul Visions track “SUNU” that transformed the audience one last time, Envisionaries breaking out into crescendo, a spunky, animated fiesta. Envision Festival is indeed an authentic human experience gone, gone WAY beyond what any amount of money, a plane ticket, tent, cooler, and stacks of Funktion One speakers can buy. David Block’s performance, essence, and songbook personifies this festival, and he was the only way we possibly could have shut it down and brought it on home.
Eternal gratitude to Envision Festival and all the Envisionaries. “Here for a moment, and then floating away…”
Lasting Impressions of Envision Festival 2016 — What They Are Saying:
Josh Wendell- Envision Festival Founder/Producer
“What was most exciting to me this year was to see a lot of new faces, more Ticos (Costa Ricans) and a significantly broader international demographics at Envision. It’s important to us to not feel like we are preaching to the choir, but that every year we are turning on more and more people to the message that is behind everything that we do. The foundations of envision being permaculture, sustainability, health and environmental responsibility. We firmly believe these principles are imperative for the world to adopt if we are going to have any chance of harmonious living on this planet for generations to come.”
Eamon Armstrong- Community Leader/Fest300
“I was most impressed by the amount of learning taking place throughout the festival. Allie Tish and Tatiana Goodmoon created an internship program which stressed real responsibility beyond typical volunteer roles. I was inspired when speaking to Matthew Finkelstein about overcoming the challenges of creating large bamboo structures in the jungle. I also appreciated the integrated medical services which included the first ever herbal field clinic program under 7Song and Punta Mona and the Zendo project where I was personally able to practice psychedelic first aid. ”
Luigi Jimenez- Envision Public Relations, Bass for Santos y Zurdo
“Envision is an open experience; artists being culturalized. When people come here to Envision, we are all feeling practically the same feeling. We are sharing with people from all over the world, learning from them in a really rich community. Richness of culture.
This is an example of just how a festival can be transformational; the meaning of leaving no trace, of learning from each other, of sharing. That’s part of how we can grow as a country, and as a people.”
Brian Hartman- HeartBass
“There are many aspects of Envision 2016 that made a lasting impression on me. Maybe the most impressive is the amount of work, energy, & love that is put into the production to create such a epic event. I have huge respect & admiration for Matt, Josh, Justin, Stephen, and all the others who pour their heart & soul in to creating such a special gathering. Also, I’ll never forget Akae Bekae’s nearly 3 hour set on Friday night; “Midnite” at midnight in the tropics will forever be etched in my heart. Other musical highlights for me would include Dirtwire, Lafa Taylor, & Bedouin. Truly though the most special aspect of Envision for me is simply gathering with so many friends from all over the world to celebrate this amazing life together. I really can’t think of anything more special than that, and I feel so blessed to be part of both Envision & this beautiful global community.”
“Sidecar Tommy”/Tommy Cappel – Beats Antique
“….On Thursday night I was invited to play a jam on the Village Stage with Vir, Evan, my new friend Luigi (killer bassist from Costa Rica), and a host of other improv musicians. We had a blast and it was Fire! Saturday Beats Antique played for a packed crowd at the main stage, which was just electric! The people came out and supported us in such an inspiring way! We had a sweaty, loud, beautiful set! Lafa Taylor sat in on our new track Killer Bee! Sunday I played one of my favorite DJ sets as Sidecar Tommy, my downtempo glitchy dubby funky side project of mostly original productions, with some bangers thrown in for good measure! (Got some new tracks in the works for that project). I closed out the festival weekend with a jam with the Envision Orchestra – 20+ musicians all on stage improvising and experimenting! On Tuesday, David and I did intimate Dj sets at Danyasa in Dominical… All in all, my adventure to the jungle was beautiful, inspiring, and eye-opening!
Jill TrAshley- Eco Crew
“It is difficult for a festival of this size to be fully sustainable due to the environment and materials available. However, Envision is making strides to become not only a leading festival in permaculture, but also in its efforts to streamline more Eco communication to its staff and participants.
Envision’s relationship with Rancho La Merced speaks to integrity, when you start to see more permanent infrastructure being built as well as more vegetation being nourished by the by product of our own food waste.”
Elana Meta Jaroff- The META Method
“I’m always impressed with the production of Envision. It has to do with the heart of the people that create it and those hearts are strong, dedicated and passionate givers. Everyone does their part and together we create a festival filled with harmony.
Even outside of Envision at the waterfall… I don’t know another festival that would have hundreds of people at a waterfall that are in a state of tranquility, ease and play, rather than alcohol, carelessness, and ignorance. Envision is community.”
KaytiBunny Roberts, Performance Artist / Envision 6-timer
“My years with Envision have been a collection of the most profoundly prophetic and ecstatic experiences of my life… each year offering it’s own flavor of blissed-out sunrises, heart-melting connections, physical and logistical hurdles, learning lessons and new levels of ultimate performance and production badassery by this mind-blowing crew of sustainable super-heroes!”
Christopher Boa- musician
“Envision was like running into and old friend your meeting for the first time. Playing saxophone onstage with Lafa Taylor is always fun and he is a really integrous performer. He understands how to play with musicians and bring a very live dynamic to what he does. Working with him spun off into playing with Medium Troy who again just brings a very playful, awesome and live energy to their sets… As if that wasn’t enough, to close the Envision festival with David Block and the Human Experience playing my flute was amazing. My saxophone literally broke before I hit the stage but the flute brought a beautiful energy that was perfect for the moment.”
And with the last word, appropriately…
The Human Experience- David Block
“Costa Rica and Envision has been profound in many ways. Several major life lessons learned. Perhaps the greatest has been “life doesn’t work on your schedule”. As I was projectile vomiting (I made it out of my nose!) an hour before my 7th set at Envision, closing the entire festival for more than 1500 people after Monday sunrise, I’m hobbling to the stage thinking “why now?” Where is my kernal of wisdom?”
It is this: Life is happening at its own speed. You can’t push the river; only flow with it. You can try to push the river, but you will fail. When life throws you a raging stomach bug, you must rise up and rock a sunrise set ha!
Thank you for supporting our journey.”
A full gallery of Adam Straughn’s Photos can be viewed here, via MassEDMC.