Das Energi 2018

The lighting cracks in front of us, bright, like an instant picture, vivid white. In a flash, the bolt disappears and the sky is grey. The clouds are gradually getting darker as we chug along a four lane freeway due west to The Saltair. White sand and sparse tall grass line the exit toward the lake as the shuttle crawls amongst the other vehicles. The driver hears muffling on his radio and sticks the receiver up to his ear.

“They’re evacuating the grounds due to the storm,” he repeats back to us.

This is how Das Engeri, Day 1 begins…

Das Energi, Salt Lake City, UT.

We’re enroute to the festival grounds for 2 days of killer line up. We’re ready for DJs and dance floors, but the only thing I hadn’t planned for is Utah weather…We’re on the shoulder waiting for the rain to pass, and, as luck would have it, we get news they’re letting eager ravers back in!

Let me back up, I don’t necessarily consider myself a “raver,” but I do enjoy the scene (my favorite 2-day I’ve attended is Countdown 2016). I go to more music festivals than raves, but have never written about them, so this will be a new experience. PSA: this isn’t a critique per se, but more of a causal account of the weekend. Wanna know more about Das Energi 2018?! Read on

After the venue is re-opened, the first frustration is getting in. The VIP line doesn’t have as many staff as General Admission and is taking a little longer. Luckily, they’re letting in as many people as fast as they can and security isn’t too strict. The main entrance leads you into Synergy Station, one out of the three stages on the festival grounds and the only one indoors.

Synergy Station is a rectangular venue with the stage at one end, the dance floor in the middle, and a balcony going all the way around, acting as the VIP Lounge and bar. Upon entering, I immediately recognize that the VIP perks promoted on the website don’t match up to what I had envisioned. Although we receive VIP merch (Das Energi branded fan and fanny pack), there isn’t lush seating upstairs, nor VIP bathroom indoors (the VIP Lounge outdoors had an isolated group of porta-potties).

The only food on the entire festival grounds is on the bottom floor of Synergy Station. Side note: a majority of the festivals I attend are in California and I’m accustomed to multiple vendors of varying cuisines. I am stunned to discover the food is simply stadium food: burgers, hot dogs, fries, etc. (second side note: bring tampons because they charge a dollar if you need one. Yes, they sell tampons and Advil at the concession stand).

In all fairness, this is Salt Lake City, not San Francisco – this festival ticket (even at VIP) is less expensive than tickets back home.

To be completely honest, I shouldn’t have been surprised because Utah is just different than Cali (like how I tried buying a bottle of duty-free gin at the airport and wasn’t allowed because I had just landed – they only sell alcohol duty-free if you’re leaving – “Utah State Law” the clerk said).

Next to the concessions is a merchandise display and I ask the woman if I can buy the jersey, who tells me I can’t because it’s a display and points me to outside. I don’t make it to the merchandise tent on Day 1, when I return on Day 2, they’re already sold out of the jersey! I end up back at the display booth and ask for the jersey, the same woman remembers me from the day before, and let’s me try it on. It just so happens to be my birthday and, I swear, it’s that birthday luck that the jersey fits perfectly. The not-for-sale, display jersey is the last of it’s kind and now on my back. Oi oi Happy Birthday to me.

The opposite entrance of Synergy Station opens to Energi Field, the main stage outdoor stage, where headliners play on the left and an upbeat crowd dances on the grass to the right. Beyond the stage is the Flats, which are closed on Day 1 due to the storm. On Day 2, entrance to the venue is much more seamless (although security does a more thorough check of your bags), but the Flats are open!

There, you can find the outdoor VIP lounge, bar, art, and vendors. The 3D light sculptures are absolutely amazing! They shine bright in the darkness, beautiful in an array of colors, shapes and sizes. More photo opportunities exist with the inflatable rainbow light arch and light up Das Energi letters. The Flats also feature local vendors selling trinkets, clothing and accessories. Beyond the art and vendors, you can dance your way over to the third stage.

By far, the Galactic Flats is my favorite stage! It’s a walk from the other stages, through Salt Lake sand, well worth it. Lesser known DJs jam to a smaller crowd, we’re all just vibing to the funk, but when the beat drops, the pillars surrounding the stage in a full circle billow with enormous flames, hitting the rhythm and keeping the half-naked ravers warm.

All stages are lit. Day 1: Whatsonot and Joyryde kill their sets and the venue stays open till 3 am because of the closure earlier, so Dillion Francis and Kaskade can close the night! Chris Lake is an amazing start for Day 2, but I fall in love with Rezz’s set. Deadmau5 is chill, but I enjoy the Snails and Nghtmre back-to back set much more, as they keep the crowd jumping with their trap.

Overall, The Great Saltair is a really unique venue to host a festival. The proximity of the stages is ideal and this year’s line up is top notch. Raves aren’t for everyone, but if you can get down to this music, definitely check the line up for next year. If you’re a Utah local, I highly recommend hitting up Das Energi!

2018 Alameda Art & Wine Festival

Four distinct bridges provide the only entrance to Alameda. For those who aren’t familiar, Alameda is a small island in the bay, a stone’s throw from Oakland. Aside from the main drag, which spans a few modest blocks, the town is mainly suburbia and apparently has the most elementary schools per capita in the entire U.S. (don’t quote me on that, it was an observation). For the most part, Alameda is a sleepy town, to raise your kids, to retire, to slow down from the stress of city life.

This past weekend was the 2018 Alameda Art & Wine Festival! I’ve been to a handful of Art & Wine fests in The Bay, and let me tell you, Alameda is one of my favorites. Why? Art & Wine festivals in South Bay don’t come close to the quantity of vendors in Alameda. Don’t get me wrong, South Bay hosts a number of festivals I enjoy to no end, but the Art & Wine ones aren’t lit like Alameda.

Alameda closes a good 5 or so blocks downtown to host the event. Every other block has a mini stage with cover bands or other live music. Not only do they have a plethora of vendors, but I praise the quality and diversity of the arts. The streets are lined with pop up tents, each small business owner with a different vibe, a creative set-up, a unique niche. We sip wine and wander through booths with painted wood portraits and matted prints, sift through racks of tye dye shirts and spandex pants that flare out at the bottoms,laugh at ourselves in the mirror as we try on masks. There are booths selling honey, hand crafted jewelry, crystals, wind chimes, toe rings, knives, corn nuts, dip mixes, bonsais, gourmet vinegar and olive oil.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of kombucha. I’m not even sure I can tell you what it is. I think it has probiotics (I’m not really sure what those are either) but people say they’re good for you. I drink Kombucha occasionally and I know on the bottle it warns of 1-2% alcohol content; yet, at the art & wine festival, we taste-test alcoholic kombucha ranging from 5-7% with the purpose of getting drunk (!) in flavors like pomegranate chai, ginger lime, and lemongrass. Another booth we pass checks our IDs and hands us shots of alcoholic coconut water (Skyjuice is a new company selling canned cocktails of flavored coconut water and vodka). I’m not sure where this get-drunk-on-“health-foods” thing came from, but I’m all for it. This must be my generation finding harmonious balance. Other generations love to hate millennials but you have to admit this is kind of genius…

There is a vendor selling “Hawaiian Ecosystems,” which are small bowls or vases filled with water and a flower. If you look closely, you can see the tiny shrimp that apparently live in these habitats without having to be fed. My friends and I spend a little longer at a booth selling taxidermy butterflies, some in quite elaborate patterns for display on a wall; sale price: $2500. We take our time picking out this butterfly for my sister.

One of my favorite aspects of art & wine festivals is the food! Among steaming grills coated with chicken skewers and bacon wrapped sausages, there are kettle corn stands, chocolate dipped ice cream booths, and a deep dish or thin crust pizza tent. Vendors sell gyros, roasted corn, mango sticks and curly fries. I buy lumpia (philipino egg rolls) to snack on as we stand in line for the main seafood vendor. Ironically, my friends and I order the same thing as last year; two lobster sliders each and an order of BBQ oysters, that come with three shells to split between us evenly. Delicious, as usual. All I can say about that is we are truly creature of habit.

Are there any art & wine festivals coming up near you?