In Its Third Year, Northern Nights Is Just Getting Started

goldlink nnmf 2015
Goldlink rockin’ the main stage

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And then it was over. That’s how these festivals go – all the hype, excitement, build-up, planning, and execution for a mere 72 hours of escaped reality. It was all worth it – and it will continue to be worth it until I’m old and wrinkled.

Northern Nights Music Festival, for the second year in a row, blew away my expectations. For a festival in its third year it feels like Northern Nights has been around a decade or longer, and I don’t see any reason it can’t be sustained. The description of Northern Nights as a boutique music festival is very accurate, and its founders are striving for it to become California’s Premier Music Festival. This isn’t your Coachella, EDC, Lalapalooza, or Bonnaroo. You’re not wading through massive crowds like cattle at a ranch, nor having to plan out your schedules ahead of time due to overlapping sets across six stages of music. Northern Nights is for the simple music fan – someone who wants to enjoy the shade of Redwood groves, float on a lazy river while DJs provide the soundtrack to their days, and spend evenings in front of a truly awesome main stage with big name acts. This, of course, complemented by dancing into the early morning by way of the best silent disco in the country. Yoga? Comedy? Burlesque? Food? Live Art? Ball pit? Renegade stages? It’s all there. Take a stroll with me down memory lane, as I recall July 17-19 2015.

The Eel River will always the main attraction about Northern Nights for me. During the day when it’s hot and sunny, there are few better options in the world than floating on a river, let alone doing it at a music festival. Props always seem to go to the most ridiculous rafts. This year the river featured floating slices of pizza and partially eaten donuts. There were also massive 12-person rafts like “The Fiesta: Members Only Private Island” which took the cake for chillest raft of all time. The people who set up the River Stage moved the stage/DJ booth back several yards away from the river to allow for more of a dance floor. They also got rid of dock that was there last year, probably for good reason due to lower water levels and more people at the festival this year. One of my main takeaways for 2015 was that it was awesome having bigger names play on the River Stage, which included highlights from Autograf, CRNKN, Justin Jay, and Lane 8.

river stage
The River Stage bumpin on Saturday afternoon

Overall the production value was bigger and better this year. At night, if you looked 180 degrees away from the main stage, you could see into the tall Redwood trees and witness an awesome light show. The main stage itself was quite an attraction and it was noticeably bigger this year. We could easily hear the music from our camp site and watch a fantastic laser show happening at the same time. Main stage highlights included The Polish Ambassador (special guests including Mr. Lif), Goldfish, Goldlink, Gold Panda (all the “gold” acts were solid – and that became the running joke of the weekend), Rufus Du Sol, and Sweater Beats. To my utter disappointment, though I had a gut feeling this might happen, only half of Black Star performed. The songs were good and Talib Kweli was on point, but it was a bummer that Mos Def couldn’t make it. This was a set I had been looking forward to for months.

Other general thoughts from this year’s edition of Northern Nights:
– There was really cool live art and especially the center art installation at the main stage
– The Redwood reserved groves was a solid idea and it really nice having that luxury, even if it meant a little extra cash for those who couldn’t arrive at 10am on a Friday
– The Silent Disco was fun but not as good as last year. I thought the music was way better last year, ranging from House to Dubstep and even some Moombahton. This year it seemed to be all about West Coast Bass Music. Bones was easily the highlight from the Silent Disco
– Which brings me to my next point, for a House junkie like me there just wasn’t enough of it. Everywhere you turned there was some type of West Coast Bass music playing. Generally I don’t mind that but three days of it as the primary genre can be a little much
– On the flip side it was cool that there were several renegade stages found throughout the camp grounds (mostly playing Bass Music)
– The grove stage, embedded deep in the Redwood groves, was cool for burlesque, tea time, and Swing House. It was a nice alternative to the Main Stage, and also a place you could go to hear comedy or to do yoga in the morning
– Porta potties… people need to learn how to not shit on the seats

tea time nnmf
Tea time in the redwood groves!

Favorite acts from each stage:
River Stage – Justin Jay. Man this dude is just full of smiles. While he’s certainly gone through an appearance change (long hair and a mustache), his DJ skills remain on par. Justin surprised all of us by bringing a guitarist and vocalist on stage while he flawlessly mixed river-perfect House tunes on the final day of NNMF. I will probably be a fan of this dude for a long time to come.

Main Stage – I’m a bit surprised at myself for this, but I have to go with Goldlink. This dude had the crowd ROCKIN. I didn’t really know much about his style before I saw him perform but talk about high energy Hip Hop mixed with a dash of Electronica. You had some crowd favorites in there and you had some Goldlink originals, all mixed lightning quick and rapid fire to keep everyone on their toes. This is one dude you definitely have to go see.

Silent Disco – After 2am your only choice for music was Hush Concerts’ silent disco. But that’s okay because even if there were six active stages I would have been there for the entirety of Bones’ set. He easily had the set of the weekend in the Silent Disco, bringing his collection of funky House tracks to our headphones. Bones’ song selections were on point as always and never letting any one track linger too long he was clearly the crowd favorite compared to the other DJ at the time (sorry other DJ at the time). Bones was on the red channel and the other DJ was on the blue channel. Easy to say that at any point I looked around and about 90% of the crowd was on red.

Bones destroying the Silent Disco
Bones destroying the Silent Disco

Overall Northern Nights Music Festival 2015 was a fantastic experience and once again I’m already looking forward to next year. It’s something you need to witness for yourself as a way to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life, kick back and enjoy the scenery while some amazing music comes your way.

Special thanks to Brendan and Hana and the rest of the NNMF team for everything over the past few months. Looking forward to working with you again soon!