Hearing rave reviews of Euphoria Fest for the last few years, it was finally my year to experience it for the first time. The music and production overall was awe-inspiring, and the lineup was diverse and interesting at every turn. The only way I can do this festival justice in words is to present a series of vignettes about what I experienced, because that’s honestly the feeling of this festival. Euphoria is a beautiful hodge-podge of moments, coming together into an experience that one looks back upon like examining the facets of a gemstone, and I can’t wait to add another to my jewelry box of memories next year.
Rainbows and Bass: Let’s Go
“Come on, let’s go!” a friend at our camp says. We make our way to the festival grounds, passing the silent disco and walking up to the most beautiful archway I’ve ever seen—it’s holographic in every color and made from prisms and other geometric shapes.
We enter the festival grounds and the impact of the art and lighting is immediate. There are strings woven between trees with lights illuminating them, creating a feeling of being inside of a rainbow guitar. This place is designed to stir the imagination.
We stopped at the Euphoria stage, and at the moment, my first impression was, “it’s nice,” but not much else. At this point, most of our group seemed to have literally vanished, so Marisa and I make our way over to the Dragonfly stage and check our Dr. Fresch. I’m immediately taken aback by the stage design, particularly the neon geometric cutout tarp above us. “Damn that’s cool,” I finally say for the first, of many, times this weekend, perfectly timed with Dr. Fresch dropping Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode,” and transitioning into a bass heavy trap-like get-down. I catch a bit of Minnesota, who also throws down some good bass, and also a remix of “The Next Episode,” but a totally different version, moving into more of a bass house transition.
And while I can appreciate a good bass set, I had to keep moving. That sweet, sweet groove was waiting for me back at the Euphoria stage.
Complete Eargasm: The Disco Biscuits
Spoiler alert: I will never pass up seeing The Disco Biscuits at any opportunity presented to me.
Walking up to the stage, I can clearly hear that this is more than just a jam band. The music is a stone-cold jam executed like a smooth-as-butter disco set. They don’t miss a beat—it’s completely seamless, especially through transitions that sound pretty damn hard to nail, yet they do. There’s funky bass and glittery synth, and they know exactly how to play with their music. Throughout their set, I’m the music, the music is me, and there’s no distinction where one stops and the other begins. And I also now totally understand the Euphoria stage. The light show perfectly complements the music, graphics playing with the transitions and synthesizers. Not overwhelming, but astonishing detail. At this point, my heart is stolen and I want more, more, more.
Foodgasm: Cold Brew Coffee and Crawfish (and Mija)
I could have cheaped out all weekend and at the cheese and crackers or whatever crap I brought with me, but nah. All that goes out the window the moment I lay eyes on Voodoo Momma’s. This is Austin, and Austin means hella good food trucks. So I grab a cold brew coffee and order a bowl of Cajun potatoes, corn, sausage and crawfish, chatting with other hungry Euphorians. It definitely does not disappoint, and made even better by listening to Mija pop off a dope as fuck and very OWSLA-sounding opening at the Elements stage. If you’re into a DJ set that doesn’t sit on one genre for too long, but still has a character all its own, Mija is for you.
Sensory Presentation: Pretty Lights
I had never seen Pretty Lights. Not being one for hype, I kept hearing folks go on and on about his live set, usually saying, “I can’t describe it, you just have to be there,” and thought, “Alright, we’ll see.” Within two seconds of opening, my skepticism promptly shut the fuck up. The oscillating synth is achingly beautiful. “Human energy … is a form of light,” the deep voice says. The drums open up, and everything comes together to quiet again. It’s this rise and fall of sound that gives me chills. Every note of the set is delivered with intention and energy. I’m again lost in the music and wondered how I ever lived without Pretty Lights in my life. The hip-hop beats and sparkling electronic notes wash over the crowd, cleansing us of any negativity. It’s at the end of the set that I realize the Euphoria stage is a giant boombox, just in time for Pretty Lights to say, “You are all a stereo with your heart and your ears,” a message intended to release as many good vibes into the world as you take in.
What the What: Knife Party
While grabbing some water, I run into a friend from our group of campers, who is looking for another friend. I assume at this point they’re both lost and will never find anyone because that’s the way festivals work, but I snag her and offer to help look. We make our way over to the Elements stage, just toward the end of Knife Party’s set. She says, “I’m going to look for her in the crowd, but what if she comes back to where we lost her?” I offer to stay where the group got broken up, knowing full well I’m not going to see any of them. But it’s all good, because Knife Party is putting on an absolutely killer show. The use of graphics with their music is brilliant, and they completely disrupt expectation by chopping up and distorting their tracks into uncomfortable territory, only to bring it down into a total rage fest. It’s mind-blowing and everything I ever hoped for in one of their shows.
Dragonfly Dreams: Bass on the River
Back into music mode after a good yoga sesh, Saturday’s lineup is all about the Dragonfly stage. And the perfect weather is still, well, perfect. The first set on the must-see list is Blunt Force, the bass-heavy sweethearts of Austin. The cult following is undeniable—people love these guys. And for good reason. They’re bringing the jams. However, toward the end, the drummer’s a bit fatigued (the sun is, in his defense, beating down right on him), and the DJing with drumming has a little bit of a shoes in the dryer effect. This doesn’t faze the crowd though, and the party goes hard. I’m dancing with a cool group of people, one of whom was at yoga, and we’re having a great time.
*I have to say this, though. Some random guy starts dancing up on a young woman near me. She’s not having it and walks into the crowd, away from him. So he comes at me, trying to grind, and I have this amazing turtle-like defense mechanism with my body. He decides to hit on me by trying to carry on a full conversation with music absolutely blasting and is getting upset at my one-word answers while also trying to grind on me. I look him square in the eye and say, “THANKS FOR RUINING THIS FOR ME. ASSHOLE.” And I walk away, too. This behavior is not cool and is bad for the festival. If you do this, you need to stop.
Moving on, I’m totally amped for Maddy O’Neal‘s set. Pretty much all her tracks are her own, and she’s having the time of her life in front of this crowd. The drummer is on point and the crowd is loving it. She manages to perform with a ton of energy, yet still be cool and laid-back. The crowd reflects her demeanor, moving along energetically to her music in a laid-back way. I personally haven’t seen such an organic crowd reaction quite like this, and it tells me that they really like the originality of her music. I know I do.
All around us, people have their hammocks hung with care and mini campsites at the stage. I can tell the crowd is building up to something beloved, a musical experience that one can really only have at this smaller stage on the river. Psymbionic comes on, and we hang out. He’s bass-y and a bit out there, and I totally love it. He drops some off-the-wall remixes, showing an eclectic taste in music and a knack for presenting it in heady bass music.
And then there’s Ganja White Night. This is my favorite new music discovery of Euphoria. That deep, low, grungy, filthy bass grabs the crowd right by the ankles, turns us upside-down on our heads, then drops us all on our asses. This set is the definition of ‘dope,’ and I headbang and dance my ass off. When the set closes, I find myself near the stage and with a need to come up for air. I’ve been here awhile and my feet want to travel.
At this point, I can’t find any of my friends, and I know I’m not going to. I wander aimlessly, for a moment not knowing what to do with myself. And then I heard it.
Summoned by House Music: Oliver Heldens
I had just emerged from the deep, dank bass trenches, and like a beacon of light, I heard one of my all-time favorite tech-house tracks:
Back once again for the renegade master / D4 damager, power to the people
Back once again for the renegade master / D4 damager with the ill behavior
And I’m in a huge crowd of techno and house heads, poppin’, shuffling, and shaking our tail feathers. And what the fuck do you know, I run right smack-dab into my friends.
From there, we enjoy the festival and each other’s company, catching a bit of The Floozies, and then head back to camp. We make friends with our neighbors, and pass out at god-knows-when o’clock.
Found my Euphoria: Sunday Funkday
After eating a sloppy burger in the lawn nearby the Silent Disco stage and conducting some media business, namely interviewing Ill-esha, it’s finally time to kick back for a minute. I head to the VIP lounge to charge my phone and recharge myself, and of course, I discover the bloody mary bar—also known as, the proper way to get into Sunday. I hang with a great group of people from Corpus Christi, and we decide to walk around and check out the weddings, which were adorable.
Then I blurt out, “I GOTTA MAKE IT BACK TO THE FUNK.” Turkuaz is starting, and there’s no way I can miss them. Fully decked out in leotards and sweat suits, the 9-piece band is a true funk experience. From the band’s wardrobe color experience to their integration of pop and soul into a solid funk underbelly, this band is everything I love about live music. Every member is a showman, and every member SLAYS their musical part. I lose my shit at their cover of “Everyone’s a Winner,” and am so into the funk that I almost don’t look up to see a crowd of people just absolutely getting down. Once the funk hits you, you can’t escape, and suddenly you willingly give your body over to the funk lords. Turkuaz was the perfect experience for this. Again, a band that I will try to never miss to the best of my abilities.
Then comes Dumpstaphunk, another act I’ve been itching to see. Hailing from one of my favorite cities in the world, New Orleans, this is a legit funk experience in their own right. Driving rhythm and groovy bass offer a framework of soul and even gospel. Their messages are philosophical, but not out of reach. Getting into a deep, dank funk groove all on my own, frontman Ivan Neville proudly announces (to paraphrase), “So much in life is about fitting in or going with it. That can even be the case at festivals. But no one does you better than you. Just remember to be yourself and find your own groove, here, and in life. So this song is about doin’ your owwwwn thing. Hit it!” And I find a new, invigorating sense of pride in my own little weirdness. We the crowd are funkin’ our asses of, and it’s just fine.
I head over to catch Ill-esha’s set, which was inspiring. Then came The Funk Hunters, a DJ duo out of Canada and after my heart with a get-down party mix of nu disco, funk dance, hip-hop and soul, and even a touch of drum and bass. I’m surrounded by a group of familiar faces that have been to all the same funk shows that I have. We all get down with absolute abandon in an act of funk soul camaraderie. Any sense of self-consciousness or thinking about anything besides the music and dance is completely gone, all through the power of ill tracks and seamless transitions. I’ve never been happier with a group of total strangers, familiar in our love of funk.
Sadface Emoji: The End
After their set ends, this amazing group of people insists that I hang with them for the rest of the night. I’m heartbroken to say I have to leave back to Houston. In retrospect, I forgive myself because adults gotta adult, but also, damn. I hear soon the next morning that Moby completely exerted the skills that one can only obtain after a career like his, and that Zeds Dead and Chromeo both killed it. I vow that next time, I make it possible to stay until the very last minute.
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