Festival front lines: Harmony 2010

Harmony Fest performer DJ Guacamole strapped a camera to a kite to get this shot of the Sunday afternoon crowd

Aerial photo by DJ Guacamole

Santa Rosa got a little more groovy this weekend for the estimated 30,000 to 35,000 that attended the 32nd annual Harmony Festival, three days that were so epic my ability to narrate them cohesively has been called into question. Assembled here are some bits and pieces from the scene.


Best year ever?

The longest running West Coast music and lifestyle festival seems to have resolved many of the problems it's had with turning a profit in years past. “We tightened our ship, we did less with more, and we sold more tickets,” says festival CEO, Bo Sapper. Sapper cited the Eco Rally skate contest as a particular success – Harmony teamed up with eight local skate shops, and a passel of pros to put on an amateur mini ramp competition. They had 1,000 skaters sign up to ride, mainly from the local area. The festival also sold out it's Saturday night shows, a rare occurrence for past years of Harmony.


Vendor madness

Call me monetarily minded (you'd be the first), but I said it before, and I'll say it again; the stuff that's selling can encapsulate the event itself. So what kind of hawkers of wares greeted you upon arrival a the front gates? Amongst the psychics and Mayan chocolate was a woman selling personal sized, portable saunas (she said she was having trouble getting people to experiment with it, temperatures topping out in the nineties and all), some berries from Ghana whose claim to fame were that they could effectively mess your sense of taste up (suggested to buyers as possible cocktail garnishes), and my favorite; Asturias, the sonic didgeridoo man who charms lions and tigers (and for $200/two hours, you too!) with his big, hollow, vibrating stick. 


Swami sanity

Don't mourn last night's loss of those fairy wings! “Everything is set, but the people are upset,” said Swami Chidanandji from his comfy pillow at the Wisdom Speakers Stage. Take it from a man who spent ages nine to 17 practicing solitude and yoga in the Himalaya; no matter how much festival flair you've stuffed into your backpack, happiness lies within. 


Seeding the future

The basket of striped fava beans were what brought me to the West County Community Seed Bank's booth, but hearing about their mission to provide Sonoma County with GMO-free seeds for sproutin' kept me fingering favas for awhile. At the moment, they're meeting at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Sebastopol every last Saturday of the month, and the seeds are stored in their founder's basement. Harmony Fest gave them their vendor booth for free; the same price they charge their seed buyers.


Yoga for the party kids

“Well, I got two hours of sleep last night. I'm not sure how, but we'll make it through this,” said Yogaworks instructor Eric Monkhouse. Monkhouse took us through a few moderately paced asanas at the Eco-Wellness Sanctuary at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday morning -- part of a full slate of yoga classes I thought I'd make it to, but obviously didn't.


Goddess Grove

One of the festival's most rockingest scenes was this shady little side stage, where crowd pleasers Delhi to Dublin and Diego's Umbrella rolled about gleefully onstage and off (Diego's guitarist at one point plunged into the crowd to squirm about in the grass). At night, laser lights tickled the tree leaves above the concerts, setting an entirely different stage for the late night lovin' that any good festie inspires.


Festival babies: cooler than I am

Where do these little rascals come from? Big ups to the munchkin who was walking around performing courtesy sprays with his bubble gun, but my favorites were the pretty little girl and her buddies perched on the back of a truck that was making its slow way past the Goddess Stage. Next to her were two boys on skateboards, holding onto the fender for dear life. I attempted to make contact with the little thing,  but she shushed me through her ice cream cone, and pointed urgently, soundlessly to the truck's cab. Festivating stowaways. Love it.



Of course, it wasn't all ice cream cones and good vibrations. There's the matter of the Saturday night theft of a borrowed moped, which Sapper cited as the weekend's sole unpleasant incident (if you don't count beer prices).


Lauryn Hill: ragingly good

So what if she spent a large portion of her first US concert in three years harassing the sound guys – the woman's a legend, and if she wants to get a little surly, she's entitled. “We're all big fans of Lauryn Hill,” Sapper says. “We were aware she was quite reclusive, but she's ready to come out of that now. Her agency was looking for a safe place for her [to restart her US performing career], and they thought Harmony Festival would be that place --and they were right.” Sapper recalls waiting with his wife and daughter backstage for Ms. Hill to emerge as one of the festival's more magical moments.

Hill's heavily remixed versions of such classics as “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” and “Ready or Not” struck a fine balance between crowd pleasing and innovative -- and her red, white, and blue jumpsuit she wore struck an equally fine balance between Southern belle and Soul Train. Well worthy of a headliner. Thanks for coming out to play, Miss Hill. Now that she's played a California hippie fest, can we finally quit with those stupid racism rumors?