By: DJ Fizzi Pop
In the sunny and breezy Quincy mountains, jazzy musical sounds filled the air with good vibes as the weekend of Wavespell Festival occurred, giving a great way to end Summer 2019.
The August month in Belden Town is a guaranteed good weekend, with temperatures around 75 degrees and a sweet lake to dive into during the peak heat hours. It was a drastic shift from the rainy Emissions Festival I experienced in May (you can read about it here: https://www.kzsc.org/blog/2019/07/07/dj-fizzi-pop-attends-emissions-festival/).
This was the second successful year Wavespell Festival was put on, created by the legendary music group STS9. Originally known as Sound Tribe Sector 9, they are known for their complex fusions of psychedelic rock, jazz, experimental bass, rhythmic complications, and funky electronic music to have as the base of all of it. On top of that, their overall production quality and performances are what really put the cherry on top, with light show experiences that coordinate with the musical transitions. Performing at legendary venues like The Gorge Amphitheater to Red Rocks, this group has the chops to bring a whole stadium in a trance, and has done it for over 20 years.
With all this musical complexity and originality, it’s no surprise that STS9 is also famous for its dedicated following – I had the pleasure of meeting some individuals that have been attending STS9 shows for over a decade and have not lost one bit of love for their music. Wavespell had an intensely communal essence to it, with people reuniting from previous shows and everyone contributing to each’s experience to have a good time. Everyone was there for the same reason, and it brought a peaceful element to the entire weekend, including the supporting musical artists.
The experience: Some cool installations this year included the creativity and art hut, which held tons of live painters, workshops (including how to wire-wrap a necklace), and some sound-healing sets. There were also some surprise DJ sets from attendees that were fun to jam out to as a break from all the mayhem. Another addition was the crystal and geode showcase by IsoMetrica – tons of giant amethysts, quartz, and other minerals were put on display for those to look in awe – and even purchase. Crystals and geodes are wildly popular at STS9 gatherings, for their healing properties and aesthetic look that match the STS9 visuals. Spread across the property were tons of artist installations and vendors selling necklaces, coats, and glass-blown pendants that were all handmade.
The music: The festival ran from Thursday afternoon till Monday morning, but I arrived around Friday evening. Luckily I got there just in time to experience an STS9 set, one of NINE that would happen over the weekend. This had been my 3rd time seeing them live, and what gets me everytime is their performance stamina: their ability to play through a set without stopping for hours gives performance stamina a whole new meaning. Their sets consisted of mostly improvisation and jamming, but seamlessly transitioning into one of their well-known hits (my favorite having to be World Go Round off their Universe Inside album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j31Ki4t8Yu4). They included 6 original sets, and then 3 “Wavespell” sets. These ones were distinct in my case because they included a lot of music I’ve never heard from them, with some experimental jazz included (even heard some drum ‘n’ bass thrown in every now and then). When I asked other attendees to describe what the Wavespell sets were like for them, they simply put “indescribable….something I’ve never heard from them”. Each set had a different mood, flavor, and overall experience. Despite playing nine sets, I never got bored or tired of any of them. Throughout the weekend, members of STS9 played some of their own sets as well!
Some of my favorite sets from the weekend include Russ Liquid’s performance, which encased an eclectic mix of electronic music of most subgenres. He often transitioned from heavy dubstep to electro-funk, and would occasionally whip out one of the many instruments he plays. Finally, I can say I’ve seen someone play a flute solo over a drum ‘n’ bass track. His sets are not one to miss, as he usually cracked some jokes here and there as well. A true enjoyable set from start to finish! (Check out his new song: https://soundcloud.com/russliquid/heliotrope-the-russ-liquid).
Another was by Chris Karns, who is a world-renowned turntablist and scratcher. I had previously seen him play with Pretty Lights, and his skills are exceptional. It brought an old-school hip-hop feel to the festival.
As always, I thoroughly enjoyed Maddy O’Neal’s set, with her eclectic blend of genres and a grinning face during the entire time. I could see the crowd react positively to her new tunes that just came out, and how much more of a following she’s gained since the last time I saw her play (You can check out my interview with her here: https://soundcloud.com/fizzipopmusic/dj-fizzi-pop-interviews-maddy-oneal).
The late night sets brought all the diverse, new acts I was excited to discover. Some of my favorites from this were Christian Martin, a deep house prodigy whose sets are smooth-flowing, upbeat, and easy to love, even for those not into the house scene. He is up to play Santa Cruz Music Festival this year if you want to see what I am talking about!
Another group was Yak Attack, which ended up being my unexpected new favorite of the entire weekend. They had much of an STS9-like feel to them as well, being an electro-funk jam band type, effortlessly working in blending between each song. It was a great end to the weekend, blissfully listening to their tunes as the sun rose.
My overall experience of Wavespell Festival was exactly something I wanted to get out of a smaller, more intimate musical gathering. Lots of space to dance, creative energy, and some hidden gems of music being hidden all over the festival grounds. I have to give my overall rating of Wavespell a whopping 9.5/10. Production, weather, cleanliness, organization, and vibe of the crowd made the weekend very special and not one to forget! Thanks Sound Tribe for a great weekend!
DJ Fizzi Pop’s show Soundwave Sanctuary airs only on KZSC Santa Cruz 88.1 FM
You can check out other interviews and festival coverage by DJ Fizzi Pop here: https://www.kzsc.org/?s=dj+fizzi+pop
STS9’s website: https://sts9.com/