- Michael Franti
Black Oak Ranch is pretty much ideal as a festival venue. The towering black oaks are a big part of that, providing cooling shade and a home for the hawks, crows and other birds that cruise the sky above you. There's a creek running through the 150 acres ranch, room for five stages and plenty of space to camp. It's also home to the Hog Farm, a longstanding hippie commune with a rich history in the festival business. Remember Wavy Gravy offering "breakfast in bed for 400,000" at Woodstock? In between running Camp Winnarainbow, a circus camp for kids, his crew has been doing festivals on Black Oak Ranch for 21 years now, including the Kate Wolf Music Fest, The Pignic, Electric Off the Eel and Earthdance, and now The Gaia Festival.
You can spend this weekend at Gaia learning about sustainable living, organic farming, alternative energy, social and environmental activism, yoga and other healing arts. Or, if you prefer, you can just listen to great music and dance.
Among the dozens of acts performing: hippie hip hop master Michael Franti and Spearhead; ace string-jammers Yonder Mountain String Band and Hot Buttered Rum; the funky Dumpstaphunk, Pimps of Joytime and Orgone; alt. Latin stars Kinky, Bomba Estereo and Rupda and The April Fishes; and an awesome array of other musicians from around the globe including Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars, Baka Beyond, Fanna-Fi-Allah Sufi Qawwali Ensemble and SambaDa. Clan Dyken and The Ginger Ninjas are bicycling in and playing on a bike-powered stage. Humboldt's own Absynth Quintet plays every day; AfroMassive brings the Afrofunk; former locals Steel Toed Slippers rock it a couple of times. The Humboldt DJs crew, Gabe Pressure, DJ Knutz and Mantease, spins vinyl Sunday night. For the ravers there's EDM by David Starfire, Ana Sia and Shaman's Dream among others. Did we mention David Lindley? And that's just a portion of the three dozens acts spread over three days and nights.
The Hog Farmers are on the cutting edge of "green" festing, powering things with biodiesel generators and creating a food court with real dishes, not plastic or paper. Add in the fact that it's all done as what the organizers describe as "a celebration of our interconnection to each other and to Mother Earth," which is why it's named for Gaia, the Greek earth goddess, mother of all. Yes, this is one totally cool eco-groovy festival.
The Gaia Festival runs from Friday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Aug. 5, at Black Oak Ranch, just outside of Laytonville. Gates open at 8 a.m. Friday, music starts at noon. Tickets at the gate are $210 for three days, $195 for two days, $90 for single days (without camping), with additional charge for vehicles and reduced prices for kids (who must be accompanied by an adult). Everything is less in advance. Go to www.thegaiafestival.com for further details and for the complete entertainment lineup.