What is the purpose of a modern American music festival? Is it essentially just a temporary escape vehicle for participants or is there plenty more to offer beyond an extended weekend? Although this fundamental concern may not be at the forefront of most festivalgoers’ minds, it certainly has been one of much significance for organizers. Lucidity Festival, a gathering taking place April 8-10 at the Live Oak Campground in Santa Barbara, California, has been committed to shifting the paradigm on the multi-faceted role a festival can play. With its fifth year set to showcase Crossroads, a meta-narrative building on a series of interconnected themes derived from Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey, it should come as no surprise that Lucidity is one of the most unique conscious-minded organizations around today. However, considering “unique” could be a label easily applied (or misapplied) to quite a few music festivals across the land touting their own authentic swagger, Lucidity has nevertheless set itself apart.
It begins with running what is essentially an open source platform that has interfaced with sister events such as Arise, Envision, Enchanted Forest, Summer Solstice and UnifyFest. Whether it be administrative, box office, marketing, public relations, volunteer coordination or licensing of media, Lucidity has taken the initiative to share systems in order to enhance the festival IQ for a more efficient, smoother operation the community can continue to develop.
Then there is the on-site sustainability team, which has championed innovative ideas from Day 1. Brilliant, yet simple staples such as the “map-dana,” an actual Lucidity map printed on a bandana in an effort to reduce paper consumption and waste. Or there has been a campaign to end single use silverware during the event by way of distributing bamboo utensil kits to staffers as well as selling to campers. Indeed, Lucidity’s rock star crew has disproved the misnomer of merely being a glorified trash collection service, only existing to set up trash/compost/recycle stations.
But perhaps what is most impressive from their contributions is how meals provided for the three-day gathering are sourced. With 14,000 plates being served to staffers, volunteers, workshop hosts and performers, an easy expenditure corner to cut might come through the quality of food. However, Lucidity’s rationale for refusing to compromise is twofold: enabling a symbiotic relationship with local farmers and ultimately practicing what they preach. In turn, Lucidity has hung their hat on implementing a “Mindful Feeding Program,” which collaborates with the Isla Vista Co-op in order to not only partner with local organic farms, but ensure the process is in alignment with the festival’s ethos as well. Alison Hensley, who is a co-founder and also plays an integral role on the sustainability team, passionately elaborated on the impact of this collective effort. “I have a budget of $40,000 to spend on food…And a lot of times other festivals…they can’t get it in their head the importance of leveraging that kind of money. So they’ll be like, ‘I want to spend $2 or $3 a plate.’ And if you look at that and then do the math, the only food that you’re going to really be able to serve is going to come from industrial food systems. It’s going to be based in corn and soy and it’s also not going to be organic. It’s going to be supporting chemically fertilized crops and that’s how you get to a price point of $2 a plate. Where if you turn around in our program…we end up spending more around the range of $5 or $6, which can be funneled back into farmers that I’ve had a relationship with for the last decade. Then you have the multiplier effect within your community. The ripples are felt for a long time to come…I don’t know of the commitment by other events toward leveraging those dollars to change our food system.”
With a budget evenly split between sustainability efforts, the music lineup, art installations and workshops, Lucidity’s emergence as a model in the conscious-minded festival community has been through placing emphasis on an all-encompassing experience. One that is planting its seeds of inspiration not just during those three days of celebration, but leading up to the event and lasting well after. Even while bringing to the table a stout 90+ workshop helping over the course of the festival itself, it is a set of immersive educational courses for attendees where Lucidity especially goes above and beyond the average festival experience.
Three days before the festival even begins, it will be offering a series of intensive classes through a curriculum called Lucid University that focuses on Permaculture Design, Lucid Dreaming, Reiki Healing, Art & Creativity, and Embodiment & Movement. The “alternative” coursework was inspired by a very successful pilot program from 2015, in which 35 students gained certification after learning permaculture techniques and practices. When speaking with Jonah Haas, Lucidity’s marketing director, he conveyed the motivation behind broadening this enriching program. “As a festival that is seeking to be truly transformational, it is important that we continuously push on our community’s growth edges and to walk the walk, not just talk. Education is a powerful tool that contributes to individuals’ expansion and so it feels only natural that it would be a part of the transformational festivals’ toolkit. Yes, festival workshops are educational, and they have always been a part of what we do, however they are very short glimpses of topical content, usually an hour long and sometimes distracted by all the pretty sparkles and thumping bass. Our Lucid University Courseweek is committed to creating containers that allow participants to dive deep into 5 subjects that aren’t necessarily readily available in traditional school settings. We are looking to help people uplevel as artists, dreamers, leaders, healers, and as earth guardians because we believe our community and our world needs more of these types of people right now.”
Whether bolstering forward-thinking initiatives already in place or expanding its grander vision through the potential purchase of its own land for regenerative practices, Lucidity will continue to break new ground in the transformational community. To re-shape the mold of what a gathering of like-minded participants is truly capable of. And to prove that the empowerment brought from such an event can transcend the boundaries of a mere three-day escape from the outside. Quite possibly the fundamental question to be answered here is not what purpose does a music festival serve in the end, but are its intentions being served with meaningful purpose?