It seems that the free-loving, skin-baring, and kush-sharing vibes of the music festival scene have finally arrived in li’l Utah. And while it was no Coachella, for the weekend of June 22, 2018, locals mixed with out-of-staters primarily from the West Coast for the burgeoning Bonanza Campout. As expected, there was lots of glitter, bejeweled faces, dreadlocks, and tight, hot-pink shorts. It was after all a music festival and it’s patrons were as keen to draw attention to themselves (while coolly looking as though they couldn’t care less what others thought of them) as they were to soak up the music and sunshine.
As is tradition, even getting to the site was a psychological rollercoaster. Arriving on Saturday, after driving in circles around the campground and the highway, my friend and I finally landed a spot in a third parking lot. We then waited in line under the blazing sun for close to an hour before our shuttle, an Ogden school bus, emerged through a cloud of dust like an angelic vessel of mercy. Granted, my chagrin may not have totally be warranted; perhaps this sort of chaos was to be expected of a big music and arts festival in the middle of what was essentially a desert (Ed: It is). Maybe it was even part of the vibe (Ed. it is). Regardless, Bonanza love to festival workers Marshall and Mike at campground sign-in tent — thanks guys, for sorting out the whole parking pass situation.
We made it to the festival two hours after our initial arrival, so umm, reviews of Lostboycrow, Yung Gravy, and Coliin Magalong will be absent here. The acts did see, however, did not disappoint on the whole. On the Shade Stage, Shallou put on a low-frills set highlighted by the effervescent guest singer, Riah.
Then, over on the Bonanza Stage, The Spencer Lee Band hit us with a burst of southern gospel goodness. Lee, anchored his mates with his lead vocals, evoking a poppier Gavin DeGraw (remember him?). If you haven’t checked out their recently-released cover of “A Little Help from My Friends,” do it.
The whole performance dripped sensuality (shout out to the backup singer, above, who was feeling herself)—a good pairing for the more low-key set that preceded them.
Okay, back to the spectacle, because what good would a festival review be without mention of the deliberate weirdness that populated the campground? I spotted Hippie Pirate Jesus from afar, flanked by his equally hippie disciples. A guy in a unicorn onesie was somehow managing without passing out from heat stroke.
Someone toted around an inspirational poster of Donald Trump in nothing but a men’s thong, next to the slogan, “Make America Rave Again.” A presumable Utahn, sported a black tee that read, “SINNERS ARE WINNERS.”
There were lots of fanny packs and spandex galaxy shorts; fire twirlers; circus hoop spinners, dudes drunkenly fighting over girls, to ultimately agree that they could share and have a group hug. Every intermission was a people-watching feast.
Better-known acts dominated the rest of the night, including underground faves Hippie Sabotage were on an entirely different dimension than the rest. Right off the bat, Kevin Saurer got in the audience’s and photogs’ faces; treading the edges of the amps; touching hands with the crowd; jumping in and being carried by them like some acid-riddled messianic figure before being dropped back off clumsily in the photo pit.
He chuckled at himself, as if in awe of what he’d just done, and indeed, it was mesmerizing. His tie dye shirt and trademark grizzliness only enhanced his brand as a music man whose consciousness resided on another plane. Jeff Saurer held court on bass and the turntable, occasionally breaking a smile at the pandemonium his brother was wreaking.
EDM’s Snakehips was a bit less remarkable and photogenic duo, given their set was largely stationery, but the tripped-out fairy rope light twirlers didn’t seem to mind.
Finally came indie favorites Local Natives and BORNS, whose lead singers beckoned the thirsty calls of fishnet-clad girls everywhere. The former is a breezier, younger take on Fleet Foxes, perhaps best known for “Dark Days” and “Wide Eyes.” It was super cool to watch the guys alternatively mellow out, then suddenly see Taylor Rice thrash their hair when it was his time to drop his guitar solos.
BORNS was the festival’s main draw on my part. After years of repeatedly checking their website to see if they would ever come to Utah, here they finally were. Garrett Clark Borns commanded the stage in a manner that could only be described as ethereal.
That falsetto; those loose; flowy long locks; that wayward stare he got whenever he seemed deep in thought, probably about some lost or present love or what a damn good singer he was. “Electric Love,” “10,000 Emerald Pools,” and “Holy Ghost” almost satiated me, but alas, I missed “Past Lives” in order to beat the shuttle bus crowd. Fortunately, the journey back to the car was a lot less remarkable than our trip to the show earlier that day.
Go here to peep more photos from Bonanza Campout: musicians, hippie festival goers, and all.