Harmony Festival descended upon Santa Rosa this weekend complete with fizzy tonics, tie-dye shirts, and herbal delights. For the uninitiated, Harmony is an annual celebration of progressive lifestyles with a heavy hippie slant focused on sustainability, social consciousness, sacred community activism.
An estimated 35,000 people gathered over the three-day, two-night event held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds to dance, party and play. The sprawling event celebrated its 33rd year with five stages of music and a boggling amount of green-inspired attractions and vendors, including interactive workshops, speakers and a rock art poster exhibit.
The sound of music penetrated nearly every corner of the festival with a taste of every genre to soothe an enthusiastic crowd eager for entertainment. With so many musicians to choose from, it was impossible to catch every great performance for more than a few minutes before being summoned by another sound or eye-popping attraction.
Of course, the highlight of the weekend was the three nights of jaw-dropping headliners: the impossibly positive Michael Franti and Spearhead, psychedelically-charged The Flaming Lips, and bass-shredding headbangers Primus.
On Friday, night Michael Franti took the stage right before sundown and sang, strummed his guitar, flung his dreadlocks and hopped around stage in his signature bare feet with exuberance and energy as the crowd responded with matched excitement. As he played tunes like “The Sound of Sunshine,” “Ganja Babe” and “All I Want Is You,” everyone sang along and danced into the night. He ended his set by inviting a playground’s worth of kids on stage to dance along to “Say Hey.”
The Flaming Lips followed on Saturday with a show bursting with rainbow-colored confetti, streamers, giant balloons and a Guinness World Records-sized disco ball oscillating onstage. The band reserved some of its heavier songs and instead opted to play a happier, more cohesive tracklist that included favorites like “Do You Realize?,” “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” and of course, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.” Wayne Coyne walked over the crowd in a clear space bubble, donned gargantuan, laser-powered rubber hands and successfully blew everyone’s minds with an epic rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.”
Not to be outdone, Primus closed out the weekend joined by a rowdy crowd ready to rock. A bespectacled Les Claypool commanded the stage with his mind-bending bass slapping and well-deserved chutzpah whipping the crowd into a frenzied mosh-pit. The band blazed through a two-hour set and still had to return to the stage at the beckoning of the crowd shouting “Primus Sucks!”
The weekend was definitely one for the books, and is heavy contender for one of the best Northern California festival lineups. What a great way to kick off the summer.