It’s only natural that music festivals would hold music as a central priority, but at Northern Nights, it’s not quite so simple.
That’s mostly because as many come to the Humboldt-Mendocino county-line-straddling event for cannabis as they do for music, so attention gets split between the productions onstage and the many varied cannabis offerings at the festival. 2022's iteration was no exception either. In fact, last weekend the kaleidoscopic forest rave used the very same two-pronged approach to throw its most evolved and integrated event to date.
By making more than a few major strides from past editions of the now-paradigmatic music fest, 2022 wasn’t just a triumphant post-pandemic return. For the ragtag band of dance music-loving misfits turned world-class event producers behind Northern Nights, it was a return to the roots that made them all such great friends in the first place. Perhaps more importantly, the event hosted the first cannabis dispensary to be placed near a stage in music festival history, marking this year as a win for cannabis advocates and allies all over California.
Balancing cannabis with great music
Among the many experiences unique to Northern Nights, this year patrons could purchase cannabis-infused foods and beverages to enjoy during the sho, or peruse the wares of a variety of local cannabis brands for a top-shelf smoking experience. For those in the know, it was a collection of the who’s who in the cannabis industry.
The music similarly assembled a cavalcade of genre-transcending artists like Claude VonStroke, TroyBoi, CloZee, Two Feet, Balkan Bump and Of The Trees delivered more wallops than Domino’s does pepperonis. Perhaps the hottest among these was the Sunday River Stage set from EDM.com Class of 2022 artist Wreckno, which erupted less like a conventional bass-heavy dance party and more like a melee of asses being thrown around with more vigor than dodgeballs.
Small stages with big love
When the stars came out, trees were imbued with a warm, incandescent glow and the Bunker stage became a nexus of night time shenanigans. Evenings were made all the more special by the expanded presence of sanctioned renegades in the campgrounds. Where the main stages may put the pressure on for DJs to unleash a blue-ribbon performance, these crews encouraged fun-lovers to be themselves and the end result is always easy to hear.
In the end, some of the best sets from Northern Nights 2022 were the product of these homegrown dancefloors. Submerged Sessions, EPIC, Octopus Garden and Good Vibe Collective were just a few of the hard-hitting underground crews who offered a full complement to the sublime vibe of the weekend.
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"What really made this year special was the support of smaller sound camps and immersive spaces from the Northern Nights organization, which added new dimensions to the festival and helped the event continue its growth in an organic and exciting way," said Submerged Sessions Co-Founder Bailey Woolsey. "Each year, our stage and camp has seen immense growth, and next year we're only planning to go bigger and better."
Highlights included more than a few of Northern California's local legends. Much like his name implies, Chocolate Sushi was a multi-course mouthful of the unexpected, packed with tasty morsels and seasoned with spicy dance moves. Off the Insomniac Discovery project, he dropped his new collab with A-Rival, "Same Shit, Different Night" in addition to bangers like Chris Lorenzo's "Mami."
Between DJ Cootdog’s role as host of Chico radio station Power1021, and his iconic showmanship with live reggaeton band, Mystic Roots, his name is known through most of Northern California. What many may not know is the guy has impeccable bravado behind the decks and a sugary track selection that packs more flavor than a fresh cake to the face.
Another act with a high-octane flare was Temple Denver’s light and laser wizard Anthny.jacobs. During his River stage set, this prince of pyrophoric changeups managed to glide effortlessly from island bass to drum & bass to soul. He even hit beefy transitions that would ordinarily trip up other music production maestros like a launchpad into the stars.
Even first-time DJ and known iconoclast among audiophiles Lyja became an overnight legend with her encyclopedic knowledge of electronic music and a medley of incendiary tracks, like Medlar’s spacey remix of Crazy P’s “The Witness” and Catz ‘n Dogz's bouncy anthem “Chucky73 - Bzrp 43."
Obviously, these were just a few of the many fresh acts and crews who turned out to turn up this weekend at Northern Nights, but as more secondary stages pop up throughout the campgrounds in years to come the music festival’s tradition of cultivating family in friendships continues to grow.
For more info on Northern Nights Music Festival, visit the links below.