Music festivals are so abundant these days: Sasquatch in Washington, Bumbershoot in Seattle, Outside Lands in San Francisco, Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., Rothbury in Michigan, Austin City Limits in Texas, and of course, the Big Daddy of them all, Coachella in Indio. (I say that as a native Californian.)
Choosing which one(s) you attend represents who you are. My friends take a lot of pride in the festivals they go to, and they are usually pretty defensive about why one is better than the other or how last year’s line-up was so much better than this year’s bill. My friends assume this curatorial perspective, taking responsibility for the selectivity of the event; using personal anecdotes and hyperbole to endorse their opinions.
Did you know that Boulder, Colo. has its own music festival? And a very eclectic, personal, and progressive one at that? This non-profit event, called Communikey, is a sustainable and locally organized festival to showcase global talent. What especially sets it apart, in my opinion, is that it has a mission statement, or vision, that is clearly stated on the first page of its website.
If you search the Bonnaroo website, for instance, the most you can find out about the festival is what it is, but not necessarily what it is about:
“The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is a four-day, multi-stage camping festival held on a beautiful 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee every June. Bonnaroo brings together some of the best performers in rock and roll, along with dozens of artists in complementary styles such as jazz, Americana, hip-hop, electronica, and just about any contemporary music you can think of. In addition to dozens of epic performances, the festival’s 100-acre entertainment village buzzes around the clock with attractions and activities including a classic arcade, on-site cinema, silent disco, comedy club, theater performers, a beer festival, and a music technology village.”
Now don’t get me wrong; I have always really wanted to go to Bonnaroo. It seems like a blast. It’s very complete, boasting everything from general stores to art installations to a.m. clean and sober groups. Very cool. But what is its reason for being? What are the participants’ reasons for being there, other than “having a blast?” What is the goal of the event?
Over the years, Bonnaroo has proven its commitment to community by making over $3,000,000 in charitable contributions to local arts organizations, “health and social services, educational programs, and a variety of community projects.”
Hmmm. Ok, most corporations also have a webpage to highlight their charitable efforts, such as Target and Goldman Sachs. But is community investment the goal of Bonnaroo, or Target, or Goldman Sachs? It is certainly laudable that they make the effort, but outreach by large organizations has more to do with public relations than it has to do with core values.
Communikey is an intelligent music festival. It is strategic. It hopes to have a long-term, positive impact on its participants. Communikey seizes the space between genres–the bill isn’t pigeonholed–making the music and the ideas behind it accessible to anyone who is interested in understanding it. And Communikey is so much more than one weekend; it has events year round. It consistently brings together lovers of the music it promotes in venues in numerous places.
Communikey doesn’t just promote community; it is community.
There are events throughout the festival weekend designed to help people see the entire process behind creating thoughtful music. It uses partnerships instead of sponsorships for funding, which allows for more flexibility and growth. Coachella is sponsored by Heineken, Odwalla (a division of Coca-Cola), Microsoft, and H&M, to name a few and I can’t see how these companies relate to the music and culture they promote. Communikey, on the other hand, partners with the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA), Trust for Mutual Understanding, Mutek, Ableton, the Alliance for Technology, Learning, and Society (ATLAS), which is based at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and more. These groups are all determined to see through the progression of sound in modern culture, and all have clearly identifiable mission statements, unlike Coachella’s sponsors, for instance.
So this is my choice. These are a few of the reasons I am honored to participate, support, and be involved with Boulder’s Communikey; it’s intentional, genuine and innovative. Those characteristics, along with the fact that I share Communikey’s core values, are important to me; therefore, my life has been profoundly affected by the artists and musicians who host it. Not to mention, I have a lot of fun!