An inspiring weekend at Tipper and Friends music festival at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Live painting with some of the best visionary artists in the scene, listening to world class electronic music, watching mind blowing projection visuals, and living the life of a traveling psychedelic festival artist.
It's taken me a few months to pull all these experiences together, from the festival back in April until now, with several other events and experiences in between, but I feel it's important to share. Watch the recap video for a taste of the experience, then listen to Tipper while reading the full blog post. There's so much that goes on at these festivals that's impossible to truly capture on camera, but I'm happy to reflect and take you on a journey.
I pack the suitcase with color coordinated outfits I’ll probably wear in a totally mismatched way. I laugh at YouTube videos of "what to wear at festivals" because no one talks about the important things. Don’t wear anything that will get dragged through port-a-potty ooze or snag stick and twigs off the forest floor; always put your jewelry and wristband on your non-wiping hand; bring clothes for any weather imaginable because it will always get colder and hotter and dustier and wetter than you expect. Yes, we all want to look amazing, but function over form will keep a beautiful smile on your face when the people in the wrong gear are frowning.
Friday morning, we pack the van and get ready to leave. Our roomie Chanimal pulls his bus out of the driveway and knocks the neighbor’s mailbox off its post. The FedEx truck pulls up, perfect timing. Ocean and I drive to the print shop to pick up some last-minute merch, stop at Publix for groceries and a chicken tender Pub Sub, and drive six hours to Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Chan calls us halfway through the drive, the Chanibus is struggling and won’t make it to the festival. Our drums and half our vending set up are on the bus, but we shrug it off and wish him a safe voyage to wherever he ends up.
We roll into Suwannee around 9 pm and pick a temporary parking spot to run in and see our friends. I’m stoked to see some of my favorite artists, some of the best in the visionary psychedelic scene. Amanda Sage, Carrie Ann Baade, Stella Strzyzowska, Chaya Av, Kara Timmons, Elizabeth Banker, Mysterylias, so many more.
Carrie Ann was a mentor of mine in college, where I studied with Stella and Chaya. Carrie introduced us to Amanda, whose artwork and mission inspires me daily. I met Kara at one of Amanda’s workshops in LA. Elias is a ray of sunshine I met at the Fire Flies festival near Miami. So many other artists I know and love and whose work I admire. I am blessed to know any and all of them, and so grateful they are sharing their visions with the world, and that I am painting in the same space.
I find Rae Grand off on the right side of the amphitheater, with paper and markers on an easel for anyone to play with. She normally has her three-year-old daughter with her, but this is her first time back at a festival without her baby since she was born. I chat with her about what it’s like to be a festy mom, and artist mom. I reflect on my sister and her two young boys. We talk about finding your way back to yourself, who you were before babies, what you wanted, and how to reincorporate that.
Out to the bat house field for a laser projection show. Wooks have taken over a tall flower sculpture. Human-sized crystals decorate the field. We wonder why this wasn't set up in the field between the amphitheater and the gallery, where everyone's work is displayed. It would bring more traffic to them. There I go again, thinking I could run the festival better than the people running the festival. Old habit from my days as an event produced in Los Angeles.
We fall asleep around 5 am and wake up around noon to the sound of rain. I emerge from the van to shove a few things under our friend’s RV to keep them semi dry. Another couple hours of sleep and Ocean and I are up around 3 pm, making coffee to the sound of a speaker playing Black Sabbath somewhere off in another camp. I put the percolator on the burner and brew the coffee, mixing it with sweetened condensed coconut milk. Ocean’s not sure about the combo but he drinks it anyway.
We walk with our friends to scope out the security gate lines and see whether we can get our art gear inside to the amphitheater where everyone is painting. Along the way, Ocean lights a cigarette for an old college classmate of mine, and we bump into a friend we made in Asheville, NC, during our cross-country trip. She tells me she had a big breakthrough last night and spilled her deepest secrets and felt so free now. I congratulate her and we hug and laugh.
Ocean and I go back to camp and pack up the gear. We can’t vend at the amphitheater so it’s a smaller set up. As it turns out, Chan and the Chanibus carrying our vending display never made it to Suwannee and got stuck at Ginnie Springs an hour away. We make it through the gates and get set up. I run back to camp to get dressed. Socks, boots, black velvet shorts, sparkly long sleeve leotard, purple ski jacket, teal wig, and a light up flower crown. I’m ready to roll.
We get lost in our Oceanebula portal for hours. I focus on the sea urchins at first, then move into adding dimension to the coral. Ocean pulls the astral figures out of the background, detailing their features with a thin liner brush. The projection art on the stage is a delicious feast. My eyes drink in the swirling colors and shapes, and my body bounces to the music.
Then it’s time for the main attraction… the crowd erupts as Tipper takes the stage, staying off to the side to leave the visuals uninterrupted. His tracks sound incredibly clean and expertly arranged. He scratches over the tracks, bringing an old school hip hop feel to the fast paced, psychedelic drum and bass.
Photo by Ryan Morse
Tipper has been widely respected as a surround sound composer, sound designer, and digital audio master since being discovered in the late 90s at underground clubs in the UK. He is known for blending genres together and creating entirely new styles, mixing electronic, breakbeat, drum and bass, trip hop, and ambient sounds with extreme bass frequencies and intricate polyrhythms.
By the end of his set, I’ve officially been Tipped.
Video by PsychedelicPourHouse
Video by Chris Jarrett
The crowd empties out of the amphitheater, and we roll over to our friend Morphis’ renegade art tent in the campgrounds. Walking across the field we see Venus shining like a fire ball. Venus, Mars, and Saturn aligned in the early morning sky. I see hundreds of constellations everywhere. I know the ancients must have taken psychedelics. I see it all laid out so clearly. We paint, vibe, and sell prints until 6 am.
Go back to camp. Eat a slice of cheese. Sleep around 7. The soothing sounds of car alarms in the early morning mist, with their owners nowhere to be found.
Memories and Manifestation
I wake up around noon. Ocean is already gone. He couldn’t sleep, so he went back to Morphis’ spot to paint and sell. I do a little bit of chatting to the camera. I make coffee. Get halfway dressed. The camp next to us is playing Celine Dion’s It’s All Coming Back To Me Now. I fry up some chicken breasts with garlic, onions, and lemon juice. Make a little guac. Throw it on some tostadas and walk over to Morphis’ tent. Sit and drink a beer and chow down with my love.
We paint and chat with everyone who comes by to check out the art. We hear rumors of a surprise Tipper set happening at 4 pm, which didn’t turn out to be true, but got us to drag our wagon of art gear over to the amphitheater for the last few sets of the festival.
The festival producers invited some members of the Purple Hatters Ball crew to come speak about their mission. Purple Hatters Ball 2014 was my first festival, and started me down this rabbit hole of music and art madness. PHB was founded in memory of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, a 23-year-old Florida State University graduate. She was murdered while acting as a police informant during a drug sting that started on May 7, 2008. The first of its kind in the U.S., Rachel’s Law, a Florida law that went into effect on July 1, 2009, established new guidelines for law enforcement when dealing with confidential informants.
Photo by Rex-a-vision
As is tradition, Rachel's mother, Margie, led a ceremony celebrating her daughter’s memory. Each year, 24 monarch butterflies are released – 23 to represent Rachel’s age when she was taken from this world and 1 for her spirit that lives on. It was really beautiful to see this tradition take place again, even if it added a somber tone to our Sunday afternoon.
I felt like my journey had come full circle; from a wide-eyed art school student, not sure what to do with her degree or why it mattered, to a working festival artist, traveling and sharing my visions and ideas with the world, standing here watching the same ceremony I first witnessed seven years ago.
We pack up Monday morning and roll out, saying see you next time to our festival friends. Drive an hour south to Ginnie Springs to meet up with Chan and the Chanibus. It’s nice to sit and decompress in nature without the thumping bass music. I build a fire and Ocean and I play drums together for hours, picking up the harmonica or the flute now and then.
Around midnight a trio of wandering hippies emerges from the darkness to sit and play with us. We figure out that one of them had been at the festival, and another had spotted us buying groceries on our way to a different festival a few months back. We harmonize, laugh and enjoy each other’s company for an hour or two before they slip back into the woods.
The sun rises and we make the drive home to south Florida. Hours of reflection, naps, gratitude, and confusion about what to do next. Festivals are funny that way. I come back feeling inspired and full, but also unsure about how to integrate the experience into life at home.
It’s an ongoing process. Interpreting profoundly spiritual experiences, taking inventory of my mind, art supplies, and merchandise, revising the ever-nebulous business plan, and trying to put a finger on the point of it all. In the end it is an experience to learn from, like all the rest. And for us, the artists, it is an experience to channel into a new painting or song, to move the people and inspire them to dream again.