From June 14 to 17, 2018, Hummingbird Ranch will light up Spanish Peak Country, Colorado for the 13th Annual Sonic Bloom Festival. As one of the longest-running music festivals in Colorado, Sonic Bloom is a mecca for electronic and jam band fans alike. Sonic Bloom recently announced their lineup, and it’s arguably one of the most impressive yet.
Veterans of Bloom such as Shpongle, Nightmares on Wax, EOTO, Desert Dwellers and Break Science return to Spanish Peaks in mid-June. Highly anticipated headliners Keys N Krates and Liquid Stranger have joined the bill as well.
While Sonic Bloom’s focus is on the music, there are plenty of other activities to participate in while at the festival. Yoga classes, workshops and live painting performances are available throughout the weekend. Unique and interactive art installations are common throughout the festival grounds and you’ll see fire spinners, dancers and flow artists accompanying most performances.
Whether this is your first year at Bloom or you’re a veteran of the festival, these tips are a great reminder for anyone planning on attending. Check out these insider tips below on how to have a successful weekend.
Watch Your Step
The campgrounds are far from lush green fields. Large rocks, cacti and uneven terrain cover the campsites. Closed-toe shoes are a must. Grass stickers will snag the fabric of your shoes as well, so opt for some combat boots or shoes with a thicker exterior if you have them. Bring extra socks and make sure to break in your shoes before the festival to avoid blisters and irritation. This is not a festival you can survive barefoot.
Pro-tip: Invest in a pair of over-the-ankle shoes or boots. A good pair will last you many festival seasons and save you countless times from dust irritation, sharp objects and muddy patches.
Be Prepared to Go Swimming
An ice-cold creek runs behind the campgrounds and is a popular spot to cool down at during the day. It gets crowded during the afternoon, but there’s usually a spot for you to dip your toes in for a bit. Make sure to check the map or ask a volunteer how to get to the creek — it’s not the easiest spot to find.
Pro tip: Bring a small hand towel or bandana to dip in the ice-cold water and wear around your neck for extended sun relief.
This should be a staple for every festival, especially Sonic Bloom. Headlamps are an absolute necessity. The campgrounds are uneven and difficult to navigate in the dark and the lighting in the campgrounds is sparse. The last thing you want to do is trip on a rock on the way to the port-a-potty at 3 a.m. Make sure to bring extra batteries — the only thing worse than no headlamp is a headlamp with no power.
Pro tip: Bring a carabineer to attach your headlamp to your hydration pack or purse. Headlamps are easily lost in the campsite clutter. It’s a simple way to keep up with your headlamp and have it on you without having to wear it at all times.
Don’t Overpack Your Alcohol
Like all festivals, Sonic Bloom has a list of prohibited items. There are a few rules unique to this festival. Make sure to review them before entry to avoid holding up the line. If you are 21 or over, you can bring in a limited amount of alcohol for your personal consumption. You may bring two cases of canned beer per person, per car (no kegs), one plastic bottle of liquor (up to 1.75 liters) per person per car and two boxes of wine per person per car. No campground alcohol can enter the venue and no venue alcohol can be taken out. Bars are available inside the venue.
Pro tip: Leave the glass beer, wine and liquor bottles at home. All glass is prohibited.
Ditch the Plastic
There are a few ATMs on site. However, there are frequently long lines and an ATM was out of commission for a period of time last year. Don’t rely on the festival ATMs as your only supply of cash. Pull out what you plan on spending before you go. It’ll help you stay on budget and spare you the hassle of pulling out more cash at a later time.
Pro tip: If you’re worried about carrying all your cash around, hide what you don’t need that day in your locked car.
Bring More Trash Bags Than You Think You’ll Need
Sonic Bloom has a leave no trace policy, so it’s up to every participant to do his or her part and pack out what you take in. Don’t make someone else clean up after you. Bring plenty of trash bags and try to keep a separate bag for recycling to minimize waste.
Pro tip: Trash bags are great for more than just litter. You can use extra trash bags to store dirty or wet clothes. Trash bags can also be used as a makeshift poncho for those rainy afternoons.
Arrive Like a Pro
Place your ice chest in an easily accessible spot in your car. Security always checks the ice chests and you don’t want to have to dig through all your gear to get to it. Keep in mind the time you arrive at the gate determines your placement at the campsite. If you want to camp next to your friends, arrive together or you may run the risk of becoming separated. Arriving early doesn’t always guarantee good placement — the volunteers start by filling in the edges of the campground and file the cars in one after another. It’s a bit of a lottery — don’t expect to pick the perfect spot. Arrive with an open mind and welcoming attitude towards your campsite neighbors.
Pro tip: Go to the bathroom before you get in line for arrival. The gate entrance (in the past) has two port-o-potties for the gate security and attendees, but you may be too far from the entrance when you arrive to use them.
Print or Download the Lineup/Schedule
As part of minimizing waste, Sonic Bloom does not hand out flyers with set times. They’ve been working on “greening” the festival with help from ZeroHero (a zero waste consulting company) and rely on guests of the festival to care as much as they do. If you like to have a copy of the set times on you, print out the schedule before you come.
Pro tip: If you don’t have a printer you can take a screenshot with your phone of the schedule. Don’t rely on Facebook, however. Service is spotty at Hummingbird Ranch.
Don’t Get Blown Away
Don’t underestimate the wind. Every year tents and tapestries go flying at some point during the festival. Bring a set of heavy duty clips for your tent and shade structure to avoid losing your shelter for the weekend. Weights for your shade canopy are a must. While wind can provide a moment of relief from the blistering sun, it will also kick up dust into your eyes, nose and mouth. A bandana or face mask is a simple solution for those random dust storms.
Pro tip: If you’re eyes and nose are easily irritated, bring some eye drops and nasal spray to help clear them from the dirt and grime.
Commit to a Workshop with a Friend
Make a promise to a friend to attend at least one workshop before the end of the festival. You and a friend can hold each other accountable. Sonic Bloom offers a variety of workshops throughout the day that covers a wide range of incredibly unique subjects. Check out the workshop schedule before the festival and find one that interests you or check out the schedule during your downtime. You’ll learn something new and take your mind off the glaring sun for an hour or two.
Pro tip: It’s easy to become distracted by the other activities during the day and miss all the workshops. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you when it’s time to head that way.
Leave the Pipe at Home — Well, Glass Pipes at Least
Absolutely no glass of any kind is allowed. Hummingbird Ranch is a working cattle ranch and shards of broken glass are a major risk to the animals after attendees leave the site. This includes smoking accessories and beer or wine bottles. However, that doesn’t mean you have to leave the herb at home. Cannabis isn’t completely prohibited. According to the Sonic Bloom website: “Those 21 and older may possess a limited amount of marijuana legally in Colorado. The law prohibits consumption in a “public place.” Current legal interpretation is that the area inside the venue is a “public place,” but, your campsite is not.
Pro tip: Opt for rolling papers or silicone pieces. They take up minimal space and are a simple solution to the glass ban.
Don’t Be That Guy
Not everyone plans on raging all night at the campsite. The current Sonic Bloom rules state, “all amplified sound systems in the campground must be turned off between 12 a.m. and 10 a.m.” That doesn’t mean lights out at midnight — just be a respectful neighbor and keep the noise to a minimum during these times.
Part of being a good neighbor includes cleaning up your trash, keeping the noise to a minimum and respecting your neighbor’s personal space. This applies to both the campsite and venue. Be aware of your surroundings and take in to account how those around you are feeling. Emotions are easily stirred in difficult conditions. Mix hot afternoons with lack of sleep and remove our everyday creature comforts and you have a recipe for conflict. Take a moment to collect your thoughts before lashing out at your friends and those around you. You don’t want to be “that guy or girl.”
Pro tip: The Hummingbird Stage has plenty of open hammocks or places to hang your own during the afternoon. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or need a moment to collect your thoughts, head over to this stage and relax in the shade for a bit to avoid a complete meltdown.
Be That Guy
The guy or gal that make’s someone’s day — that is. Sonic Bloom has a strong gifting culture. A neighbor may bring over a breakfast burrito or a passerby may offer you a handmade craft. While nothing is expected in return, it’s a nice gesture to have something to exchange or give out yourself. Nothing brightens someone’s day more than an unexpected gift. There’s a good chance you’ll forget something and need to ask your neighbors for help, and what better way to do so than with a gift in hand.
Pro tip: Gifts don’t have to cost a fortune. A piece of candy or decorated lighter are two easy and cost-friendly ways to gift.
If you’re coming from out of town, be cautious of the change in elevation. Lotion bottle and other liquids can expand and spill out into your suitcase. If you squeeze out the air in the tube before sealing it, the bottle is less likely to explode. Double bag your liquids and keep them in a separate area as an extra precaution.
Shade structures are perfect for the campgrounds, but a form of sun protection is needed while walking around. The majority of the campgrounds are uncovered. A wide-brimmed hat or umbrella can make all the difference. While sunscreen is always helpful in protecting the skin, a form of shade can help cool your body down and prevent heat stroke. Make sure to hydrate in addition to your sun protection method.
Being close to the mountains brings all sorts of weather to the festival grounds. Prepare for smolderingly hot days. The sun is magnified due to the elevation. Don’t let the warm days fool you — the nights are just as chilly. Summer showers aren’t uncommon either. Play it safe and bring an outfit for both extremes.
Pro tip: Pashminas are great for shade during the day and warmth at night. They are lightweight and easy to keep track of. Check out the vendors on the first day if you don’t have one, there should be plenty of options to choose from.
If you get separated from your friends — don’t freak out. You’re surrounded by a family of people who are just as welcoming and fun as your crew. Don’t be afraid to get lost for a bit! Remember that everyone is here to enjoy the music, workshops and community vibes — so make the most of your weekend. Some of the best memories made are the ones unplanned.
Pro tip: Set a time and place to meet your crew each day. Meeting at the campsite around dinner is the perfect time to regroup and check-in with everyone.
All photography by Jeremy Stephen. To purchase tickets to the 2018 Sonic Bloom Festival, click here.