(There was the infamous Motorcycle Round Up, and annual Cumberland event, in between the Filberg Festival and Atmosphere Gathering, but, alas, I was at my job as fill in host for Music Bingo the first day, and then we went to Victoria for a wedding, so I missed the whole thing and can’t write about it.)
Atmosphere Gathering is a super popular dance music festival produced by Cumberland Village Works, and Little Island Productions, that happens right in Cumberland Village Park. I don’t know how Cumberland has such a huge park, but it’s big enough to have this festival for thousands and people can even camp there, which is good because the village doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of visitor accommodations. (Our house had a revolving door of guests during the festival, and Roz and Trond even had to billet in our yard for one day, for all our rooms were filled). It once was a one stage, one day event, called the “Big Time Out”, but evolved into a multi-day, multi-stage, multi-chill rave festival over the course of only a few years. It’s got a really nice vibe and a huge volunteer force, lots of local sponsors, super committed producers, engaged entertainment, and it all culminates into a really special weekend.
Step and I were both lucky to get very good volunteering opportunities for Atmosphere Gathering. Step got a techie gig doing lights on the main stage and I was on the decorating team for the stage in the circus tent. I met so many great people, and also got to employ my skills as an artist. This 1000 person big top tent is the real McCoy, imported from Italy by Project InTent, who bought this incredibly expensive venue partially by backing it with their own money and getting the rest through crowd sourcing. The intent of the tent is to provide a venue for projects that build community and enhance our connection to nature. Katreena, who I worked under (which, I might add, was a enriching experience for she has a beautiful soul), was a major force in the Project InTent endeavour and she was in charge of the set decoration on its stage for the festival.
Katreena’s vision was to make an enchanted, sort of evil garden, and in pursuit of that we constructed two giant mushrooms out of wood, wire, fabric and spray foam. This happened over the course of several weeks and we did it in a vacant lot across from the Waverly that is adjacent to Cumberland Village Works. CVW also worked outside in the yard, so I got to see what goes into the making of such an event (an enormous amount of work, it turns out). I also cut out loads of chloroplast with a jigsaw and drew a diagram of the set. I love doing jobs like that!
It wasn’t just us by a long shot. I couldn’t even keep track of how many dedicated volunteers were involved in making the stage, and a lot of it happened at different sites and that was just one stage! I was kind of worried it might look cheesy, but it turned out with image mapping and creative lighting it looked magical and inspired.
The other stage, the Main Stage, was made into a giant bird with eyes that lit up and wings that provided a shade structure for dancers. There was also a little forest stage for more chill offerings like workshops, yoga, and dancing, and a big teepee to go sit in when you needed to de-stimulate, plus all kinds of hammocks and special spots to just hang out, and of course, the Festival Market Place where you can shop for some hippie clothes, or just get a glass of the best Kombucha you could ever imagine, courtesy of Harmonic Arts Botanical Dipsensary.
I’m not really into music festivals themselves (although I thrive working on projects) but I have to admit I had more fun at this one than any other I’ve attended. I particularly enjoyed Vaudeville Vagabonds, who had a cast of dozens including rope dancers, fire spinner and contortionist, and who attempted to settle once and for all the question of “Romanian Werewolf vs. Mexican Wrestler: who will prevail?” What can I say? I love camp. The other music was really good, too, but somehow I enjoyed that the most.
People who are into music festivals and go to a lot of them tell me Atmosphere Gathering is a special bird with a unique loving vibe, and I can only ascribe that to the recipe of the spirit people who make it and the power of their will. It really is a huge contribution to what makes the Cumberland Community so special.
Bonus photo: Heather Looks a Lot Like Alfred E. Neuman!