The end of the world/”the shift”/end of the Mayan calendar was the most reported on subject in the New Age news of 2012. Everyonehad an opinion on what 12/21/12 would bring, or not bring, but for 1500 lucky fans of The Disco Biscuits, Sound Tribe Sector 9, and Umphreys McGee, the end of time brought one hell of a party. Back for an encore Mayan Holidaze 2012 round two, Cloud 9 set us up at Dreams Resort and Spa in Tulum, Mexico, a city in the center of Mayan action this year, and also 1700 years ago when the Mayans were still ragin’ tough. Instead of enviously checking out Facebook pictures from the event, this Sparkleberry was blessed enough to hit the beach with the Biscuits and her lover. Below is a recap of Justin and Christina’s experience, a humble first hand account. Thanks for reading, and we wish you many blessings in this new cycle of life!
Traveling around Tulum
We arrived in Mexico 3 days early, planning to stay at a friend’s rental house by the resort, but by the time we got to Mexico we hadn’t heard from said friend. Unphased, thanks to Justin’s uncanny abilities to keep a cool head no matter what, we took a cab from Cancun to Tulum and asked the driver to head towards the beach. We pulled over at the first hotel on our path, Papaya Playa Project, and as Justin talked to the clerk about rates, I looked at the breakdown of the hotel’s sustainability efforts on a giant chalkboard in the lobby. This, plus the golden glitter painted into the beach-front bar confirmed for us that we were in the right place.
Having never stayed at an eco-hotel, I was immediately smitten. The hallways were paths through a jungle oasis, and our room was a tikki-hut overlooking pristine Atlantic waters. The bed was surrounded by a mosquito net, and instead of A/C we had the natural ventilation of wind blowing under the straw thatch roof. The porch was already equipped with a hammock and it was a short climb down a rocky cliff to an almost-empty beach. As we settled into our new digs, I felt like I had found the meaning of Paradise.
We ended up staying 3 magically starry nights at Papaya Playa. While there, we raged their 1 year anniversary party on the beach, complete with a Mexican techno DJ and gorgeous foreigners dancing in the sand, and we took a snorkel trip to two near-by cenotes, which are freshwater sinkholes that serve as natural swimming pools for inhabitants of the Yucatan peninsula.
Sad to leave Papaya Playa, but determined to pack more into the adventure, we got up early on Monday the 17th to hit up Chichen Itza in our rental car before we headed into Mayan Holidaze. Since Justin and I are both sober ragers nowadays, getting up early isn’t such a big problem and this proved to be a huge advantage to making the most out of our Mayan vacation. Besides Chichen Itza, we hit up the ruins at Coba during Holidaze, and the ruins on the beach in the old Mayan city that was Tulum before heading to the airport on the 21st.
It was fortuitous to be among the relics of Mayan civilization first-hand during this time of year, and we thank Cloud 9 for galvanizing this adventure. Justin pointed out to me one of the stones at Chichen Itza over which many a sacrifice-worthy man lay and had his heart ripped out, and we climbed the 124 steps of the Nohoch Mul pyramid in Coba and waited for the Gods (or aliens) to descend on us just as a Mayan priest would have done. I saw a lot of cool pictures of gatherings that happened at the pyramids at midnight on the 21st, but we were too busy raging Tribe at that moment, so I’m just grateful we made it to the ruins at all. I must say, I’ve never felt more cultured after a week-long music festival!
Big ups to Clound 9 for bringing a bunch of heads to this special place; I doubt it will be our last visit to Tulum, Mexico. I’d recommend it as a vacation destination with or without the festival, and if you go, hit up Papaya Playa and tell em the Sparkleberries sent ya!
Holidaze: The Resort Experience
Upon arrival to Dreams Tulum, we felt immediately at home seeing many flat-brim’d, wrap-toting homies checking in at the front desk of the luxurious resort. I knew immediately that this would be a far cry from our quiet and relaxing time at Papaya Playa, and as we were shown to our fancy-shmancy room, part of me yearned for the simplicity of our hut on the beach. Even though Justin and I don’t partake in drinking and drugs any more, it’d be hard to find a better place to do it than Mayan Holidaze, where the alcohol is flowing non-stop from the minute you arrive at the all-inclusive resort. After checking in, we were shown to our room as the Biscuits were doing their sound check, giving us a taste of the funkyness that was about to go down. Our room was big and comfortable, with a good view of the ocean. It was almost next to the main-stage, and throughout the weekend we could always hear from our balcony whatever was going on below. We napped to the sounds of Brother’s Past one evening, and when we heard set-break end we were at the stage before Murph had a chance to finish saying “Thank ya’ll so much.” If you are going to book a room at an event like Holidaze, you’ll be glad if you go the extra mile to get a room in a prime location.
As we got acquainted with the resort, the sun started setting and we realized how nice it was to be at a music festival on the beach, and sleeping in a luxurious room with a hot shower instead of in a tent in some super hot field with a chance of rain. Being at an all-inclusive resort rocks anyway, but being there for a festival is kind of like lucid dreaming. The staff, having been broken in for the freak show by Strings and Sol festival the week before, treated us with crazy good hospitality, making sure our every whim was taken care of. You need upwards of 50 bottles of champagne brought to you on the beach until the wee hours of the morning? No problem. Spewed chunks in the hallway on your way to the bathroom during dinner? Clean’d for you, and no quality of service lost. Famished after dancing your ass off in the sand for 6 hours? Buffet is still open! Need your ritual festival bloody mary or mimosa to get you up in the morning/afternoon? Good thing we set up a bloody mary/mimosa bar at the entrance to the breakfast buffet. Don’t want to leave the stage to get a beer cuz Barber is shredding too hard? No sweat, waiters and waitresses are walking around the crowd with trays of beer and cocktails during the shows. Think of everything awesome wrapped up into one, and that’s what being at Mayan Holidaze was like. I did, however, find it odd that there was no night-swimming allowed in the pools or the ocean. I guess there wasn’t enough adult supervision for that.
A few other things, I must point out. I was grateful to have spent the year leading up to Holidaze sober, but I can’t say it was the easiest place to appreciate sobriety. I know that there were at least a few other sober ragers amongst us, and I’m sure we would have all appreciated a meeting time and place being arranged by Cloud 9 and advertised in the festival booklet. Furthermore, it was hard to see what seeds of consciousness were being planted at this auspicious time of the year when everyone was on some level of inebriation almost every waking hour. Not much mention was actually made about the significance of December 21, 2012, nor was the unique situation of this Holidaze festival solemnized in any way that seemed different from Holidaze of the past.
In all fairness, the Cloud 9 group-tour that visited Coba with members of Tribe was taken on a guided tour through the ruins with explanations of their significance, there was a beach yoga class 2 out of the 4 mornings, and even a sweat-lodge one day (cost extra). While it may not have been the most enlightening of experiences if you didn’t take advantage of the location, it was certainly one hell of a party.
Holidaze: The Music
The special environment definitely made for some top-notch music playing. Except for about 20 minutes of questionable jamming coming from the Biscuits during their first set of the weekend, which we can just call their “warm-up”, the performances from the headliners were out-of-control. If the world really were going to end on December 21st, we could have gone out knowing that we heard the best that Biscuits, Umphreys, and Tribe had to offer. Indeed, the “world’s end” spirit seemed to infuse each of their sets, because each band member poured everything they had into each note they played.
Biscuits brought the dark and dirty funk from the abyss of deep outerspace, Umphreys gave us the purest of American rock jam sessions, and Tribe concocted a beautiful galactic potion for a swim through bliss. And we, the fans, danced our mother-fuckin asses off. As much as I watched the stage in awe, I also looked around me at the joyful faces of my fellow fans, and every-time eyes met, gratitude and pure happiness were shared with giant grins.
Both the Biscuits and STS9 brought the heat on the first night and kept it up throughout the weekend. I was super stoked that Justin was seriously digging the Biscuits because he rags on me for my obsession with them. Their second set on night 1 was pretty much a non-stop jam, which is what I always hope for with Biscuits sets, and night 2 was one of those Bisco sets for whose awesomeness no words will suffice. Barber had his hair back and was ready to redeem himself, and the rest of the guys played as awesome as the usually do x10. Brownie is a bass-slapping genius, Magner never fails to spice things up at exactly the right moments, and Allen will forever be the ginger-robot from heaven that makes the Biscuits possible.
Tribe came on after the Biscuits on night 1, a rare segue in festival land. Perhaps a few of us hit the cocktails a little to hard during the day and/or Biscuits literally melted some faces off, but for whatever reasons the crowd thinned out for Tribe, which made for an intimate show with the ocean just steps away.
“I hadn’t seen tribe in a few years and I had kind of lost interest in them after their 2009 new years show which wasn’t the Tribe I knew and loved. I went into it not expecting anything and I was completely blown away. I was happy to hear some of their older songs that locked me into tribe in 2002. They showed a level of professional showmanship that is unparalleled in the jam community. You could tell that they had been practicing and wanted to give us the best they had to offer, and they totally succeeded,” Justin writes.
Truly, I couldn’t stop seeing the Tribe crew as mad scientists on stage, meticulously creating and carefully crafting their compositions. Their Robot Rock cover at the end of their first set on night 1 was one of the most fun dance parties of my life. I was surprised, however, that for their last set, which marked the end of the 13th Baktun of the Mayan calendar, they didn’t prepare anything out of the ordinary musically, nor did they bring any of the stage set-up from their Great Cycle Spectacle Tour.
This review won’t be complete if we forget about the Umphreys boys. I actually did forget about them for my entire festival-going career, having never been captured by this group. However, Justin convinced me to give them a chance, and this Biscuits chick has to confess that she enjoyed Umphreys McGee. It turns out this is also a band of stellar musicians, with a style that is definitely their own. They also had the best light show of all the bands!
Justin also wrote about Umphreys for us: “I have been seeing UM since 2004 and have watched them perfect their mix of funky and wide-ranging musical abilities. I have always appreciated that there is no line in the sand as to what kind of music they will play at a show: they could be playing some super funky music and at the drop of a hat rip into some serious face-melting heavy metal. Umphreys is not for everyone, but as a technical music lover, when I hear music that crosses over genres in a smooth and graceful fashion- I am all about it. This genre-bending is one of Umphrey’s strong points. We did not catch all of their sets at Holidaze, but what we saw from them was awesome. One of the highlights for me was their cover of “Making Flippy Floppy” by the Talking Heads, a great song to which they did justice.”
“Something I would also like to note is that Ryan Staysick, their bass player has seriously stepped up his game. In the past, I thought that their weakest point was Staysick, but I was really impressed with his ability to slappa da bass at Holidaze.” And I’d like to note that their cover of “It’s the End of the World as We Know it” was one of the best sing-a-longs of my life. Anyway, if you’ve been a skeptic of Umphreys until now, I officially give you permission to give them a chance.
The highlights of the daytime sets were a funky 80s throwback DJ set by Brother Murphy, a super-cool combo of _______ from BP and STS9’s David Murphy, an acoustic set by Tom Hamilton which perfectly serenaded our beach-side lounging, and infused the weekend with a much-needed Dead cover and the graceful lullabies of an acoustic guitar. For me, the rest of the supporting acts were lacking in luster for this occasion. I personally find the sounds of Break Science and Up Until Now to be somewhat generic, but swimming in the ocean to Break Science was a cool experience. I honestly didn’t get down to Brothers Past because I was either at dinner or too satisfied from a headliner set, but from the little I heard from them they brought their A-game as well. We also didn’t hit up any late nights because on the first night the music coming from Up Until Now was way too loud for the marble-lined room, and the headliners were pretty much all we needed before a midnight snack at the buffet and a glorious night’s sleep in a comfy ass king-size bed.
During Tribe’s last set on the last night of Holidaze and the pivotal moment of transition into 12/21/12 that we had been hyping up all year, a wave of confusion washed over me. Annabelle Stallings came out on stage a couple of times that night to offer the only words acknowledging the momentous occasion that I had heard all week. She mentioned that this was a great time to embrace change and set our sights on the future and what we wanted to cultivate for the new year. It just seemed incongruous with the excess and over-indulgence on the beach that night, but I hope that overall, 2013 is indeed filled with light and positive changes for our lives. I hope that we find the power to let go of those habits which no longer serve us, and build habits which cultivate our inner wisdom and innate divinity, allowingus to master existence on Earth.
As I was musing over the sobering situation, I looked around and remembered that I was a part of this family and these are my happy, fucked-up, blissed-out people. I hugged my love tight and filled myself with gratitude once more, because there are magical moments around every corner. We had made the most of our time on the Mayan Riviera, and we were charged up for whatever lay ahead. We truly have a beautiful community to support our efforts, and positivity is the name of the game these days.
May more love, light, and conscious awareness spread through our music-loving family and into the world around us, and may events like Holidaze continue to be amazing parties, but also evolve, to be centers of illumination as well. Festival-season 2013 has a lot of potential, but it’s up to us to ground divinity right here on Earth. May the music be awesome and our interactions enlightened!
Here’s to another year of Spreading the Sparkle!!!!!!!!!!
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