Interview With Euphoria Music And Camping Festival Founder

After finding a gap in the Austin electronic music scene, Mitch Morales, founder of Euphoria Music and Camping Festival, decided to fill it with a festival. After selling his company, Morales spent the summer of 2011 exploring the festival scene and attending Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Forest and Outside Lands.

Morales met up with some people wanting to put together an Austin festival and Euphoria was born. For Morales, the name Euphoria conjures up an image of the “ethereal type of wonderland” he strives to create.

Euphoria started just two years ago as a one-day event at the racetrack in Kyle, Texas. Year two brought an additional day and a new location at the White Water Amphitheater in New Braunfels. In it’s third year, Euphoria made moves again, this time coming home to Austin at Carson Creek Ranch. Why all the moves? While the racetrack had some basic infrastructure like fencing in place, the Whitewater Amphitheater offered the Euphoria team “a festival in a box”, as Morales called it.

“We just did the marketing and the talent and the venue did a lot of the other stuff, like security and the bar. At the same time though, a lot of the festival feel disappeared.” With two stages and a silent disco, spatial limitations became more apparent as well. “[Whitewater] is used to having a 6,000 person crowd, but it’s all packed up to one stage versus being spread out. It really didn’t have the space for us, so that’s why we’re super excited to move to Carson Creek Ranch, which is 10 minutes away from downtown Austin, set off the banks of the Colorado River. If you look right past the main stage, you’ll be able to see the downtown Austin skyline. It has room for us to grow.”

Morales says they hope to call Carson Creek home for at least the next three years. “This year we’re expecting [between] 5,000 to 8,000 people, but the venue has room to grow into 20,000, maybe more. It’s really cool because when you’re driving out there you’re wondering if you’re going the right direction. It’s just all farmland, and there’s a rock quarry right next to it. Once you get on the grounds, it just opens up to trees and water.”

Moving the festival into Austin comes with additional benefits as well. “We actually really loved the location last year, but it just doesn’t have that cache that Austin does, especially on a national level.” Perhaps one of the most exciting changes to Euphoria this year is the ability for fans to participate in on-site camping. “We’re excited about the challenges and opportunities of having camping connected to the venue. Literally being able to wake up, go hang out in the campground lounge until the festival opens at 12 p.m., and then walking a minute maximum out into the festival – it’s huge for us. And that’s also just something Texas doesn’t do really.”

“One of the things I really fell in love with about festivals and especially camping festivals is that starting Saturday morning, it’s like you’re in a different world and it’s kind of like you’ve completely forgotten about everything else. You’re phone is probably dead by that point, so you have no connection to the outside world – the only people that matter in this moment are the people right around me. It’s really unique, especially now because I’m as guilty as anybody, I’m always, always, always connected. Always on my email, always checking texts, half the time I’m on a phone call, and I think a lot of people’s jobs are like that in some manner. So the escape is, more than anything, from the real world.”

Campers will enjoy unofficial late night music, as well as daytime activities. “We’re planning activities for campers from 10 p.m. on. We’re making this campground lounge with some tents for food and beverage, morning yoga, workshops, and some music as people are waking up.”

“Workshops will range from production, actually using one of our stages and some cameras, to showing aspiring DJs and producers tricks of the trade, to sustainability workshops like health, diet, and recycling. It’s unique in that we have a ton of young people all in the same area, and maybe their background is that they’re from Austin or maybe they’re from some really small town in Texas where they don’t have exposure to some modern ways of thinking. I’m not trying to necessarily change the world, but I think we can make it a better place just by exposing some of these young adults to new ways of thinking. Dance music is definitely more global-centric and I think a lot of the things we’re trying to do are addressing some of those sustainable global issues.”

The lineup for this year’s festival includes all electronic acts, but is evenly split between DJs and live performances. “This year it’s much more calculated. Like with the DJ versus live thing, we brought in some additional partners that have curated that live side a little bit more. That’s really what we’re trying to do is create a dance festival, it’s basically music that makes you move… I think diversification is definitely a necessity as quickly as tastes change, and I just think it’s something that wasn’t really represented in Austin and Central Texas.”

Euphoria offers contests for both DJs and producers to win an opportunity to play at the festival and/or receive a full EP or track release on Audiophile Live Records. The contest has created a platform that allows the Euphoria team to discover otherwise unknown talent by encouraging aspiring artists in need of a live audience to submit their work. For live acts that do not have the money and/or equipment to submit a recording, Euphoria has hosted shows in Central Texas for regional talent to compete for a slot on the lineup as well.

Morales and his team are setting the program in such a way that the music will be “a journey throughout the night” and encourage flow between the festival grounds’ three stages. Each stage will be a unique experience, with video projections, lights and lasers, or a natural environment. “My favorite area, even though it’s kind of the smallest, is the natural amphitheater stage, coming up from the river. You have the river and all these trees in the background, and I think that is going to create some really good pictures.”

Morales expects one of the weekend’s highlights to be a performance by MitiS, who combines his classical piano training with DJ elements to create an “interactive and kind of malleable performance. You never know what he’s going to do, he could just go off on a piano solo.”

Art will be a very prominent component of the festival, with interactive installations and plenty of live painters. “It’s so hard to recapture those feelings that you had in the crowd, but when you walk away with a painting you see what [the artist] was thinking and feeling so you get a resonance of the music. I think it’s interesting and I’m definitely a fan,” says Morales. Hoping to avoid a “reverb twilight zone”, the art area will feature live music handpicked to enhance the experience.

Looking into the future, Morales hopes that within a few years the festival will be in a position to add an additional day of music and eventually maybe even take the festival on the road. “We want to diversify, but we don’t want to make it about one artist, we want to make it about one particular thing – it’s an experience, it’s hopefully not just a music festival but a festival in general.”

“This is totally from nothing, it’s just people who are passionate about music. We don’t have any ulterior motives. To be honest, we’re not even really trying to make money, we’re just really passionate – we love music and love festivals and are trying to do our best to create a good one… I feel like we more than almost anybody else out there, via our volunteer programs, vendors, performers, and contests, I feel like we give people more opportunity than most to be able to build the experience as well. And I feel like that’s important.”

“The over saturation of the festival market is such that it’s just about the biggest corporate sponsors and lack of experience – it’s what you give up. I’m not trying to rant against big corporations or something like that, it’s just that you lose that feel, and if there’s not people like us, not that we’re special or anything, who continue to go out there and put themselves on the line and try to create these experiences, then we’re going to lose them. You’re going to see them getting more and more cookie cutter, because people that have the money to invest will want the big artists.”

“I think it’s important for the people that do like these experiences to support them in any way they can. Maybe you can’t go, but you have friends that would want to go and making sure they know about it. This is something that’s going to grow into something cool and everybody wants to be part of something that’s on the ground level.” Morales says Euphoria fans will annoy their friends by comparing the festival’s growth year after year and reminiscing about all the great memories from the early years. “I just think that’s going to be a cool story for people to be a part of something that’s growing, hopefully into something really cool over the next years in Austin. I would want to be a part of it!”

Tickets to Euphoria Music and Camping Festival are now sale! Purchase passes starting at $99 here.

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By Katy Gelhausen
Courtesy of FestHead

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