Where is Northern Nights? What is Northern Nights? Who goes to northern nights? These are the questions I sceptically asked myself when I was first invited to go to the festival. Once a year in the middle of the Redwood Forest in Humboldt County comes one of the best music festivals that is not yet on everyone’s radar. Northern Nights is a festival that not only offers great music, vibes, scenery and people but also comes with activities and amenities that allow for an interesting yet comfortable time. This is a place where one can forget their day-to-day life, let go of reality, and enjoy three marvellous days.
Northern Nights is in the Redwood forest in Humboldt County, specifically in Cooks Valley. Accessed only by car, Northern Night offers cars sharing incentives for festival goers. The grounds allow camping on their serene land and have a peaceful slow moving river running through the property. All day people can be found sitting in the river with floaties escaping the sweltering heat, while listening to some of the jams from the beach stage.
They had two stages when I was there, one was a main stage where the artists played during both day and night. The other was on the beach where music can be heard while hanging out in the river. At night the main stage sets up for the headliners when swarms of campers come to watch some spectacular light shows from not only the stage but from surrounding people. At midnight the smaller of the stages turns into one of the best silent disco’s I have ever experienced, featuring two amazing DJ’s playing B2B with full laser and light production. One thing to remember is that the line is long without a VIP wristband. Also, there is another small caveat about the silent disco, the reason they have it is because there is a noise curfew after midnight, although the lack of music did not seem to get in the way of anyone having a great time all night long.
The campground is situated between the main stage, a common area, and the river. Getting to and from the campsite is very convenient, as it is in the middle of the grounds. Inside the camping area there is a section where festival goers will be able to look at local art, do yoga, listen to comedy, as well as attend workshops. The workshops held a broad spectrum of topics from DIY, Dream Decoding, and other spiritual enlightenment sessions.
There is parking within and outside of the camping grounds so car access very convenient. This allows guests to keep valuables locked up and have access to necessary supplies without carrying everything around with you all the time. It seems that as the festival grows the more the amenities will grow as well. Northern Night allows VIP camping, first-come-first-serve camping, car camping, parking, VIP parking and RV’s into the grounds. Having an RV or being VIP is a nice touch to enjoy a little more luxious experience.
As I went through the grounds looking at all the people, activities, and music, I really got a better understanding of what the Northern Nights Festival is. In a nut shell, it is a place that mixes chill vibes and heady music with a beautiful background.
The music at Northern Nights was the biggest reason I wanted to give it a shot. Some of the artists that have managed to make it through this tiny forest oasis include: Kastle, Polish Ambassador, Odesza, Ruf DU SOL, Zion I, Lane 8, AutoGraf, and Goldlink. I have to give it to the festival organizers, they book music that is something you would find skimming your Soundcloud or Hype Machine. It is similar to what is heard at the smaller stages at Coachella or Wakarusa, it is the music you haven’t quiet heard of but instantly fall in love. Music that has rhythm, chill, deep, and dubbie, music made to set a mood to hangout out in a river or dance your ass off at a silent disco.
Stumbling…er… walking around the festival grounds, fans can start to get an idea of the vibes of all the different people. Everyone from city dwellers to locals to foreigners coincide in the festival, it is seriously eclectic. It is amazing to witness people of all types bond together as they move around within the campsite. One experience that stands out is when I was walking down the path, and I randomly met some guy who gave me a tarot card reading just for the heck of it. It was one of the craziest things I have experienced. The openness and friendliness of the event staff was amazing, everyone was willing to help or be nice and even go out of their way if necessary.
As much fun as it is to dream about all the fun I had in la la land there are logistics that help make an experience like this happen. A 3 day pass is $195 and VIP is $279. The main difference between the two passes are the different amenities that are unlocked. With the extra $84 dollars for VIP the ticket offers a: VIP viewing deck, VIP lounge with massage, VIP happy hour, silent disco express lane, parking and swag. In my opinion it does come with enough extras to warrant the extra $84 dollars.
Parking is available both inside the festival as well as out on the road, which still allows for access to the car. Remember a parking pass is an additional $25, but it gets discounted with more people in the vehicle. Carpooling is highly encouraged.
Camping ranges from free to $500 for RV camping. For $150 dollars there is a special reserved site so festival goers do not need to worry about finding a good site as they are not in the free section.
Getting to the festival can be tricky without a car. It would be best to find a ride in another attendee’s car if you don’t have a car, or don’t plan on driving your own vehicle. It is about a three and a half hour drive from San Francisco. There is a Facebook page for this festival (Facebook Ride Share) that would be helpful in finding a ride if finding a ride is the only barrier keeping you from attending.
Make sure to bring plenty of food and water. The Festival has limited food available, it is not going to be like Coachella or Outside Lands as there are no vendor food trucks or major vendors that offer the same amount of service as these major festivals. Although, the festival is still evolving, so maybe next year! It is best to bring what you want with you, plus it will be cheaper. Another note is that once at the festival it is nestled in the middle of the forest with limited mobility and phone service.
The staff are very nice, helpful and organized. Upon arrival festival security checks your wrist bands and does a slight search before entering the grounds, but it was very relaxed. Onsite there was a fix it guy in case someone locked themselves out of their car or broke something at their campsite. I personally did not use his help but it sure was nice knowing someone could help if needed.
Was it worth it?
Northern Nights is hands down one of my favourite festival experiences. Settled away in Cooks Valley three and a half hours away from San Francisco hides this special festival that is not yet known by the masses, but still seems to produce some of the best music one can find. The fact that it’s a lesser known festival adds tremendously to its charm. It’s much more relaxed and welcoming than many of the bigger festivals (not that those aren’t amazing too…). The artist line up likens to searching Soundcloud for hours, while hailing from all parts of the globe. With a range of styles whether it is Beats Antique, Lane 8, Autograf or Zion I, it calls an eclectic crowd that somehow works well together all people accepting of one another and enjoying the same space, music and gorgeous peaceful venue. People are friendly whether they are festivialites or staffers. One of the biggest perks is when romping around the grounds is being able to cool off in a river surrounded by redwood trees and the fresh warm mountain air, while listening to some reggaeton remixes. I have not been to many festivals that offer this luxury, let alone many places at all.
The best part of Northern Nights is that this isn’t simply a music festival. Yes, the music is off the charts, but with other offerings round out the weekend leaving your mind, body and soul rejuvenated and exhilarated all at once. The yoga offerings and range of workshops include something that will appeal to everyone and enhance an already spectacular line up. It’s not a typical, ‘listen to music and drink beer all day’ festival, which is refreshing. Northern Nights Festival is truly a special place, allowing people from different backgrounds to come together for the sake of some good vibes, nice scenery, good music and awesome people. I hope that more people get to experience this wonderland…but secretly wish that it will stay unknown to masses. The experience is one of its own kind and that’s what makes it truly remarkable. The music, the people, the grounds, and the activities all come together to build a new memory is unlikely to be forgotten in this lifetime.