The first thing you see when visiting the website for the Beloved Festival isn't a poster loaded with band names, but a monkey wearing a crown of flowers. Scroll down further, and you'll find the monkey is seated atop a giant owl, surrounded by bees, purple flowers, butterflies and floating tiger and coyote heads. The aesthetic is less outdoor summer music festival than store that sells healing crystals, dreadlock butter and books about natural mudpit births.
It's eye-grabbing, for sure, but also stigmatizing. And founder Elliot Rasenick wouldn't disagree. After 10 years of organizing his "sacred music festival" in Oregon's coastal woods, he's aware of how it looks from the outside. Unless you're already about that earth-mama life, it's easy to look at the advertising for Beloved and dismiss it as a glorified yoga retreat.
But if you look beyond the intuitive painting workshops and lectures on "the energetics of the feminine cycle," Rasenick believes the festival is just as appealing to hardcore music fans as amateur yogis. In fact, he calls Beloved "a little sister to Pickathon," another festival that suffered from a hippie-dippy stigma for its first decade.
So what is Beloved, really? WW went to Rasenick for answers to our most frequently asked questions.
So this is a hippie thing, right?
Elliot Rasenick: My sense is the community is more diverse than you might think. I know the idea of Beloved is that it's just a New Age hippie festival, and that's the idea that's held by a lot of people, and I really don't think that's the only thing Beloved is.
What is it, then?
We call it a sacred music festival. What I mean by "sacred music" is music that reminds us that we are connected. One of the universal experiences most of us share is that at some point, we have had some moment at a show, on a dance floor, where we just felt totally connected to everyone around us. And it's that moment that the festival is really celebrating and trying to preserve for an entire weekend.
So it's like Coachella, but not?
One of the fundamental differences is that there is one stage. At a normal music festival, the model is that you're constantly feeling like there's something you're missing. The idea of Beloved is, if we're going to put all this effort into being together, let's all be together at a single stage.
It says the location is in "Tidewater Falls." Is that a real place?
It's about 15 miles inland from the coast. When the wind is right you actually smell the sea. It's in this gorgeous coastal forest, up on the top of this hill. It has this feeling of perfect safety. There's no roads nearby. When we're there, it feels like we're alone in the universe.
What kind of artists are playing?
Las Cafeteras is this unbelievable [group]. They're all either first-generation or second-generation immigrants from Mexico, and they have this unbelievable story. For me, talking about border imperialism feels really important, and that's a lot of their conversations. In that same realm, Rahim AlHaj is this incredible master oudist. He was a political prisoner of Saddam Hussein for a long time. He was eventually granted refugee status here in the states, and his story is another one I'm really excited to tell—to talk about what it meant for him to have no home and then be granted refugee status.
That's great, but what if I want to dance?
Another act I'm super excited about is Fémina, this amazing Argentinian three-sister act that's sort of their own little take on the new underground cumbia that's emerging in Latin America. Another long sought-after act for me is Khun Narin. These guys have taken this traditional Thai instrument called the phin, which is like this wild, wooden lute, and put a pickup in it. They do these all-night, psychedelic Thai-funk parties in the forests of Thailand. They're just incredible, and I'm super excited to host them.
There are artists grouped under "Heart of Devotion" on the lineup. Is that, like, the relig-y part of "sacred music festival?"
A lot of the Heart of Devotion artists are presenting old traditional devotional music from around the world. A lot of it is this genre of music called Kirtan, it's a call-and-response tradition from India. And, of course, the other music you might think of as more traditionally occupying the sacred music space is gospel music, and I'm really enthusiastic that we have Arietta Ward at the festival. You would think of Beloved as a space that might be afraid of gospel music, but I'm excited we have a moment where we say, "We've invited all the Hindu gods to be here, we've invited the Sufi notion of the Beloved to be here and we've also invited Jesus to be here."
What is "sound healing"? I see that on the lineup, too.
Most of the sound healing takes place in this other really special part of the festival, in a yurt between these three giant trees near a little bubbling brook. Most of our sound-healing artists are using really old instruments that have been part of different ceremonies, from different traditions, for millions of years. Most of them have traveled to the places where these traditions and instruments come from, and worked with teachers and received permission to use these old sounds that have been used in healing traditions for a long time.
And I'm gonna take a wild guess that there's yoga, too?
I think one of the most stunning places in the world to practice yoga is our yoga pavilion. It's in a small clearing in the middle of this gorgeous forest. We have this stunning cathedral of a pavilion, and we've worked with each individual yoga teacher to curate music that fits their particular class.
One thing I'm really excited about, having been engaged in these last two years, is really talking about justice and oppression, partly through the lens of dismantling patriarchy and creating a culture of consent. At any music festival, it's such a provocative environment. There's very little clothing, it's highly sexually charged. So inside that environment, we've been having a very serious conversation about, "What is consent"? We have a 24-hour hosted space that we call our "care tent," and in that space, anyone can come and have a conversation about the nature of consent or some ways they may have experienced harm, or some ways they're trying to understand how to avoid experiencing harm—how to unravel the patterns of manipulation that those of us who have continuous access to male privilege have to work to not act out those manipulative patterns. And in the middle of the day Saturday, we have a break in the music and a real conversation about oppression and injustice.
So you really don't think this is a hippie festival?
I really [don't]. Especially the work we're doing to have a serious conversation about oppression and justice takes us out of that. I think the story about what love is, and the sense that we're making an effort to confront real issues, demonstrates that we're not trying to live in a fantasy world. We're trying to stay here and be present here.
SEE IT: Beloved Festival is at Tidewater Falls, 12154 E Alsea Hwy, Tidewater, Oregon, from Friday-Monday, Aug. 11-14. See belovedfestival.com for tickets and complete schedule.