Summer of 1969. Over half a million music fans flock to Bethel, NY to listen to now legendary artists like Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and The Grateful Dead. Did they know that the event they were attending, Woodstock, would be a historic event? Did they know that those 3 days would have such an impact on the future and they would define a music culture? Did they know that they would be inspiring a future generation to discover themselves through the power of music?
The Festifull Summer is a story about a group of young 20-somethings, fresh out of college in that painful, yet beautiful, life season between youth and adulthood. The group embarks on a two and a half month long journey during the summer of 2011 to see 11 of the nation's biggest music festivals. Lollapalooza in Chicago, Wakarusa in AR and Burning Man in NV: All on their agenda. They pile in their 1973 Greyhound bus and set out to "capture our generation's infatuation with music festivals," as Dustin Elm, co-creator and producer of The Festifull Summer put it. Through struggles both on the road and off the road, this film offers an intimate look into young people today and their longing to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We see through their eyes how music festivals are becoming a rite of passage in the emotional and spiritual, soul-searching journey which transitions into adulthood and discovers the meaning in life.
I'm 34 years old and I love music. My most musically formative years, like most, were my teen years. In the 90's, at the age of 16/17, my earbuds were filled with Britney Spears and NSync. (Insert fan-girl emoji here.) As I headed off to college in '99, I found my musical palette in the likes of Ben Folds Five, The Flaming Lips and Wilco. Of course, my mother also inspired a love for great music in my life as a child. Thanks to Mom, I was introduced to bands like The Eagles and The Doobie Brothers. I have vivid memories riding along in my mom's old primer-colored Datsun, windows down, pretending to sleep, passenger seat laid back and my mom singing every word to "Peaceful Easy Feeling" by the Eagles. The memory is so clear and so comforting to me that every Eagles song still gives me that wind in my hair, peaceful and easy feeling. As if I were still in that moment.
I like to think I was lucky to live in the musical era that I did. I mean, don't get me wrong, there were a few rough patches. Remember grunge? Yikes! Luckily, we grew past that. This film though, made me realize how in the middle I am when it comes to experiencing music. I love, LOVE concerts and festivals, don't get me wrong. The idea of cut-off shorts and a fringe top, flowers in my hair, camping out for days with no showers, just love, peace and connecting with my soul through music is a romantic notion to me. But I'm not young anymore. While I can still picture myself in Cali, setting up camp at Coachella with my friends and abandoning real life for a few days, reality does set in. I think, "Hold on, I've only have 10 vacation days for the year and I need those for doing more activities that are sleep-related."
Basically, I'm too young to be a hippie and I'm too old to be a hippie. But as I scroll through my Instagram feed to find some of my younger acquaintances at Austin City Limits and Bonnaroo, I can't help but feel like I missed out on this new coming-of-age ritual.
The Festifull Summer, set to a fantastic soundtrack including Delta Spirit, Miike Snow, Sleigh Bells and Phish, highlights the power that music has on our lives and the meaning it takes on as we transition into different stages of life. No matter what musical "era" you're from, you will relate to these young people. Why? Because regardless of age, we all "find ourselves" in some way or another through music. Maybe you can't quit your job and tour every music festival on a spiritual journey (I know I can't) but no matter who you are or where you are, every one of us has experienced a connection between a song and our soul. Every one of us has a soundtrack...those bands, those songs that define us. We all have those songs, like "Peaceful Easy Feeling" that can take us back to a moment, in such a vivid way, like nothing else can. And in some way, music is a rite of passage for all of us. Whether you found yourself by touring the countries' music festivals or recording songs off the radio on your tape-player/jam-box (shout out), our lives and souls are pieced together by music.
"Music is a weird thing. I mean, it's very powerful. You hear a song and your life and the song...intertwine. And you give this song more power than it could ever have if it just came from me." - Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips.
The Festifull Summer contains some content that may not be suitable for young children: brief nudity, sexual references and drug references/drug use. The Festifull Summer runs 94 minutes and will be shown Saturday, February 20 at 6 p.m. as part of Thin Line Film Festival. To purchase tickets at the online box office, click here.