Evolve is a place where one can expect to find all kinds of people, all walks of life and tastes in music. When I arrived in Halifax for the first time, this festival was a topic that nearly everyone I met had an opinion on and a story to share. The word ‘Evolve‘ was uttered with reverence and love. There is no other event I have witnessed since my arrival here that has imbued that kind of response.
“This is the best Evolve yet!” I heard these words repeated over the course of the weekend and many times after. All manner of wildlife shouted this mantra into the blazing sun. From the fairies with glittering wings emerging from the trees, to the cats, foxes and demons that covered the hill. There was no way to prepare for the absolute joy, silliness and showmanship of the concert-goers. As if an invisible barrier was surrounding the site, people weaving onto the grounds transformed into beacons of excitement, radiating love and vibrant smiles.
When asked what their favourite part of Evolve was, the most common answers were, “It’s a break from reality,” and, “There is something for everyone.” These statements could not be more apt. A huge variety of music, performers, art and spaces were available to sate the appetites of those hungry for entertainment and community.
Colors and shapes blocked out the sun at Synergy Stage, where an impressive combination of artistic ingenuity and practicality provided both shade for the audience, and a stunning visual display that could be seen from every corner of the festival. Jonah Haché provided elaborate projection mapping at the main stage where confetti and streamers rained from the sky, while Nick Iwasko lit up Igloo stage with eye-catching patterns and platonic solids. Aerialists MizzBecks and Dislocait wove in and out of silks in perfect harmony to the musicians they accompanied, adding a surreal and mystical aspect to the experience. Industribe and The Jugglin Bubblers captured the hearts and attention of awe struck patrons throughout the day and into the night, moving both air and fire to their wills.
A highly diverse line-up gave the masses their pick of genre; moving from stage to stage, one could expect to hear heavy hitting trap beats like Keys n’ Krates, exciting and danceable synth-pop/R&B like Elephants in Trouble, high energy regge/dub like Dub Kartel, and engaging folk music from Earthbound Trio. This list is inexhaustible.
Gray Rowan from Toronto-based The Wayo, a band whose emotionally charged lyrics and soulful R&B melodies serenaded the main stage said, “I think that it’s not even primarily a music festival really, it feels more like a ritual for people. Something that they do every summer.” Mike Fong, the guitarist of the group, notes that, “It’s always fun playing the main stage in the sun … I like when there are other bands that we like.”
With every festival, there are always people of all ages and walks of life who choose to get intoxicated. These activities always come with risks, but this year Jonas Colter, chief organiser of Evolve, attempted to up the ante in regards to harm reduction and awareness. On top of the already present medical staff, RCMP, security, emergency response workers, and the Teahive, three new spaces imagined by Willow Davidson were created on site under the name Vibewise. These spaces provided shade, water, sunscreen, art supplies, advice, yoga, staff to find you aid if necessary and festival awareness guides that covered everything from keeping a green campsite, to how to stay safe when you or someone you know is under the influence. These three spaces were intended to provide drug testing kits where staff could take a sample of unknown substances and let the holder know what it was primarily made of. When the insurance for Evolve was pulled, so were the kits. Although providing these kits is an acknowledgement to the fact there are illegal substances on site, it is a brave step in the right direction. The kits themselves do nothing to promote drug use, but rather hope to discourage it. Knowledge is a powerful tool; knowing what is in a substance would have aided people in making more informed decisions. Though this is a progressive project, Evolve is not the first festival to choose this path and certainly won’t be the last. Perhaps the presence of drug testing kits at Evolve wouldn’t have helped anything, but they certainly would not have harmed anyone.
Being there feels like being part of something bigger. Hive Mind. Critical Mass. Collective Consciousness (or unconsciousness). A cult of open arms, five thousand strong. The concentrated energy filled me with waves of conflicting anxiety and excitement. All the neatly packaged boxes that I keep my soul tethered in were torn open by the clawing creatures who gather there. And suddenly, I was one of them. The freeness, the fluidity and the undemanding environment filled me in a way I wont soon forget. Through the four days and nights, filled with twinkling lights, incredible acts and fancy dancers I saw a wildness that can only be experienced outside of conventional civilization. Guards were down, stoke was high and I am already anticipating next years gathering of kindred souls.
This was the best Evolve yet.
For more photos check out kelscass photography.