The inaugural Cascade Equinox festival, curated by Pretty Lights, debuted this September 21-22, 2023. The festival embarked in Redmond, Central Oregon at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds. In addition to Pretty Lights, the fest pulled off a killer slate of artists from top to bottom. We were lucky enough to attend the festival put together in partnership with Gem & Jam and 4 Peaks.
Initially, from entering the festival, we were impressed with Cascade Equinox‘s production and setup. The ambiance of the festival was also something unique—a jam band meets deep dub party. There were all ages, from kids to older folks. Everybody seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves with all the unique things the festival offered.
Let’s get right to it: the music
One of the things that stood out was the connection that Pretty Lights fans have to the music. There were so many teary eyes in the crowd as the Pretty Lights set played, and it was clear how meaningful the moment was. It was a captivating thing to witness and felt almost spiritual as the weekend coincided with lunar events. It was one of the weekends that truly reminded us what all of this is about, the love that we all have for music.
We left feeling so refreshed because when a festival checks its boxes of organization and safety, attendees can just focus on having a good time and enjoying the music, which is exactly how it should be. It was beautiful to see stress-free people dance and let the music take them over. The set was truly a gorgeous sonic journey with a distinct beginning, middle, and end.
Aside from the musical content, the volume of equipment they brought out for the Pretty Lights set was incredible. We watched so much live mixing, which was unlike any other festival set we’ve ever seen. We were honored to witness such a beautiful moment for both Pretty Lights (and his fans) as he played his first festival set in almost 6 years.
It was clear that the more family-friendly sets were during the day, and there was a shift to heavier music as it got later into the night. It felt like a small detail, but significant to ensure the event safely remained family-friendly. For example, people got down to Moontricks during the day, but the crowd was a little older for the nighttime An-ten-nae set.
The lineup had been put together with so much thought and consideration. From extraordinary acts such as Emancipator to Dirtwire, the music was amazing through and through. There was fun variety in the genres as well.
Art + decor
For a relatively small festival, the thought that was put into the decorations was remarkable and memorable to see come to life. There were tons of flow artists in the back, with live painters painting murals, a Ferris wheel, and a hammock area in the main Equinox stage area. There were also art installations throughout the back of the crowd.
The level of thought and detail that went into the decorations throughout the festival was reminiscent of Oregon Country Fair. It felt like more than just a music festival; it was an interactive arts and community-centered gathering as well. Because this festival took place on a county fairground, one of the barns that we assume typically holds livestock was transformed into a stage (where Of the Trees threw down BTW).
The barn-turned-stage had a cool laser set up and lasers coming down from the ceiling throughout the entire barn. It felt like walking into an alternate world and was a cool addition for a temporary concert venue. It did not feel temporary at all. One other set that performed at that stage was Maddy O’Neal, who has recently had releases on Wakaan. She played some trap, which contrasted nicely with the other sets.
Another barn, however, was essentially transformed into a live painting art gallery/cozy area/sanctuary area of sorts. Exploring this was one of our favorite moments of the entire weekend, there were tons of live painters in there, couches, and people meditating. The smell of incense was so grounding. It was the perfect space to decompress for a second if needed.
Food + drinks
There were impressive drinks and food provided, (even beer and wine tasting!). In addition to this, there were no long lines for any refreshments or merch. If there was a line, it moved quickly. Tons of vendors sold all sorts of things from jewelry to clothing, located conveniently within the center of the three bigger stages.
Venue + layout
In terms of layout, the Deschutes County Fairground made the perfect venue for this event. There were ample port-a-potties (with minimal/no line) located near the Equinox stage, and close to other stages as well. Notably, there were six stages, but no sound bleed between any of them. The smaller venue allowed for a shorter walk from camp into the festival, which was nice as well.
It was a stunning venue, and the weather was definitely ideal. It was comfortable: people wore coats, and it wasn’t freezing but it also wasn’t hot. The moderate temperature was a blessing compared to brutal heat at summer Gorge festivals. In addition to this, there was an intimate feel that can be harder to achieve in a larger festival setting. Unfortunately this year it was slightly smokey, but nobody seemed to mind, and it didn’t take away from the energy at all. Getting in and out of the festival was a breeze as well.
Everyone who worked at the festival, from security to vendors, was kind and informative. The Pretty Lights merchandise was also stocked the whole weekend, which must not have been an easy feat.
Pretty Lights fans turned out for a good weekend. Many people brought their wagons and inflatable couches in and hung out inside the festival all day.
The event drew a fun crowd, with many creative totems and their best festival garb. Folks looked funky fresh to say the least—we absolutely loved it.
Many totems that we saw were interactive as well, like a large balloon tied to a stick. There were so many unexpected and funny things that occurred in the crowds, for example, an acrobatic flash mob in the pit at Dirtwire. At one point during the legendary Pretty Lights set, we saw someone sitting on someone’s shoulders, sitting on someone else’s shoulders.
Final thoughts: we’ll definitely be back
Overall, we were so impressed with the overall experience and had a truly magical weekend. We look forward to returning next year! We will be reliving the buzz of the weekend and the Pretty Lights set for months to come. It was so special to see an interactive festival come to life so seamlessly, and we left with our hearts feeling full.
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