The Positive Side of the First Annual Gnarnia Festival

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Review by Manny Comas

Photos by Lori Sky Twohy

Nestled on top of one of the highest peaks of the Blue Ridge, Beech Mountain is the highest community east of the Mississippi and the scenic backdrop for the first annual Gnarnia Music Festival where 1000s of festival goers ascended on the small mountain town August 9th -11th

If one were to go on Facebook and checkout the page for Gnarnia Music Festival, it seems that it will be remembered for the high number of arrests as much as for the truly magical weekend of music and beauty that it was, taking place in one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.

This was not your typical resort. Transformed by beautiful art installations, performances by art troupes, and the colorful and gorgeous attendees themselves, this resort truly felt like the land of Gnarnia, a magical land of fantasy where one could transcend their everyday worries and just bask in the beauty of life.

Gnarnia was THE place to be. Not only was there an incredible musical lineup, like 7 Walkers, Beats Antique and Conspirator, Gnarnia also played host to a weekend of spiritual workshops facilitated by the Tribal Counci.

For those who have been to festivals on the West Coast, such workshops are now common place, but it warmed this writer’s heart to see such light and love emanating from that sanctuary. Anyone that was present for the closing ceremony on Saturday night on top of that mountain knows exactly of the magic that I am talking about.

Having spiritual workshops is a ritual that more festivals on the East Coast need to incorporate into their lineup. Combined with the musical shamans “musicians” creating their bliss and raising the consciousness through musical notes, and these workshops, festival goers are able to transcend their everyday life and commune with something bigger than themselves, even if they don’t necessarily realize it at the time.

And as conscious led music festivals start to grow in numbers, we are starting to see a new reality as “all across the land, the basis for a new earth-centered culture is being cast. Artists and poets are turning back to the earth as a source of inspiration…People are creating new kinds of personal and community rituals to express their bond to the earth, viewed once again as the nurturing mother of all life.”

It seems that throughout the ten years of attending music festivals, I have noticed that there still continues to be a constant influx of a new generation of festival goers. This got me thinking, why? What is it about music festivals, such as this one, that brings so many people in their late teens and early 20s together? Is it the music? It has to be more than just about the music, musical tastes change throughout different generations.

Joseph Campbell, a renowned scholar, said that American modern society lacked effective rituals to welcome adulthood. It seems that music festivals have become that ritual that our soul craves, for we are so fragmented, both spiritually and psychically that we starve for spaces/places that orient us, that help us attribute meaning to an existence that is pulled in so many directions, especially when we are just separating and starting our own personal journey when we are in our late teens and early 20s. And as Dr. Gino Dante Borges said “ritual and ceremony are meaning-making tools, helping us transcend our individuation… helping us suspend the personal pronoun “I”… ritual and ceremony help us connect to community by connecting the dots that we all share.”

The organizers of Gnarnia deserve a big round of applause and thanks for creating a space where so many musicians, artists, and people were able to come together as a community and experience the beauty of ritual in our modern-day society.




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