Gratifly Music Festival: Day 1

Arriving on site after a cramped eight-hour drive was nothing short of a relief. The warm and welcoming faces that I was met with upon entry were a great sign of what was to come. This was by far the smoothest entry I've experienced at a first-year festival. Thank you to everyone who made it happen.

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“How far down the rabbit hole are you willing to go?” This is what my ride asked me over the phone before the trip began. I didn’t intend to go that far, but I found myself there anyway. Pulled into the energy of this land, these people, this wonderful Gratifly Music Festival.
Love is in the air.
This place is sacred, located at the beginning of the Trail of Tears, and hosting its first ever gathering of this type. And the intentions are strong to honor the spirits that rest here, to keep things uplifted and positive.

It is a masterpiece of co-creation. The Installation Village features structures of varying shape, size, and texture, each offering something different, but only adding to the whole. A large wooden temple resembling a teepee, a healing zone, and a geodesic dome are just a few examples. Vendors, as well as free-roaming individuals, offer wares of all kinds. Brilliantly put together outfits and costumes add so much life and color. Creativity abounds.

A cool cascading river provides respite from the heat and the sweat that builds up on many treks up and down the hills. The land is really beautiful, and reminds me of what I consider home, the Southwest Virginia mountains. The fresh air and open fields give us all room to exhale and release the things that we’ve carried with us from our respective homes. We are allowed to just be in the moment; nothing else matters. All the things that have worried me and pressed on me melt into the woods and are forgotten.
The river in Avalon
Blissful reunions with old friends who have gone their separate ways and playful introductions to new friends who become like the old almost instantly. Everyone is open to meeting the opportunities of the moment, barring nothing, simply being free.

The music reflects it all right back to us, as the musicians honor the same sentiments of the festival and the people in attendance. It’s like a persistent feedback loop, amplifying, amplifying, amplifying, until the sounds of unity and love are so loud, it’s almost too much to bear. The earth shakes with the movement of the people, the trees sway in unison, the wind wraps it all together.

Performances by Rising Appalachia, The Human Experience, Papadosio, Futexture, and EarthCry are the highlights of the night. After a little bit of a late start, things are going strong and the music is powerful. Crowds of dancing and singing people dot the landscape, stage lights dancing over them, pulsating, quickening. All is well with the world. Everything is at peace.
Papadosio plays the Gratitude Stage Thursday night
Papadosio rocks the Gratitude Stage

Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4


Thandiwe Ogbonna is a music writer gone rogue.
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