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Northern Nights 2023 Festival Recap: A Reality Sandwich Experience

Immerse in the psychedelic reflections from the 2023 Northern Nights Music Festival. Experience a recap of this unique blend of EDM, art, nature, and cannabis,…



Immerse yourself in our transcendent post-event reflections on the 10th Northern Nights Music Festival. Dive into an enchanting spectacle of EDM soundscapes, lavish camping or “glamping,” diverse traders, and sacramental cannabis. This annual congregation, woven into the fabric of psychedelic summer rituals, lured over 6,000 psychonauts into the lush, evergreen heartland of Northern California’s renowned Emerald Triangle.

This extraordinary gathering unfolded from July 14-16th at the Cook’s Valley Campground, located on the serene banks of the South Fork Eel River. We, at Reality Sandwich, have had the fortune to partake in this festival in years past and can attest to the soul-enriching, consciousness-expanding experience it never fails to offer.

Nestled within the divine embrace of Mother Nature, Northern Nights represents a unique synthesis of sonic exploration, visionary artistry, green spirituality, and respectful cannabis culture. 

Take a cosmic journey with us as we divulge the interstellar details of this one-of-a-kind Northern Californian festival experience. From entrancing musical performances to captivating art installations, engaging activities, and workshops galore to a plethora of food options and eclectic vendors—there’s something for everyone. And the best part is, everyone and everything coalesces around the central theme of cannabis. This inclusive guide seeks to share our favorite elements and insights of our second year in a row attending this beautiful menagerie of sounds, sights, and smoke.

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NNMF Location

The weather couldn’t have been better for this year’s festival out in Mendocino County. As we recall everything that was Northern Nights, we find ourselves flying back to the mystical heartland of the Emerald Triangle. Hidden amidst the towering redwood giants, the festival was an enchanting dance of natural beauty and elevated consciousness. As the night grew dark and a calming breeze set in, the music kept casting a captivating spell, lingering long after the final beat.

In the pulsating core of the sun-kissed cannabis culture, we came upon a space that was more than just a music festival venue—it was a realm of exploration and connection. The region’s high altitude gave us an interesting duality in climate: days were warm by the embrace of the sun while shifting into cooler, tranquil nights. This rhythmic interchange of temperatures lent a unique layer to the festival narrative.

One of our favorite memories from the festival that we had to revisit is a day spent languishing on the banks of the South Fork Eel River. A break from the continuous psychedelic stimuli, it gave us a refreshing interlude, recharging our spirits for the rest of the cosmic journey. Along the shore of the river, there were several cannabis brand activations that had caught our attention such as Space Gem & Arcata Fire. We had a blast going around and talking to each booth rep and sampling some of their delicious products.

NNMF Stages

Reflecting on the 2023 Northern Nights Music Festival, the vibrations from its five unique stages still echo in our minds. Each stage was thoughtfully set across the landscape, offering distinct auditory experiences as diverse as the attendees themselves.

The Main Stage, pulsating in the festival’s heart, was the hallowed ground where headliners let loose symphonies of sound. In daylight, the River Stage stole the spotlight with its laid-back DJ vibes and billowing clouds of sun-grown smoke.

Nestled amongst the ancient redwoods, the Grove Stage showcased an eclectic variety of musicians and performers. We found this stage gave us a more avant-garde palette of sonic exploration. Exploring not only music but movement and breath, we found ourselves here throughout the day and night. 

For those, like myself, drawn to the allure of the night, the Silent Disco Stage was the place to be. It was an oasis of late-night dance and hypnotic rhythms under the starlit canopy. Each person with their own unique listening experience as they were given headphones to solidify sound symphonies in their world. 

Then there was the Bunker Stage—a hidden gem that became an after-hours haven. Here, the festival unleashed an array of musical tapestries from thumping House to high-energy Drum and bass, pulsating Techno, and more. The eclectic curation of beats was able to carry us into the velvet embrace of the night. This stage, like the festival itself, brought to life the psychedelic spirit in its purest form – free, diverse, and exuberantly alive. 

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The Music

Northern Nights showcases a diverse lineup of established and up-and-coming music artists from various genres, including electronic, hip-hop, indie, and more. Multiple stages offer continuous music throughout the event, featuring both national and international talent. This year’s festival boasts some of the biggest names we’ve seen in years on the roster amongst some other talented up-and-comers. 

Performances of Interest

If we’re talking about headlining acts only, our must-see performances for 2023 Northern Nights were TOKiMONSTA, Mura Masa, and Big Gigantic. Getting more into the supporting acts, we loved peeping sets from Bipolar Sunshine, Coco & Breezy, High Step Society, Moontricks, and Paper Idol. 

What we found from this year is that you cannot sleep on the late-night performances! Finding an underground legend that you’ve never heard of may change your life. This year the festival also included amazing performances of burlesque and drag shows. There were dancers to watch on poles, ariels, and stages which added an element to all the performances that encouraged movement. As the performances went on, they made you feel free to move with them.

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Art & Installations

The festival incorporated various forms of art, including interactive installations, live painting, and visual projections. Attendees have the opportunity to explore art exhibits, participate in workshops, and appreciate the creative displays scattered throughout the festival grounds. 

Some of our favorite installations included the Tree Lounge (obviously,) where cannabis sponsors were presenting, along with the live art inside The Grove and Mainstage. The Grove also gave us art activities such as rock painting, weaving yarn, and painting a giant community canvas. Tons of fun was had; don’t worry.

We also highly recommend checking out the VIP lounge next year when you need a break, just past the art installations. Behind the VIP gates, we found a tea lounge, bar, and free activities that came along with your VIP wristband. A few of these activities and amenities were festival makeup, facials, massages, and more.

Focus on Sustainability

Northern Nights Music Festival places a strong emphasis on sustainability and eco-conscious practices. Their organizers actively work to minimize the festival’s ecological impact through recycling programs, energy conservation initiatives, and the use of environmentally friendly materials whenever possible. The vendors use paper or compostable products that are plastic-free. This is an aspect of the festival that becomes evident during your attendance, where you’ll notice the cleanliness of the grounds upon your arrival and departure. For our second year attending in a row, we were blown away.

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Camping at Northern Nights 2023

The festival and our team encourage attendees to camp on-site as the festival spans multiple days. Both general camping areas and VIP camping experiences are available, allowing festival-goers to fully immerse themselves in the festival atmosphere and connect with nature. 

Camping at Northern Nights is a wild experience and one that you should partake in given the opportunity. You’re bound to link up with fellow cannabis lovers and form unique bonds that expand beyond the festival. 

Camp right beneath the redwood trees in The Grove camping area where you are in the midst of the festival. Or, camp close to the river where you can easily dive in whenever you need a splash. There is outer-skirt camping where you can find a little more peace if that’s what you’re looking for. The choices are pretty unlimited when it comes to camping at the Northern Nights Music Festival. We had a wonderful time once again posting up in the campground and communing with fellow campers in the mornings over joints and breakfast.

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Activities & Workshops at Northern Nights 2023

In addition to music and art, the festival offers a diverse range of workshops, wellness activities, and outdoor adventures. These included yoga classes, meditation sessions, dance workshops, and more, providing opportunities for personal growth and exploration. If you wake up early and feel like getting active, we suggest hitting the morning Wellness & Movement class they host at The Grove Stage.

If you’re looking to find a connection with those around you check out some of the opportunities provided by the movement makers of the festival. This team brings so much creative positive force to Northern Nights. 

This year, we had the beautiful experience of participating in a cocoa ceremony and sound healing. You were able to bond with partners through shapes, games, and strength. You were encouraged to sing and dance with open loving arms. The grove and all the workshops truly gave us judgment-free zones. Within each, we were able to not only grow but further integrate our magical festival experience.  

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Food & Vendors

Northern Nights offers a variety of food vendors serving diverse culinary options that cater to various dietary preferences. If you’re looking for healthier options in regards to food there are plenty of vendors to satisfy your needs. Additionally, merchandise vendors sell festival-related items, crafts, and other unique products. We encourage everyone to also take a moment to visit some of the merchandise and craft vendors. 

Last year, we found some super slick tie-die gear that was worth picking up post-haste. This year included an amazing dumpling truck that was melt-in-your-mouth good! There were also amazing artist vendors that had so many beautifully hand-crafted works even just window shopping was an absolute ball. We had a great time checking out Herbal Junction, an herbal elixir brand that was found on the festival grounds. Their tonics totally blew our minds; so medicinal and so delicious!

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Cannabis At Northern Nights

At the Northern Nights Music Festival, they offer a range of cannabis activations to enhance the overall experience for attendees who appreciate the intersection of music, art, and cannabis culture. Humboldt and Mendocino County are truly the birthplace of cannabis culture. You will find the best of the best cannabis here. It’s nice to be able to attend a festival where you can smoke weed anywhere you want and not worry—we’ll say that outright.

The main attraction for cannabis enthusiasts is the Tree Lounge. Here, you’ll find a bevy of sponsoring cannabis brands presenting products for sale along with other produce or food they may cultivate, maybe even free goodies if you’re lucky. Being able to pick up some weed, grab some fresh fruit, and then go vibe out to a DJ in one go-around is undeniably fun. Northern Nights is the one place that can give you that experience. We’re proud to say we partook in this experience daily during our second NNMF attendance.

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Community Vibes

Above all else, the Northern Nights Music Festival fosters a strong sense of community and camaraderie among attendees. The welcoming and inclusive atmosphere encourages connection and positive interactions, allowing people to create lasting memories and forge meaningful friendships. This year there were so many beautiful souls we came across, both new and old friends. The vibes and respect for each other at this festival are undeniably high and there wasn’t one second that we felt unsafe or like the night might take a turn for the worse. Northern Nights does an incredible job of keeping the feelings of inclusivity strong.

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Overall Review

Northern Nights Music Festival is one that you’re not going to want to miss. With the beautiful location and livelihood of all those around you, it truly feels as though you lept into your spacecraft and flew off into a different world. Northern Nights is a place where you can come as you are and feel nothing but love and acceptance. This pocket universe of music dance and cannabis-centric fun allows you to let go of all outside problems and be one with the divine consciousness we all share. 

Every time we experience this festival we are left with utter inspiration to create, explore and dive deeper into my unique path of life. A huge shoutout must go to all the people that are able to make this festival happen. Throughout the weekend everyone was taken care of, bathrooms were constantly cleaned, and trash was regularly emptied. You could literally see how hard everyone was working to make this festival what it is. 

We are so grateful to have gotten to live through this event and take it all in for our second year in a row. Yes, this festival is a great time and you can go to just experience that. But, this truly has become a community uplifting each other towards growth through like-minded people and sacred medicines. Join us at the next Northern Nights Music Festival and experience an unforgettable celebration of music, art, nature, and good weed. See you next year! We Love you Northern Nights!

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