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Cascade Equinox Festival Highlights: A New Northwest Staple

Take a trip with us back in time to review the Cascade Equinox Festival, held in Redmond, Oregon, September 22-24, 2023.



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At the end of September, I attended a new festival called Cascade Equinox Festival (CEF) held at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, Oregon. I’d been counting down the days to this event, and let me tell you, it lived up to all the hype! The festival atmosphere is my happy place, and there’s nothing like meeting up with pals, discovering fresh tunes, and dancing the day (and night) away for a major mood boost.

Here are a few standout moments and takeaways that have officially earned CEF a permanent spot on my festy calendar.

A Festival Reimagined

There is so much production behind a music festival. It’s a mix of imaginary and practical, fantasy and logistics. The crew that put this on did a splendid job capturing all of the elements that will certainly make this festival a Northwest staple near the magical mountain town of Bend, Oregon

cascade equinox festival

Photo courtesy of Greg Bollinger

Grounds and Layout

The main grounds were easy to navigate, with clear sidewalks and big festival maps scattered about, so you could always check your whereabouts. Plus, they had these handy boards with stage names and set times. It was a welcome departure from carrying around a tiny booklet or constantly checking your phone for updates.

The installations were beautifully nature-themed with mushrooms aplenty, a giant wooden phoenix sculpture, and tons of cozy corners inspired by (and surrounded by!) trees, flowers, plants, and water. The whole space just felt warm, inviting, secure, and downright hospitable. Exactly the kind of vibe you want as you make your way back to camp on those weary legs after a night of psychedelic adventures

I stayed at Alpenglow camp and have zero complaints. It was spacious and quiet when you wanted to get some shut-eye, and the closest bathrooms didn’t feel like a long walk into no man’s land. These are all things that are super important to me for a camping experience. 

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Photo courtesy of Greg Bollinger

Food, Art, Vendors

As for eats, I tried out a few of the food vendors at Culinary Commons, but my favorite was a cart called Askewed. They had beef skewers with a choice of sides like coleslaw, rice, pickles, and Brussels sprouts. It was the perfect mix of protein and nutrition to keep me energized. 

The Nomadic Market featured an eclectic mix of art, fashion, jewelry, and festie treasures. I made quite a few rounds exploring the wares. 

The live art was one of my favorite things to watch unfold throughout the weekend. There were several four-sided blocks, and a different muralist was working on each side. Each piece was wildly psychedelic, and seeing them come together was truly incredible. 

Then there was Cosmic Drip, an indoor art extravaganza that was a visual feast of all things trippy. Live paintings and mind-bending visuals–it was a true sensory smorgasbord.

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Photo courtesy of Greg Bollinger

One of my favorite little nooks was the Shroom Room, set up by Brian Grosso, founder of the medicinal mushroom chocolate line kokodosé. This cozy space was especially delightful on Sunday when the rain set in. When I asked Brian what inspired him to have not only a booth, but this space, he replied, “I wanted to provide an environment for people to ground down and connect with themselves and each other.  The Shroom Room epitomizes our brand ethos to help people find their inner healing wisdom.”

The kokodosé brand is focused on adaptogenic chocolates and created a special bar in partnership with CEF exclusively for the event. Looking forward, Grosso is excited to start the path toward obtaining an Oregon psilocybin license in 2024 to expand the product line into something truly psychedelic. 

Safety, Staff, and Support

Let’s talk about something that’s no secret at music festivals: a lot of folks are indulging in a mix of substances. Whether or not the organizers officially endorse it, it’s a reality. So, the smart move is to prioritize everyone’s safety. CEF had a solid plan in place, including having Dance Safe right there with drug testing kits, condoms, chewing gum, ear plugs, sunscreen, and other essentials for folks who might be in a different headspace.

I chatted with the staff, who mentioned that plenty of people were asking about fentanyl test kits. We live in a time when checking your substances is more crucial than ever. The Dance Safe crew is super understanding and ready to assist. They’re also the go-to if you’re not sure where the medical tent is, and they’ll make sure you get what you need. And, of course, medical staff were on standby, too. Safety first, always!

Fri 09 22 23 Teuber

Photo courtesy of Teuber

The Music 

The real magic of a festival is the music, and for me, the dancing. Here are a few of my favorite acts from the weekend where I certainly got my boogie on. 

Small Million

I rolled into town Friday just in time to leave my things at camp and catch Small Million at the main stage. The band was new to me, but I started listening to their newest album, Passenger, in anticipation of the festival. The album was almost nostalgic. It felt like every favorite indie song I’ve ever loved, like I was sitting in my favorite college bar, drinking whiskey and writing poetry on bar napkins.

Lead singer Malachi Graham presents in such an authentic way on stage, that it hardly felt like a show. This is just who she is and what she does. The lyrics and melodies come alive from her body. 

Ryan Linder, keyboardist, and Malachi have been playing music together for a decade, and their synergy is felt. Like siblings, cousins, or best friends that grew up next door to each other – it’s a reliable kind of connection they have, one that lasts. 

I had the pleasure of meeting up with Malachi and Ryan, and when I asked them if plant medicines and psychedelics have influenced their creative process, they each had a personal and unique response. “I’ve definitely learned a lot not only about myself through plant medicine, but even things like adopting better eating habits have become clear. But in my creativity, too. It opens up the doors if you will. I’ve even found that my drawing style evolves with plant medicine in the mix, making sure that there is so much freedom to the entire concept of creativity. It’s like a mental reset on what you can create,” says Ryan. 

Malachi agreed with the concept of psychedelics offering a mental reset and elaborated on the topic. “It’s such a good reset. I have a newer relationship with plant medicine. It’s been a really powerful element of my last couple of years. Creativity, yes, but also personal healing work. I think it was after my first mushroom ceremonial experience, and I didn’t even put it together until a week later, but my intuition was saying, ‘You’re going to stop drinking now.’ And I realized that as soon as you hold space for your subconscious, the messages are really coming through. That voice is so clear and sets out these little trails for you to follow.”

Speaking of follow, I highly recommend giving them a listen on Small Million’s Spotify channel, and heading out to see them on the second leg of their tour this year. 



Photo courtesy of Greg Bollinger

Phantogram is an electro-pop powerhouse that knows how to serve up a sonic feast for your ears. Sarah Barthel’s sultry vocals, paired with Josh Carter’s slick production skills, create a sound that’s equal parts ethereal and hard-hitting.

Their music is this mesmerizing blend of dreamy synths, pulsing beats, and Sarah’s hauntingly beautiful voice. It’s like getting lost in a neon-lit cityscape, where every corner holds a surprise. Their lyrics often hit that sweet spot between introspective and relatable, making their songs feel like a soundtrack to life’s ups and downs. They bring this infectious energy that’s impossible to resist. The light show, the beats, Sarah’s vocals all combine into this electrifying performance that leaves you buzzing long after the last note.

And lucky me – they closed with my favorite song – “When I’m Small.”

Big Wild

big wild

Photo courtesy of Teuber

While there were several wonderful Friday sets, I was impressed with the headliner of the evening–Big Wild. Again, I didn’t know anything about them besides listening to a few tracks the night before. This show made my weekend. Big Wild throws out the kind of beats that make you feel like you are floating on top of the crowd, bouncing from one smooth sound to the next. I did not stop dancing the entire set, and they threw out one hit after another. 

Pre-prep for this show was a microdose of LSD. It was a gift from a friend that kept me light on my feet and grooving to these sexy, smooth sounds the entire set. 



Photo courtesy of Teuber

Friday late night was beyond perfect and such a beautiful transition from the high vibes of Big Wild. My friends and I were at Opiuo, a DJ I’d never heard of, but I was instantly feeling the beats. A friend of my friend saw us in the crowd and invited us backstage for almost the entire set. Talk about an incredible way to experience Opiuo. I’m not exactly what you would call a huge EDM fan, but I was getting crunchy with the world of this one for sure. Check him out if he rolls through your town. 



Photo courtesy of Greg Bollinger

The Dirtwire set surprised me. They were extra bass-heavy, playing a super dynamic festival set, and what made it incredible was the addition of Native American dancers and traditional musical influence. The light show was on point, and I certainly have a new respect for the diversity of the musicians. While I’ve seen this band before, this time, it was less hoedown and more pulsing dancefloor. 

Pretty Lights

pretty lights

Photo courtesy of Teuber

As we got ready for the Pretty Lights set, I re-upped on a little microdose LSD, or “sparkle drops” as they’re often called. LSD is my drug of choice for live music, and I’m pretty comfortable with the effects. I like enough to put my body into a state of total musical takeover, but not so much that I’m disoriented or unable to observe the show. 

Pretty Lights came on just as pumped as the crowd for their first festival set in six year. Then, Derek (the magic man himself) hits us with “Hot Like Sauce” right out of the gate. Within minutes, they blew the generator, and the stage went dark! It was only minutes before they were back, and picked up right where they had left off. The two-and-a-half-hour set was wildly energetic, and the whole crowd was absolutely vibing. It was a packed show, but I never felt like I didn’t have enough room to dance. 

derek pretty lights

Photo courtesy of Greg Bollinger

We lucked out snagging a spot way up front left, in this little enchanted pocket of space right by the aerial silk performers. So, we had this double show going on–Pretty Lights killing it on stage, and these mesmerizing silk artists doing their thing. The set was next-level complex. It was probably the most intricate and imaginative musical performance I’ve ever experienced. 

Now, you might be thinking, “Well, she was definitely in another dimension on that acid trip,” and you’re not wrong! Visuals on another level altogether. It was a mind-meltingly perfect (not-so-micro) dose of LSD for the occasion. I can still feel the reverb pulsing through my veins when I take a mental trip back there. Catch the full set on YouTube.

And the Beat Goes On

It rained on Sunday, so I didn’t catch a lot of music. Instead, I connected with friends and soaked up the afterglow of Pretty Lights. It was also family day in my circle, and my friend group had their kiddos in tow. The kids gravitated toward an early afternoon DJ set. They loved the beats, dancing their little hearts out, and riding their bikes in the rain. 

What a way to observe the world through a kid’s eyes, and I was beyond excited to hop on the Ferris wheel. Let me tell you, if there’s ever a Ferris wheel at a festival, don’t miss out on the chance for that epic view of the grounds all lit up in neon splendor.


Photo courtesy of Greg Bollinger

Sunday had a more laid-back vibe, with the chill and rain, but the festival spirit was still going strong. The evening’s headliner was Goose, and they offered the perfect chill vibes. Now, while my jam-band heart will forever belong to The String Cheese Incident, this was a sweet way to wind down with friends and reminisce about the epic weekend. 

Cascade Equinox Festival brought an unwavering commitment to a quality festival experience with incredible art, food, design, and music. The backdrop surrounding the fairgrounds was magical, the festival goers were a joy to commingle with all weekend, and my new playlists are bursting with sounds that will always transport me back in time to relive it all again. See you next year!

Featured photo courtesy of Scout People

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