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New Flagstaff Music Festival: Sol Awakening

Phoenix is a hotspot for music festivals and raves, but there are gems to be found all across Arizona. On Sept. 22-24, the Sol Awakening Music Festival will make its debut at Playa Ponderosa in Flagstaff for its very first year. 

Sol Awakening Music Festival will create a space to celebrate and amplify hip-hop music, especially conscious hip-hop, in a festival setting, while also allowing a space for EDM and other genres more traditionally present at festivals. The artist lineup includes Equanimous, AKTHESAVIOR, Lizzy Jeff and many others. 

“I'm not a huge EDM fan and that's kind of what dominates the festival scene,” Sydney Wemyss, founder of Sol Awakening, said about choosing the lineup. “I wanted to have more diversity in the music.”

Conscious hip-hop — hip-hop that focuses on uplifting urban America and calling attention to the issues its community faces such as gun violence and drug abuse — is the most prominent genre highlighted at the festival.

“Hip-hop has been taken over by big record labels that push agendas focused on misogyny, drugs, and violence,” Wemyss said. “I wanted to create a space for more conscious hip-hop artists, because outside of bigger names like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, they don’t get enough recognition.”

The festival also emphasizes nature, spirituality and finding community, complete with workshops, healing ceremonies, group yoga and meditation practices. 

“One of our values is bringing back the idea of living in reciprocity with the environment,” Wemyss said. “Reconnecting to the land and having the respect for the land and caring for her. Actually building that relationship with her again, where we give back because she gives us everything that we need, and we should be doing the same thing.”

Sydney said inspiration for Sol Awakening came from a desire to create a sense of genuine community and connection between people of color, especially in regards to the festival scene. 

“The festival scene is perceived as a thing ‘for white people.’” Wemyss said. “I go out to festivals and I want to create a more diverse atmosphere and create a different space where people of color feel safe

To include music lovers and festival goers of all ages, Wemyss decided to make the festival inclusive of all ages and to make the festival alcohol-free. 

“Alcohol is a very socially acceptable drug,” Wemyss said. “And when you're not allowed to go to the events as a child because of alcohol, that gives a message that you can't have fun without alcohol or drugs. To me, it's really important that we connect all of our generations, and create an event the whole community can be a part of.”

Most importantly to Wemyss, Sol Awakening Music Festival will stress the importance of disconnecting from technology and connecting with each other and the world around us.

“I want people to see what it's like to live in an actual community, and to have a glimpse of how we actually are living,” she said. “I've heard it many times; people go to festivals or even just say that they wish it didn't have to end, that we can live like this. I want to provide an experience that allows them to connect with the earth and each other and for them to realize they can live like this all the time.”

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