The weekend of April 9-11th 2021 will be remembered as the weekend that brought live music back to the west! Viva Iriezona, put on by The Dub Shack LLC, was nestled in the hills of Hidden Lake, Arizona and made for the perfect backdrop for the return of live music.
When a Year One festival features camping, kayaking, fishing, great food and live performances, you know its going to be an epic time!
Day One featured bands So/Below, The Tones, Desert Fish, Aaron Wolf, Black Bottom Lighters and, to headline the night, fan-favorite Kyle Smith. One of the first things that I noticed upon entering the festival grounds is how accessible the grounds actually were! When driving up the dirt road to Hidden Lake, you can hear the sounds of birds and feel the fresh water hanging in the air. Upon checking in, you are directed to either the parking lot or the camping area. A bit up the road from check-in and to the right, you found the campground for event-goers: it was a sea of Eazy-Ups, tents and RVs! I was not expecting was how many people brought kayaks, paddle boards, etc. Although you cannot swim in the lake, they welcome boat recreation and fishing.
A short ways down the road from the campground, you came upon the general parking area and the entrance to the festival. One of the things that immediately caught my eye (and nose), was the amount of food options at this event. Not only were there gluten free and vegan options, but there were so many fun little treats you wouldn’t expect… like gourmet cereal bowls and specialty frozen ice specials! And, this journalist will admit, I had one of these treats every day I was there! They were just SO good! I particularly enjoyed that there was a coffee/tea vendor for early mornings.
The festival grounds were spacious and had adequate seating in both the VIP and general admission areas. Every patron of the event was able to enjoy able shade structures, which was particularly enjoyable in the heat of Day Two. Even though we were in the desert, the venue offered ample astro turf for people to sit down on. A nice accommodation offered for both VIP and General admission was that there was both flushing toilets, as well as some of the cleanest portable restrooms I have ever personally witnessed at a music festival. I want to stress how these simple comforts were considered at this festival, which was impressive for a first year fest! The venue and its production team was tight from the moment crowds arrived, to the moment we left.
Day Two’s lineup was no less impressive, with Summit Dub Squad, High Frequency, Ras Rebellion, The Riddims, Lakedub, The Late Ones, ZeeCeeKeely, Karim Isreal (of Arise Roots), and, to finish of the night with the best vibes, Mike Love. The theme of Day Two was truly a sense of community. After such a long time of being cautious and not being able to attend live music, you could feel people’s emotions coming out. During Mike Love’s performance, you would look around and see so many smiles coupled with so many tears and, yet, the energy was that of a great cleanse. It was as if this was the first time in over a year that we could breathe a collective sigh of relief. Although we are not out of the woods yet with COVID, this was the first time that many people in over a year touched or hugged another person. There was such a sense of love and collective healing, as you saw people dance through their combined emotions.
It was one of the more beautiful and emotionally intense moments I have witnessed in my entire career as a journalist.
Day Three arrived as soon as it went. Upon waking, I took the opportunity to take one of the awesome provided Hidden Lake peddle boats with some of my camping neighbors, who just happened to be apart of the Dub Shack team, (shoutout to Sheriden and Hunter)! As we paddled out and the sunrise came, you could hear the trees around the lake blowing in the wind, as a group of cranes settled upon the shore. It was a moment that could only be described as blissful. As we all peddled back to shore, we prepared our minds and bodies for the last day of this amazing event.
Day Three’s lineup consisted of DJ Porch, Rilen Out, Jahols and the Rebels, Pacific Roots, Undisclosed, The Resinators, Dubbest, SYNRGY, Audic Empire, The Irie and Sensi Trails. One of my favorite parts of Sunday was seeing Krystal Dyer lay it down live painting during The Resinators’ set; I really admire the consistency in the reggae rock scene of including live painters as a priority at events. Not only does this add a creative element to the performances, but it really inspires so many to realize that there are many different directions to go as an artist and that live painting is one of them!
In summary, we would like to thank The Dub Shack, Jeff Kunz and the Hidden Lake Resort for throwing such a fun and family-friendly event, while remaining socially-conscious of our collective experience due to COVID-19 restrictions. I was impressed from top to bottom: from the in-house hospitality services, to the VIP area, to the thought given towards comforts for General Admission attendees. Top Shelf Music highly recommends our readers to check out this event for themselves. The festival staff is already scheduling tentatively for 2022 and management will be throwing a one-day event in Tuscan, AZ on October 16th, 2021. Artists to be announced and tickets are on sale now!
Photography by Alexia Johnson