The weekend of July 11th we immersed ourselves in the Luna Light Music and Arts Festival at Hex Hollow Farm in Barto, PA to see if the first-time festival has a long future as a festival that gives people something back when they go home. While initially being unsure of what course things would go, by the end of Luna Light we can see something very promising happening here.
With a name like Luna Light, it’s fitting that Friday evening there was a captivating supermoon. You could really notice a difference in how you felt. I, for one, had such incredible rush of energy on my way to the festival it was almost too much to much to contain so I was really looking forward to immersing myself in the lunar light at Luna Light. Knowing how directly and strongly the moon affects us I was sure that this weekend would be surreal, at the very least.
With around 1,000 attendees, Luna Light was a smaller festival then the more well-known Lightning in a Bottle festival we went to in May and were definitely a bit more ‘heady’ than I’ve seen in a while (Shpongle’s Simon Posford who was headlining definitely had a hand in it). It was quite surreal, actually. The various visionary vendors like enLIGHTen and Spectrum Geometry definitely brought the heady element to the next level with their transcendental threads and intricate designs. Co-creative and participatory elements were there too, albeit on a smaller scale then a festival like Beloved. As colorful as people were at Luna Light, they could always have some more body art on their human canvases. That’s where Char Lala, a NYC-based bodypainter, added a wonderful element to the festival that should be a staple at any festival these days.
Being a smaller festival, Luna Light had a more familial feeling to it and it was a great environment for making new friends (and the small festival grounds definitely were a factor in this). At most festivals you have alot of people hanging around the music stages but at Luna Light, especially during the day, people were generally in the forested camping area meaningfully connecting with one another and celebrating a weekend of good music and good vibes. I had several people tell me how great the vibes were and how much they enjoyed the incredibly laidback and chill energy of the festival.
And while it does seem like jam band-oriented festivals such as Gathering of the Vibes don’t usually have a central space where people can decompress, relax, meditate, and engage in more mindful practices, Luna Light did have the Heartfire Society’s Heartfire Chill Zone and is excited about putting more focus into such a space for next year. We explored evolving the festival in this way when we spoke with Mike, one of the main manifesters of Luna Light.
Shining the Luna Light: An Interview with Michael Rabito
Luna Light wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for Joseph DeAntonio and Michael Rabito. This being the first year of the festival there were naturally some kinks as well as opportunities to have the festival experience in a way that can only happen during a its inaugural emergence into the collective experience. We caught up with Mike to get some background on how Luna Light came to be and what’s in store for next year.
Shift: What made you decide you wanted to create a new festival?
Mike: I was approached by Joe, the founder of Luna Light and band manager of Manifested, and he expressed that he wanted to create a festival as this was a life-long dream of his. What gave him the final jolt of inspiration to do it is a vision he had in an isolation tank. Afterwards, he knew he wanted to create a festival and devote his life to that path. I ran a few smaller festivals when I was in Vermont and had the production background necessary and decided we were going to do it. Personally, I feel it holds space for cultural evolution to happen and it’s kind of a bubble that allows essential development that we need to happen. There needs to be a magical space where people can hold those deeper kind of transformational conversations.
Shift: Where did the name Luna Light come from?
Mike: Joe came up with it. It was one of those late nights sitting on couch and we were thinking of the best name for a festival and it came up as Luna Light. When that name came to us we knew we had to create a festival. We were thinking of the moon and how it’s sacred, awe-inspiring, and been here forever. Also, cycles are huge part of our lives, especially the lunar cycle. What’s interesting is we thought of the name before we came up with the festival. There being a supermoon on the first night of the festival was intentional because if we were going to do something the first time we were going to do it on a full moon and so we looked at the lunar calender and found the date.
Shift: How did Luna Light turn out compared with how you envisioned it?
Mike: It came out really well and I’m definitely humbled. The biggest surprise was that we had the best staff in the world. These are people who put on Gathering of the Vibes, Catskill Chill, big parts of Bonnaroo, and Camp Bisco. They were always looking around to help out with something and we’re really grateful that we had the best people there. I knew they were all good but the way they all stepped up, filled the roles, and worked as a team was fantastic. Everyone did what had to be done.
Shift: There’s a growing trend of have a central space at conscious festivals that takes on a sacred temple-style role. Does Luna Light envision having a spiritual heart for the festival next year?
Mike: And while we wanted to have the infrastructure for a spiritual heart of Luna Light, the Heartfire Chill Zone was something that saved that space. I love what Lightning in a Bottle and Burning Man do in order to have that kind of specially-designed space for people to have meaningful conversation. Designated spaces for connecting to your heart & other people and having a place to become centered is certainly something we’ll add emphasis on next year. Also, we’ll definitely have a schedule next time!
Shift: What do you think about the current evolution of festival culture and where do you see it going in the next few years?
Mike: I see that transformational element strengthening. World evolution is happening the whole time and we’re becoming self-aware that we’re the ones creating that and festivals will reflect that and have more ways for practical application. I’d like to see more groups like the Heartfire Society, Shift and different global energy & infrastructure companies set up at festivals, engage people and take deep late night conversations into everyday life. I think we’re going to see more of that since it’s developing already and it’s time to have more tangible ways to integrate the ideas into action. I think there will be more conscious festivals as well. It seems people are ready to do this kind of thing on a more regular basis, which is fantastic.
Shift: What would you say are areas at Luna Light that have the greatest opportunity for improvement?
Mike: For Luna Light, I don’t think we want to deal with shuttles. We’d also like to stretch the fact that there’s more than music. We tried really hard this year with the art but we definitely want to bring it out even more. We want to let people do more things then just sit and listen to music. We also love expanding what Heartfire was doing, which is something we need to put more time and effort into earlier. We want to provide tangible things for people to walk away with and improve the world. People should walk away with something knowledgeable from the festival. They’re doing it more on the West Coast and we can definitely bring that here.
Shift: How are you looking to grow and enhance the Luna Light experience next year?
Mike: We’re exploring ways in which we can push sustainability and consciousness and that we’re all on this one planet and we can come together. We’re looking to have booths or speakers to talk about various progressive ideas as well, which could also be incorporated into the spiritual heart center of the festival.
We love that Luna Light has the right intention behind it and is looking to be more than a festival with music and art but also striving to be a catalyst for changing peoples’ lives for the better. Given it was the inaugural year of this festival, there’s a few things, some of which we explored with Mike Rabito, that would firmly place Luna Light in the sphere of transformation-inducing festivals. Some suggestions of ours besides a spiritual heart center would be to provide more free water stations, larger festival grounds, and encourage more children to be a part of it like Gathering of the Vibes does where children 12 and under are free. We look forward to providing our input and advice for next year’s Luna Light as we see this emerging festival as being a catalyst seed that has been planted and with enough intention and care, it can dig its roots as deeply as other festivals have.