As I entered through the gates of Paradiso Festival for the first time, I saw many cell phones raised to the sky, attempting to capture the energy within the festival through one or two photos. But, what I was quick to learn, was that this festival can’t be described in photos, videos, or even stories. Paradiso is one of those things that you truly need to experience for yourself to understand its beauty.
Having been a frequent attendee of music festivals on the East Coast for about 5 years, I thought I had seen it all. Every festival seemed to be a continuation of the last, and I generally thought I knew what I was getting myself into. There were only a couple festivals that really stood out to me as having the “full package”. When we first arrived at the Gorge Amphitheatre campgrounds and I mentioned to people that this Paradiso was my first, I was surprised by the reaction with which I was met every time. “Oh WOW you’re going to have so much fun!” “This is your FIRST DISO?! Get ready for a great time!” “Just wait until you walk inside… you’re going to love it!” These were the responses that came back to me with every, “This is my first time at Paradiso, and first time at The Gorge”. Even still, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was soon pleasantly surprised.
The Gorge Amphitheatre is one of the most beautiful venues in the world. Overlooking the Columbia River Gorge in Washington, the views in every direction are absolutely stunning, and something that you can only truly experience by being there. Every time I tried to take a photo, I decided to just put my phone away because it could never do those views justice. Looking out over the gorge gave the sense that I was looking at a painting – the natural beauty of the entire venue left me speechless every time. The views stretched in every direction and were visible from each of the three stages. I heard multiple times that I needed to be at the main stage for the sunset at least one night, and as soon as I saw that sun setting on the first day, I understood what everyone meant. There isn’t a single bad spot to view the sunset, and the further up you go, the better the views get. I’ll keep the memory of those views with me forever.
The people at Paradiso were so incredibly wonderful. The entire Pacific Northwest community is so accepting and open to all humans, and the Paradiso crowd was no different. The amount of openness, body positivity, and kindness that I encountered was overwhelming. The rave culture there is still alive and well, and before arriving to Paradiso, I worried that this culture would somehow have an effect on the types of people there. On the East Coast, the kandi bracelets, fluffies, and bright colors have been exchanged for hat pins, pashminas, and darker colors, and the rave culture and style started to pick up a negative connotation in some groups. However, on the West Coast, the kandi kid culture is still alive and well, and some of the stereotypes we East Coast-ers may have come up with couldn’t be further from the truth. It was really awesome to see so many people creating kandi bracelets together, appreciating one another’s craftiness with perler necklaces, and overall just embracing the bright colors, shirtless outfits, and rave booty, while treating each other in the most genuinely kind and respectful way.
Paradiso focuses a lot of their efforts on ensuring that all attendees are safe, comfortable, and happy. This was evident through the many water advisory warnings during the 90+ degree days, incredibly helpful staff, and a plethora of volunteers in a variety of roles. The Paradiso team has done really great work in the “attendee safety” space – with a team of orange-clad volunteers, known as the Conscious Crew, that could always be easily found throughout the festival. The Conscious Crew was there to be a continuation of an individual’s group of friends, ready to lend a hand in any capacity when necessary. The team was always nearby to spray the crowd with cool water, check on people who may have had a negative experience, and even just act as a friend for attendees to talk to. I enjoyed watching the Conscious Crew do their thing as they worked through the crowd to make sure everyone was having a great time, and I truly believe that they were an integral part of the festival’s positive experience and overall success.
Paradiso Festival was a true embodiment of “something for everyone” with the variety of genres that were on the lineup. The more I talked to people, I learned how diverse the musical tastes of the people in the Pacific Northwest are, and this was reaffirmed by the number of people at each stage at any time of the day. Every single artist put on an incredible show – I could never pick a favorite because each artist I saw could have been considered the top act of the weekend for me. It seems like the Gorge has this magical fairy dust in the air that causes any artist who plays there to put on one of the top performances of their career – you can feel it in the artist’s energy and every note that they unveil to the crowd. Some of my favorites from the weekend were Oliver Heldens, Seven Lions, Zeds Dead, GRiZ, Snails, Mija, and Flux Pavilion and Doctor P. I wish I would have had the chance to see more of the people on the lineup, but the overwhelming amount of talent made for some seriously tough decisions.
Paradiso did a great job of providing a full experience to its attendees, with performers walking throughout the festival and perched on the stages during various acts. They also included a small stage set at the top of the merchandise booth structure, making for a really fun time waiting to purchase merchandise, despite standing under the blazing sun. There was an entire area of carnival rides and foods, all of which added to the full experience of the festival.
Each of the stages was also unique in its own way, each offering a different musical immersion experience. The Digital Oasis stage (my personal favorite), was the stage where most of the house music could be found, and featured a large platform looking out into the sun. The Wreckage, which played mostly bass music, featured a huge stage raised up over the crowd, where the DJ was perched at the top and overlooking the whole area. There were two structures towards the back on either side, pulling the crowd into somewhat of a circle, perfect for headbanging in unison. Finally, the main stage was the central focus of the whole festival, with a huge hill that overlooked the Columbia River Gorge and came down towards the stage. People could experience the music from the pit area, the risers, or the hill, each with a different way to see the festival, entirely filled with people all moving and dancing to their own beat. The hill was a little bit of a doozy to dance on, and it seemed like I had to re-learn how to dance at a slant. For those views, though, I would dance upside down if I had to.
Paradiso Festival exceeded all my expectations. The welcoming crowd, helpful staff, beautiful venue, and incredible music all came together perfectly for one of the best festival weekends I’ve ever experienced. Though I tried to capture the moment a couple times, I learned that the best way to experience the festival was just to be present and take it all in through my own eyes and ears. Paradiso is one of those “must-do” festivals – not only for the views, but for the community, the message, and the overall experience. Add it to your list!