Some three hours south of San Jose and a bit north of Costa Rica’s famed Corcovado rainforest lies the whale tail-shaped Osa peninsula. Keep going though… you’re still not there. Go a little further south and you’ll come across Uvita. The town’s beach is no stranger to surfers and the occasional wayfarer but for four days in late February it hosts the Envision Festival, where DJs perform from bamboo stages and trails don’t just lead to the food and beer line, but to waterfalls or the ocean break instead. Festivals like these, often called transformational fests, are popping up among the flooded festival circuit partly because they offer more than just music: party hard but also reboot your mind, body and spirit hard too. In some cases it’s through a yoga class or guest speakers, other times there’s a healing zone with teachers or performance art and installations. But above all, there’s always a lot of dancing.
Envision stops short of calling itself a transformational festival although it caters well beyond a music line-up. Whatever it is, it’s working because despite being in the depths of Costa Rica’s jungle Envision sold out without your usual big EDM headliner attached. 2016 takes a turn for the experimental and worldly with acts like M.A.N.D.Y., Bedouin, Shpongle, Random Rab, Beats Antique, Dimond Saints and more on the bill.
We caught up with co-founder Josh Wendel to find out what about Envision makes people travel to this far corner of the Earth.
How did the idea for a festival in the middle of Costa Rica come about?
“It was actually very synchronistic. We all came from different past experiences that enabled us to create a well rounded event. On our core team we've had sustainable community developers, a yoga teacher, green builder, marketing expert, business director, event producer and a few other skill-sets. Several of us live in Costa Rica and in the area that Envision is thrown.”
How did you find this spot?
“We moved to this venue three years ago. Our first year was right in the heart of the town of Dominical, which was perfect for the conception of the event. People could fly in and out of the venue and experience the town. We then moved to a large open cattle pasture that none of us were too fond of. We scoured the area looking for something that felt right, until we found it three years ago. We have a great relationship with the owners and make sure that they are more involved in our event, rather than just viewing us as renters. This has allowed us to build semi-permanent infrastructure, plant gardens, shade trees and actually produce a significant amount of food. It has open space for the stages, shaded areas for camping, tons of wildlife (scarlet macaws and monkeys) and a short trail to a beautiful secluded beach. We have found the perfect home.”
How do you pick the DJs on the lin-eup? Is there anything specific you think about when you pick them out? How did you pick this years?
“This is one of the aspects of the festival we take the most pride in. We work very hard to create an experience and have the line-up tell a story. Each stages’ programming needs be complementary to that of the other stages. We are consistently looking for up and coming artists that surprise our audiences to plug in between some of the bigger named artists that are favorites in the scene. It's important to not only book great artists, but to make sure that they are placed in the schedule at a time that is the most appropriate for their vibe and feel. This resonates true with all of our stages from the Luna stage (main electronic) to Lotus (house), Sol (live music) and Village (intimate live music). We want to take our audience on a journey.”
What's one of the setbacks/hardships of doing a fest in the middle of Costa Rica?
“The greatest example I use for this question is that we don't use one EZ-UP tent at Envision. That really demonstrates the amount of work, energy and love we put into this event. It is easier to source bamboo and thatch than it is to source tents. We pay a lot of attention to details and want to always choose the most sustainable options, so that coupled with the challenges of resourcing everything in a remote part of Costa Rica, makes this an incredible feat. Our passion for sustainability, love for Costa Rica and what must be extreme stubbornness, are what fuels Envision.”
Why a transformational festival as opposed to a regular festival?
“We don't actually label ourselves as a transformational festival. We create a festival with an intention and based on what our core values are. We can't set the expectation that "if you go, you will be transformed". A transformation is a personal thing, and if Envision opens their eyes to new concepts at a time that they are ready to receive, then it becomes a transformational experience for them.”
Where did the tree houses ideas come about?
“One of my best Costa Rican friends, Barney, started building them on-site last year. It inspired us to take it one step further and offer them to our attendees. People LOVE tree houses.”
What do you hope people will gain after a week at Envision?
“We hope that they will walk away with some new concepts that they can adopt into their life, whether it is health, environmental awareness, yoga, artistic inspiration or, just flat out, create a sustainable living solution for themselves on this planet.”
In your words what's the best thing about Envision?
“I love to watch people’s eyes open up to the magic that we put so much energy into creating. My favorite thing to see is an unsuspecting Costa Rican come to Envision because they think it's just going to be a crazy party, and they walk away with so much more.”
Tickets for 2017 go on sale Feb. 26 at EnvisionFestival.com.
Words: CHARLEY ROGULEWSKI Pic: RUSSELL WARD