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Random Rab is down with the Envision Festival groove and up with the sun

DJ Mag USA sits down with Random Rab ahead of Envision Festival...

San Francisco based DJ Random Rab makes music for the sunrise. It wasn’t really ever his intention, it sort of just happened since his chilled out, psychedelic and transcendental grooves are the perfect soundscape to the morning sun after a night spent dancing. His albums have also caught on the trend...he’s released five total, some with titles like 2009’s 'aRose' and his last 2015 release 'Awoke'. He also plans on releasing another new LP later this year. 

Aside from perhaps his Burning Man sets, Rab’s about to play his most anticipated sunrise set of the year at Costa Rica’s Envision Festival going on 23rd-26th February. He’s been heading to the festival for seven years running with no plans of letting up. No one knows about playing the festival better than Rab, so DJ MAG USA asked him to answer a few questions before we head down to the fest ourselves.

Here, Rab talks Envision and what it’s like to play to each new sun...

Words: Charley Rogulewski || Pictures: Caspian Kai, Andrew Jorgensen and Adam Straughn


Close your eyes and then think of Envision Festival, what’s the first thing that pops up into your head? 

"Honestly, the first thing I see is the group hug that happened on the dancefloor during my sunrise set.  I suppose it happened twice, but in my mind it seems like the hug that never ended.  What could possibly be more beautiful than to see so many happy people in the glow of the morning sun"? 

How would you describe Envision festival to someone that’s never been? 

"Imagine becoming a tropical fruit.  Now imagine turning ripe.  Now eat yourself. You are delicious". 

You’re known for playing the epic sunrise set. It’s a staple of the festival. How did it come about? 

"Thank you for saying that. It all started without a lot of fanfare.  I had already been playing a lot of sunrise sets for many years, but the sun in Costa Rica is different. Down there the sun is literally closer to you and much bigger. So in a way, the celestial physics of the solar system dictate that sunrise sets closer to the equator shall be more epic".

Are you planning on dropping any new music? 

"Yes, absolutely.  I have nearly completed my new album and have a lot of new songs that I will be debuting for the first time during my set.  I’m very excited".

How do you plan your set out. Since you start at night and perform till sunrise…do you prefer Envision more by day or by night? How’s it different?

"Personally, I prefer the nighttime and early morning.  It can be quite hot for me around 3pm and I usually just end up cuddling with a coconut in the shade.  That said, the journey through the day is what prepares me for the release of the night.  By sunrise I can’t help but be extremely happy".

"As far as my set goes, I have a rough plan, but try to stay flexible and leave some space open to explore.  It’s really more of a conversation between the music and the audience and natural surroundings". 

Any challenges to playing in the jungle, like rain? 

"Although it can occasionally rain incredibly hard down there, it is unlikely in the dry season.  I would say the biggest challenge is just keeping your equipment out of the sun.  Make no mistake, it will melt your gear".

Is the festival better in the rain or the sun? 

"It’s definitely better in the sun.  When it does rain down there, it’s intense.  The best part about the rain though is that all the jungle critters come out.  Some people get a little freaked out by large bugs and reptiles, but I find it to be an incomparable dip into the pool of life.  Like I said though, it is pretty unlikely we will see any rain during the event".

Any weird animal encounters? 

"One evening at the old location I was just standing around in sandals with some friends.  I felt a sharp pinch on my foot.  I looked down in the dark and saw what appeared to be an 8-inch fat red spider on my foot. The pain was pretty intense and I probably made a scream and kicked. It did not come off. I proceeded to frantically dance around for a moment until finally kicking it off into the air.  It flew over everyone’s head (there were a few screams of terror) and landed about 20 feet away.  We then realized it was very large land crab.  I had never seen one before and since we were about a half-kilometer from the beach it did not compute that a crab would just be taking a walk through the middle of the festival getting suddenly pissed at my foot. I think we all laughed nonstop for a few minutes".

Describe a perfect afternoon at the festival ... 

"Meet 100 new friends, get some acroyoga [acrobatics and yoga] from a stranger, meet some locals and learn some history, stop in for a talk about permaculture, take a rest and gaze at the multitudes of beautiful people walking by, have an afternoon dance session with some live reggae, wander down to the beach, grab a surfboard and hit some waves before sunset, stay on the beach and watch as hundreds of people pay homage to the last glimmer of light, try to wipe the smile off your face… give up and keep smiling until you fall asleep the next day".

Biggest change you’ve see to Envision since the inaugural fest 6 years ago? 

"It’s much bigger and more organized.  Beyond that, it has changed very little".

Which DJ’s set sticks out from previous years that you perhaps got to catch? 

"That is a tough question. So much good music. I would say Ott, Emancipator, The Human Experience, Dirtwire, Dimond Saints, Shpongle and Beats Antique stand out as some of my favorites from years past".

Got any fave Costa Rican DJs/bands you’ve gotten to know? 

"I really liked Sonambulo and Santos y Zurdo.  The Costa Rican sound is a great combination of several tropical genres. Always so perfect".

What are some non-festival things you do when out there … like, are there any cool off the beaten path waterfalls or beaches you hit up? 

"Basically the entire country is literally paradise.  Every year I discover a new unreal waterfall or jungle spot or beach.  Pick a direction and go.  You’ll find something incredible".

What's the wildest thing you’ve seen at the fest? Last year, for me, it was a guy giving a lecture on the indigenous jackfruit, like it was God’s gift to the world, while ladies dressed up as PanAm stewardesses made announcements on a bullhorn.

"Hah. That is hilarious.  I think the wildest part is just seeing so many people be completely free and released from their normal lives.  It is truly special".