There are very few events that maintain the same vibe year after year, but SENSORiUM Music & Arts Festival seems to be on track to do just that. Following up last summer’s inaugural year at the Ukie Club on Franklin in North Philly, the event kept showing us why they are the best kept secret when it comes to small-time city festivals.
From the moment you stroll through the gates on Franklin Avenue and make your way to the grassy lawn that encompasses the Ukie Club, you can just tell that SENSORiUM has harnessed something special. I got there nice and early, and was excited to catch The Rust Music’s Wessanders throwing down some exceptionally gritty bass music on a stage that would host some of the day’s best acts. As soon as you turned the corner and entered the rest of the grounds, it was quite obvious that the day was going to be nothing short of extraordinary.
People were sitting on blankets scattered across the lawn enjoying the endless sunshine, booths with vendors lined the outer rim of the festival, while interactive art installations (and even some lawn games) welcomed attendees. My personal favorite was the massive game of croquet played with mallets constructed of 10 gallon drums and broom handles. A collection of food trucks were also onsite, and artists galore were live painting and hawking their wares in the Progressive Art Society’s (pARTS) section of the grounds.
While crossing the grass, people could take a break under one tent brandishing the name “The Lounge” with tables, couches, and plenty of shade to hide away from the sun. As the day progressed more people huddled underneath to partake in making art and enjoying the delicious tunes coming from the jam stage.
One of my favorite sets of the day came from Tygris, whose funky trip-hop productions are always a highlight of any event. It was even better when he brought his recent collaborator Squalpat onstage to rinse out the tunes from their new EP. Following his set, I made my way back to the Lounge to catch a few sets from the comfort of one of their couches including Flux Capacitor and the always entertaining grooves woven by Space Bacon. It was impossible to sit for long though, as their extended tracks and luscious licks enticed anyone there to stand up and dance.
One of my favorite aspects of SENSORiUM (given my history of bouncing back and forth between Philly, New York, and the surrounding areas), is that it’s impossible to move 15 yards in any direction and not run into a variety of friends and familiar faces. It seemed like all day long people around me were hugging and greeting friends of their own. It’s always a special thing to see so many people with nothing but smiles on their faces and friends by their side.
Tweed put on an exceptional set (as is to be expected from the hometown heroes and founders of the fest), and Malakai kept things bouncy and bassy back at The Rust’s takeover on the Andromeda stage. Shortly after he wrapped up, I realized I had completely forgotten that deep within the basement of the Ukie Club, there was an entire area that I had been neglecting: The Black Hole.
I made my way inside just in time to catch an incredible set by the homie GoldenSpiral, whose world bass fueled my soul for the rest of the evening. When I first entered the downstairs room of sight and sound, I was getting quite exhausted from all the stimuli the day had been throwing my way. All of that changed though, and I found myself fully energized and dancing to the music. It’s also in The Black Hole that the custom stage built by pARTS was on full display, and The Void was working his magic with projection mapped visuals. It was incredible, and an excellent way to hide away from the sun for a little bit.
I made it back outside in time to catch most of 5am Trio’s set, before heading back to the rear of the fest for El Ten Eleven. It wasn’t until Tobacco came on though, that I truly understood what all of the hype was about. Glitched and crunchy IDM emanated from the stage, and I was awestruck along with most of the rest of the crowd as these asynchronous melodies and outstanding bursts of sound echoed out into the night. I was completely blown away, and Tobacco is certainly someone I will not miss ever again.
The afterparty was another dose of excellence that included a menagerie of sounds and incredible visuals from that dude DRO1D. The custom stage build by pARTS was incredible to see as attendees packed into the basement of the Ukie Center and danced the night away to Bad Leather, Beard O Bees, and Wax Future.
Once again, SENSORiUM Provided a gorgeous oasis of sight and sound in the middle of the bustling city of Philadelphia. They continue to provide a reprieve from the world around us, and I’m absolutely guaranteed to keep coming back every year.