5 West Coast Music Festivals That Go Beyond The Music

With conscious festivals popping up all over, it can be hard to know where to spend your hard-earned cash. Should you be on a tug-of-war team with some of your favorite musical artists at Dirtybird? Should you learn how to grow your own vegetable garden at Lightning in a Bottle? Or should you head over to Burning Man to let out your inner performance artist?

We took the liberty of breaking down each of these five conscious festivals to their main, core points--so you can be sure to find the one that best fits you.

1. Burning Man
Of course Burning Man is on the list. The grandfather of alternative festivals, Burning Man gets its name from a 40-foot sculpture of a man that the "Burners" set aflame in the Nevada desert at the end of each summer festival. If you're interested in attending a festival but not really participating, look elsewhere, because Burning Man requires you to jump in with both feet. Do you want to build an art installation? Maybe do a durational performance piece? They also have a database of existing projects you can browse and hop into, so you can be a part of something without needing to invent it from scratch. Plus, the entire festival is free of ads and sponsors, so you can enjoy a few days away from the relentless march of consumerism.

2. Lightning In A Bottle
Nestled in Bradley, CA, Lightning In A Bottle (LIB) offers a huge selection of environmentally- and spiritually-conscious workshops and performances, from Android Jones' "Psychedelic Digital Painting" to the Yogic Medicine Institute's "Kitchen Medical Magic From Tibet, China, and India" to Deni Bechard's "Writing As Activism." They also have incredible musical artists, immersive art installations, and free water. Throw their heavy usage of alternative energy sources on top--their biofuel, solar energy, and eco-friendly lights--and this festival is a solid destination for anyone looking to learn, grow, and shrink their carbon footprint.

3. Symbiosis Gatherings

Taking a page out of Burning Man's book, this event is also totally free of sponsors and ads. Self-described as "a synaesthesia of art, music, transformational learning, and sustainable living," they cover their stages in large-scale original art and offer a number of events and gatherings each year. Some are science-based, like "Yuri's Night," their collaboration with NASA that celebrates the first person to orbit the earth; some are more "traditional" with a basis in spirituality, environmental consciousness, and workshops.

4. Dirtybird Campout
Dirtybird, as it's known now, grew out of a collaboration between them and Do Lab--the organization that founded LIB. Another conscious California camping experience, Dirtybird prides itself on more of a nostalgic summer-camp atmosphere. Participants get divided randomly into teams of yellow, purple, or green, and then compete all weekend in camp-style activities--archery, arts and crafts, a talent show, and so much...s'more! (Yes, I went there.) You've still got your grown-up nature walks and yoga classes, but if you want to play tug-of-war with Papa Claude, this festival's got you covered.

5. Further Future
At the Moapa River Indian Reservation near Las Vegas, you'll be able to see attendees of this festival enraptured with visionary speakers, incredible workshops, and electronically-inspired music, all graciously hosted by the Paiute Indians. Their website uses words like "salubrious" and "mélange," if that gives you a general idea of their vibe. Further Future also brings in acclaimed chefs to cook pop-up dinners throughout the festival, for which festivalgoers must purchase tickets--Hamachi Ceviche and Charred Octopus, anyone? Or if drinks are more your style, you can try drinks from world-renowned mixologists that feature things like rose quartz-infused gin and flamed cinnamon. In between incredible bites, chat with your neighbors about their visions for the future, and enjoy the view.

While conscious festivals are certainly becoming more of a trend, each festival on the market still has its own distinct features and style, allowing you to experience something completely different with each journey you take. Whether you're stepping out of your comfort zone at Burning Man, learning from diverse workshops at Lightning In A Bottle, dancing to sponsor-free music at Symbiosis, running through an obstacle course at Dirtybird, or enjoying the company of likeminded visionaries at Further Future, these west-coast festivals are sure to bring you what you're looking for.