Reggae singer shown performing onstage

Rise and Vibes encompasses so much more than a simple reggae music festival. Yes, there was the awesome roots music and fun times you’d expect to find at a camping fest. There was also a wealth of things to experience at Tico Time River Resort.

The event took place May 10th-12th, just south of Durango near scenic Aztec, New Mexico. With a stellar lineup of musicians and activities on tap for the weekend, I knew that it was going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

What I wasn’t ready for was just how fast the days would fly by! This was my first visit to Tico Time, but it definitely won’t be my last. And I’m not just saying that because I also attended the Bluegrass Festival there May 17th-19th this year.

What Time is it? Tico Time!!

From check-in on Thursday evening to departure on Monday morning, you didn’t need a clock to tell time. It was always Tico Time! That call and response was repeated throughout the weekend, by fans, staff and performers alike.

After arrival, it was time to select a car camping spot. Campers utilized options like the Emerald Forest walk-in camping (included with your ticket) or glamping, riverside VIP car-camping, or RV sites with full-hookup or boon-docking options. I was stoked when the parking staff let us set up next to the quiet family camping area.

While it was the longest walk to the stage, it offered serene sleeping conditions and a great view of the sky. As the weekend progressed, both of those proved to be clutch. My new friends from camp and I hiked our chairs to the beach and staked a claim in the sand. A spot under the shade canopy proved invaluable throughout the sun-soaked days.

Friday started with a sprinkle, but the rain stayed away — something the 2023 Rise & Vibes Festival attendees would’ve welcomed. Seating selections included blankets, benches, and all types of camp chairs. A half circle formed around the stage with a pit area for dancing. Other festivalgoers set up along the water or lounged on net-style trampolines.

Reggae festival attendee smoking a joint
Partaking of the medicine
A Land Acknowledgment Ceremony by a Native American
Land Acknowledgment Ceremony

The Opening Ceremony and Land Acknowledgment were a beautiful initiation to a weekend of high vibrations. A message about how our actions impact the collective unconscious stuck with me during the weekend and beyond: “Are we planting seeds of awareness, or polluting it with negativity?”

There was a giving of thanks for ganja, the medicine which reggae celebrates. The herb would be present throughout the festival in songs and on the wind.

Day One Dubs

The music began on the Beach Stage at midday on Friday with chill reggae from Zeeceekeely. They hail from Tucson, “Irie-zona,” as the roots groups from Arizona liked to say. Irie means good or pleasing in Jamaican. Their positive lyrics and vibes set the tone for the weekend.

Map of Tico Time River Resort

Repping their home state, Reviva was up next at the Pavilion Stage. They mixed reggae verses with hip-hop rhymes and bilingual singing. It was great seeing the local New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado music scenes represented heavily at the festival. This homegrown feel helps endear Tico Time to residents and musicians alike.

The Pavilion featured a shaded, concrete-floored structure. Fire pits and a sand volleyball court were located adjacent. The first two bands on the Pavilion Stage played two sets of 45 minutes each, surrounding a main stage act. This provided a perfect time to grab a bite at the food trucks or camp cafe. Hoofing it back to the campsite for a snack and change of clothes was doable within a set!

Keyboardist playing music onstage
Reviva playing on the Pavilion Stage

Rocking the beach next were The Riddims. They dedicated almost every track to someone or something. During a jam for the Marijuanos, they proclaimed that New Mexico has the best weed. Sampling it wouldn’t be a problem with the onsite dispensary! A fam jam featuring members of Zeeceekeely and Desert Fish closed their set. Collaborations onstage proved to be highlights of the weekend.

Night One: Dancing To The Beats

Midday saw Perfect Giddimani and the Riddim Rebels rock the beach. Hailing from Jamaica, his authentic island swagger and reggae lyricism gave a glimpse into the classic art form. He also brought up-and-coming star Young Shanty onstage for a unique collaboration.

Across the bridge, things heated up with Pipe Down — but it was pipes up as they crooned about the herb. The crowd chuckled at a hilarious song about wondering who smoked all the weed, blaming friends, and realizing you puffed it all yourself. Who’s guilty of having done that?!?

Reggae singer performing onstage with the Jamaican flag waving
Perfect Giddimani and the Jamaican flag

A delayed start to Beats Antique offered time to play Frisbee and volleyball, or just wander. Vendors sold festival fare like jewelry, gems, and funky clothes. For the more adventurous, stronger medicine like magic mushrooms were available at one booth.

I explored the merch stand next to the beach stage. Rotating items from the bands paired with Rise & Vibes swag, which included shirts and hats, vinyl albums, posters, stickers and more.

Delivering an audiovisual spectacle, Beats Antique whipped the crowd into a frenzy. They brought exotic world music and Eastern influences to their show. Zoe Jakes and her masterful belly dancing entranced and invigorated onlookers, imploring them to swing along. She led dancers in demonstrations of body control, unison and sensuality. Their symbolic mastery of the divine feminine felt especially relevant on Mother’s Day Weekend.

Female dancers perform a drum ritual onstage
Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique

Kruzing to Midnight With Tribal Seeds

As San Diego-based Tribal Seeds took the stage, it was cooler outside but the crowd was staying toasty. Whether it was dancing and singing along, sampling the tasty Santa Fe Brewing offerings, or toking ganja, everyone got down their own way.

Tribal Seeds’ music itself is intoxicating, with driving guitar licks, funky bass, tropical keyboards, and jazzy horns. Founding member Steven Rene Jacobo joked about the smoke. “Now that we’re elevated, let’s take a trip to Toke-ee-yo,” she said before launching into their hit “Tokyo.”

Reggae musician performs onstage
Tribal Seeds
View of the crowd at an outdoor reggae concert
Rise and Vibes crowd
Hip-Hop performer shown onstage
Kruza Kid

Nighttime showcased a variety of festival characters. Flow artists, fire spinners, and Hula hoopers were scattered around the beach. My crew’s fave was a guy toting a human fishing pole. With a psychedelic lighted and mirrored gazing ball as a lure, it was reminiscent of an anglerfish. Except this bait was meant to attract starry-eyed stoners!

Late nights after the main stage shut down, the pavilion was the hot spot. Friday night brought the flowing rhymes and clever hip-hop of Kruza Kid to the stage. It was a touching moment when he FaceTimed with “Mama Kruze” because he would miss spending Mother’s Day with her.

I ducked out before Selecta DeeCee infused his reggaeton beats. There was a different spectacle I wanted to witness: aurora borealis lighting up the horizon! The faint glow visible with the naked eye produced spectacular cell phone and camera photos.

Brightly colored auroras light up the night sky
Auroras over New Mexico

Prezence of Mind and Body

The music on Saturday started with Grant Prezence from Sedona, Arizona. I’d bumped into him during Kruza Kid’s performance. He’d joked about needing to go to bed since 11:00 AM was earlier than he’d ever performed. He must’ve slept well because he nailed it! He played drums and sang, and collaborator King David James joined him for several songs. They spread messages of freedom and equality.

Sierra Marin, with her haunting voice, and Roots Ascension from San Diego took the stage next. In her joyous set with a hopeful message, she talked about being blessed to carry music as medicine. Marin offered to trade merch in exchange for pictures and videos. She encouraged fans to stop by to get autographs.

Female musician shown playing keyboard onstage
Sierra Marin

The Pavilion Stage kicked off with Tatanka‘s dance-friendly roots jams. Circus-meets family picnic vibes defined their sets. At 4:20, they noted the time and dedicated a song for all the smokers. Miles from The Riddims joined them for another awesome collaborative moment.

Breaking Free From Convention

Saturday afternoon saw The Copper Children from Denver on the beach. They blend bluesy, soulful rock with folk, funk and roots-tinged psychedelia. The resulting output is a flowery feeling mix reminiscent of the late ’60s. Their dedicated fan base flocked to the fest. The pinnacle of their set was bringing up Sierra Marin for a Bob Marley cover.

Keyboard player and guitarist shown onstage
Free Creatures
A female musician plays upright bass onstage
Free Creatures

Free Creatures from Oregon brought their hip-hop meets indie-rock production to the beach. I’d met guitarist Skyler Squglio on Friday while wandering the beach. He built hype and passed out business cards containing the band’s info. They also had perforated crutches for rolling joints. Free Creatures’ infectious joyousness, thought-provoking lyrics, and catchy beats made them one of my favorite acts.

Freedom Movement brought positive messages and clever rhymes to the pavilion. Their fun, flowing style of rootsy, conscious hip-hop was perfect dance fuel. Justice, love, and money — especially the distribution of wealth — were common themes of their songs.

Get Elovated And Feel Your Pulse Rise

A reggae band plays on an outdoor stage
The Elovaters

The beach saw a big Saturday night gathering for The Elovaters. While they hail from Boston, their sound is pure sun-drenched Cali vibes. Their radio-friendly roots music draws fans from all age groups. Everyone enjoyed a cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon.”

Steel Pulse brought classic reggae to their headlining turn. Hailing from Birmingham, England, the legends have been around for nearly 50 years! In honor of their anniversary next year, singer and founder David Hinds introduced the 1977 single “Nyah Luv” by professing, “We decided to dust this one off… and give it to you!”

Saxophone and trombone player onstage
Steel Pulse
Guitar player and band shown performing onstage
Steel Pulse

Steel Pulse was the first non-Jamaican group to win a Grammy for reggae, also earning a nomination for their 2019 album Mass Manipulation. A high point of the set was a giant inflatable doobie being passed into the crowd. Now that’s one smokin’ souvenir!

Speaking of torchin’ things up, a midnight ritual by the Darshan Dance Company was amazing! Based in Denver, they featured Eastern dances and costumes. The performance included enthralling fire spinning. Set to the tribal sounds of a community drum circle, the performance was mystical and moving.

Fire dancer performs against a dark backdrop
Darshan Dance Company

With music from morning until after midnight, it had been a long day as the selecta sessions started. In the reggae world, a selecta is another word for a DJ — the chooser of music. Codestar kept the crowd jamming, and Warren Ji closed things out. Late nights at the pavilion were a club-like scene.

Sunday Funday and Mother’s Day Vibes

Sunday offered a later start for recovery. For some, that meant catching a yoga session at the Event Tent, located on the opposite end of the beach as the stage. Each day started with yoga sessions set to music by a featured artist. Offerings included Miles Jay of Beats Antique, Treaphort, and Coop Mahndala. The Sacred Fire space hosted wellness events each morning.

My Sunday started with sleeping in! After wakin’ and bakin’, I loosened up with ecstatic dancing at the pavilion. With a friendly reminder from the host, I wished my mom a happy Mother’s Day!

A yogi leads a group in a yoga session
Morning Yoga Session

Arizona’s The Irie started the day’s tunes at the beach with feel-good roots rock. They dedicated their set to former collaborator Andy Chaves, who’d been the lead singer of Katastro. Later, the singers of The Riddims and Desert Fish joined them during a tribute song for Chaves.

Innastate was the first band at the pavilion on Sunday. The bandmates are each Indigenous tribe members and proudly represent their heritage. With rockin’ guitar and thunderous bass, they’re on the heavy side of reggae. The singer joked with the crowd: “We’re a bunch of metalheads if you didn’t notice.” Ska-metal, here we come!

Midday Magic

Hailing from Kingston, Jamaica, Royal Blu brought authentic roots singing and swagger to the stage. He was backed by Denver-based musical collective The Autos. Royal Blu and his flowing lyrics matched their fluid playing perfectly. Before launching into a lively number, he mentioned that dancehall is the more uptempo type of reggae.

Jamaican singer onstage with arms spread
Royal Blu
Musician shown playing traditional string instrument

The beach set by Porangui was mystical and magical. Born in Brazil and residing in Sedona, Arizona, he brings tribal sounds. Through looping and a vast collection of musical gadgets, he can accomplish the effect of an entire tribe playing together. Unique regional and ancestral instruments with serene natural sounds created an enchanting wall of sound.

Musician shown playing traditional horn instrument

Between music, the Darshan Dance Company took over again on the Beach Stage. Their phenomenal “Desert” performance was set to an epic EDM track by Clozee with an Eastern feel. They showed off shimmering costumes and fantastic synchronized dancing.

Just Happy to Be Here

After missing Rise and Vibes in 2023, Wookiefoot took the stage Sunday night. Lead singer Mark Murphy expressed regret at having to miss the event. He mentioned it was their only canceled show in the band’s 25-year history.

Murphy shouted out Mike Love, who’d filled in for them on short notice. Murphy continued, saying he’d “never meant this song so much: I’m just ‘Happy To Be Here.'” Their set was a bonanza of entertainment, with the circus atmosphere for which Wookiefoot shows are known.

Band and dancers shown on an outdoor stage

Fire spinners and aerialists highlighted their set. Dancers in wing suits, space suits, and brightly colored outfits paraded the stage. During one song, dancers balanced bongs on their heads while whirling about. A female drummer showed off blazing speed while playing a six-drum setup as she marched around.

Hailing from Tucson, Desert Fish was the last band to play at the pavilion. Shouting out their home state of Iriezona, they delivered a rockin’ roots set with funky keyboards. The stage would stay open late as DJs wrapped up the festival.

Closing Down With a Boogie

Closing out the beach in style, JBoog brought an island party! Born and raised in Long Beach, JBoog had a strong Polynesian cultural upbringing, celebrating his Samoan heritage. His touring band features several members with Pacific Island backgrounds.

Roots band shown playing on outdoor stage
Band takes a bow in front of audience

Throwing it back to the garage where things started, JBoog treated fans to an acoustic jam. With just guitar and harmonized vocals for a few songs, it was a unique thrill for the crowd.

As Miraja and DJ Jimmy Djembe closed out the pavilion, attendees let loose. JBoog hung out at the Pavilion, sending off the weekend in style. He even got us a few more songs at closing time!

A crazy cool weekend was coming to a close, and feelings were mixed. No matter your journey, this was the last hurrah. Exhaustion, elation and appreciation were common sentiments. I felt them all, mixed with sadness that it was almost over.

A couple embraces at a concert

With the abundance of sunshine, good times, and great tunes, Rise and Vibes was beautiful. With the wealth of natural medicine pervading throughout, there are a few hazy moments from the weekend. However, the sense of community and positive vibes I experienced will stick with me forever.

If this sounds like something you want to experience, stay connected, as early bird tickets are moving. It all goes down again from May 30th through June 1st, 2025, and I can’t wait.

Tico Time, take me away!!

Photos by Damian Riniker

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