Yes, it’s true. One of my biggest dreams is to hold a hold a 50,000 person music festival by 2030. And when I tell people that, they usually look at me like I’m crazy. And maybe I am!
But my love and passion for music festivals and community is real, and it all started on a train from Salzburg to Vienna.
I was backpacking with a friend of mine. We had just settled into what I was expecting to be a quiet two-hour train ride…but the other passengers had a different idea. A huge group was dancing, partying, loudly speaking German, shouting like they were celebrating. My friend and I exchanged a confused look. What gives? Not your typical stoic train passengers, for sure!
I walked up to the group and asked what was going on. One of the guys turned to me and said, with a huge smile, “Oh, we’re going to a music festival! Novarock.”
Music festival? I’d never been to one before, but this seemed like the perfect adventure.
I turned to my friend. “Dude, we should go!”
At first, he didn’t agree. Our hostel was already booked, he said, and we already had our plans set out. But I kept pushing.
“No, come on! Let’s cancel that stuff and go have an adventure!”
By the end of the 2-hour train ride, I’d convinced him to go, and the other passengers happily let us tag along all the way to the festival.
Once there, we scalped some tickets for 100 Euros each, and when they let us inside, it blew my mind. The place was huge. Tents were everywhere, with people from all over the world camping and enjoying the atmosphere.
The music was incredible. The weather was excruciatingly hot, though, so we moved on after a couple days, back on our original path. But still, I left with an incredibly cool experience tucked away for future reference.
About a month later, I found another festival in Poland, where I stayed for a full five days. But this time, the part of the festival that I loved more than the music was the atmosphere.
At this festival, everyone was so open. I could wander off by myself and make new friends in a matter of minutes. There were no cliques. Nobody had their walls up. Everyone was friendly, brave, and open to connection.
Right then, I fell in love with that sense of community.
And I immediately knew that, someday, I wanted to build something like that. I just never thought I actually could.
I had always loved planning events and trips for friends—trips to San Diego and LA, bungee jumping, and so on—and I did a good job. People always had a great time. But there’s a huge difference between planning an event for five people, and planning an event for fifty thousand.
It seemed way too massive to accomplish.
Things started to shift when I started slack lining in the park, and, unexpectedly, this huge community began to develop (now called Desert Canvas).
As the group started to grow, I started to wonder if maybe my dream wasn’t so far off after all. I tested the waters with a little festival out in the middle of nowhere—Munduzer Fest—that featured music, rock climbing, and a few other activities.
More people came than I expected, and its success started me thinking, “Maybe this could actually work. Maybe this could be something big.”
And the group keeps growing. And the members continue to be more and more involved.
And now, after hard work and dedication, Desert Canvas is hosting our first legitimate festival, with a goal to have 1300 attendees.
We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the connections I’ve made over the years. Paulina M, was one of the earliest additions to the team, and her creativity and professional hula hopping performance skills along with her connections have proved to be super valuable. Caitlin MacMurtrie another one of our early members will be moving here in January 1st to work this full time! These two individuals have been some of the key assets to helping us move forward.
But the list doesn’t end there. Samuel, Lyle, Vladmir, Jonathon, Amanda, Jared, Ashley, Josh, Max, Juliette, Sara, Alberto, Ashley, Blain, Britanny, Eleanor, Erica, Mitch, Jat, John, Kelly, Candace, and Paul, Emily, Davesh have all been huge help and many I am sure will continue to grow with us to even greater heights! ( I sure hope I didn’t miss anyone!)
And from a technical standpoint, two people have been instrumental. First, my friend Will Curran, the owner of a nationwide production company called Endless Entertainment. He’s used to working on events larger than this one, and has hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. The other incredible recent partner is my friend Steven, who owns a Gringo Street Bar and can use his liquor license to sell drinks at the event.
Because we’ve all met and connected, because we’ve planted this sense of community, we’re on our way to building something big and awesome.
We want to start out 2016 as the biggest conscious-based music festival in Arizona.
We want to have 1,300 person events on a monthly basis. And, eventually, we want to build up to a 3-day, year-end music festival, for 50,000 people.
To make this happen, I have worked hundreds of hours, and have invested hundreds of dollars. This is NOT a way to get rich—this is the definition of a passion project.
I want to share the wealth. Our only objective is to change lives through helping people step outside their comfort zones—that is why Desert Canvas is on track to become a non-profit organization.
Since working on this, I can’t tell you how many people have told me this event has changed their life. People cry, because they’re shown that they can do something that aligns with their passions.
I’ve had people come to events, and leave inspired to take on their dream job.
One friend, Mitch, came to the events a couple times, and became inspired to pursue his passion for photography—a passion he’d pushed aside, because of his corporate job.
So many people have made huge life changes, and I’d like to believe it’s because of the welcoming community…and because at these events, they inevitably step outside their comfort zones.
That’s what the festival’s really about. By stepping outside of your comfort zone a little bit to talk to someone you don’t know, you learn more about yourself, and you learn about things from the perspective of others.
You can do things you’ve never seen or done before. Maybe that’s acro yoga, maybe it’s just yoga, maybe it’s mediation or sound healing–things that are sometimes a little “out there” for the mainstream audience.
But actively participating or watching opens your mind. It can change the way you think about things. It can encourage you to go after your dreams.
That’s our end goal. It started on an Austrian train. It started with a love for events and community. It started with a music festival in Poland where there were no cliques, and people could genuinely connect. And where it ends up? Well, that’s up to you.
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