Northern Nights: 5 Years of Fun

A review of Northern Nights 2017

At a Glance

Up in the beautiful California Redwoods lies a hidden gem of a festival, Northern Nights. This three-day camping experience features music, comedy, a river, and much much more. In its fifth installment, Northern Nights has managed to get bigger and better than ever. Needless to say, I will be attending this festival in the future without a doubt. Although there is no signal deep in the Humboldt Redwoods, wifi becomes your least important necessity at this festival! Northern Nights is a 3-5 hour drive from San Fransisco and roughly 2-4 hours from Sacramento up the 101. Eventually, at the end of the mountainous trek, flashing lights and booming bass greet you with open arms.

Quick Facts

Music Genre: Hip Hop, Rap, Chillwave, Dubstep, Future Bass, Dance, Funk

Camping: This is a 3-day camping festival! Campsites are spread throughout the festival including under the redwoods behind the Grove Stage, next to the lake, and to the far right of the main stage. There are options for tent camping, car camping, and RV camping.

Capacity: This is a relatively smaller festival with an estimated 4k in attendance. Its small enough to see familiar faces, but large enough to see a bunch of new ones at all times.

Crowd Type: College type, Country folk, wooks, Festy fashionable, free spirited

Water Stations: Several water stations are posted throughout the festival including the stages. They are very easily accessible and impossible to miss!

How to Get There

The only way to get to this festival is with a car. Since it is tucked in the Humboldt/Mendocino area, the nearest airport (Sacramento) is roughly a 3-hour drive up the 101.

From SF: Depending on traffic the drive up can take anywhere from 3-5 hours. Expect windy roads and little to no signal as you make your way into the mountains.

From LA: Similarly, taking i-5 and 101 will take you up to Northern Nights from Socal. This drive can take anywhere from 8-11 hours depending on speed, traffic, and how many pit stops you choose to make.

Public Transportation: Unfortunately, there are no options for shuttles from the SF or Sacramento area to Northern Nights. However, they do encourage ride sharing with a webpage that allows for users to ask/provide rides for each other.

Flying in: Flying into SFO is normally the cheapest option. From there either using the ride share option or renting a car is your best bet!

Stage Layout

The Main Stage

Main Stage sits right in front of the entrance to the festival. This stage has a large LED panel and several other smaller panels. This stage is the most visually oriented in terms of lights. One of the best things about Northern Nights was the fact that there was plenty of room. Even during the headliners, moving to the front was not difficult at all.

The River Stage

As you can imagine, the River Stage is just a few feet away from the river. The sound at this stage carries out pretty far, so listening to the music out on the river can be a really nice experience. Watch out though, from around 2-5 the river gets extremely busy. There is no lifeguard on duty so keep that in mind before swimming.

The Grove Stage

The Grove Stage had a lot of soft colors that made it a great place to relax. Morning yoga and meditation are held at the Grove Stage until the evening when artist come to perform. This stage was by far the most interactive, since there was a ship to climb, and an area to explore next to the stage.

Musical Highlights

Imagined Herbal Flows: Relaxing, chilled out music can be a great escape in the middle of the day. IHF was able to provide just that at the River Stage over the weekend, including his best hits like “Departure and a bunch of new unreleased music into his set. His Nujabes, Odesza, and Tycho influences bleed into his music, making it an absolute treat to listen to. Watching IHF perform was awesome; I cannot wait to see another one of his performances!

Cherub: Closing out the festival, the duo Cherub put on an amazing show. Beyond the fact that they finished the festival off with their hit “Doses and Mimosas“, which ended in an incredible outro, their high energy and cheerful banter made their set one of the highlights of the weekend.

Jai Wolf: Seeing Jai Wolf is always an incredible experience for everyone. I had the pleasure of seeing him for the fourth time, and it happened to be my favorite set that he has played so far. This may be due to the fact that this was his first time ever headlining a festival.

Big Wild: Big Wild has been one of my favorite artists since I heard his music on ODESZA’s label Foreign Family. Northern Nights marked the sixth time I have seen Big Wild. Every time I have seen him perform, Big Wild manages to change it up just enough so that each show is its own unique experience. Watching him drum on top of a box, that was on top of a speaker, watching his wavy hair flow to the beat of the music was an incredibly beautiful experience. He also sang the song “Crickets” which was a very refreshing experience, especially since he mentioned that he has been attempting to sing more in his music.

G Jones: I would be remiss if I did not mention G Jones’s set. Beyond the fact that G Jones has revolutionized glitch and trip hop, his live sets are next level! G Jones dropped 3 brand new tracks at the festival and they were all incredible. We cannot wait for the tracks to be released.

Other than Music?

  • Chill on the River and drink a cold one with the boys
  • Get your green on and smoke in the 215 lounge
  • Get up early and do some morning yoga in the Grove
  • Meditate in the Grove
  • Shop around for festival gear
  • Become friends with your camping neighbors
  • Stay up late for the silent disco
  • Check out the art outside of the main stage
  • Lay down and relax in the hammocks
  • Laugh your head off during the comedy acts at the 215 lounge


Other than an area to the left of the main stage with a separate bar, real bathrooms, and complementary massages, VIP falls short of being worth it. The porta potties are cleaned once a day and they generally do not ever get too nasty. Due to the spacious area provided, maneuvering around the main stage is not difficult so the extra space in the VIP area does not have much of an added benefit.

Story Corner

I have been attending festivals since 2012, however, I have never been to a camping festival. So when I saw the lineup and the opportunity presented itself, I simply could not resist. Not knowing much about camping festivals, I turned to my colleagues and friends for advice so that I would be prepared for the festival. After figuring out all of the details, I set out on my adventure.

The night before the festival, my ride had fallen through so I used the ride share page of the Northern Nights website. Eventually, I had found a guy named Chris who I could go with and headed up to their place. Chis picked up another one of his friends and we were on our way to the festival. We discussed car problems and why my car would never survive the trip, and Chris agreed to state that he had serviced his car the day before.

Unfortunately, the mechanic did not do a stand-up job because 3 hours in the car’s engine began to overheat. We waited an hour and attempted to drive the car again to no avail. Eventually, we called AAA and got towed to the nearest AutoZone to buy coolant. After waiting a couple more hours and pouring coolant into the tank, Chris, Sam (the friend we picked up), and I were on our way.

To our horror, minutes later the same problem occurred, the engine was overheating yet again. We limped our way back to Autozone to see what the problem was. With the help of some knowledgable workers, and some crafty locals we were able to take the busted thermostat out of the engine and let the coolant flow through.

What was supposed to be a 5 hour trip to Northern Nights ended up taking 14, but in the end, I made some good friends, and learned a bit about how engines work!






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