Over Spring Break, I had the pleasure of attending AURA Music and Arts Festival for my fifth consecutive year. AURA is one of my favorite weekends of the year and I have become engrained in the beautiful community that has formed around the event. At a time where music festivals seem to be far too commercialized, AURA offers a refreshingly community-oriented event overflowing with love and excitement. Though the entire weekend was fantastic, there were a few aspects that really brought the whole event together.
AURA has cultivated an extremely loyal fan base, many of whom have attended the event multiple times during its seven-year history. With so many “repeat offenders” in attendance, the event always feels like some sort of homecoming. The event staff was extremely hard-working and accommodating. Furthermore, since AURA is a much more intimate festival than larger events at Suwannee, the communal vibe was extremely prevalent. It felt as though everybody knew each other by end of the weekend.
This year’s lineup was extremely eclectic and appealed to music fans across the board. Nunchuck, a super-group featuring members of Dopapod and Turkuaz with Mike Dillon, played a high-energy psychedelic punk rock set at the Vibe Tent while Particle manifested a jamtronic explosion on the Porch Stage. Turkuaz dazzled their die-hard fans with a funk odyssey while Bedside brought a taste of Miami to the festival with their groovy live band. The Main Squeeze brought some extra zesty funk and The New Deal was so hot that I was shedding layers of clothing left and right. Snarky Puppy brought their A-game, showing everyone why they are two-time Grammy Award winners. Thievery Corporation was a genre in and of itself, molding electronic music with hip-hop and instrumental music from all over the world. The Disco Biscuits embraced collaboration, welcoming Tommy Hamilton on a pair of Grateful Dead tunes as well as Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick on a cover of “Funky Town.” Some of the other sets that stood out were ALO, Tom Hamilton’s American Babies, Bright Light Social Hour, and ROAR.
For the second year in row, AURA took place during the second weekend of Spring Break. This worked out perfectly for me—as a graduating senior, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my last college vacation than a weekend at my favorite venue, seeing some of my favorite bands with my favorite people. Furthermore, since the event was Thursday through Saturday, I did not need to worry about dealing with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) as I packed up and left Sunday morning.
If there is one thing I have learned through my years of attending AURA, it is that it is about far more than the music—it is about the people. AURA is built upon unconditional love, and the community reflects that. The event isn’t full of people who are there because they heard the headliner on the radio once, or because they saw an advertisement. AURA survives through the love and support of its fan base. Similar to an authentic brick-and-mortar coffee shop in a Starbucks world, events like AURA are a refreshing reminder of what it really feels like to be a part of a community built on love, loyalty, and having the time of your life. AURA reminds us that we “never have to think twice” because we “always knew [our] home was in paradise.”