Music festivals are a nightlife gal’s best friend. It is such a wonderful feeling to dance your heart out to live music. Especially while lights laser beam across the night sky in spectacular formation. And an excuse to travel? What’s not to love?
But make that sustainable? I would have never thought that was even possible until I heard of Deep Tropics.
Deep Tropics is the first sustainable techno music festival. It celebrated its 5th year this past August in Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. The team producing this festival has seriously set the bar like no other. They managed to combine the deep love of music with environmentalism and the wellness of its attendees. And I got to experience it all in person.
Travel and Accommodations
The Deep Tropics festival took place in Downtown Nashville. This made travel and finding accommodations extremely convenient. The festival was only a 20 minute ride from the airport. The popular destination also meant accommodation options were abundant.
I decided to stay in Germantown, located right to the north of the festival location. Germantown is a gorgeous historic neighborhood containing coffee shops, bars, and eateries. It was also within walking distance to the festival. However, I mainly decided on Germantown because I read the Deep Tropics map upside down and thought the entrance was on the opposite side ( my bad ).
The Grounds of the Deep Tropics Ecosystem
Before entering the festival, I already knew of the three stages: Meru Amphitheater, Lotus, and the Congo Soundsystem. That was where the research ended. As a first time attendee with barely any preparation on which DJs I wanted to see, I decided to routinely hop between all three stages. This would help me navigate the festival grounds. Therefore, I could quickly see all its offerings and what each stage holds.
Meru Amphitheater was the place to go for good house music. It was also the best stage to camp at as I saw individuals sit in small groups. It was easy to get a good view with its layered steps. As a person who skews towards the short spectrum, this was a major plus. I loved to listen as the DJ facilitated the ritualistic session of “letting yourself go to the music”. I often circled back to view the insane lighting and flamethrowers of pure awe and wonder.
The Lotus stage held most of the drum and bass sets. The Lotus stage is where you go to head-bang hard with other dirty dubstep enthusiasts. At first glance, the crowd seemed more dense than others since it had only “one-level” of a grassy field for attendees. However, I found it easy to navigate to the front with what was to me an unusually compliant and “chilled-out” crowd. My experience with concerts in NYC has led me to believe you’ll always have to fight your way to the stage. Deep Tropics has soulfully told me I’m wrong.
The Congo SoundSystem was the third stage that played a lot of groovy funk and tropical type beats. I found it to be a partially underappreciated stage. The crowd’s were never super large which also made me feel quite comfortable to stand, swaying at the front, happily gazing as the DJ did their thing. It was nestled along the end of the strip called Food Island and Market Cove, making it a great spot to grab a bite and listen to live music. The stage also looked unreal as an elevated house structure, hidden amongst the trees. The design created an immersive intimate environment for you, the DJ, the crowd, and your food.
Speaking of food, the festival had a very reasonably priced selection. ( Unless you were in the VIP area in which food was free) Compared to NYC festivals, it felt worth the money. And while I took a risk eating a slice of pizza outside of NYC, I am happy to say, it was pretty good.
The market area was full of shops that mesmerized eyes with patterns and neon lights. Vendors sold apparel, accessories, attractive ear protectors and art. ( How’s that for alliteration? )
I thought it was especially amazing that there were beauty vendors. Many people may not feel aesthetically prepared for festival. Not everyone has rave outfits or glittery makeup on hand. Some like me are just not very good at putting on false lashes. A quick stop to some vendors like Vanity Vanguard and Glitter Bitch and you would be set. Walk into Market Cove one person – walk out with glitter, makeup, braided pigtails and cute cat ears. Oh and a fan too. ( Good for keeping cool. )
Techno Music Magic
The most important aspect of a music festival is of course, the music. With no clear plan on which DJs I wanted to see – Surprise, surprise – I found I liked them all. Every set I happened to wander my way into was amazing. Every. Single. One.
It is important to know each stage’s vibe. I was able to change my setting every time my mood changed as well.
For when I needed to get more energy out I went to Lotus and thrashed around to sets like Lunice and INZO. For bouncing to some funky, fruity beats I went to Congo Soundsystem for sets from Ken Sable and Arvi Mala. And then there is when I needed some big heart-lifting music. The kind where you sway freely in a big open space. Meru was for those moments – holding amazing sets from Kream, LP Giobbi and SG Lewis. Meru was also where I decided to end both of my nights at Deep Tropics.
Getting Deep with Deep Culture
The core of the sustainable and wellness aspects of Deep Tropics lies with their partnership with the non-profit Deep Culture. Deep Culture curates experiences that focus on community, healing and connectedness with nature. Deep Culture intricately weaved their mission throughout the festival.
How humans affect the environment is a complicated matter. But Deep Tropics almost makes it simple. They did the “green-thinking” for all attendees so all we would have to do was exist and follow their rules.
Fundraising through ECO Tokens
Attendees could donate money in a “Kickstarter”-esque system through ECO Tokens. Donation amounts equaled different levels of rewards. Each level contained the number of trees planted as well as a merchandise discount and a reusable utensil set. Higher levels also included benefits such as VIP passes, early future registration, and even a magnolia tree sapling.
Wellness Grounds On Festival Grounds
At the far end of the festival grounds, attendees could find various health and earth conscious shops and activities.
The Creative ReUse Dome encouraged upcycling apparel.
T.R.I.B.E. Refuge was a small event space holding conversations surrounding culture.
The Deep Culture Speakeasy hosted spiritual talks and ecstatic dance.
The Healing Sanctuary held various donation based healing services such as energy readings, dream analysis, tarot readings, and spiritual massages. ( I got two of these services done. )
The Elixir Bar and Nourishment Lab offered herbaceous mocktails with different themes such as self love, joy and relaxation. You could also add THC to any beverage for an extra charge. I chose the Over The Rainbow. It was “happiness potion” that included raw ACV, honey jasmine green tea, holy basil and of course a little bit of THC.
The Amazing Volunteers
A large part of how Deep Tropics functions is from their volunteers. Earth Guardian volunteers kept the grounds clean and in check. People volunteered to man the bars and help setup the stages and installation art. Healers from the wellness grounds also contributed their services. The volunteers are the enforcers of Deep Culture’s mission of healing for people and for the environment.
Litter is almost a guaranteed byproduct of any large gathering of people. Yet Deep Tropics managed to account for almost all festival-goer waste, AKA trash. There were clear receptacles for trash, recycling and compostables all across the festival. Attendees could also spend $5 on a tin cup that could be re-used for drinks during the festival. Other drink options were in metal cans and food was served on paper plates.
The Bar Being Set
With the complexity of running large events, is it possible to “party hardy” and be green, too? Take into account attendees, their “byproducts”, energetic costs of running the stages, rentals and emissions caused by travel.
The answer is yes.
Deep Culture managed to divert 96% of the waste from the festival this year. This successfully beats their 2022’s already insane record of 93%.
When I say the team at Deep Tropics raised the bar – they raised the bar.
Deep Tropics reveals that what is seemingly improbable is actually just the lack of prioritization, planning, and most importantly care. It has proven through a track record of 5 years that it is possible to have a sustainable music event. This is with the true definition of what sustainability means.
And it is not just sustainable.
On top of all that, from a more personal perspective, it was also safe as well. I’m a small woman, navigating a music festival solo. NYC events has trained me to keep an eye out at all times. But, I felt incredibly safe at Deep Tropics. No unwarranted advances. Just good vibes all around. Everyone I said “no” to, calmly went on their own way. How’s that for something different?
So yes, for many many reasons, Deep Tropics has raised the bar for all music festivals for me. And you can bet I’ll be there next year as well. Let’s see if they can beat their 96% waste diversion.
Until next time. Cheers~