Stilldream 2019: Nineteen Years of History
West coast festival culture is one of those things where if you know, you know. Every summer, thousands of people gather at various underground bass music festivals to share their love of music, mindfulness, and human connection. We enjoy the lineups, stage production, vendor booths, and some of the most outrageous sound systems in existence. But, do we ever really know the full history of the hard work and dedication that goes into these passion-filled events? Most of the time, we only know what we can see with our own eyes. But with the past that surrounds Stilldream Festival, it goes so much deeper than that. Honestly, I didn’t know too much about the details of Stilldream’s history, but after chatting with founder Paul Plescov, I got some understanding of the love and persistence that has gone into Stilldream in its 19-year journey. The following is a short interview that was created to learn a little more about the magical gathering in the woods, and why you should never give up on your dreams… no matter how far out they may seem.
Q: Why was Stilldream started?
A: Kind of a long old story now, but Stilldream was started for a variety of reasons. At the time there was a decline of events of an outdoor nature. We loved camping and outdoors and from events that we had attended the idea was kind of passed down that your anniversary event should be a campout. So as events of that nature started to dwindle, we felt that it was our duty to step up to the plate.
Q: What was the first Stilldream like? (location, purpose, vibe)
A: Well, as we didn’t really know much about throwing events I only really knew one place that we could have 50-100 people and play music and party and that was at my father’s house out in the country. He would leave to go back to Latvia (a small Baltic Country on the border of Russia) every summer and leave me in charge of the house for 2 weeks at a time. We had had many kickbacks there and I figured if we cleaned out the barn we could put in a sound system and have a dance floor and it wouldn’t be too much different then what we already were doing.
Going back to purpose… well, after going to events for a few years and trying to get to know people in other areas we felt that if no one was going to give us a chance (as we were just some kids from the country) then we were going to have to build our community. We already had a tight network of friends from our skateboard community so it wasn’t a much bigger leap to just ad DJs, lights and get a little more organized. We wanted people to hear the music that we were playing as we really felt we had something to bring to the table
One of the concepts of Stilldream comes from a moment where myself and Patrick (Mek) were in SF at the Maritime Hall in 99/00 watching one of our favorite artists Mars & Mystre from Frequency 8 just lay it down to a crowd of 2,000 people. It felt so unreal like how could we ever get there, they were like so in control of the crowd. I think Pat was feeling the exact same thing it was pure awe of the moment to see something like that and he looked at me, smiled and was like, “hey man, we can still dream”. and all of sudden it really grounded us, that no matter how unattainable something felt, if you can dream it, you can do it
Stilldream was more than the concept of music making you feel like a trance but it was a decree as well. No matter where you’re at you can Stilldream and if you can Stilldream you can still do it. Almost like nothing out of reach if you really want it. So, our first events were us with a close group of friend between 25-100 depending on the event, playing music and talking about the things we could do. The sky was the limit.
Q: With eighteen years of history behind Stilldream, the music featured has changed with the culture around dance music. What are some of the more notable genres/acts featured previously?
A: Yea, everything has changed. Sometimes I’m still totally amazed that going on 19 years we’re still here doing it, but at the same time this has never been a fad for me it’s a way of life. Some people get caught in a particular musical style and that’s what they want to hear and as that music rises and eventually falls, they fade away too. I absolutely love new music, I’ve definitely been dedicated to playing a particular style, but I’ve always loved listening to pretty much everything (to a point). Things I really like is when people push boundaries. It’s part of what really drew my attention to electronic music. It is kind of always on the forefront or has been at the forefront for roughly the last 20-30 years. I’ve always loved finding that new sound and at a certain point, I felt that if I really want to expand people’s awareness we gotta use our event to do so. It’s the perfect platform.
I think one of the things that make Stilldream different is that we’re still pushing people’s musical palettes and we’re not afraid to pay homage to our roots as well. We want to honor where we come from while looking to the future. So you get this really interesting mix of people at our event who are all doing the same thing sometimes from different cultures or scenes but that’s what makes it interesting. We’re all truly cut from the same cloth, we span several different generations and create a tribe of misfit expressionists who want to try and leave the world a little better than we found it by expressing our uniqueness.
If you look back to 2003 we had DJ Treavor (Desert Dwellers, Moontribe) and DJ Brad (Moontribe) playing Psytrance and Techno / Tech House. Moontribe was a huge influence in our minds helping the shape of our concept of what all this is about. Years later they still are doing it 25+ years. In 2004 we flew from the UK one of the founding members of the Stay Up Forever Collective, Aaron Liberator. Their group comes from the UK Squat party / Free Party scene and are used to finding a warehouse somewhere in a large city sprawls like in the London area and moving in for the weekend. The Liberators and the whole Stay Up Forever group were truly an inspiration to us in the beginning years as well. Running tons of labels and all of them constantly producing and putting out new tracks. Hard and edgy with this punk rock don’t give a fuck attitude. It was raw. We loved it.
In 2004, we started looking at taking Stilldream from a campout to more of a festival atmosphere. We went from one night to two nights and at the 5-Year we decided to add the Downtempo Chill stage. By the 7 Year, we looked to our friends who were pushing this new Dubstep sound and sprinkled the main stage changing our usual 4 on the floor format and adding acts in like a 2-hour Heavyweight Dub Champion set. You can still see 30 mins of that set on youtube. It’s pretty amazing. Our crowd was either really pumped on it or like WTF is this? lol, I loved it. You gotta push the envelope. Don’t get stale. Bass Music was really starting to take hold our side stage chill stage started getting bigger, better sound more curated acts, less chill more floor stomping dubstep/glitch sounds. The music was changing and we were changing with it.
By 2009, we had full on acts like Heavyweight, Medicine Drum, Vibesquad, Blvd, Jupit3r, Kether (stephan Jacobs) but still maintained some of the house and trance with acts like Bassbin Twins and Uberzone, Doc Martin and Dave Dresden. We actually had Claude Von Stroke booked that year but lost him to a big Spain Festival that we really couldn’t compete with and have never been able to book him since. 2009 was probably one of our biggest years to date. It was an amazing moment where nuskool and old school came together.
In 2010, our 10-year dream come true finally happened. We had been working on trying to book Tipper since 2006 and we finally got the opportunity. We also ending up moving Stilldream to Mendocino that year and moving your event out of your base market was difficult. The lineup was absolutely incredible featuring Tipper, Hybrid, Mark Farina, 12th Planet and many more acts. Having it in Mendocino opened us up into a demographic we hadn’t been exposed to before too. It was good and helped Stilldream grow into the event that it is today.
In 2011, we moved to Belden and booked this guy Dillon Francis you might have heard of him along with Benji Vaughn aka Prometheus aka Younger Brother which was a band he had with Simon Posford of Shpongle. In 2012, we finally booked Freq Nasty and DJ Dan and in 2013 we had The Polish Ambassador, Random Rab, Bluetech.
2014 may be my favorite year ever, though I’m not 100% sure I can say that because they are all good for different reasons, but having Alex and Allyson Grey, with Odesza and the west coast festival premiere of Joker and had a full Moontribe takeover it was such another big moment for us. It just really stands out. What an event. In 2015, we were able to finagle another elusive broken beat bass legend Si Begg, plus Vaski, Plastician, Swindle (the infamous horse tit year). This was another one of those paradigm shifts where we saw a whole other generation start to step up and push the envelope and take charge. Artists like Shlump, Space Jesus and Yheti really pushing hard and coming on to their own.
In 2017, we booked Big Wild, Ott, Eprom, Space Jesus, Zeke Beats, Yheti and the list goes on. It was a big year for us but we as a group I think started to feel a little stale at Belden. We had just finished our 7th year there and were seeking some creativity – a new outlet. The music was shifting again, there was more corporate festival competition and literally, we felt like we were in a race to the bottom trying to compete.
So we had to think long and hard about what was important about our event. What were the core things about Stilldream that made it special? We put out some questionnaires to our attendee’s. Got their feedback. We found that people were less interested in high-cost tickets, big names and big production and more about community vibes, their friends, good music and enjoying the outdoors. We came to the realization that we can still bring in a high-quality event but focus on those key ingredients that made Stilldream so good. Blue Mountain Event gave us that opportunity. We’ve been able to bring down our ticket costs making the event more accessible to everyone. We’re back on a giant field in the middle of the woods with a beautiful creek that runs through it, everyone gets to park on site again. Less red tape, more fun, back to our roots. With our sell out in 2018, I think the proof is in the pudding. We aren’t a big corporate festival, we don’t have to have big corporate marketing or insane lighting systems. This is about the unique group of people who Stilldream brings together. The cutting edge music from now and then.
The type of music has changed but the mission hasn’t. Push the envelope, spread the love and remember you if you can dream you can do it. I can Stilldream of the dream within a dream.