Music lovers have swarmed to Heber City for an experience unlike any other for the past two years. What’s not to love about sublime music, thought-provoking art and tasty food trucks?
Ever since the Bonanza Campout was announced in 2016, it’s all anyone has been talking about in Utah. Bonanza Campout annually dominates a single weekend in the summer. The lineup varies every year, but generally includes performers from a wide range of genres including indie, EDM, rock and hip-hop. Having featured Cold War Kids, Louis The Child, The Airborne Toxic Event and Halsey, the event has accumulated an exceptionally large following. Festival-goers travel from other parts of Utah and surrounding areas to spend three incredible nights enjoying music, food, art and nature.
Bonanza Campout ruled Friday, June 22 to Sunday, June 24 this year. Phantogram, Oh Wonder and Moon Taxi were some of the 35 artists who performed on the Bonanza and the Shade Stages. The festival also included local Utah artists, such as Lantern by Sea and Jake Chamberlain & The Heist, each day. With such diverse artists in the lineup, including three increasingly popular headliners like ZHU, Wiz Khalifa and Halsey, this festival was one for the books.
One performance on the Bonanza Stage really caught my attention. At 7:00 p.m. Saturday, June 23, an EDM duo from California roused Bonanza attendees with an electrifying performance of beats, guitar riffs and an all-around good time.
Kevin and Jeff Saurer have been performing and creating music under the moniker Hippie Sabotage since the early 2000s, but their journey started a lot earlier. The pair found a sincere passion for music when they were children.
“It honestly was just a fun thing to do,” Jeff said. Kevin added, “We always just liked collecting records and making beats in the most traditional way … I don’t know … that was just our thing, we just really liked doing it. It evolved into this crazy thing that is Hippie Sabotage.”
Kevin and Jeff may not be children anymore, but they still know how to have a good time. They excited the crowd with an hour of hip-hop and EDM tunes and entertained with riffs and solos. Kevin even joined the audience on the ground, something done by few artists at Bonanza.
Joining the audience on the ground wasn’t his only interaction. Kevin also encouraged audience members to jump, crowd-surf and mosh while hopping on stage himself. One of the only things both Kevin and Jeff don’t like to see in the crowd is fighting. It is very clear how important fans and audience members are to the pair.
Nothing is better than seeing passionate artists, and Hippie Sabotage fits this definition. Not only did they put on an incredible performance, but they even took a moment to give attendants encouraging life advice.
Midway through the set, Kevin said, “My friends, just give yourself a chance in this life, it’s really that simple. Nothing ever happened when someone didn’t give themselves a chance.”
Speaking from experience, Kevin said, “I think that in today’s society where people are … just having a hard time from all walks of life it’s an important thing that I tell myself every day and … we want to try and, you know, leave the people with at least something for how we feel, you know?”
Kevin and Jeff did just that with all the music they’ve produced. Now several of Hippie Sabotage’s tracks have reached over a million plays on both Spotify and SoundCloud. Their remix of Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High)” has secured 300,000,000 plays — quite an accomplishment for a couple of guys who simply gave themselves a chance.
“To be honest, we never once doubted ourselves. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but we were always so strongly optimistic that it would work that when it did finally work it was the most gratifying thing, but it was also like … okay it finally happened, now let’s keep it going, you know what I mean?” Jeff said.
Hippie Sabotage isn’t close to stopping. They have a scheduled appearance at California’s Hard Summer Music Festival in August and they’re headlining the ‘Lost California’ Tour in the fall. Utah’s absence on the tour itinerary is sure to sadden fans, but the pair plans to return to Utah in the spring.
Another artist, Halsey, had the same positive message for fans as she closed the festival.
People were packed from left to right in front of the stage. Parents had young children on their shoulders and cellphones were high in the air in hopes of catching a clip of the famous artist. When Halsey’s silhouette appeared from behind the curtain, the crowd went wild and it stayed that way throughout her set. Not only did the artist play songs from her current album, “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom,” she also played hits like “Colors” and “Hurricane” from her first album entitled “Badlands.” Halsey took a moment to speak to the audience when she saw several fans wearing merchandise from her first album, telling them how she wrote the album when she was 20 and “scared of everything” while on tour with Utah natives Imagine Dragons. Throughout her set Halsey encouraged the audience “to be free, to not give a f***, and to remember that you don’t belong to anyone but yourself.”
The concern with many live artists is they won’t sound the same as they do on their records, but with Halsey this wasn’t the case. In fact, the live performances of her melodic, brutally honest songs made them even better. She was able to change and hold notes like it was nothing. One of the core premises of live performances is for the artist to be able to entertain and sound good. Halsey did both, and in the middle of her set she made a comment about it.
“You become a musician for one of two reasons,” she said. “The first is because you think you can create something so good the whole world will love it. Which is a bit narcissistic, but still. Two, because you need millions of people to tell you that what you’re feeling is okay. That you’re okay.”
Songs like “Hurricane,” “Bad at Love” and “Alone” aren’t afraid to showcase the not-so-pretty aspects of life. Halsey doesn’t romanticize those things through her music. Instead, she brings needed attention to them. Her music is relatable to people of all ages — as indicated by the crowd. It provides a safe place where listeners can admit that they have these feelings, too.
Overall, Halsey’s performance was worth the wait. During her set, she said, “You know, I said to my manager on the way here, do you think anyone is going to stay to watch me? It’s been a long festival.” She paused as the crowd erupted into cheers and screams for her. She then performed a slow, breath-taking performance of her summer hit “Closer,” the recorded version of which featured the Chainsmokers, with the help of the crowd.
Halsey did not disappoint in any shape or form. She’s humble, honest and irrevocably human. It shows in her music and it showed in her performance. That’s why her fans love her.
Turn up the stereo this summer and blast Hippie Sabotage’s latest track “FADING INTO FOG,” released June 22 on SoundCloud or any of Halsey’s amazing music. You won’t regret it. Next year you might just find yourself in the Heber Valley swaying along.