Toward good vibrations

On August 16, 1987, the prophecy of Quetzalcoatl known as the 13 heavens and nine hells was fulfilled. Hell ended and the Harmonic Convergence began the following day.

For those who were too busy watching the Mets beat the Cubs, celebrating Madonna’s 29th birthday or catching “Miami Vice” to notice, the Harmonic Convergence was the announcement of the forthcoming of the end of time as we know it and a preparation for a move into fourth-dimensional reality.

Before you start thinking this is way too New Age-y, it’s worth noting that ancient Mayan civilization starting preparing for this centuries ago, founding their calendars on 13:20 time (where a year has 13 20-day months, and one extra day known as “the day out of time”) based on fourth-dimensional mathematics.

“The Harmonic Convergence to me is a raising of consciousness on the planet,” explains Andrew Usher, co-mastermind of the first Harmonic Convergence Festival slated for Deerfields Retreat, a vast, beautiful parcel of former national-forest land south of Asheville. “The message is time equals art, versus time equals money,” he continues. (However, money does equal your steep $75 pass into the festival. Art isn’t always enough to pay the rent — especially when it comes to renting 900-acre festival grounds.)

For Usher, the event is obviously a labor of love as much as it is a statement about the ways of the world.

“It started as an idea in my head,” Usher says. “I wanted to put together a music fest, and the name just came to me. I realized the dates I’d chosen were on the Harmonic Convergence anniversary.” Deciding to turn the festival into a celebration of the 15-year mark of that planetary shift, Usher spent several months gathering bands and DJs, many of them local to Asheville, who jibed with the theme. “We’re bringing in underground artists who play and speak about the energies going on right now,” Usher declares in the festival’s mission statement.

Among the bands playing the weekend show is local multi-genre conglomeration Granola Funk Express (GFE), a group Usher believes “speak[s] about opening your mind to what’s going on,” and hip-hop act Living Legends, an underground super-group (if such a thing can be said to exist) featuring eight MCs. “Overall their message is a conscious one,” Usher offers.

Headlining the event is DJ Spooky (added to the lineup just before press time) and Sound Tribe Sector 9, originally from Athens. “[STS9} is conscious of the Mayan timetable and they’re projecting good energy,” Usher appraises the group, all of whom he considers good friends.

“Ush came to us and asked us if we’d be interested in headlining,” STS9 bassist David Murphy recalls. The five-piece instrumental jam band felt the festival was a perfect match for them. “For me it means creating a peaceful environment,” Murphy muses. “It’s more about a gathering and communion of people than ‘Hey, check out this band’ or a lot of partying. This festival is an environment where people can bring their kids and feel safe.” He goes on to add, “We’re not recommending that people live a certain lifestyle … we’re really reaching out to all sorts of people.”

STS9 first hit the road in ’98. These days, part of the band lives on the West coast — but Murphy insists the three-time-zone separation is no impediment. “We get together and practice before we go on tour, and we’ve found that works great for us.” In fact, they recently played two weeks in Japan. “We were received really well,” he says. “They were into us being instrumental and being more from the electronic side of things.”

The mechanics of the Harmonic Convergence are based on putatively technical information about the “resonance frequency” ascribed to the earth — which, to those who embrace the theory, is currently in the process of moving from sleep mode to waking mode.

But to hear GFE tell it, the earth vibe doesn’t need to be measured in hertz-per-second to be experienced. “We’re definitely an earth-conscious band,” remarks guitarist/songwriter Josh Blake. ” … We feel connected to occurrences like solstices and the phases of the moon. We align people to these happenings and it fuels our fire.” He adds thoughtfully, “Hopefully we can awaken people to stop harming the planet.”

GFE grew from a traveling vegetarian kitchen at Rainbow Gatherings (a nomadic community that meets in national forests around the country). With nine band members and even more albums under their belt, GFE has built an impressively loyal fan base, especially in the Northeast.

“A long time ago we used to joke about having a mega-consciousness fest with workshops on yoga and sustainable agriculture,” Blake mentions. “Since we met Sound Tribe Sector 9, we’ve felt like they were the band we could do that with.”

Coincidence? Not in their view.

According to believers, we earthlings are in the middle of the 25-year culmination of the Harmonic Convergence. This ascension into higher-dimensional realities has been prophesized by cultures the world over, and how better to get on the path of advanced vibrations than through music? But even if you’re not attuned to that school of thought, the Harmonic Convergence Festival may still be up your alley. As STS9’s David Murphy puts it, “Anything with camping, water and live music has to be fun.”

Harmonic Convergence Festival

Harmonic Convergence Festival runs Friday, Aug. 16 through Sunday, Aug. 18 at Deerfields Retreat in Mills River, NC, accessible off exit 9 (Airport Road) from I-26. Headliners are DJ Spooky and Sound Tribe Sector 9; other acts include DJ Saxton, DJ Xist, Strut, Living Legends, DJ Cosmic Wind, DJ Kri, Scrappy Hamilton, Black Rebels, Hunab Krew (breakdance), Granola Funk Express, DJ John Howard and Ming & F.S. The festival also offers vegetarian food, interactive art areas (for both kids and adults), environmental workshops, yoga classes, and information about living by the Mayan calendar. Tickets at the gate are $75 for an adult weekend pass (price includes parking, hiking, swimming and Friday- and Saturday-night camping). Advance tickets are $70. Kids 12 and under get in free. No dogs will be allowed at the festival. For detailed directions, visit or call (828) 890-0008.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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