Category Archives: Music

[Tech Talk] Dive Into DSLR Photography

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You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”

― Alan W. Watts

Serenity in the Sequoias

Being a photographer is a bit like if you give a mouse a cookie:  if you give a photographer a point a shoot, they’ll want a dSLR; give them a dSLR and they’ll want a prime lens; give them a prime lens and they’ll want a wide angle and a zoom lens; then they’ll want studio lights, a professional flash…and well, you get it – it becomes an addition of the best sort.

From as long ago as I can remember, my step-mother would always have a camera attached to her hip. She captured poignant moments of an awkward childhood, from gleefully following my dad and I on our beach adventures or feeding ducks, and capturing birthday parties and basketball games; as I grew older, I found myself in awe of her keen eye – finding the simple beauty in nature, exploring minimal architecture, capturing the first bloom of a rose, or creating a mood with striking black and white imagery.   At least once a month, the three of us would wander down to Stanford Shopping Center for an afternoon outing to the now defunct One Time Photo, enjoying some sorbet from the ice cream shop next door while we patiently waited for the film to develop.  Wandering back through the photo store, I let my fingers unknowingly explore film from different ISOs as the printer that took up almost two-thirds of the store whirred with excitement. Then, I started stock piling disposable cameras – with a quick flick of the wrist, and the wind up flash, they became my quick introduction to pre-digital photography.

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Finally, when I was in high school, through a combination of technological advances and parents caving to their teenage daughter: I was given my first digital camera.  Within the photo world, there’s an ever present debate between the merits of Canon versus Nikon, with both the Sony Alpha and Panasonic Lumix lines not far behind.  But in my family, there wasn’t ever a choice – we’re a Canon + Mac family, through and through; so it began: first with a Canon Powershot, and then a Digital Elph.  Fast forward to now, and the technology for your cell phone’s camera has caught up to the most basic point and shoots, and your most basic iPhone or Android has the rudimentary functions of a camera. How-the hell-ever, in a sense you’re still dependent on your technology to do most of the heavy lifting.  Enter the DSLR.  I had my first real introduction to them in college – when I worked in retail to make some extra cash, some of my coworkers were attending the Brooks School for Photography.  I eagerly lapped up every iota of information I could as I sat in through product shoots and photoshoots; truth be told I moved to Los Angeles because of my love of modeling but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve learned how much I prefer being behind the camera, versus in front of it.

 

As I forayed my way into the Music Industry five years ago – I realized cell phones and point and shoots simply can’t capture the depth and detail the way the professional cameras can; not to mention, with DSLRs – you can go from capturing a moment to creating a moment.  Leaving your camera in Auto relegates each camera function to its internal camera, meaning that even though you’re pressing the shutter to capture the photo – it’s actually the camera’s AI that determined the richness of color, depth of field and focus.  Conversely, in Manual, when each camera function now relies on the user’s aptitude and emotion in the moment, twenty photographers could take the same photo and each produce a very different image.  I’ll admit that for the longest time, the DSLR scared me – it was intimidating, clunky, with what seemed like way too many buttons but after almost four years of watching Danny make magic with the 6D, I’ve finally mustered up the courage to carry it around for the day and get a few pictures that I’m happy with.

Back in the Spring two years ago while we gallivanted through Sequoia – there was something in the air that was so inspiring, it lured my creative nature out of hiding and brought it out to play.   It was frustrating trying to understand settings on the fly, adjusting for almost each image to get it the way my mind’s eye saw it, but as is the thing with life: you can’t get better at the things you don’t try.  Every once and a while for the next months after, I’d pick up the camera, fire a few images I was unhappy with and politely place it back where I’d found it – until I found the right resources, books and mentors to help me get my bearings.  In the time Danny and I have been together, he’s gone from a self taught amateur to a contributor for Getty Images; it’s beyond impressive. What he always tells me is that everyone – every single one of us – sees the world through their own unique prism, and it’s only through the exploration of your own creativity that you can convey those images to everyone else.

Getty VillaRegardless of whether you’re surrounded by gear heads, mentors or photographers, the best thing you can do is get some real hands on experience while stocking up on excellent resources.  I started on Canon 6D for Dummies, which was a great introduction to all things DSLR from the bottom up: lenses, features, menus, camera set up and some more intermediate functions like HRD and Multiple Exposure images, setting up the WiFi and adjusting the White Balance manually.   Even though making your way through the manual page by page might seem like a bore – after reading through Canon for Dummies, it also felt absolutely necessary to learn the core tools of the trade.  Next time you pick up a camera, do yourself a favor and just play around with the settings, comparing images to fully understand what each button can do.Related image

Next up, I migrated to the more  advanced Canon 6D: From Snapshots to Great Shots, which was more of a top down approach to the settings based on epic images, along with some informative asides on F-Stops, ISO and Shutter Speed while diving into each function of the camera; and let me tell you: this is the most important thing to understand.  The Shutter Speed is the length of time that your lens is open to absorb light,while the aperture – or F-Stop, controls the depth of field that the camera focuses on.  Finally, the ISO controls the cameras sensitivity to light and the ways the camera processes detail. I just got my paws on The Photographer’s Playbook  which has a menagerie of photography exercises for anyone, amateur to professional. Here’s the thing – you can read books til the cows come home, sit in on photo shoots as the second shooter or an assistant, or pull up Youtube tutorials to walk you through the basics but the best experience will always be true experience.   If you’ve been itching to pick up a camera, just do it – you’ll be surprised to find your mind working in new and creative ways to capture a moment, and trust me – you’ll be just as hooked as I am.  For anyone looking to jump in – Best Buy has amazing Open Box deals, as does Amazon, while F Stoppers has a great online repository of resources.

If you’re in the market to take your photography to the next level, F Stoppers is a wonderful online resource as well. Not to mention,

Photo bugs – what are some of your favorite pieces of gear? Let me know in the comments below!

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[Adulting 101] Tax Season 2018

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Image result for monopoly income tax

Seasons here in Los Angeles are an undependable and drastically different monster than anywhere else, Summer can last half the year, while Winter might only last a few days; but the good news is that Tax Season typically comes pretty standard.  Now that we’re almost a month through the new year and you’re working on removing the last one from your lexicon, your finances can finally do the same now as the IRS has begun to accept tax returns for 2017.  Last year, I dolled out the 411 on all things tax season – but this year there are some updates, some new tips and tricks as well as the latest changes to the new tax codes that have rolled out for the year. As the world turns and as your personal world turns, so does your financial world – children, new employment, marriage, and legislation can put a world of change onto your tax returns. With a few life adjustments under my sleeves and a whole lot of personal growth, I have ample new information to share.

Before we dive down the rabbit hole, let’s back up for a second.  Every time we get near April I tend to ask myself why the hell we even pay taxes anyways – but there are ample reasons that it’s a necessity.  At the most basic level, a government and a governed society can only work properly if everyone is participating – money is one of those forms of participation, as are things like voting, working with your local city council and so on.  Social and community functions like hospitals, national parks, schools, roads and the salaries of certain city employees and officials are derived directly from the taxes we pay – whether the money comes directly out of your paycheck, as with a W-2, or as an annual residual if you’re an independent contractor and go by 1099.

Documents on Documents.

Last week, many business and companies began to roll out both their electronic and paper versions of your W2 or 1099, depending on your type of employment. In addition, fiscal firms have also sent out a 1099-DIV form with instructions on investments.  The easiest way to keep yourself organized is either an analog filing cabinet, or a secure digital folder.  As soon as you have the basics, you can begin the filing process – and if you acquire more documents after you’ve filed, never fear: there’s a very simple process to amend your Tax Return, however that must be mailed in.

2018 tax brackets

Filing

When I was a kid, my parents would assist with my taxes – and by kid, I mean 20 year old. Now that I’m old enough to figure out my own way, I defer to e-filing Intuit’s Turbo Tax, but H&R Block also offers a comparable service if you’re looking into other options. For those of you that need a lot of itemizations, deductions and or exemptions – your best bet is turning to a tax professional.  With the advent of the internet they don’t necessarily need to be local, however you will want someone that understands the state laws for where you lived in 2017.

 

Fast Facts

A few tax basics for your lexicon: a dependent is a person that you’re not married to that fiscally depends on you, and only you. Most adults, whether single or married, only claim 1 – but more on that later. Depending on your gross income for the past year and the federal assistance received for health insurance or social security, you might not need to file taxes at all.

Married with Taxes

Now, this to me was – and still slightly is – the tricky part. Just hitched last August, this is the first time I’ll be able to file my taxes as a married lady and I had a lot of questions, but rightfully so.  When you’re married, there are two ways of filing – you can file ‘Married and Jointly’ or ‘Married and Separately’.

So let’s break this down.  Filing ‘Married and Separately’ is exactly how it sounds, you submit your spouses name and social security number along with yours but the only taxes you will file are your own. On the other hand, filing ‘Married and Jointly’ combines your gross income as a couple into one umbrella group, if you notice in the chart above – the income intervals for ‘M & J’ are double the intervals of ‘M & S’, and coming with that is also a fairly nice tax break.  When does each one make sense? Now, that’s the trick – and each year, it could be different depending on types of employment and each partner’s salary.  For us cats over here, I computed both – the Married and Separately as well as Married and Jointly, and compared the results to myself before I believed what I read – but now I can indeed verify: filing Married and Separately makes the most sense for partners that make nearly the same amount within the same tax bracket, while Married and Jointly seems to be the most beneficial when there is an exponential disparity in income.

Filing Deadline

Officially kicking off Tax Season yesterday, you can file your taxes any time you’d like between now and the April 17th (yes, 17th) deadline.  I’ve discovered a little trick, where the sooner you submit your tax return the sooner you can reap the sweet rewards. Last year, it only took a week and a half for both my state and federal return to be processed, so I like sending mine out as soon as possible.  But in case I made a mistake I can file amended 1040-X anytime over the next three years. And yes, Tax Day is technically on April 15th, but that’s also a Sunday – with the observed ‘Emancipation Day’ holiday falling in Washington DC on the Monday, making it a federal holiday, thus the deadline is now Tuesday, April 17th.

IRS | IRS E-File

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[LA Life] In That Moment, I Was Infinite: A Trip Through Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at The Broad

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Yayoi Kusama x Infinity Room

My last few years in Los Angeles have elicited a mountain of personal growth and emotional change.  In a grand sense, I’ve finally discovered myself and understand my innate needs and wants – and in the most basic, I’ve fully enjoyed being myself within each and every moment.  Forever a city kitty by nurture, it turns out that I’m actually a little mountain lion by nature but the trick has been learning what keeps my soul level and balanced – a little bit of sunshine and landscapes here, some graffiti, city lights, music and art there.  The most amazing thing about living in Southern California, and especially Los Angeles, is the immediate access to both – sometimes even in the same day.  Just the other weekend, Danny and I took a cruise through the Angeles Crest Forest and grounded ourselves in the scenic beauty and amazing views, and this weekend we balanced it with now my favorite art exhibit I’ve ever been to – Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at The Broad.

Yayoi Kusama x Infinity Room

Art does a lot of things for me, but above all it provides me a new, askew and different lens to observe the world through.  Whether it’s sculpture, watercolors, immersive art or sculptures – the best art forces me outside of myself to view the world from a birds eye view while diving further inside of myself in personal discovery; and I would absolutely include the Infinity Mirrors in that category.  A playful experience with color and perspective, Yayoi Kusama’s excellent creative eye has created a handful of unique environments that meld your minds and opens your eyes to a vibrant, multidimensional universe.

Yayoi Kusama x Infinity Room

Hailing from Nagano, Japan, Yayoi began playing with color and shapes when she was ten and it’s obvious that her love and creativity have only grown exponentially since.  Considered a forerunner to the Pop Art movement that cultivated  Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, Yayoi calls her unique process “Self Obliteration”.  An artist that’s as multidimensional as her work, Yayoi has foraryed from painting and watercolors to writing novels and poems, dabbling in fashion design and film direction.  Since 1963, she’s been recognized for her hypnotic and mesmerizing Mirror / Infinity Room environments.  Featured at international museums as both a traveling and permanent exhibit,  fans will be excited to know that the Yayoi Kusama has officially opened in Tokyo, Japan – if you’re up for the adventure.

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For now, Yayoi’s current works are being featured in a 50 year retrospective that’s on rotation between several museums across the United States.  Originally at Washington DC’s Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum + Sculpture Garden, the exhibit then traveled to the Seattle Art Museum over the Summer before landing at Los Angeles’s Broad Museum.  In March, Yayoi’s works will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario and then finally land at the Cleveland Museum of Art in July of 2018.

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For me, this was an experience I absolutely had to document – from room to room, I was moved phenomenally and entranced by my surroundings.  But, I also put my phone down and just was wowed by it all – and I highly suggest both for you, too. Due to a high volume of interest there are no more reserved spots for the Infinity Mirrors – but the Broad Museum does offer standby tickets for those willing to wait.

For more about Yayoi Kusama‘s Infinity Mirrors, the Broad Museum and their contemporary collection of art, head to their site and socials –

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

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Yayoi Kusama x Infinity Room Yayoi Kusama x Infinity Room

[The Audiofiles] Inaugural Electronic Music Awards to Honor Motor City Techno Greats

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The long awaited Electronic Music Awards, originally slated for 2016, are finally just around the corner – and we couldn’t be more intrigued for what’s to come: the celebration of musical tastemakers, creatives, executives and entertainment visionaries across eleven awards. Taking place in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles at the Willow Studios, the fabled Electronic Music Awards are slated for Thursday, September 21st from 7:30 to 10:30 PST.

For your chance to join the fun, RSVP here.Simultaneously live streamed through SiriusXM and Twitter, the Electronic Music Awards is not your mother’s award show: like all things with dance music, it’s a party! There’s no sitting on the dancefloor – in fact, this a dancing room only affair featuring no long winded acceptance speeches, and no breaks – except for when they’re accompanied by some funky beats, that will emanate from various corners of the venue.

Paying homage to the industrial origins of techno music, the Electronic Music Awards will showcase the Detroit acts on the Detroit Dock, a unique outdoor space, with a DJ booth situated on a loading dock. Featuring multiple generations of Motor City’s artists, you’ll be able to catch genre godfather Juan Atkins, legendary DJ Delano Smith, Robert Hood performing as Floorplan (Live) and The Saunderson Brothers, are carrying the torch for their father Kevin Saunderson and a new generation of Detroit artists.Other notable performances for the evening include the first US performance from the UK based OG’s Orbital, Moby, Autograf, Kidnap Kid, Madeaux, Gold Fish and so many more.

However, a few formative questions still remain: with the amount of commercialism pumped into the industry in the last few years, exactly what facets of dance music will be hitting syndicated television, how much homage will the underground dance culture, community and artists behind it be paid and how will underrepresented demographics like women and minorities within dance music be displayed? one look at the artist list and you’ll realize that there aren’t any female performers slated for the evening, so, will there be any female award winners – or at least any females in the running?

Check back next week for a full event recap ❤

For more on the Electronic Music Awards Show, head to their social media channels:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

[Traveling Tales] A Double Date of Drinks at Block15 and 4 Spirits

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In what’s become a tradition of sorts, several times a year I venture off to Corvallis to visit my family, reconnect with nature and reset my personal frequency.  While the school year brings a hearty amount of hustle and bustle to the mostly agricultural community, the Summertime brings sleepy months of stunning sunsets mixed with fantastic weather; and the food and drink? Thanks to the Oregon maker spirit and an influx of former California natives, they live up to the state motto ‘Alis volat propriis‘, and they’re getting better all the time.

This romp around Central Oregon was absolutely different than anything else; first and foremost, after three years of planning – Danny and I were finally getting married, and secondly – it was fueled with the energy of the Total Solar Eclipse.   Though there were some fantastic moments over the entire week, one of my personal highlights was actually after the weight of the big day had been lifted and we were just left with some key players, including my now husband, my dad, our officiant + best friend and my cousin.  For one glorious afternoon, we enjoyed a double date of delicious drinks and rumpus games at Corvallis’ own Block15 Brewery and 4 Spirits Distillery.  Though I’d been through the former haunt of 4 Spirits, I hadn’t had a chance to visit since their migration. 

Now conveniently located side by side, 4 Spirits and Block15 pack a hearty one two punch of some of the finest beer and rustic whiskey Oregon has to offer.  When visiting, our friend reminded us of the old adage ‘Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear’, so off to 4 Spirits we went!

Boasting a bevvy of Rums, Whiskeys and a signature Vodka, at it’s heart – 4 Spirits is a philanthropic venture, giving back to both homegrown programs from Oregon and initiatives in Wyoming, Montana and Washington. To taste a flight of four hearty half ounce shots, it’s only $5 – and if a member of you group happens to purchase a bottle, then the rounds are on the house. For the whiskey drinkers, there’s the Bourbon Whiskey with delicious undercurrents of vanilla and caramel, the American Whiskey, and Single Malt; for the rum-ophiles, there’s a silver rum, a light rum, a dark rum, and my personal favorite (and take that to heart, because I’m not a rum drinker) – their habanero spiced rum; and last, and least, their vodka – which was great, but that’s not why one goes to 4 Spirits.  To add to their cornucopia of liquor, the new spot also offers a kitchen with munch worthy snacks like Stuffed Tots and fries, full sized fare ranging from burgers and sandwiches to pizza, plus a lawn version of Yahtzee, appropriately called Yard-zee.
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After loosening ourselves up with liquor, we were off to the second stop on our double date – Block15.  Literally a hop, skip and a jump across the parking lot sat Block15’s Brewery and Taproom, not to be confused with their restaurant located in the heart (aka. within the four blocks) of Downtown Corvallis.  For about $5-8 depending on your tastes, you can get a flight of five tasty beverages.  My favorites was Hopnotize, Wandlepad and the Lil’ Dab, a cannabis infused drink – cheers to you, Oregon.  Hypnosis was on the heavier side, so if you’re of the type that likes to chew their beer – this is your best bet. Though their food menu isn’t nearly as deep at the Taproom as it is at their Restaurant, the kitchen still produces some bomb eats including a DIY charcuterie board, hearty sandwiches and a hands down the best bier pretzel I’ve ever tasted.

For anyone who happens across Oregon’s Central region or finds themselves in Corvallis, between these two locations you simply can’t go wrong.  So hop on the good foot, and do the drinks thing.

For more on 4 Spirits and Block15, visit Corvallis – their socials:

4 SpiritsWebsite | Facebook 

Block 15: Website | Facebook | Instagram

[The Audiofiles] Find the ‘Formless Edge’ With Random Rab’s Latest Release

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Photo Credit: Daniel Zetterstrom

Between multitudes of music genres and thousands of tantalizing sounds that wind their way into your ear drums, there’s something to be said for music with an organic feel; the type of music with a powerful, ethereal quality where artists transform into vessels of sound themselves. These type of artists are few and far between, but completely coveted when they’re found. Whether Random Rab is at a festival in a headline slot, at a renegade stage, greeting the day with a sentimental sunrise set, or simply emanating from your speakers as you sway through your day – the man always delivers an expertly crafted lyrical masterpiece.

Now with an unprecedented eleventh studio album notched in his belt, Random Rab delivers his latest salacious sounds in Formless Edge, out on Friday, June 16th via major digital outlets. An emotional soundscape built on a pulsing backbone, Formless Edge is rich with uplifting syncopation layered with enchanting vocals.  An auditory trailblazer, Random Rab – birthname Rab Clinton – synthesized sounds from over 30 unique instruments to build the 15 song album, beautifully blurring the line between the organic and electronic. As boundary pushing as the album name suggests, Formless Edge features collaborations with artists from Rigzin, Kyrstyn Pixton, Jason Kalidas, Peia, and Lapa, better known to fans as Ilya Goldberg of Emancipator fame. For a glimpse into the mind of Random Rab, dive down the rabbit hole with the extrasensory experience of ‘A Little More Free’.

Formless Edge Full Track List:

  1. Gimme That Hope
  2. Curiosity
  3. A Little More Free (listen)
  4. Outpost Aurora
  5. Parallels (feat. Lapa)
  6. Lucid Interval
  7. Thunder Shadow
  8. Redacter (feat. Lapa)
  9. Formulates in Darkness (feat. Kyrstyn Pixton)
  10. Water Chandelier
  11. Bodhicitta (feat. Rigzin)
  12. Time Reel (feat. Lapa)
  13. Heavenly Light
  14. Sepulcher (feat. Jason Kalidas)
  15. Repose (feat. Peia)

In tandem with the release of Formless Edge, Random Rab is hitting the road for his live Summer Festival Tour with stops at Shambhala, and the Global Eclipse Gathering – just to name a few amazing locations.  Scroll to the bottom for full Summer 2017 tour dates.

Can’t get enough? Us neither – to support the album immediately, head to Bandcamp and iTunes to pre-order Formless Edge. For the tried and true audiophile, a special edition 24 bit aiff flash drive and Formless Edge 6×6 8-page book of artwork is also available via Bandcamp.

For more on Random Rab, head to his site and socials – and be sure to support the release of Formless Edge, 6/16.

Website | Soundcloud | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

Tour Dates:

Jun 08-11     EarthRythms Festival, MN

Jun 16          Sonic Bloom Festival, CO

Jun 17          Playthink Festival, KY

Jun 22-25     Big Surreal Festival, CA

Jul 01-02      5 Points Gathering, CA

Jul 15           Northern Nights Festival, CA

Aug 1-6        O.Z.O.R.A Festival, Hungary

Aug 11-14    Shambhala Festival, BC

Aug 18-21 Global Eclipse Gathering, OR

Sep 1-4         Burning Man Festival, NV

 

[The Audiofiles] Join the Party Parade at EDC Las Vegas with Curated Art Cars

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As the clock ticks down to the 21st anniversary of Insomniac’s capstone festival, Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, the perennial party planners have announced some new tricks up their sleeves – including a lineup of esteemed, immersive and exciting Art Cars for headliners to Oooooh and Aaahhhh over. With over 200 of the world’s premiere dance music artists, producers and DJs set to slay the stages at this year’s festival, a cavalry of four awe-inspiring Art Cars will bring in more than 70 performances as they parade across the thousand acre Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The art cars will be curated by eight esteemed industry tastemakers and will include performances from the likes of Autograf, Delta Heavy, Gareth Emery, Bonnie X Clyde, Alan Walker, Dirtyphonics and so much more – including special guests, surprise performances and can’t miss musical moments.

From dusk til dawn for all three days of the EDC, the Art Cars will be expertly crafted and constructed by the creatives minds behind the Brownies & Lemonade, Cats & Boots Records, Desert Hearts, IN / ROTATION + Discovery Project, Monstercat, PsyTribe and Trap Nation collectives.

Full Art Car LineupFriday, June 16

BoomBox Art Car, hosted by Cats & Boots Records:
Afrodisiac, Brandon Elliot, Chris Jay, Dillon Nathaniel, FlashGang, Freefall, Hotfire, Hush, Johnny Darko, Josh Billings, Missy B, Moni, MSCLS, Neon Black, Nonfiction, Oscure, PW Jones, Real Deal Montiel, Roy Wilkins, Ruff Hauser, RYBO, Thomas Garcia, Trouble and Wood Holly.

Kalliope Art Car, hosted by Desert Hearts:
Mikey Lion, Lee Reynolds, Marbs, Porkchop and friends.

Parliament Art Car, hosted by Brownies & Lemonade:
Lineup to be announced soon

Saturday, June 17

Kalliope Art Car, hosted by Monstercat:
Conro, Delta Heavy, Dirtyphonics, F*CK Salt b2b Botne, Gareth Emery, Grant, Orri + Friends, Tokyo Machine and Unlike Pluto.

Parliament Art Car, hosted by Trap Nation:
Alan Walker, Andrew Luce, Autograf, Bkaye, Bonnie X Clyde, Justin Caruso, Paris Blohm, The Lifted, Xan Griffin, and many special guests.

Sunday, June 18

Kalliope Art Car, hosted by IN / ROTATION + Discovery Project
219 Boys b2b Grensta, Assembly, Jace Mek, Kyle Walker, Lassi, LondonBridge, Swage, Taryn Manning, YDG.

Wide Awake Art Car, hosted by PsyTribe:
Barakuda, Brian Senient, Celestial, Emok, Kromagon, Samtabul, Smoke Sign, Spyros, Swell, Triceradrops.

For more on Insomniac, head to their website and social media channels:

 Website |  FacebookTwitter.