OM Festival Paisley, ON - June 18 to 21, 2004

The past came back to haunt the Om summer solstice festival this year, when long-forgotten anti-rave forces bullied an Ottawa Valley township into shutting down the annual event about a week before its start date, leaving the already-harried organisers scrambling for a replacement. But because things always seem to work out at Om — call it karma, they do — they located a new site within hours, boasting expansive forests, rolling hills and even a river running through it. But while beautiful, the space was too massive, leading to long walks between stages and cutting down the usual mingling. It was a particular problem on Friday when freezing winds blew over the hilltops, keeping many Omies near their tents or huddled within the forest-hidden Goa circle, where Toronto's vaunted Black Light Activists held court over their psy-trance throng with sets nearly as intense at ten p.m. as they were at ten a.m. It was, as always, a sinister Eden. With 200 or so folks on the bill, the festival is not really about any specific act, though there were great live sets from Buffalo's epic-minded Dharma Lab, a crew of psy-trance scientists in white smocks, Eccodek's seriously spacey dub and the seven-member Rhythmicru collective, who started with a painful spoken-word freestyle before the beats kicked in and their performance took off. Over the course of the weekend one would wander past speakers spouting spastic jungle, chunky techno, bongo beats and, quite likely, the kitchen sink. The Galactic Boogiemen stage, audible from our tent-bourhood, was constantly changing it up from outer space house and ‘80s acid to electro-pop and afternoon reggae. So the vibe was there, but by suddenly moving the site so far from Ottawa and Montreal, the numbers were way down and the festival lacked some of its old oomph. But you still can't beat dancing outside while beats and bass lines roil all around you, girls dance with fire and roman candles strafe the Milky Way. Someone asked me a little after dawn if I thought the forest liked these sounds. It was a silly hippie question. And the answer was, "Hell yeah."