THE HISTORY OF TOGETHERLAND (ABRIDGED)
From 2003-2006, there was a legendary annual three day gathering in the state of Iowa known as "Together". The idea behind the Together, which was conceived by a couple of local Iowa DJs, was to provide an outdoor environment where the Iowa and surrounding midwest underground dance music scenes (regardless of genre or clique), could come together and create a camping event massive unlike any other. Everything at Together, from the sound, the stages, to lighting, staff, labor, generators, art installations, audio and visual performances was provided by the collective, for the collective. The concept of “headliners” was put to the side. This allowed the abundant local and regional talent to shine, and gave the flow of music an almost tangible life of its own. The original Together gatherings were truly remarkable and a testament to the potential of the Iowa and the surrounding midwest scene as a collective, harmonizing as one. They are still considered some of the legendary gatherings to occur in the midwest.
In the summer of 2014, a local Iowa dj and promoter who had recently relocated to Denver just a few years prior, teamed up with one of the original minds behind Together in an attempt to revive the gathering. They named it “Together at 9000 Feet: A Midwest Tradition...Elevated!” With a lineup consisting of half midwest DJs, half local DJs, they wanted to demonstrate how proper they do things in the midwest and bring that vibe to the Rockies. This resulted in a sort of merging of tribes.
One thing that the original Togethers were notorious for was overcoming extreme obstacles and adversity. This unintentional tradition has, without a doubt, continued since it’s rebirth into the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is a little different from Iowa in the sense that there are acres upon acres across the state that are considered National Forest/Federal Land and we are all welcome to hike, camp, enjoy, and (if you can get away with it) throw renegade parties on. So, after attending one of these successful renegade gatherings in Pike National Forest, they knew they had found a new home for Together.
This particular area of the Rockies had many potential campsites to use and they picked a particular site that was even more secluded than the previous renegade site and would be suitable for the estimated 200 attendees. Plans we’re going smoothly up until the night before the event. The sound/stage manager headed up alone to the site in a box truck filled with speakers to claim the spot and begin setup, while the rest of the crew planned on coming up the next day. Since there was no phone signals in this particular area, and the location could not be reliably GPS’d, very specific directions had to be typed out. At the very moment these directions were about to be distributed via private message, an unexpected phone call from the sound/stage manager came in. Upon arrival to the site, there were a group of 10 people who had set up camp and would not relocate, share the space, or join in on the gathering. This meant the venue was lost less than 24 hours before the party! Besides the fact that the sound/stage manager had to drive 30 minutes to get a phone signal to make the call, and organizers being on the verge of a total mental meltdown, the sound/stage manager assured them that he would drive around in hopes of finding a new location. Waiting for this follow up phone call made minutes seem like hours, and the excitement of having the revival of Together came crumbling down. But...low and behold, about one hour later, the phone rang and a new location had been found! The new spot was just another mile down the road and was the perfect layout for event, seemingly meant to be. After making a quick adjustment to the directions, they were back on schedule. The first year was absolutely magical, with little to no problems, and Together became the favorite weekend of the summer to many.
After the first year, the “crutch” became a sort of unofficial symbol of the gathering. Many people have noticed and wonder what's the significance of the crutch? One of the main organizers managed to fracture his ankle at his day job about a month before the festival. It was quite the sight to see him hobbling around and managing a two stage, 200+ person party on crutches for three days straight. Even crazier, a girl in attendance managed to also break her ankle the first night of the festival due to uneven terrain! Her friend ended up taking her to the ER the next morning (nearly two hours away) where they found out it was a clean break, thankfully. She was released from the hospital shorty after under the prognosis that all would be fine as long as she stayed off of it and avoided physical activity for at least a month. Once they got into the car to leave the hospital, her friend asked, “So are we headed home?”. Her response was, “Hell no! We’re going back to Together!” And sure enough, they showed up a few hours later, crutches and all.
With the response to Together @ 9000 Feet being overwhelmingly positive, there was no question of doing it next year, at the same location. And with this success, it wasn’t surprising that word got out about this perfect renegade location to throw parties. Before the together family could reunite at again in 2016, two other crews threw events at the exact same site. One of these parties, which was a month before Together, was discovered by a ranger on a 4wheeler. A little dumbfounded that he stumbled upon over 100 people camping and partying with some serious sound equipment, he was nice enough to let the party continue, but warned that this was not a sanctioned campsite and no one is allowed to do an event at this spot ever again. His main concern was that there were no open fires. Thankfully there were no fires, as all of Colorado was under a massive fire ban due to a extremely dry summer.
Once again, our home for Together was lost. So, three weeks before our set date, the crew went scouting to find a new location (a reasonable distance from last years site) and hopefully a few back up locations if we happened to run into the previous year’s scenario. Not only did they find the best location yet, but two potential backup locations. In our search for a new spot, we happened to stumble upon a ranger’s walkie talkie on a trail that must have fell off while riding his 4wheeler. This gave us a direct line to monitor and know where the ranger’s were, as well as if they were approaching our location! We took that as an absolute sign to move forward with gathering.
Taking the lessons they learned from the year before, they sent the sound/stage manager up with handful of crew members the Wednesday before Together to ensure we got our first campsite choice. After successfully claiming the spot, a crew member drove 20 minutes to where there was a cell signal to give the green light on the location, back in Denver, and the crew began setup. The next morning, the crew was paid their first (but certainly not their last) visit by the rangers. These weren’t just any rangers, they were legitimate Federal Marshals. Once again, their main concern in scoping out campsites was to make sure there were no fires. But after seeing our sound setup for two stages, they could tell we were setting up something a bit more than your average “family reunion”. They essentially told us that we could carry out with our plans but that they would return multiple times per day to check on our activities. They made it very clear that if there was a single fire, or even someone smoking a cigarette outside the confines of a car, the party would be over...and not in a good way. Having two federal agents tell you to carry on with your renegade party on the premise that they would be back frequently to make sure not a single person was smoking a cigarette outside was one of the most intensely nerve racking obstacles we had encountered yet. Not only was the crew putting their futures at risk, but the future of all who were in attendance. One tiny little slip up could have had dire, life-changing consequences.
Of course, cancelling the event altogether was considered, but the crew unanimously agreed to push on. They had worked too hard, had hundreds of people excited for this weekend, and they believed that the spirit of Together and their intentions were too pure for the gathering to get shutdown. As attendees began to arrive, they gave every single person a five minute spiel about the seriousness of the situation we were facing. They instated a friendly “self-policing” policy towards the smoking/fire ban, and made everyone sign waivers. What started out as a extreme risk and a burden to the gathering, ended up fueling the energy of the party. They had never seen a group of people respect the space, each other, and the promoters instructions as much as they did that weekend. It was truly remarkable to experience.
As promised, both rangers and federal marshals made multiple visits back each day to check in on us. They were utterly impressed with our ability to follow the rules that actually handed out little badges to all the attendees that said, “Smokey Bear’s Honorary Fire Patrol”. This elevated the vibration of the party to a whole new level, as we had gained a total respect and approval for what we were doing. It actually seemed hard for them to keep away as they were having fun being there too. Even after the party was over, they said our campsite of 250+ people was left cleaner than campsites that had just three people camping in it. They could not of been more proud and it truly was an amazing transformation of energy from the shakey beginning, to the fairy tale ending.
While they chalked year two up as a major success, they knew the festival had grown into something greater than a renegade event. The risks of the past two years we’re something they could no longer take moving forward. And just when they needed it, They found a ranch two and a half hours south of Denver that was interested in hosting music festivals. Together @ 7K FT would be the first festival that they had ever hosted and was sort of a trial run for them. This would allow us much more room for planning, the opportunity to work within legal bounds, and to take the next steps in the festival’s evolution.
Planning was going perfectly and 2017’s installment was already shaping up to be the best one yet. Then, something completely unexpected happened. Two of our dearest friends and members of our Together family passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident just two weeks before the festival. This loss weighed heavily on the hearts of everyone, and it was hard to imagine a Together gathering without them. As hard as it was, they knew had to push forward. It was, without a doubt, what they both would have wanted.
To commemorate their memory, they decided to dedicate Saturday night’s effigy burn to them. We shut down all three stages, and everyone gathered around the effigy just before midnight. A short dedication speech was given, the effigy was lit, and silence fell across the circle of 250+ people, leaving nothing but sound of crackle of the fire. In that moment, an almost tangible energy permeated from the fire, into the land, and into the hearts of all of who were present. They knew in that moment, that this had instantly become the pinnacle of the festival, it’s most important tradition, and the birth of Togetherland. Like a phoenix, rising from the ashes. The effigy will always be dedicated to their memory, and all attendees are encouraged to bring a photo or token of remembrance of any lost loved one they may have and add it to our effigy to burn in the future.
After the burn, the energy of the gathering was propelled into a whole new level of dancing, laughter, and connection. It became very clear that Together had finally found a pure and permanent home as Togetherland. It has been the wildest ride, enduring unbelievable odds and obstacles each and every year, but all of it has made it very clear that the magic of the Together gatherings over the past 15+ years is something that cannot be stopped. In fact, it continues to grow with every new person who comes and experiences the phenomenon. This journey has culminated into something so much greater than any of us could have expected, and we cannot wait to share Togetherland with all of you. So please, join us as we write a new chapter in 2018, together!
Volunteers are what make this festival possible. If you are interested in becoming involved with Togetherland by donating your time to the cause, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org