The inaugural Digital Gardens Music and Arts Celebration rocked Charlotte, North Carolina April 20 and 21. The festival gained instant popularity; hitting 95% capacity both days at the festival and completely selling out both nights of after parties in its first year. Festival organizer SOMA Entertainment brought some of the best local, regional and big-time talent out to play at this year’s event.

“I am particularly proud of how stacked our undercard was for this festival,” David Rader, co-founder of SOMA Entertainment explained. “From super underground bass music to house music, all the way to hybrid trap – the local regional artists on this lineup mean business and are not to be slept on!”

That local/regional talent includes Zen SelektaillanthopyMakakScalesBarnacle BoiR3x0RDaniels JackTripnotic and many more. The bigger names on the lineup are no strangers to the Carolina scene. SOMA felt it was necessary to bring back these fan favorites for their biggest event to date.

The event was held at The Shed Amphitheatre, one of Charlotte’s newer pop-up venues. The venue is located next to the rail station and drew the attention of several commuters who were caught gettin’ down to the music while waiting for their train. The Silent Disco took over the front area of the venue, housing the battling DJs in shipping crates – making for an awesome industrial art vibe. Live artists lined the area surrounding the silent disco as they created their masterpieces throughout the weekend.

The drink choices at the bar were tied into the festival lineup. Aside from the usual liquor and beer options, guest could order specialty drinks in the likeness of their favorite headliners: Boogie Tea (Long Island liquors with citrus punch and soda), Coco Monsta (Coconut Rum and blue juice blend), Sex Machine Margarita (Tequila, watermelon puree and lime juice) or the Dark Crystal Shot (Chilled shot with UV Raspberry Vodka and lemonade)

Right past the Silent Disco, artists and food vendors was the Watergate Mainstage powered by Incendia Pyrotechnics. Brightly colored vendor booths encompassed the mainstage area. The venue and its vibe were a definite highlight of the festival.

DAY ONE: APRIL 20

The first day of Digital Gardens was a flawless 70-degree day without a cloud in the sky. Attendees made their way to the Shed for what was about to be one dope weekend of ground-shaking entertainment and excitement.

North Carolina native, Makak opened up both days of the festival on the mainstage with a full catalog of original music. The next two to take the mainstage were Atlanta-based producers Scales and Ra. Ra, who is no stranger to the Carolina scene, really hyped up festival-goers as the venue began to fill up. New York native and fan favorite Brightside took that crowd energy and really ran with it. His set sent shockwaves through those PK speakers, sending the masses into utter chaos.

The much anticipated 4-20 Sun Set was up next, played by none other than notorious dubstep/riddim producer from the swamps of Louisana, Boogie T. This set (and day) was a special one for Brock as he debuted his newest single ‘Till the Joint Rolled” from his imprint label which launched the same day. He also played a pretty dope mix of his own fan favorites, a couple more unreleased tracks he has coming up and (of course) brought out his guitar to jam out toward the end of his set.

Hailing from Colorado, Bear Grillz was next up to the mainstage as darkness fell over the venue and the Incendia production and lasers really came to life. He wasted no time throwing the crowd immediate bangers opening up with Excision’s newest track ‘Rumble’ followed by his own tracks. His set was this unruly, absurd mix of some of the filthiest dubstep tunes out there. Headbangers were going crazy over any nearby rail for the duration of his set.

The night was wrapped up by west-coast producer Minnesota. Coming off of the release of his newest Curio EP, Minnesota brought some of the heaviest tracks from that project and beyond to the mainstage on 4-20. Minn sent out the heaviest free-form bass music vibes over the speakers from his own work to the likeness of Bassnectar and Zeke Beats. It was the perfect finale to Day One on the mainstage.

But the party didn’t end there. Danny B, Tripnotic and R3X0R kept the Silent Disco grooving for a bit longer while the rest of the festival headed to Serg Nightclub for Digital Dreams, the official Digital Gardens after parties. Serg was rockin till 2 a.m. with local DJs including Weapon Eyez, a.k.a Sam Throckmorton who is also a SOMA co-founder. Flow artists kept the party trippy as Colorado-based producer SoDown hopped on stage with his unique style and saxophone. Even Boogie T made an appearance at the party and hopped on the decks for a little impromptu set to officially close out Day One of Digital Gardens.

DAY TWO: APRIL 21

Things started to heat up (literally) for the second day of Digital Gardens. Temperatures rose, the Incendia fire got hotter and so did the PK speakers. The artists taking reign of the mainstage were also to blame for the increase and they threw down straight fire beats. illanthropy followed MAKAK as the second producer of the day. Hailing from Ashville, North Carolina, his tracks have been gaining traction in the bass world, some of which Bassnectar has been playing in his sets. Atlanta-based Zen Selekta, one of the top female producers in the regional bass game, brought a vigorous set to the venue leaving spectators stunned. Some even said she was one of the top three favorites on the mainstage the entire weekend.

WAKAAN label heavyweight Digital Ethos got the crowd amped with his heavy basslines from some of his original tracks and other popular releases including Rusko’s ‘Hot.’ So many festival-goers were spotted getting weird during his set, I mean, it was kind of hard not to.

The hip-hop infused bass music of LA producer Stylust Beats kept the heat comin to the mainstage area. It was clear that the crowd came to rage on day two and he hyped them up with his own beats and fun sound samples, including Eminem’s “My name is.”

Long-time producer and bass genius ill.Gates gave the crowd some of the dopest experimental sounds to vibe out to as the sun began to set over the mainstage. He played some of his classic collabs with Bassnectar, productions of his own and even debuted a couple new tracks for the crowd.

The crowd (and the speakers) were on the verge of annihilation as Cookie Monsta jumped onto the decks and went hard from the start. Seriously thought he was gonna blow the speakers out at one point of his set. From samples from his older tracks to his freshest single, Xterminate, he rocked the crowd from start to finish. Like Bear Grillz, a Cookie set is every headbanger’s dream and he came to DG ready for that.

Black Tiger Sex Machine took the crowd to church to close out the festival. They brought the dopest production with their helmets fresh off of their Ceremony Tour to Charlotte. The production wasn’t all they brought, most of the set was comprised of the newest tracks from their most recent release, New Worlds. BTSM always brings the energy no matter what stage they inhabit and they were the perfect finale to the Watergate mainstage.

Night two of Digital Dreams was buzzing as festival-goers packed Serg to capacity the second night in a row. Local producers Bromosapien and Jordan Castle took the stage to keep the party going a bit longer before west-coast producer Champagne Drip came in to close the night down. Sometime during the evenings’ festivities, two tigers (BTSM) were spotted making their way into Serg to join the after party. When the lights flipped on a little past two in the morning, the crowd was still begging for more. But sadly, that was the end of Digital Gardens… until next year.

Digital Gardens was one of the most thought out inaugural events and indefinitely one of the best to hit the Carolinas in the history of EDM events. For those who didn’t make it to DG this year, I would highly recommend checking it out in 2019. SOMA prides themselves on finding ways to outdo their previous events and I know this one will be their top priority. For those who did attend, the good news is that details for next year’s event will be released as soon as the end of summer.

“Ticket holders of this year’s festival can go ahead and get excited about our loyalty program tickets which will be exclusively available to 2018 ticket buyers,” Rader explained. “I can’t say much else but we will certainly be ‘looking out’ for our people.”
Reminiscing on the festival, he concluded, “We couldn’t possibly thank our sponsors, friends, family, and community that made this possible enough. With that said, inaugural ticket buyers can expect some special treatment come announcement time as a token of our love.”
Photos by: Key Vision Photography, LZRS, The Charlotte Sessions and Shawn Nowek.