Annie Salafsky and Susan Ujcic were bored. Fortunately for the founders of the Helsing Junction Farm a half-hour southwest of Olympia, they had a strong Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which counted K Records founder Calvin Johnson as a member. When Johnson heard they were interested in doing something a little more fun, he stepped in, and the Helsing Junction Sleepover was born.
Johnson, who has performed at the festival as a solo artist and with his band, the Hive Dwellers, says no one was sure what to expect the first year. “We were just, like, ‘Let’s have a party, and if people show up, great,’ ” he recalls. “ ‘If they don’t, we’re still going to have fun.’ ”
People showed up, and the Sleepover has been an annual tradition ever since, attracting more than 300 attendees each year. Now in its ninth year, the three-day musical extravaganza features a lineup filled with K-affiliated bands, organic food available for purchase, and a serene pastoral setting—all for $50, which includes all events this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and camping on Friday and Saturday nights.
To help newcomers navigate the multiple-day festival, we polled some Sleepover pros for advice: Johnson, Karl Blau (Lovers Without Borders), Shana Cleveland (Shana Cleveland and the Sandcastles, La Luz), Arrington de Dionyso (Old Time Relijun, Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat dan Singa), and LAKE’s Ashley Eriksson and Elijah Moore.
DO examine the roster. De Dionyso suggests checking out Jeffrey Jerusalem, and says he’s excited to see more dance-oriented groups at the festival. Cleveland is excited for the Shivas and Ruby Fray, while Blau recommends Angelo Spencer and Lois. Moore is ready for Pets and the Hive Dwellers, while Eriksson mentions that the Shivas and Lovers Without Borders are fun to dance to. Johnson is excited for Jamie Barrier of the Pine Hill Haints, who will be playing his first solo set at Helsing this year.
DO prepare for the weather. Eriksson and Johnson suggest sun hats, though de Dionyso cautions that there might be rain, recalling one year where performances were moved into a barn because it was coming down so hard.
“Whatever the weather is like, you are in it,” Eriksson says.
DON’T forget the essentials. According to our panel, Sleepover must-haves include a flashlight, a bathing suit, water socks, money for food, a beach blanket, and a tarp to put under your tent in case of rain. And even though it’s still summer, nighttime can be chilly, so de Dionyso suggests bringing blankets, wool sweaters, and a warm sleeping bag.
DO make it a family affair . . . maybe. Several pros called the Helsing Junction Sleepover a kid-friendly, family-oriented festival. Blau, though, has had mixed experiences with his daughter. “The worst time at Helsing? That’s hard to measure, but it would probably have something to do with trying to parent a child who was protesting shows and anything that her dad wanted to do,” he says. “She’s since warmed up to listening to live music.”
DO pick a camping spot carefully. The apple orchard is a popular spot, though several Sleepover pros suggest bringing ear plugs, just in case your neighbors turn out to be party animals. De Dionyso recommends finding an area with lots of shade so you aren’t woken by the sun in the morning, and Eriksson suggests camping in a field just past the stage. “There is a second field that is slightly more peaceful [than] the orchard,” she says. “It’s further from the music if you need a break. Also, there’s more opportunities for a shady location for your tent.”
DO eat up. “The food is amazing! Healthy, delicious, and cheap!” says Cleveland. But . . .
DON’T wait too long. The dinner line has a tendency to get really long, so Cleveland recommends attendees get in line as soon as they see dinner being served. “The food lines are the craziest thing about Helsing,” she says, “but the food is so good that it’s totally worth it.”
DO get in touch with nature. The Helsing Junction Farm is right next to the Chehalis River and offers 30 acres of land to wander.
“Walk upstream from the swimming hole until your feet can’t handle the rocks anymore,” Cleveland says, “then walk out into the middle of the river and float back.”
“One may experience the kind of relaxation that a garden gives,” Blau says about spending time at the Farm. “The river is constantly beckoning a visit.”
And finally, as at any festival:
DON’T keep to yourself. “Meet people you don’t know and talk to them,” says de Dionyso.
Now while all these tips can certainly make your time at Helsing easier, Johnson warns that the only way to truly understand the Sleepover is to simply experience it for yourself.
“No words can really prepare anyone for the emotional and creative burst of excitement that will greet them, not just from the stage but from other attendees,” he says. “I don’t want to say you have to brace yourself, but you should just get it, let go and let it happen, enjoy the experience. It may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely for anyone.”
HELSING JUNCTION SLEEPOVER 12013 Independence Rd, Rochester, WA, krecs.com/helsingjunction. $50. Fri, Aug. 16-18, 2013.