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Liberate: Ben and Jane on the fourth year of Vermont's homegrown music fest | August 2011

Photography by Sam Balling

Where did this three-day festival of music, art, and yoga begin? Also, how hasn’t it gotten out of hand, growing from a one-day festival with 350 people to a weekend of endless possibilities? Well, to be honest, it didn’t even start there, but rather years before, when Ben Lanza was 15, growing up in Sheldon, VT.

Ben Lanza | Liberate

“A friend of mine had an older brother that was a DJ, and I started throwing some low key parties,” Ben explains from the porch where we sit on a hot day in June. Next to him is Jane Jareck, the other half of the spark behind Liberate. Missing is Sage Plakosh, who brings years of expertise in festival operations, and is another Vermont resident. They are young, enthusiastic, and calm people, and don’t look like the sorts of people who’d be putting on a festival.

The first of these parties was a graduation and “beginning of summer party”. Ben and his buddy rented a tent, but they weren’t expecting a hundred people. They likely weren’t expecting it to go so well, either, so, “The next year we thought we should charge some money. Craig Mitchell headlined. We had a bunch of Btown DJs. All of a sudden there were over 500 people, people from Texas.”

Now, the fourth annual Liberate Music and Arts Festival is set for August 18th- 21st, and is still held at Ben’s parents’ farm in Sheldon. There’s a main tent where bands like Spiritual Rez, Rubblebucket, and Lotus have played alongside some Vermont staples such as the Dead Sessions, Twiddle, and The Pulse Prophets.

One thing proposed by the organizers, and perpetuated by the vibe and energy of the audience, is that unlike other music festivals that may not in and of themselves encourage massive amounts of drugs, alcohol, passing out in fields, getting sunburned, and leaving with fewer memories than you came with- Liberate offers yoga, and has food vendors that were picked because they didn’t mind the little extra money to opt for compostable utensils, plates, etc., as well as, “We sometimes serve food on frisbees.” So you can eat well, get some holistic journeys of spiritual and physical balancing, and then dance to some amazing music in an environment these three young people present to the public as a way of leaving with more good energy than when they arrived.


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