In the Darkest of Skies, GRiZ’s Ursa Major Lit Up the Night

Some may say that Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth, but for three days in late September, it was GRiZ's Ursa Major event in Flagstaff, Arizona.

"It truly felt like nothing we’ve ever done," he gushed.

Over the last decade, GRiZ has accumulated a diehard following akin to the likes of the Grateful Dead, wherein a deep sense of community has been cultivated by virtue of his mantra, "Show love, spread love." And after he announced an impending hiatus from music, Ursa Major functioned as a rapturous sendoff for those loyal fans.

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Presented in an intimate setting surrounded by the beauty of nature, the event united a faction of like-minded people to hear musicians who would ultimately rock the forest for three days straight—not to mention three uniquely epic sets by GRiZ himself.

The Pepsi Amphitheater at Fort Tuthill is surrounded by sky-scraping pine trees with camping dispersed throughout. Those staying within the campgrounds were given multiple surprise visits by GRiZ and friends sporting all sorts of instruments, including ProbCause, who banged on a pot with a wooden spoon.

At the center of the grounds was a community area called "Polaris," which was set up for festival-goers to enjoy daytime activities like yoga, expressive art, meditation, nature walks and crowd favorite tie-dye parties, just to name a few. It also included the Little Bear stage, where local musicians provided intoxicating beats under a canopy of rainbow streamers. It's here where Maddy O’Neal threw down a surprise set for a swarming crowd on the event's third day.

There was a plethora of options to post up for the main attractions within the amphitheater. Whether you found yourself on the lawn laying out under the stars or inside the pit with the bass vibrating through your soul, there was plenty of space to move and groove. Meanwhile, The Harmony Project tent offered an enlightened space for friendly conversation as a team handed out earplugs, not to be confused for a tub of cheese puffs.

Aside from the obvious closing set by GRiZ, day one was headlined by an exclusive Vibeline musical number from ProbCause and Chrishira Perrier with support from Sunsquabi. This groovy set brought about a bright shine in the crowd leading up to GRiZ’s bass-filled dubstep performance, which included bits from Rainbow Brain, his EP series and recent "ID Bible" released just days prior.

Stage production ramped up during the show to project an array of lights and lasers, which rained down on the crowd from every direction with the feel of a warehouse rave. The trees surrounding the amphitheater were laden with strobes, creating an eye-popping lightning effect.

GRiZ performing at Ursa Major.

Jason Siegel

The second day came with a weather forecast of overcast clouds that brought in a chilly atmosphere, where it was almost a requirement to wrap up in warm festival garb. With what has become the norm for his "Chasing the Golden Hour" sets, GRiZ would not be outplayed by the weather as the clouds parted ways just in time for his sunset performance.

Along with an appearance by SunSquabi's Kevin Donohue for their hit "Get Down," The Late Night Horns echoed out into the setting sun with GRiZ and friends as the golden light of day turned to night. With the moon rising, it was only fitting to fill the night air with drop-to-the-floor beats from Daily Bread and the psychedelic, upbeat tunes of Opiuo to close out the night. After what felt like an unbeatable evening, it was hard not to wonder what day three would consist of.

Following standout performances from electro-soul star Maddy O’Neal an dsurging bass music producer INZO, the finale of the weekend came into focus. GRiZ started out with the same sentiments felt by the crowd, unsure of where this last number of the weekend would take us. Snatching hits from across his large catalog of music, GRiZ had the crowd belting lyrics before a stunning coda, where he finished in fitting fashion with "Find My Own Way."

As one of the final pages of GRiZ's storied career before its next chapter unfolds, Ursa Major felt like its climax. It was an epic novel of love letters to the GRiZ family, who will now have to wait patiently for the sequel.

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