Some people claim that Taos has a hum — a persistent, low-frequency buzz that has been attributed to paranormal activity, secret government experiments, or New Age quirkiness but that has never been explained. This weekend, that mysterious sound will likely be drowned out by Meow Wolf’s Taos Vortex, a three-day music festival held downtown at Kit Carson Park, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 16 to 18. More than an outdoor concert, Taos Vortex is designed to be an “immersive art experience.” There you can hear dozens of local and national bands and DJs — and, if you choose, dip into a world created to elicit joy and wonder.
The legendary funkster George Clinton is on his final tour with Parliament-Funkadelic and appears at Taos Vortex before his imminent retirement.
Organizers want the experience to be transformative in a way that no other music festival can be. “The hope is that people will experience something surprising that feels magical, that maybe makes them feel more like a kid. Maybe they’ll discover some new part of themselves, meet some new people, and really engage in new ways,” said Amelia Stickney, special projects producer for Meow Wolf’s event department (aka the “vibe ambassador”).
Now in its second year, Taos Vortex began with one stage and 11 bands. The immersive experiences were limited to an area containing illuminated sculptures and an interactive laser harp room. This year, 38 musical acts appear on two stages, and the art experiences are peppered throughout the park. The eclectic musical lineup includes George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Lykke Li, GoldLink, CocoRosie, and Calexico and Iron & Wine.
To conjure what Meow Wolf event art director Sofie Cruse called “discoverable magic,” the 25 acres of Kit Carson Park will be transformed into distinct “neighborhoods” represented by massive hut structures. Clam Corner, Bird ’Burbs, and Prism Place will give attendees comfortable places to hang out and “really dig deep and figure out what makes sense to them,” Cruse said. In addition to the stage performances, elaborately costumed performers will spring into and pop up in the crowd.
“You may find a troupe of these incredible-looking characters doing a dance or playing a game. They may ask you to join them, or maybe you sit back and watch,” Stickney said.
The idea: to engage audiences on a visceral level, thus creating a holistic festival experience — not unlike Meow Wolf’s popular exhibition The House of Eternal Return, which thrusts viewers into curated environments designed to involve every one of their senses. This type of storytelling device has become a defining element of Meow Wolf projects.
“I really reached into the textures of nature, into creatures and fantasy, more than anything super-tangible. I think people are going to be able to pick and choose what speaks to them,” said Cruse.
Meow Wolf events director Max Beck-Keller expects about 5,000 people over three days. “More than last year, but definitely comfortable,” he said via email. Attendees are expected to come from Albuquerque and elsewhere in Northern New Mexico, as well as Colorado, Arizona, and Texas.
That’s good news for the local economy, but the festival poses potential problems as well: Kit Carson Park is located in the center of town, which is already known for its traffic congestion. To lessen the impact of Vortex on local residents and visitors, off-site parking and shuttles to the venue have been arranged. The park is home to a historic cemetery that dates to 1847. Cruse said it will be “very reverently lit” in a way that lets people walk around the gravesites in a respectful way. Meow Wolf has worked with the town of Taos and with Taos Pueblo in the planning of the festival. Non-Native American attendees are strongly discouraged from donning outfits inspired by indigenous cultures, which is a trend at other summer music festivals.
“I think part of what makes Vortex special is that it’s not a giant, super-well-known thing,” Stickney said. “We want to bring attention to Taos and to do something for New Mexico that can really enhance people’s experience of a place that’s already so beautiful.”
Some areas of the park are reserved for attendees who pay for the luxury Vortex experience, including glamour camping, or “glamping,” which starts at $1,299 for a weekend pass. Meow Wolf provides concierge check-in and plush, tent-like accommodations with a queen-size bed and electricity. Only those with camping and glamping passes are allowed in the areas reserved for these activities. The Big Vibe Pass ($89.99 per day or $249.99 for the full weekend) offers access to the Vibe Hut, which has a cash bar and, according to taosvortex.com, offers “curated lounges, comfortable hangout zones, and device charging stations,” as well as complimentary food and nonalcoholic beverages.
“We’re a very boutique experience,” Cruse said. “Just like Meow Wolf, it’s an interesting thing to try to put into industry standards because we’re doing it in a different kind of way. I would say that we are floating above the spectrum in the molecular ether, trying to materialize, and yet people can see what we’re doing.” ◀
▼ Meow Wolf Taos Vortex Immersive Weekend Experience
▼ Noon-midnight Aug. 16-17; noon-10 p.m. Aug. 18
▼ Kit Carson Park, 211 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos
▼ Admission packages range from $89 for a single-day pass to $249 for a full weekend pass with camping; many luxury upgrades are available.