Written by Erin Beck

Photos by Zen Focus Photography

At Pyro Arts & Music Festival at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, Ohio this weekend, I heard God speak through Nahko, of Nahko & Medicine for the People, as he sang of the Native American ancestors whose land we stole, and I grieved.

I felt God when I danced front row under the late night stage to Satsang, or on the beach to Mike Love, and we celebrated our common humanity.

Nahko and Medicine for the People.

I felt God when I sat on the sand by the quarry, and we watched fireworks thunder and compete with the moon for our attention. (The moon will always win.) Pyro will remind you that no matter how far technology advances, at our cores, we only want the same things – love and to belong, a sense of place and purpose.

For those thinking about coming in future years, I’ve been to several festivals over the past few years, and nothing compared to sleeping by the water or feeling the sand under your toes as you feel the music and breeze envelop your body. And there’s nothing like creating a community of people who just for a little while, live among the trees.

Here’s some of the practical stuff for those considering next year: bathrooms and trash cans were plentiful. The trees made for perfect shade. Plenty of kids were there enjoying time with their families. The vendor selections were wide-ranging – vegan options, a convenience store, breakfast, bubble tea, spring rolls, tacos, even stuffed crust pizza. I viewed some of the most beautiful crystals, handcrafted jewelry and art by some of the most talented living artists I’ve seen, from the murals of Chris Dyer to the live, psychedelic painting of Ryan Byrd.

Chris Dyer

And as at most festivals, people were kind and willing to lend a helping hand.

Also, for those considering going in future years, Pyro is also a bit different – if you need a reminder, that late night fire-dancing will remind you you’re alive.

I first heard Nahko & Medicine for the People at my first festival, at a little place called Terra Alta in the rolling hills of West Virginia. I had turned my head and heart from God years before, from the God I knew who made me feel that women were either too much, or not enough. But we danced with exuberance, just us two young women, in a barn, and I remembered that warmth.

Rising Appalachia

Years later, and the Jamwich gave me the opportunity to see Nahko & Medicine for the People, in person, for the first time.

I heard God in the voice of the man next to me singing every word, as we stood in the sand, and fireworks went off over the water.

Not like a grand finale of fireworks, a period, the end of a declarative sentence. They were more like accent marks, ellipsis, asterisks, commas, parentheses.

A crescendo.

A reminder that this is not the end of our journey, this was only a pause for a second, this was a time to remember that at our core we are only human, that we have “purpose and place,” as Nahko sings, and that we are enough. This weekend was a time to breathe.

Dustin Thomas

Nahko sings “I know nothing.” I think we know nothing, because we live inside of boxes of our own perspective.

As he sang, I closed my eyes, saw light peaking through the corners of that box, and I could hear those ancestors calling:
“They tried to kill us all, but do you remember? Do you hear me?
They tried to kill us all, but remember
We survived”

It took four hours from West Virginia to get there, but Pyro Arts & Music Festival was a beautiful place, to come home.