The Ups And Downs of Sacred Rose

All photos were taken by Daniel Moskovits.

Recap by Daniel Karasek.

The inaugural Sacred Rose festival brought together an insane lineup blending psychedelic, bluegrass, and jam grooves to the SeatGeek stadium complex. This event was birthed this year in Chicago and has many in the festival community abuzz with chatter, with tales of both woes and triumphs. It was my 37th festival overall and the sixth festival I’ve worked as press this year, making me a good reference to cover the highlights of the magic that went down over the weekend. Below is my honest take on how Sacred Rose went and why I plan to return if the festival has a year two.

My festival family was hyped for Sacred Rose, traveling from Wisconsin, Delaware, and Georgia just to gather for such a momentous event featuring tons of talent including Phil Lesh, the bassist for the Grateful Dead. If you like any jam music, or really anything with a groovy beat, Phil is the guy to thank as he helped pioneer bass melodies that strayed from being tied to a drum beat. We all met up at Camp Sullivan just south of SeatGeek stadium where we roughed it in the wilds of Chicagoland at a cabin in the woods. It cost us each less than $100 to stay for the whole weekend at the cabin, and taking Lyfts and Ubers didn’t bring up the total cost that much as we scheduled our rides ahead (highly recommend you do this as it fixes the price to protect riders against price surges). There were other camping options available for even cheaper with the same shower and bathroom access, meaning we could have gone cheaper. That is a big deal for a city festival such as Sacred Rose where folks usually have to get hotels or AirBnBs. And because Camp Sullivan is nested in Chicagoland there were plenty of places within a few miles to grab food and groceries, including a Walmart and a Pop’s Italian Beef & Sausage that had $5 sandwiches.

The festival had some lows, and I want to address them first before getting to the cool stuff. The layout was smaller than it seemed on the map, with the stages butting up against each other. This led to that sound bleed that everyone has been complaining about. Unless a band was playing, you could definitely hear other sets going on around the festival. For me, this was an interesting way to hear what was happening at other stages but not ideal for many attendees. This problem was vocalized by attendees on social media and addressed by the festival on the second day by adjusting schedules and the speaker setups for each stage. Additionally, Philco was put on a smaller stage due to how the festival scheduled acts that night with The War On Drugs at the main stage in between the two Philco sets. This made for a more intimate set but was not ideal for crowd management. The big problem that everyone has heard about, the cancelation on Sunday, was the only real deal breaker for the weekend mainly with how it was handled. There was a huge gap in communication from the festival organizers where attendees were told by an official announcement the festival was still open after a lingering lightning storm closed the gates for good around 8 pm Sunday evening. Both Khruangbin and JRAD made cancellation announcements almost two hours ahead of when the festival made their announcement about the festival being closed due to weather. This put attendees in situations where they drove to the event, paid for parking, and then found out they wasted their time and money because the venue was being evacuated. Lastly, there was an issue with attendees getting charged thousands of dollars by SeatGeek in what was determined to be errors with the vendors’ payment system. The festival was quick to resolve this issue after making the mistake of not communicating the Sunday closure. I chalk all of these issues up to it being the first year of this festival and the first time this location has been used for such an event. There was clear disorganization but that is to be expected with a new festival. However, folks are holding the festival accountable for their mistakes, and rightly so. They are giving refunds, so check that out. 

The highs of Sacred Rose were magical. The festival had an indoor soccer pitch set up with multiple DJs, air conditioning, and tons of laser towers to form the Laser Dome. It was a chill place to break away from the crowds as there was plenty of room to spread out and take a nap if needed. There were tons of art installations including a boat and Incendia, a jungle gym with a lit gas jet at the top that had a dancing flames at night. It has been years since I’ve seen Incendia and was very happy to be reunited with such a cool installation. The stages were well designed with The Canopy being my favorite as it had hanging plants off the sides of the roof that danced in the wind with the crowd. Also, the stages had turf out under the crowd which made for excellent sitting without the worry of mud. The food was outrageously good for a festival. Usually, you run into a few vendors that just didn’t hit the mark, but my group devoured most of the available food options, grinning ear to ear. There were options for things less than $10 as well. A vendor was even selling the now discontinued Choco Tacos that brought joy to so many folks that missed grabbing one before they were taken off the shelves earlier this year.

Overall, I really like the concept of this new festival as it brought together old and new hippies and Deadheads for a weekend of amazing music and fellowship. Granted, some of the problems from the weekend might land the festival into the lost land of memories, but I hope that Sacred Rose can come back swinging in 2023 with a better festival. I also hope they bring back Khruangbin for redemption for missing one of the most anticipated shows of 2022, at least for myself.