Music Festivals

Waka Waka Wakarusa

Precursor: Accuracy of dates and information are as reliable as my memory.  Please forgive any inaccurate facts, as being ass-deep into this experience for 12 years leaves some room for misconceptions.

200px-Wakarusa I attended my first Wakarusa in 2004, when I was 18.  My friend told me to buy a ticket that some great bands would be there. I loved OAR and they were the headlinder, so it seemed like a reasonable experience.   When my parents dropped me off at my camp site, they almost didn’t let me get out of the car.  After having my eyes blown open to a culture I had known very little about, I told myself I would go every year if I could afford it, and that I would never look back.

The second year, I remember spending $79 on my ticket (I got the early bird special).  Wilco and Gov’t Mule were apparently a big deal?  Lawrence, KS never looked so good that summer going into sophomore year of KU.  Chipotle sponsored a food/music tent, and it was the greatest event known to man in my eyes.  Andrew Walker wore a red speedo with Trey Anastasio’s face and I spent most mornings on a fallen tree branch that hung out over Clinton Lake, thinking to myself “why couldn’t we live like this every day?  In some sort of village…. with our friends.  And great music.  And good food and art?”  I’m an idealist, what can I say…
2006 I joined the art team.  Terribly proud, we painted street signs and snarky reminders like “wear sunscreen” which hung all over the festival and promptly got stolen.  Lesson: Make art that is indestructible and that won’t walk off.  Meet me at the piano is a great example. Meet-Me-At-The-Piano-Wakarusa
That year I slept on top of my car because there was a spider in my tent.  The Flaming Lips were there, wearing orange hazmat suits and doing what appeared to be very silly, yet important work, all weekend.  My friend tried to buy me a hula hoop, but I said no.  Didn’t really look like my thing… I can tell you that Michael Franti  changed my life, though.
The 2007 lineup was fresh.  I took it upon myself to run the Wakanvas, a giant piece of plywood that was an open canvas for anybody who wanted to paint.  It was a lovely experience…these people worked on it all weekend and it was incredible.  I walked away for a short while on Saturday night and somebody covered the entire mural with black paint while I was out, ruining this amazing piece of art.  Lesson: Don’t leave important projects unattended.  Anything is possible at Wakarusa.
2008 I became an intern for Pipeline Productions, working for the Barrett brothers in Lawrence, KS. In 2009 I began  working on the street team, handing out fliers in Lawrence and KC in exchange for my ticket.  I was more than thrilled with this arrangement.  That was the year of C-mon and Kypsi.  Another story, for another time, but I think it’s safe to say that weekend still may have been the best weekend of my life, to this day.
Then the next year, everything changed.  The arrangements in Lawrence became heated. From what I understand, the police situation was getting a little outrageous, and the festival itself was damaging the National Park land of Clinton Lake.  The festival made a decision to move the event to Mulberry Mountain, outside of Fayettville, Arkansas, however at first, nobody trusted it.  In reality the magic was never lost.  The festival’s original name stemmed from the Wakarusa river in Kansas, from a native word literally meaning “ass-deep”.  Mulberry Mountain and the wacky nature of Wakarusa itself, never ceased to fulfill that title.
2010, The Black Crows headlined, and I’ve never seen a show like that again. STS9 was a staple at this point.  G Love.  Galactic. Yonder Mountain.  EOTO.  JJ Gray.  Everybody that was anybody was there.  I was thankful to be  there, in Arkansas, the year I FINALLY learned how to hula hoop…  and I wanted MORE.
Wakarusa allowed me bring a small team of fire spinners to help with the crowd entertainment.  We called ourselves, the Vibe Tribe.  Cicada Rhythms hosted a spoken word intermission featuring MissConception and Nightlife Jones.  It was a good year for artists.  That year Widespread Panic took the lead with Umphrey’s McGee, and Wookiefoot came on the scene.  Spoonfed Tribe met The Heavy Pets, and it was all smooth on the Waka front.
2011, the vibe came on strong, with Thievery Corporation and Mumford and Sons to name a few.  I worked the artist check-in that year, and while it felt like one small step for my kind, it was a tough position because I missed all the action!  I wanted to be out in the thick of it.  Not just experiencing the festival, but participating in it.  Creating it.  This experience gave me a huge appreciation for the people who run and work this festival, all of the volunteers and Pipeline Staff, who work endless to create this experience for us.  THANK YOU WAKARUSA for doing it right.
2012 Pipeline brought Primus and Girl Talk…. OMG!  What more do you need?  I upped my game by bringing a team of 30 people and we created an artistic village, with light up jelly fish puppets, workshops and costumes galore.  MissConception and the VibeTribe even had a set that year at the Satellite stage.  Maybe a highlight of my performance career. The year there were storms.  It was hard, on everyone.  But NOBODY was prepared for 2013.
“Muckarusa” was a very real experience.  Humbling.  If you’ve never tromped around in nine inches of mud for four days, you really haven’t lived on the edge. It doesn’t matter who was playing, half of it was cancelled.  I really only remember Snoop Lion bombing.  Nobody had fun.  Everybody was miserable. Nobody ever wanted to go back again.  Ever.  It was a low moment for the Waka crew.  But it only made us stronger.
I went back.  Those of us, who died hard the year before, we STILL went back.  I went back namely because of the shrine that was built for Toby Keith out of the broken tents and chairs when all of the shows were cancelled during the mud storms.  I went back because of the moment we were under Yosh’s geo dome and the tarp ripped off by the rain and we all scattered like ants for safety.  I went back because, how could it get ANY MORE insane, right?  I went back because that is the exact kind of wacky-waka spirit that was there since the beginning, and I couldn’t not see how it was all going to go down.
The only thing that could have saved 2014 was the String Cheese Incident… and by golly they did.  By the grace of the Gods and the String Cheese Incident, Wakarusa prevailed… It was the Greatest Show on Earth.  It was everything you would want in a festival and more.  It was home, again.  Bassnector, Wookiefoot, the Flaming Lips, Infected Mushroom, Edward Sharpe, John Butler, Claude Von Stroke, Nahko.  That 1 Guy.  It was BIG.  We were larger than life.
Proudly, as this year’s the 2015 Live Art Coordinator for the Wakarusa Music Festival, it is with my whole heart that I jump into this experience year after year…. knowing that there is no greater place on earth for my soul, than ass-deep amongst my best friends rockin’ out to Slightly Stoopid, spinning fire beneath those mountain stars – it’s EXACTLY where I need to be June 4-7th.  You buy the ticket, you take the ride, and you never know what you’re going to find…. but I find comfort in knowing that at Wakarusa, it’s going to be something interesting that leaves me begging for more. Wakarusa. “Where music meets mother nature”.  This year it is with deep gratitude that we bring to you not only more live painters and interactive art, with an emphasis on participation and circus entertainment, installations and also with a focus on leaving no trace.  You can attend a solar workshops.   Reusable and functional art are the goal.
  I look forward to making it to  Mulberry Mountain every year, and for many years to come.  Thank you Wakarusa community for sticking it out and making this so all so magical!  Until next year, you have my heart, Wakarusa.  You always will.
Unknown Love,

Still Jew-Ish

I am often presented with the imminent wonderings of… “hey…. you’re Jewish!  How does it feel!?! …. I’ve always wanted to take to a Jewish person about Judaism…I knew a Jew once….”

My response: “Awesome, I LOVE the Jews!  YES Let’s talk about  being Jewish… it’s.  It’s wonderful.  It’s everything.  It’s… I got nothing”

“So like… do you believe in heaven or hell?” is usually the next question I get.

My response: “Do you?”.

That being said… year’s ago, I asked MY Rabbi this eternal question of heaven and hell.  Earnestly. With my big eyes, looking at him, knowing rightfully so that I probably would have known that answer to that if I paid attention at Hebrew School.  He looked at me wistfully, and then handed me what must have been an 1,000-page book and said “I’ll answer you that question after you read this book”.
Really, there just wasn’t a simple answer.  There never is to a good question.
Judaism, simply put, in my view, is about choices.  Are you Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or Hasidic? (I’m Reform, the easy one).  Do you keep Kosher or not? (We didn’t).  Do you want to have a Bat Mitzvah of not? (I did, though my parents really didn’t care either way, mostly because they didn’t want to foot the bill, I speculate).  We were always frugal.  But always had plenty of money for what mattered.   Judaism taught us: Family First.  Always do acts lot loving kindness.  Be nice to your neighbors.  And really, I grew up being taught that God is everywhere, and God is you and me and this food and my clothes and it is all encompassing.  It is nothing.  (Ein Sof)
While there are at least two sides to every story, there are about a billion takes on this ONE collection of stories. It really all started with THE BIBLE, and us Jews specifically like to focus on the Old Testament, we call it the Torah.  The first five books of Moses.  But what about the other books, I always wondered?  I mean why these five, and some of the others, but not all of them?  Why did we go so wrong with Jesus? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!
Welcome to the never-ending story….
So, I’m having lunch with my OTHER Rabbi just last week, and I ask her the same question, “do we believe in heaven and hell”? and the answer I got is “sorta, it’s complicated, do you?” and she then proceeded to break down even further about these ancient texts and books I wasn’t entirely aware of.
Enter: The Talmud. The Talmud is the central text of the Rabbis.   It’s a collection of stories and conversation had ABOUT the Torah.  It is composed of two parts, the Mishna, which are documentation of the oral instructions and teaching of the time when the Bible was written.  Gemara is the other part, which are writings of explanations that the old Rabbi’s marked as worth being printed, as to clarify what was being said in the Talmud.  Are you following me?  I’m barely there.
Being raised at a local Kansas City Reform synagogue, that I now just so happen to work at, I can safely tell you, I feel very confident and comfortable in my “Judaism”.  But it’s not something that I can entirely explain or even begin to translate, just what it is about Judaism that pulses so strong…that feels so good.  I do feel it.  Even though I don’t always acknowledge it. Then again, I think EVERYONE can feel the pulse, whether you are jewish or not, but you have to tap into the well, intentionally.
When I got the job working for the temple, MY Rabbi (who I had known since birth), asked me to house sit while he was out of town.  It was a lovely home, and I regret not spending more time there.  One quiet evening I came by to feed the fish, I walked up to his giant bookshelf and said “show me a book… give me my book”.  I reached up and pulled out without hesitating: “God is a Verb” by Rabbi David A Cooper.  “Kabbalah and the practice of mystical judaism”. “PERFECT!  I’d always wanted to study Kabbalah”, I thought to myself.
You’re supposed to be a 40 year old male to even consider studying the Kabbalah (which literally means: “To Receive”).   Some say Kabbalah can only be learned from a gifted teacher.  Others say it comes in the school of Ecstatic reality.  Some tap into the akashic records of universal everything.  God is everything.  You are everything.  If you can believe it’s possible, it just might be true.  But it’s up to…. you choose what you believe in.  What I’m saying is, I fell in love with this book, this concept of God being a Verb.
“Kabbalah is not a system, as some suppose.  Rather, it is an outlook, a way of perceiving the nature of reality In Essence, Kabbalah is founded upon mystical conceptions regarding life, death, creation, and creator.  it teaches us about the mysteries of life, how the creation works, where we are going, and how we get there.” – God is a Verb
God is an action.  It is how you treat people.  It is how you chose to live your life.  With kindness.  Dignity. (And maybe a hint of magic and wit).  While I will continue to read this book from start to finish over and over again, probably for the rest of my life, attempting to understand just a bit more each time, I have accepted that none of us will ever know the full true story until we are gone.  We can only enjoy the ride, and hope it’s entertaining enough to take care of yourself and live healthy, happy and holy.
My father, who is now an active member of a local orthodox synagogue here in KC, is rather devout, and there is so much pride in his prayer.  And why I love it, I don’t know that I could give my life to it.  I’ve thought about Rabbinical school, but it seems limiting.  I wish I could fit myself into the nice box of religious understanding, but it just doesn’t seem to work that way.  So I still say, “yes, I am jew-ish.  I can’t tell you a whole lot about it that makes much sense, but I can tell you what’s working for me.”  And why I may not entirely understand the weight I am carrying, I too will remain prideful and humble in my faith.
“I am he as you are he as you are me And we are all together”
-The Beatles
As if that wasn’t enough for you… Jew-Ish Spoken Word Piece:

Love All Ways,

I am an artist

I am an artist – an entertainer in every sense of the word.  I live for art.  Art is why I get out of bed most days.  And I don’t have a whole lot of say about it….  The impulse oozes out my pores and into my essence.  I get EXCITED about organizing my jewelry box.  Every thought becomes a plausible song lyric.  Every open mic an opportunity to be understood.  I live for craft day, okay, picking out my clothes every morning is an exciting opportunistic projection of expression.  Cooking dinner turns in to Instagram masterpieces, with a slight inkwell filter.  I have a tendency to turn my bedroom is a temple, with candles and sentimental shades of beauty. My bumper stickers have to say something.  I live to dance and I love to sing. Sing. SING!  Every moment is a chance to throw my hand up with a classy twist and a punch line (KISS) to wish you away on the ultimate ride. Tonight, I want to throw a party and invite everybody I know.  Get ‘em all in one room until they are best friends and forget to even call me when they throw their own parties.  When I do get invited, I’m on the guest list.  Because I am an artist.  In every sense of the title.  In every sense of the curse.  In ever sense of a blessing. I am an artist, and it’s the artist’s job, nay, DUTY, to preserve the past while creating the future, in a sense, providing comfort to those who do witness its glory.  Art is like God… not understandable.  not comprehendible.  not really tangible.  but still very powerful, if you chose to accept it and see it for what it is.  I often underestimate the artistic tendencies pulsing through my DNA, I just know that I have to express this…. this… this thing.  It’s art.  It’s, me.  And maybe you it’s you, too…. all of us, at different times in different ways get lucky and have something worthwhile to say.   And this really isn’t about luck.  This isn’t about entitlement.  This is not my ego screaming at your ego for telling me to sit down and shut up and listen (or don’t listen) to THIS or THAT Art, no… This is an infinite-way conversation ever-evolving composite of passion ready to erupt at any time.  This is not easy.  This is not profitable.  This isn’t an option.  The question is, do you have the time to share/care?  Because if not… my art will go fleetingly smooth into the night with all of the contributors who’ve come before and will ride again.  Should you chose to care, about this one artist, in one moment, creating this one memory, choose to remember this:

Art, is possibly the only thing that will be left when we are gone.  Let it legacize yourself, and to each his own, with honor.   And don’t forget to do it with a smile… because the show will go on.  Question is, would you rather be in the audience or on stage?


Hip Hop

Album Release Tour Coming on Strong

Sara tonin Front Cd Album Art 2015It’s almost hear folks!  My 4th album release is coming next weekend, April 9th, 10th and 11th.  We will be hitting three cities in three days on the Rhythm, Rhyme & Blues Tour, a MissConception and Matt Diamond collaboration!  If you have it in your heart (and time schedule) pick a show and come out and see the magic!

The album, titled Sara-Tonin, will consist of 13 tracks designed to push the envelope in several directions.  Recorded at Electric Cat Studios and produced by Little Class Records, I am thrilled to be releasing something that makes ME so happy.

Here is the lineup for the three day tour:

Lawrence, KS – The Jazzhaus – April 9 – $4
Harmony Mindzeye Lovellution  9-10
Matt Diamond 10-10:30
MissConception – 10:30-11:15
DJ Ather 11:15-11:30
Negro Scoe 11:30-12:15
Liberty, Mo – Club 906 – Friday April 10 – $5 presale / $7 door
Nicolette Paige 9-10
Matt Diamond 10-10:30
MissConception  –  10:30-11:15
Negro Scoe 11:15-12
DJ Prozac 12-2
Kansas City, Mo – Black Label Cycle – April 11 – $5
IVY – 9-9:30
Matt Diamond 9:30-10
Doc Dilz & the Last Rekrute 10-10:30
MissConception 10:30-11:30
Negro Scoe 11:30-12
DJ Prozac 12-1
DJ Derrick 1-2 2-3
DJ Pintsize

Vendors: Cali Roberta, Cryoflesh, Theresa Goodman

The album will be available for sale on a USB drive that will contain my entire collection (4 albums, a book, lyric sheet and videos) for $20.

Thank you so much for your support and constant inspiration.  I do this because it is what I love, and I can continue doing this on a larger scale because you choose to support me.  You will never know how much I love ya.

Blessings, and let’s rock!


Sara tonin Back Cd Album Art 2015


Speaking Truth

The older I get, the harder it is to talk about the things nobody wants to talk hear.  When I was younger, I would just blurt it out, uncontrollably, in any situation no matter how untactful or rash.  It was unstoppable, the truth HAD to come out and I wasn’t one to stop it.  It was an exciting rush to let the truth unfurl with all it’s wrath.  But just because it’s true, doesn’t mean it’s nice.

These days, I’ve had to learn the hard way how to bite my tongue for the well being of everyone, but especially myself.  A sense of protection in a world where nobody wants to hear the truth, they just want to live happily ever after in their oblivion.  It’s not that I can ignore the truth… it always stares you blindly in the eye, bright as white, unable to look away as it slowly destroys your vision to a blurry hue.  The truth still sticks out like the elephant in the room.  The same one everyone refuses to talk about, but we all know it’s there.  Truth is a funny thing.  Relative.  Variable.  Depending on which side of the line you are on, the results change.  How do we know if something is true?  I am writing my truth now, but it may disagree with your truth.  Does the truth meet in the middle somewhere?
photo by: IMagery
Matt Diamond Photography
MUAH: Mandy 
Hip Hop

What’s UP Kansas City ?

How ya’ll doing?  Really, I’m curious… TELL ME please in the comments below.  What do YOU have going on that’s worth noting?

I thought I would check in and say HI!  Real talk.  I’ve had my pulse on you for a while now, KC, and we’re just getting started!  As I’m gearing up for another Spring and Summer of enlightenment, I’ve been hibernating and feeling out the calm before the storm.

There are some wonderful things coming up in KC, and I wanted to fill all you loyal bloggers in; so take out your calendar and write down anything that seems interesting!  I’d love to see you out and about, painting the town whatever color you like, naturally.

First I’m working on recording a new album!  It should be out by late Spring; Title and release date coming soon!  Special thanks to Little Class Records!

2/25 Will be another fantastic feature poetry reading, brought to you by Nightlife Jones and MissConception, also featuring the illustrious Cheri Lou Woods.  Be at the Arts Bar (3611 Broadway) pre-open mic on Wednesday, February 25th for a special feature that will BLOW YOU AWAY.  Feature 8-9, open mic 9-11, always free, donations always welcome!

Dr Seuss’s birthday bash is happening on Monday evening, March 2nd at the Uptown Arts Bar 6:30 p.m.  Come and celebrate the life and poetry of Dr Seuss with myself and some other local poets!  AND this one the donations go towards a good cause, Community LINC.  

Save the Date for the screening of the documentary I produced titled “The Hellraiser”.   When a man (who happens to be my Grandfather!) decided he needed to call the Pope one day years ago, the impossible happened.  Suddenly, an ordinary lawyer found himself in not so ordinary positions.  Meet Sid Willens, civic activist and lawyer representing the underdog in many cases and platforms.  Sid has developed strategic tactics and systematic flow charts to accomplish what maybe would call the impossible, and he’s not afraid to share with the public the methods he uses to succeed.   Essentially, the film is about activism and how to make systematic change as an individual in this discriminatory system.

Please join your community on Thursday, April 2nd, 7:00 p.m. at the Uptown Arts Bar for a screening and discussion over the movie “The Hellraiser”.  Doors are at 7:00 p.m., followed by the film screening and a discussion panel from 8-8:30 consisting of Sid Willens, Al Brooks and Rabbi Mark Levin.  Other organizations will be there representing social justice actions happening today, including Ida B Wellls, The American Friends Services Committee and more.   Details coming soon!

Worth Noting: I’ve recently taken a job with The Kelly Gallery working on weddings and graphic design (two of my loves), so if you need all things wedding, SEND ME A MESSAGE at!  I want to help you!

Performance wise, I’ll be featuring at a TED TALK event in Lawrence March 23rd, performing at a MyArts KC Open Mic for youth in KC on March 27th, and doing a Burlesque show for adults on March 28th (hello busking burlesque poetry schtick)!
I am THRILLED to be collaborating with Matt Diamond for our multi-venue production of the Rhythm Rhyme and Blues Series… we’ll be heading to Lawrence, Liberty, St Joe (and of course KC) in April!  As one of his newest additions to the IMagery brand, great collaborations are to come!

I’ve got a weekly hula hoop class starting at City in Motion on April 1st!

Luckily enough, i’ll be working with KC Young Audiences and the American Friends Services Committee for the “How to Change the World through Spoken Word” workshops, working with youth in Kansas City teaching them about spoken word and performance!   What an honor.

And lastly, dare I remind you of my one true love, Wakarusa?  If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, please get them NOW while they are affordable, and come share this incredible experience with me!  There is no place like Wakarusa…. no place like OM.

We all have a lot going on.  Pick what you love and STICK WITH IT.  Keep lists.  Keep calendars.  Throw away that which doesn’t serve you any longer.  Think ahead.  Be proactive.  And do it with LOVE.  You can always check my website for upcoming events and music, and please help contribute to my vision by spreading the word, when it matters to you!

As always, thanks for reading!

10951145_10153080543027235_1969799690_nIMagery & Matt Diamond Photography


Poetics: Life Sentences

Life Sentences
Oh the bridges we burn when we speak out of turn….
There’s something to be said for the right timing of looking people in the eye.  Turn too fast or slow and you’ll miss the hello goodbye.
I was never one to be gun shy, and yes I’ve…
Done onto one what’s been done unto me.
walked away from love and made it look easy.
But no matter which side of the crawl you are on
both hearts still hurt even after they are done.
Nothing like knowing what you want, but not being able to have it
doing all the extra credit just so someone else can snag it
Allowing another to take all the wood you just collected
Putting all the pieces in the puzzle just to find out it’s defective
I wish…. that I could catch my tears, freeze them and make them into something beautiful.  An ice sculpture, to be proud of…. yes, that was my pain, and yes, it can become beautiful again.  It just takes time and focus and maybe a sharp knife to slice away the splinters that don’t belong.  I would give it to you.  So that you could hold my cold-hearted tears in  your hands and feel them disappear between your fingers.  You don’t deserve to keep them anyways.
I just want to could crawl into my hole on the dancefloor and dig it deep
Man made. Giving total permission to dance the night away freak out uninhibited.
Make it our mission to listen to the beat, as children we tap tap our feet.
sound times heat measuring history.
I wish I could tell you where it all began, and how it’s come to be, this mystery but there are no words to set us free so I guess it best to sweat heavy and let the dance floor be.
I want to represent my flag…
wear it on my arm like swag
proudly rep pressed with finesse
wear my share, on my vest … I digress hold it in,
instead of letting honor spin itself out into thin air,
with an oblivious grin like anyone really cares,
what i think of our governments affairs,
you got a better idea under there?
who’s ass needs covering up most?
Scared sometimes I get lost when I think of all the ghosts that haunt our past for a cause.  keeping it on the down low just because.  it’s a fascism statement.  and you can bet your spiderwebbed basement hasn’t seen the last of these revelations because the end is not a option.  life is written into the soft spot on our chest.. you can bet someone so on lock can’t be taken away to peacefully rest, so instead of wearing my flag on my sweater vest, i’ll put it away and let time test.
I wish you could see how big my heart is… I’ve worn it on my sleeve for years and now I’m seeing that may not be the safest place to keep it