The best music festivals are worlds unto themselves. Burning Man, for example, feels like a Mad Max–esque fever dream, while Coachella is a celebrity-studded carnival. Since it started in 2006, Sonic Bloom, one of Colorado’s biggest electronic dance music festivals, has cultivated a techno-psychedelic summer camp vibe—and, this year, a trip into the metaverse will solidify that brand.

For the uninitiated, the metaverse is a developing network of 3D worlds that exist on the internet, à la Ready Player One. Like the characters in the 2018 sci-fi film, users can don goggles and explore virtual realms, where they interact with others. The ever-expanding metaverse has long fascinated Annie Phillips, a Denver artist who, in 2019, designed metaversal replicas of her RiNo digital-art gallery, IRL Art, so customers could virtually peruse the exhibition space on different platforms. “People look at the metaverse as checking out of reality,” Phillips says, “but it’s a cool way to still experience art and feel connected to a community.”

Phillips wasn’t the only artist whose interest in the metaverse paid off during the pandemic. In October 2021, an event called Metaverse Festival livestreamed 80 different DJ, jazz, and funk sets, attracting so many people that the concert’s server crashed. Metaverse Festival’s popularity made Phillips, a longtime Sonic Bloom attendee and its art director, wonder if a similar concept could enhance the Colorado fete when it returns from a two-year COVID-19 hiatus this month (June 16 to 19). Conveniently, Sonic Bloom’s organizers were interested in giving the event a stronger digital presence. “We wanted to see how we could capture a little bit of that market,” says creative director Josh Davis, “and provide some added benefits to our attendees.”

Those perks start with a digital replica of Hummingbird Ranch, the campground in Huerfano County that hosts Sonic Bloom. Phillips and a team of 11 artists will design it on Decentraland, one of the most popular metaversal browsers. EDM fans unwilling or unable to drive to the southern Colorado locale can navigate the grounds using either a computer or a virtual reality headset and see livestreams of the performances. Festivalgoers who make the physical journey will be treated to an artsy version of Pokémon Go: On their phones, they’ll see digital artwork created by Phillips and others at different spots around the grounds.

Even the entrance system has gone metaversal. Rather than using traditional ticketing, Sonic Bloom will issue non-fungible tokens (NFTs) designed by artists to attendees. At their core, NFTs are pieces of digital art with encoded tracking information, which allows collectors to verify authenticity. In this case, it will also prevent scalpers from buying the NFT tickets and reselling them for higher prices. For Sonic Bloom attendees who want to get even more from their experience, lines of code in add-on NFTs will act as passwords to grant access to festival bonuses, such as secret, off-site sets.

The result of all this tech? Phillips hopes the metaverse will make Sonic Bloom a more accessible experience. “We know there may be people with underlying health conditions worried about being in a crowd, or even parents who can’t just take off to a festival for three days,” she says. “The metaversal version means everyone will get a chance to experience Sonic Bloom.”

If You Go


Getting there: Visit to carpool
Bring: Camping gear
Price: From $367, not including camping and parking (an addition of at least $162)


Getting there:
Bring: A sweet, rave-ready digital outfit for your avatar
Price: TBD at press time

This article was originally published in 5280 June 2022.
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil is a Denver-based journalist and 5280's former digital senior associate editor.