Pura vida. Stepping off the plane in Costa Rica, it's one of the first things that you hear. “Pura vida!” Exclaims the taxi driver outside the terminal, as you pile into what you figure is a normal hour-long commute after a half a day of traveling. “Pura vida!” You shout back, not really knowing if saying it back is custom or just polite. But, before you even land at the Pacific beachfront town of Jaco, you know it to be neither – it's a different way to live. Twisting and turning through the green inland roads, the taxi heaves and hos around cliffs and ridges, stopping suddenly for random photo-ops or beer runs. Or, monkeys in trees and crocodiles under bridges. By the time you reach your destination, you know the cabbie by name and he's already signed on to take you back to the airport at 3am four days later – pura vida!
Jungle Jam 2017 was like inhaling fresh air, being immersed in something so down-to-earth, so intimate, so real.
The 7th Annual Jungle Jam was nestled in its own little cove on the beach, residing at the intersection of two of the three main Jaco roads. You couldn't miss it. The event had already begun with private Thursday performances for VIP ticket-holders, and continued for general admission guests at 4:20pm on the dot every day after that. For an American festival-goer, accustomed to crowds and confusion, Jungle Jam 2017 was like inhaling fresh air, being immersed in something so down-to-earth, so intimate, so real. Jaco has this raw energy that invigorates you as you explore the town: the trinkets in the gift shops aren't lame like they are in the states; the sights are simple, yet spectacular; the locals don't discriminate against you as tourists; if anything you're part of the family now! Heat from the equator made sweat roll down your body simply from standing still, so an evening start time was a prime choice by the festy promoters! Waiting for Day One to start (and Day Two and Three, for that matter), event attendees explored endless tropical activities, like ATV riding, beach cruising, motorcycling, parasailing, ocean surfing, pool swimming, jungle touring, zip-lining, waterfall chasing, or coconut sipping... with a little rum inside, naturally.
Paradise aside, Jungle Jam's line-up could not be beat. Usually (sad, but true), there are some bands that event-goers feel it fine to skip: you've never heard of them, why should you head to the festival grounds early? Admittedly, there were bands attached to the 7th Annual that were not too popular within the reggae-alternative spectrum, yet each and every band that graced the 2017 Jungle Jam stage were indescribably talented and utterly mesmerizing. From start to finish, each day's performances were top-notch, and even the bands you've seen hundreds of times lit up the stage like you've never seen them do before. There's something about being in Costa Rica that just enlivens you, revitalizes you. The festival was full of south of the American border flavor, too, with Latin bands like Santos y Zurdo and Sonambulo, as well as reggae revival band Talawa. To name the best act of the weekend would be absurd, there are too many bands that deserve praise: HIRIE killed it, Zach Deputy got the people dancing while sitting down, Fortunate Youth lit up the stage twice in two days, Mike Love and friends planted trees to save the planet, Ryan Montbleau almost died a very grape-flavored death (you just had to be there). Shoutout to Montbleau's side project, Yes Darling, alongside Miss Haley Jane, who chose the 7th Annual for their inaugural performance: a set that stole everyone's hearts with laugh-out-loud lyrics, comical characterization, and irresistible chemistry. And, Yes Darling wasn't the sole side project of the weekend: Stoopid members Rymo and Paul, alongside multi-band member Van Martin started Day One music with their Organically Grown Trio, and Theivery Corp's Congo kicked off the Saturday main stage with his Congo Sanchez band. Speaking of headliners, Thievery Corporation, Slightly Stoopid, and Stick Figure all took the stage with such animated attitudes and fierce vivacity – a display that isn't too standard for the tranquil temperaments of Stoopid or Stick Figure. Needless to say, global reggae lovers were pleasantly surprised to witness eccentric sides to their favorite bands. Pura vida, my friends!
All in all, the 7th Annual Jungle Jam changed its participants for the better. Strangers became lifelong friends, artists and attendees celebrated as one, and participants walked away with lasting memories of music in the jungle. For the full experience, check back for daily photo galleries of Jungle Jam 2017. And, to those who left their heart in Costa Rica or to those who couldn't make the plane, let's raise a glass of chiliguarro to the 8th Annual!