When you think you’ve seen it all, the East Bay finds a way to surprise you. After a couple of dry weeks upon returning to school, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when signing up to cover Atlas Obscura’s “Through The Looking Glass” event on September 16th at Fairyland — but I was hoping for something good. Atlas Obscura is an American travel website that highlights unique destinations to visit across the United States and around the world. One of their featured destinations, Oakland’s historic Fairyland, was chosen to host their music event, “Through the Looking Glass”.
Children’s Fairyland is one of the nation’s oldest theme parks and has been cited as inspiration for Walt Disney when designing Disneyland. Its whimsical, fairytale-style design makes it a joy for both children and adults, but access to the park is normally limited to children under the age of 8. This made it particularly special for the park to be open to all ages after dark, allowing for an experience of Fairyland that is not usually available to adults.
Upon entering the park through its iconic shoe archway, I immediately felt transported. The park was dimly lit, with a map indicating all the different stages and booths around the park, with performances taking place at whimsical sets like the Emerald City and Aesop’s Playhouse. Booths were located in small playhouses, with fun activities to draw you in like tarot card readings and screen printing. The list of offerings was so enticing that I found myself disappointed that I couldn’t find them all, getting lost in the maze of the park. I explored the home of the Merry Miller, rode on the Jolly Trolley, and walked through Alice’s card maze as I waited for SASAMI’s set to begin, becoming fully absorbed in the darkly mysterious energy of the park at night.
Eventually, my wanderings brought me to the Emerald City stage, where SASAMI was warming up for her set. This was my first time seeing her live, and her stage presence did not disappoint as she bantered with the crowd about her move from LA to Bolinas, CA. As a SoCal transplant myself, I resonated with her desire to leave the more superficial elements of LA culture behind. Her performance consisted largely of unreleased songs she had written during her time here in the Bay, building my anticipation for their release. It created the perfect ethereal mood, making me feel like a fairy from the storybooks, dancing the night away deep in the forest.
The rest of the festival was filled with sets by other local Bay Area performers, many of them showcasing their new, unreleased music as well. Highlights included sets by Oakland based artist SPELLLING and Sun Ra Arkestra, all delivering amazing intimate performances. Upon leaving for the night, my only wish was to stay longer in this magical world that “Through the Looking Glass” had created for me.