Sound Haven: The Case for Small Festivals

After returning home from the third installment of Sound Haven festival, this year held at the Catoosa Event Center in Jamestown, TN, I’ve reflected a lot on my festival journey and the progression of those I’ve attended. When I started going to shows consistently in 2017, I began with city festivals–namely Voodoo and Buku Festivals in New Orleans–which provided awesome experiences for the budding music festival-goer I was then. Now, I’ve found myself drawn more to the more niche events. Sound Haven, the bass-centric camping festival hosted by Sacred Hive, was by far the smallest event I’ve attended–though I can also say it was one of the best.

Minnesota’s set on Thursday at the UFO stage

The Grounds

The event spanned four days and nights in the Tennessee foothills, with music starting at noon each day and lasting until sunrise. It featured four stages: one UFO-themed main stage, a secondary, more intimate one, a pop-up late-night bus stage, and a day-time pop-up right on Catoosa’s swimmable lake. The lakeside stage allowed up-and-coming artists a means to test out their sets on a Void Acoustics sound system, which housed some of my favorite moments during the festival.

The daytime stage by the Catoosa Event Center lake

Aside from the stages, the festival offered gorgeous natural rock faces, rivers, and waterfalls dispersed throughout the venue, giving attendees ample area to explore when not at sets. My group and I would spend our days hanging out by the lake, and would often check out the workshops in the Grotto space, which offered insightful talks on topics ranging from production team safety to Kendama instruction.

The area across from the Grotto
Attendees enjoying Catoosa’s lake

The Music

There were too many incredible sets to name, but I’ll mention a memorable one from each day.


ENiGMA Dubz played the midnight slot on the secondary stage, and we carried an abundance of first-day festival energy with us as we made our way there after the main stage closed. Our group parked directly in front of the stage, and had our earplugs rattling in our ears from the thick subwoofers lining the bottom. Despite the monsoon that happened about thirty minutes in, the long-time producer had us buzzing with energy before we had to duck for shelter.


The Widdler’s midnight set was a highlight for my group; each of us had him at the top of our lists of must-sees going into the weekend. He threw down a number of cool tracks, ending on the craziest Britney Spears “Toxic” edit that I wish I’d gotten on video. Even though he was quite close to top billing, the more intimate Planetary stage still offered enough room for us to get down without overcrowding.


I’d been chasing Kursa for some time, and the UK producer’s set was the stand-out for me even counting the killer follow-ups from Jade Cicada and Distinct Motive. He opened with one of my favorite tracks of his, “Micro,” getting me on my feet early. His set featured visuals from Actualize, who killed it on stage design and visual artist curation for the weekend as well.

The Planetary stage during the day, featuring Element 5 sound


Though I’d just recently seen Mickman this past Thanksgiving weekend, he brought an arsenal of new material to his Sound Haven set, including some VIPs of fan-favorites. I always appreciate an artist who spins multiple genres, and he even brought some house tunes to the table. This set was such a party, and I’ll certainly never miss a set of his in the future.

The Experience

For such a small-scale festival, Sound Haven had excellent sound and visual provisions, bringing some of the biggest names in both industries. I appreciate such dedication to high-fidelity sound capable of bringing out every nuance in the productions of the featured artists, as well as so much attention given to other forms of art in the festival community. Many times, at larger fests, it feels like the experience can lack in ways aside from the music–and I was happy to find that it wasn’t the case here. 

Beyond that, our group met so many wonderful individuals during our stay at Sound Haven. One of our favorite run-ins was with a couple who, after talking with us for a while, invited us to attend their wedding the next day at the festival’s waterfall. Bonding through dance with the other attendees has always been one of my favorite parts of attending shows, and you’ll find no fans more passionate than those in the bass scene.

Changes to the Festival Scene

An interesting twist, which I feel contributed a lot to the crowd’s great vibes, was that the event prohibited alcohol for sale on the grounds. Many larger festivals attract sponsorships from prominent liquor brands, making alcohol use a highly encouraged method of music enjoyment. At this festival, groups are restricted to two cases per car–and I thankfully noticed no real medical emergencies and minimal EMT activity as compared to other festivals I’ve attended.

Even further, the crowd was so respectful of boundaries and I never felt claustrophobic, which is one of the factors that led me to smaller festivals in the first place. With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see whether other festivals follow suit in the coming years. I have to give credit to Sacred Hive for the raging success of the event. It cultivated a beautiful community for those four days, and I’m very excited to see the future of the festival.

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