Meow Wolf’s Taos Vortex festival, in its second year, expands to 3 days

April 25, 2019

Count Meow Wolf’s latest high-desert high jinks as yet another expansion of the Santa Fe-based art collective’s quirky brand.

Taos Vortex, an immersive art and music festival, returns this summer to Kit Carson Park in Taos for a second year of bass-thumping tunes and eccentric entertainment. (Last year’s fest saw a 20-foot gorilla roaming the park, along with a gummy bear pyramid.)

On Tuesday, as officials announced this year’s diverse lineup of musical acts, Meow Wolf’s top executives said the now-three-day Taos festival could be the first of even more Meow Wolf-branded outdoor festivals throughout the country.

Taos Vortex is “our cornerstone event, for sure,” said Max Beck-Keller, the company’s events director. “We’re definitely thinking about building on this outside of New Mexico — perhaps in Nevada in the future, in particular.”

Meow Wolf, which bills itself as an immersive experiences company, opened its signature House of Eternal Return exhibit on Rufina Circle in 2016. Since then, it has announced expansion projects in Washington, D.C.; Phoenix; Denver; and Las Vegas, Nev.

Taos Vortex is scheduled for Aug. 16-18. This year’s fest is headlined by seven eclectic acts. Grammy-nominated electronic music producer Flying Lotus will perform with a live-directed 3D light show, complete with onstage holograms. Melodic indie favorite Nick Murphy (formerly known as Chet Faker) will take the stage, as will Lykke Li, with her ethereal pop rock, and quirky sister act CocoRosie. Electronic artist Zhu, house DJ Claude VonStroke and Washington, D.C.-area rapper Goldlink round out the top billing.

Funk legend George Clinton, Tex-Mex rockers Calexico and indie singer-songwriter Iron & Wine also are slated to perform, along with a slew of other acts.

But unlike a traditional music festival, Taos Vortex is just as much about the festival experience as it is the music.

“I think Meow Wolf brings a lot of play and immersion to the table, and that’s something we’re striving for — to create an outdoor experience that offers that to passholders and guests,” said Sofie Cruse, the show’s art director.

New this year is the festival’s second stage, known as the Glade, a grassy meadow that will allow guests to be part of the show. Nearby, organizers have dreamed up art-installation neighborhoods, each with a sculptural hut as its focal point and characters to lure you in.

Across the park, the Spire stage is a cathedral-like citadel designed, Beck-Keller said, to inspire reverence.

The festival also offers camping or glamping options for out-of-towners and a series of excursions into the surrounding countryside, including a brewery tour, a cave tour and hot air balloon rides.

“It’s just such a gorgeous part of the state that I feel like people are always excited to travel to,” said Amelia Stickney, a special projects producer for Meow Wolf. “[Taos] often gets so much hype in the winter for skiing, but it’s completely stunning in the summer, and the town has so much to offer.”

The festival’s inaugural event drew about 5,000 ticketholders, Beck-Keller said. Organizers are aiming for no more than 6,000 per day this year.

“We don’t want to go for this totally thronged experience,” he said. “We want it to feel live and happening, but I think we also want it to be approachable, friendly and easy, and I think we saw that last year.”