2022 — Niksta’s Year of Festivals, Food, Friends, and Fam

11 min readJan 7


NYE 2022 — I’m writing to you, reader, from my hotel bed, posted up just outside of New Orleans on New Years Eve, secretly editing this very draft I’ve been revising all year long while my festi-partner-in-crime pours himself a tall glass of bourbon (Angels Envy — a new favorite of mine as well) and puts on a black hoodie from Deadmau5’s “wearefriends” tour, a show we attended in Madison this summer. As I look back to my annual Niksta-New Year’s blog post, I fondly remember the girl who vowed to attend every show she possibly could back in 2015 (me) and made those dreams come true. This year paralleled it more than any other since: I took on as much as I possibly could in hopes a year of eats and beats would revive the “newly-single” me, bringing me back to the best, happiest version of myself. We’re moments away from entering 2023, the Jordan year, and I truly feel like the GOAT ̶h̶i̶m̶herself. I did it.

This has been the best year of my life so far and I mean that with every ounce of heart and soul in my body. This year, I attended more than 70 shows and festivals, totaling over 130 days of music events, a personal record and all-time high. While I no longer work for Grassroots California, I’ve continued to support the brand on the road, socials, and in formal festi-fashion (still rockin’ snapbacks and 6.0s!). I instead have headed back to the classroom to teach middle school full-time and successfully managed to balance a schedule full of music and mischief while traveling to more than 19 states (including 7 new ones!) in the last 365 days. Throughout my experience, I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying some of the most exquisite cuisines and restaurants across the nation, stayed at some of the best JW Marriott Hotels hotels, camped under the starriest of skies, hiked some of the US’s most notable parks, drove across the nation’s wildest roads, and met some of best festi-friends I’ve ever had. Arcade bars and TikTok have replaced my PC-gaming habits and I’ve continued to exercise by doing yoga and running as often as I could on the road. Also on the road (and waters) with me this year were 9 inflatable unicorns: two of which were maliciously kidnapped, only one was temporarily recovered. I collected more than 21 official festival wristbands and sported 3 pairs of pink heart-shaped sunglasses (my favorite are the Griz rhinestone ones!).

More numbers? I was invited to attend more than 7 festivals complimentary, and shared over 100 guestlist spots with friends nationwide. I professionally promoted at least 20 events, celebrated my 4th year as a Camp Counselor at my 8th Summer Camp Music Festival, and attended no less than 9 GRiZ shows (hitting grand-old #65 this Grizmas!). Umphrey’s McGee? Saw them 10 times this year, hitting 64 shows total. Daily Bread? More than 8 times. Ravenscoon? 9 or 10 times. Mersiv? 7, and he was my #1 artist of the year on Spotify! Tipper? Every show this year except T&F and Snowta (almost every time zone!). Gramatik? Yup — the only show he played this year was Red Rocks, so I “sent it” with my BFF just to witness the longest set I’ve ever heard played by a single artist (roughly 3 hours). Favorite set of the year? Probably Big G & Griz throwback set at Electric Forest or Griz’ Forest Friday night set; I’m sure you understand why.

Other stand out moments include the double rainbow at Secret Dreams and coming together to make that Tipper set happen: that kind of support and positivity is what makes the music community so special. An acapella version of my #1 played song of the year, “Figured U Out” was performed by TieDye Ky at Electric Forest AND Lunar Tide which was also super special. Griz dropping Wicked at Triple Rainbow on night 2 literally brought me to tears. There was also an actual sandstorm during a Ravenscoon wave set at Sonic Bloom this year, but don’t ask to me to pick my favorite ‘Scoon-set since it’s a tie between Sol Fest, SCamp, and Lunar Tide. I brought bread to every Daily Bread set, including two sets at SCamp, the brunch set at Bloom, and witnessed a stellar Philos b2b at Big Fam. That’s the same festival where Biomassive played the best version of Sandstorm I’ve ever heard, Dixon’s Violin took us on the journey of a lifetime, and I was known as “The Twiddle girl” who carried a lobster around with me all weekend. I met justjohn after a random full send to Grand Rapids one Thursday summer afternoon — if you don’t know his music yet, please check him out. Back in Chitown? Not gonna lie- Metallica, Zhu, and Billy Strings were my favorite Lolla sets: I attended my 13th Lollapalooza in a row! Ganja White Night’s Pre-Party sets were absolutely the best two GWN sets of the year I attended, in Chicago and Minneapolis. It was an absolute honor to be the very first in line at the Triple Rainbow Pre-party, leading a yoga sesh and pizza pregame in line at the same venue I work in the box office. Oof — I have to mention this blood red moon that came up into the sky over mainstage during Of The Trees at Sonic Bloom this year; it was simply gorgeous and surreal. And it would be wrong of me not to celebrate the VIP Party set Cherub played at SCamp when the sun came up and all my girlfriends and I kicked off our shoes and let loose to Cher’s Do You Believe in Love song: that was a vibe! This year also marks the first time I got a little too loose and got kicked out of a show… up in Milwaukee… and then was formally asked not to attend the next evening in Chicago as well… But onto more fun things…

Kickball! Who could forget Kickball! It was the first time Team Stasik led by Kickball Captain (me) has lost, but we didn’t go down without a proper fight, in the cold, muddy Sunshine Field at SCamp. The bon fire at Infrasound Equinox and the general vibe of the autumn (practically winter) fest was immaculate. I took my first unicorn of the year for spin on the swampy pond water at Family Funktion only to find out there were more than 30 water snakes inhabiting the pond: a puppy-passenger popped a hole in her mid-float and I had to call a friend to bring duct tape down to get me back to land safely. The next week, I picked up a toad at Sol Fest and brought it to Mainstage for Toadface. I brought my little friend with me to the bar and bathroom (where he almost escaped) and then let him go back by the pond I found him by. The random owl and yoga/AMA session at CloZee Caverns was pretty darn special, as was the yoga sesh at Electric Forest Saturday morning. I remember a rather absurd sunrise renegade set at Same Same But Different that went on until 11am: I happened to be one of the last 7 people out there while Main Stage was taken down and we were eventually asked (kindly) to leave. I hiked Garden of the Gods in Colorado at sunset in between Sonic Bloom and a 14-hour drive to Electric Forest: that was pretty wild. I also hiked out to Sunset Rock on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga at the beginning and end of festival season: that takes the cake for the best view of the year for sure. I could go on and on and on, but it’s time to eat!

Who doesn’t love tacos? Some of the best include tacos from NOLA’s own The Will & The Way, Nashville’s Nectar Urban Cantina, and Milwaukee’s Mad Rooster Breakfast Tacos. Fried Ice Cream was a treat we spent 6 months chasing down and finally indulged in during my first time in Los Angeles, California. Best burger and chicken sandwich goes to Red Cow in Minneapolis, a great spot to visit on Halloween in costumes! Pizza is usually my first “real meal” post-fest and I have to give props to The Mitten Brew Co in Grand Rapids, MI, Pasquale’s Italian Market in Minnesota (not the Chuck E. Cheese situation, I promise), Mr. T’s in Chattanooga, and Fuller House in Hinsdale, IL. But hear me when I say no slice or pie will come close to Chicago’s own, Pequods. Ryan Stasik — my guy — you we’re very right about Pequods. Now, the third best meal of the year I ate included Birria Ramen, tacos, elotes, and margaritas at a fabulous Mexican joint, Westside Cantina, in Colorado Springs: highly recommend if you’re ever in the area. The second best meal experience was at Ruby Slipper, a brunch spot in New Orleans with a rainbow mimosa flight, candied bacon, loaded brunch tots, spicy honey chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, and bloody mary’s with bacon-infused vodka. I don’t even like bloody mary’s and I thought it was delicious. But *drum roll please*, the #1 dining experience of the festival season goes to… etc. Nashville! I dined on a Sesame Cured Salmon appetizer, beef filet, seared venison, maple-glazed brussel sprouts, chocolate malt cake, a blackberry bourbon cocktail and a few glasses of sauvignon blanc. I entered the fine dining facility in a Lululemon outfit without makeup, pulling twigs out of my hair from having just finished a hike at Radnor State Park, but it didn’t matter one bit. Each dish was prepared by their in-house chef very quickly, presented most beautifully, and featured the absolute most delicious bites of the year. Of course, the company that evening was just as divine. To say we ate well this year would be an understatement. Ok, so… Cocktails. My goodness… the Rochester, MN speakeasy, Bitter and Pour, was hands down my favorite: you have to solve a riddle and figure out how to even get into the joint before you can indulge in the most festive, delicious drinks and professional pours around. Pins Mechanical Co and Up-down in Nashville, TN are close runners up, with a fruity cocktails including a kiwi-mixed drink and frozen rosé slushie! A good go-to anywhere, I’ve discovered though, is a strawberry margarita: I never once came across a strawberry-marg I didn’t like!

I consider myself a content-creator (I am writing this story after all!) and this year’s festi-content was constantly poppin off! I gained over 200K likes and views for festival-related content I created across my socials. The most unique? Besides all the SkyView screenshots I capture of constellations, planets, and space-stuff literally in real-time view at almost every show, indoor and out? Maybe the Harry-Potter themed party game I designed, played by more than 15 people at Secret Dreams this year: our friends were sorted in their houses and earned points for accomplishments, infractions, and wookery I dreamt up in the car ride on the way there. Of course, there were multiple nerf-gun battles I partook in: I always carry at least one (if not, two!) four-shot Nerf pistols with a case of ammo and am a great shot if I do say so myself. The wildest thing I saw at a festival this year? No comment at this time (it might have involved a rogue wagon at Legend Valley). I’m most proud of my annual Festival Season photo album with 116 posts and 2207 captured moments, another 200 in my Summer Camp album, these additional captures from JAMNOLA, as well as numerous festi-TikToks and Reels.

To say this has been the best year of my life — following a year of such great loss, grief, and personal growth — doesn’t even scratch the surface as to how special and amazing it was. And having a homie to help plan and travel with has made it the most spectacular adventure to partake in. I’m honored to have the most wonderful friends, family, *trip advisor*, and my pink-rimmed Lexus who support it all, too. I’m the happiest (and skinniest!) I’ve ever been and I couldn’t be more appreciative, thankful, and blessed.

It has truly been one helluva year. Happy New Year, folks. I’m off to chill my bottle of, (you guessed it… ofc) Prosecco, and sample some of my homie’s fancy bourbon! Til next year… stay lit, glit, and glowy. ❤

XOXO — Nikstagraham

NIKSTA’s 2022–2023 LINEUP

Griz’ HiJinx After Party in Philadelphia
Tsuruda, Khiva, & a Deep, Dark, Dangerous Takeover @ The Philly Armory
Tales After Dark @ The Point
Ravenscoon @ The Point
Lane 8 @ Aragon
Papadosio Chop Shop >> Subtronics @ Aragon
Bass Station
Mickman @ Miramar
Mersiv @ Canopy Club
Summer Camp OTR/Bday party @ Martyr’s
Liquid Stranger @ Aragon
Bourbon on Division
Alison Wonderland @ Aragon
Toadface @ Avondale
Smoakland & Jansten @ Miramar
̶S̶m̶o̶a̶k̶l̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶&̶ ̶J̶a̶n̶s̶t̶e̶n̶ ̶@̶ ̶C̶h̶o̶p̶ ̶S̶h̶o̶p̶
Audiodacity @ Bourbon on Division
Ganja White Night Pre-Party @ Chop Shop
Ganja White Night (2 Nights @ Aragon)
Flosstradamus @ Soundbar
Family Funktion @ Cherokee Farms
Sol Fest @ Bama Slam
Sum 41 & Simple Plan @ Radius
Ultrasloth @ Chop Shop
Summer Camp Music Festival @ Three Sisters Park
Griz Triple Rainbow PreParty @ Radius
DoDivision Fest
justjohn @ the Black Box Denver
Sonic Bloom @ Humminbird Rach
Electric Forest @ Sherwood Forest
Road to NCMF @ Joes on Weed
West Fest
Subyacht 001 on Lake Michigan
Subyacht 001 Afters @ House of Blues Chicago
justjohn @ The Interection Grand Rapids & After Party
Mersiv @ The Caverns
Deadmau5 @ The Sylvee Madison
Electric Island
Wicker Park Fest
Lollapalooza in Grant Park
Peekaboo @ Avondale
Phlowfest @ Alpine
Lord Huron @ Salt Shed
Secret Dreams @ Legend Valley
Tsuruda @ ChopShop >> Noisia @ Sound Bar
Umphreys’ PreParty @ The Riv
Sacred Rose Music Festival
Ternion Sound @ Avondale
Big Fam Festival in Michigan
Same Same But Different Fest in California
Griz: Triple Rainbow Fest, 2 nights @ Alpine Valley
Tenacious D in Milwaukee
Clozee @ The Caverns
Gramatik Red Rocks
Infrasound Equinox
Manic Focus @ Park West
Smoakland @ Bottom Lounge
Marvel Years & Michael Menert @ Chop Shop
Marc Ribillet @ Aragon
Ganja White Night Preparty @ The Exchange
Wobbleween (2day @ The Armory)
Horror on Herrepin Halloween with Liquid Stranger, Rusko @ the Skyway
Vctre & Eazybaked @ Chop Shop
Lunar Tide Music & Arts Festival @ BassStation
Grizmas Night 2 in Detroit
Zeds Dead 2 Nights @ Aragon
Zeds Dead Afters 2 Nights @ Concord
Mersiv NYE NOLA 2 Nights @ The Joy Theater
MorFlo & Smoakland Afters @ Howlin Wolf
Wake-n-Blake presents Chris Karns++ @ Cafe Istanbul




Professional Educator, Music Lover, Content Creator & Community Builder