From June 22-26, my brother and I were at Electric Forest in Michigan. We got the early arrival pass, which allowed us to arrive Wednesday night instead of Thursday morning. The camping areas were huge, so in retrospect I’m really glad that we got there early. It made the trek to the actual festival a 1/2 mile walk instead of a 2 mile walk. Definitely worth it.
Wednesday – we didn’t even arrive at the festival until around 7 pm. We drove slowly for the last 60 miles or so – there were an unbelievable number of police on the highways leading up to Rothbury. We passed several cars pulled over with 3-5 people handcuffed on the ground as police searched their car. I was determined to give the police no reason to pull me over. Luckily, we got there without incident. We set up the tent, unpacked and organized, played some mandolin/guitar, and walked around the grounds a little bit. There were a lot of vendors (both food and other goods) outside the actual festival grounds, which was nice for the early arrivals.
Thursday – Thursday started the actual music. Most people were still arriving Thursday morning, so nothing started until mid-afternoon. We saw Marvel Years, Party Favor, Paper Diamond, Prof, The Polish Ambassador, Duke Dumont, Way Out West, The White Buffalo, Major Lazer, and Bonobo. My brother really liked Party Favor, but I didn’t think any of the groups we saw Thursday were particularly notable. Major Lazer was the only one I had seen before (last year at Wakarusa), and he delivered a very similar shoe- lots of energy, but not very interesting. Regardless, music is music, and it was still nice to get some dancing time in.
Friday- one thing that was different about EF compared to most other festivals I’ve been to was how late the music started. For the most part, none of the bigger stages were up and running before 3:30 pm. It wasn’t bad, and it helped keep people in the shade during the worst of the heat, but it did feel like I was wiling away the entire day. Anyway, Friday we saw Dumpstaphunk, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Futuristic, NghtMre, The String Cheese Incident, and STS9. Dumpstaphunk, despite playing when it was still pretty hot, was great! I tend to prefer funky beats over the more droning/pounding beats that some artists put out, and dumpstaphunk was right up that alley. I had seen Nahko and STS9 before but they were still some of my favorite shows. Nahko is one of my favorite artists- his lyrics are very political, he does a lot of work for social change, and he just seems like a fun, genuine person who hasn’t lost sight of his goals and ideals even though he’s become relatively well known. And, as always, STS9 jammed. They never disappoint. They are such a good mixture of electronic/real instruments, and the crowd is always really pumped which makes everything just a little extra fun.
Saturday- Saturday was a long day. It was probably the most intense in terms of the complete music festival experience – I won’t go into too much detail on that front – but it was a hell of a lot of fun. We saw a more relaxed set by STS9, Delhi 2 Dublin, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The String Cheese Incident again, Porter Robinson, Bassnectar, and Flosstradamus. Delhi 2 Dublin I had seen before, but they kind of disappointed me this time. In the past, he has really done his name justice, focusing on some traditional beats/sounds that really made his music distinctive. Unfortunately, probably in the name of becoming more popular to the general population, he’s lost some of that distinctiveness in favor of a more typical sound. String Cheese Incident, however, seriously impressed me. Friday night was the first time I had seen them, and they didn’t blow my mind all that much. But both my brother and I thought they played a 100x better show Saturday. It was captivating. They also had some fun stuff going on in the audience- like giant golden balls being tossed around, giant poles in the audience that acrobats proceeded to climb up and then stand on while they swayed above the crowd. Porter Robinson was also pretty phenomenal. Everyone who I talked to about that set either loved it or hated it. It wasn’t the typical driving beats expected by a fairly late night performer, but it was a much more experimental performance. The performance had a video that accompanied it, and after a few minutes it became clear that he music was designed as a sort of sound-story. Once I switched my perspective to experiencing it as a sound experience instead, it was incredibly cool. I would really like to see more stuff like that- I think that’s an area that electronic music can do a lot, because it can bring in so many sounds and it has so much flexibility because it is controlled by one person most of the time.
Sunday- it was so sad to get to Sunday. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the festival mindset, and it’s hard to pull yourself out of it. We saw Sunsquabi, Rufus Du Sol, Manic Focus, The Floozies, and Griz. Sunsqubi and The Floozies were a lot alike, except the Floozies were 10x better. They were seriously awesome. Talk about funky dance beats- the Floozies have that under wraps. There was also a pretty awesome light show that accompanied that, which made it all the more worth it. The people who camped next to us were incredibly excited about Griz and thought he was the best show they had ever seen, but I wasn’t terribly impressed. It just didn’t seem all that different than anything else- there was nothing that made it distinctive enough to be fantastic.
Overall, Electric Forest was a great experience. The forest itself was beautiful- during the day the trees were beautiful and it felt like being in Lord of the Rings or something. Everything was just a little magical. At night, everything was lit up in neon. The entire forest was colored light. It was beautiful, and honestly pretty enchanting. It definitely provided the feeling of being completely removed from society. Allowing myself to by wrapped up like that was exciting – sometimes I think I get really focused on experiencing things for a particular reason, whether it’s in the name of writing, being more adventurous, or keeping up with someone else. But this was just pure experience – I was experiencing purely for the sake of it, without focusing on anything outside of that moment. It was a good reminder to just experience stuff sometimes without analyzing or over-thinking everything that happens.
Simultaneously, it also reminded me that even though I was having an awesome experience, it’s an experience crafted for me- the customer. Every night, the grounds were completely trashed. Every morning, they were completely cleaned up. Yes, it’s a genuine, organic weekend that was pretty magical. But tickets also cost a ton of money, and it’s something that makes me a consumer of more than just the music -it’s the consumption of the whole experience.
Alright, I’ll stop rambling. Electric forest gets a 7/10 from me. Here are a couple pictures from the weekend.