Electric Forest Festival: this summer's big hit
Published: Friday, August 10, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 10, 2012 19:08
Last June, the annual flood of good people, music and vibes returned to the woods of Rothbury, Mich. One year later, the Electric Forest Festival kept the tradition alive and took it to new levels with the assistance of game-changing performances from the nation’s top acts, an incredible venue and a smoothly conducted weekend.
The excitement for four days in “the Forest” budded Feb. 1, when the initial lineup was announced, boasting three nights of String Cheese Incident, two nights of Sound Tribe Sector Nine (STS9), Thievery Corporation, Girl Talk, Santigold, Steve Aoki, Ghostland Observatory, Richie Hawtin, Major Lazer, Big Gigantic, Mimosa and more. The all-star electronic music lineup with sprinkles of top-notch jam and bluegrass attracted music fans of all shapes and sizes. To some festival-goers, it was a no-brainer when budgeting summer travel plans.
“When the lineup came out, the multiple nights of both Sound Tribe and String Cheese sold me right away. I also attended Bonnaroo, but I needed the electronic fix as well,” Drew Carpenter, 23, of Omaha said. “I saw Cheese and Tribe and Hangout, and they took it to a whole new level at Electric Forest. It was an incredible experience.”
Walking through the forest to the different stages was the perfect warm up for the set of your destination. The paths were lit with enormous decorations, including a growing butterfly and LED lasers that shot for what seemed like miles between tall, hammock-tethered trees. During the day, fans could tie hammocks in the forest and get a much-needed break from the heat (regularly in the upper 80s and 90s during the day) and the skin-blistering sun. Water, food, rest and shade were essential to surviving four days in the Forest.
Food vendors included pizza, gyros and a general store with packaged snacks and fruit, as well as organic and vegan options. Beer options were rather limited and hard alcohol was limited to vodka drinks and margaritas, which were fantastic and refreshing during the hot days. If you were really lucky, you could also catch a tasty homemade bloody Mary in the wee hours from one of many festival entrepreneurs (the best of which donated to Conscious Alliance, a Colorado-based nonprofit). Nothing served by vendors gave fans the feeling that some of the musical artists delivered with some next-level performances.
The main event, String Cheese Incident, as well as percussionists Michael Travis and Jason Hann performing an EOTO set, did not use playing three days straight as an excuse to slack for a note throughout their six-set Electric Forest run. A first night “Desert Dawn” encore led the way for Cheese to melt Foresters on the second night with a neck hair raising rendition of “RiverTrance.”
“This RiverTrance was unlike any I have heard before,” first-time festival-goer Matthew Rapp, 23, of Boulder, Colo. said. “They slowed down the beginning, which provided the perfect buildup for a knee-slapping ending. That was a perfect backdrop for fireworks and the Octopus parade through the crowd.”
Cheese finished the run with fireworks (figuratively and literally—multiple smuggled artillery shells were set off during the sets) by inviting Big Gigantic and The Motet tenor saxophonist Dominic Lalli out for a timely “Jellyfish” to start off their last set. A three-track encore, including an outrageously fun “Johnny Cash” convinced some to purchase tickets to Cheese’s three-night Red Rocks run the following weekend. The few children enjoying Cheese were treated to a hilarious Cheesy “Sesame Street” on the first night. Some fans have become disappointed with Cheese’s integration of dubstep sounds into their sets, but their timing and use of thundering bass was perfect for the Electric Forest vibe.
“Cheese just gets it, and they are witnessing the power that dubstep has,” Rapp said. “Cheese doesn’t shy away from any sound, and they are coming up with ways to stay fresh and entertain the crowd.”
STS9 brought two nights of their “Great Cycle Spectacles” show to Rothbury and invited fans onto a spaceship of sound, light and energy. Bassist David Murphy kept the crowd in full-on boogiemode and connected the crowd back to earth in between spacy, alien-like announcements that have kept Tribers buzzing about the bands new Spectacles sets. Saxton Waller, STS9’s lighting designer, created a beautifully illuminated combination of his Mayan temple LED screen and crossing geometric patterns with spotlights.