Electric Forest 2013: A Retrospective – Part 1

electric forestThe one thing I was sure of, even before I set foot on the Electric Forest festival grounds, is that I was probably going to get lost…

Formerly known as Rothbury, Electric Forest truly encapsulates its name fully. This was my first time to EFF and I knew I was in for a treat – a festival unlike any other. Four days of an impressive lineup were accompanied by beautiful weather at this year’s Electric Forest. Traveling to Michigan from Atlanta was quite a ride, but any festival-goer would agree that the festival is definitely worth the long haul there.

This year’s lineup for Electric Forest included headlining bands stretching from The String Cheese Incident and Dispatch to Yeasayer and Empire of the Sun, as well as electronic/producer headliners such as Pretty Lights, Krewella, and A-Trak. Not only was the live music actually electrifying, but the wonders of the Forest also warranted a one-of-a-kind festival experience.

Thursday, June 27th

Arriving at Double JJ Ranch Thursday morning, we were greeted by festival volunteers and surrounded by many happy faces, dancing bodies, and music blasting in cars to go along with both. The morning proved to be cool, yet bright and sunny. But as it got more humid and we began to set up camp, the weather became quite ominous-looking, although storms did not pass through. Music did not begin until 5:00 p.m. so we had time to put up our hammocks and take a quick nap before catching music all night.

Electric Forest 2013

Electric Forest 2013

Upon awaking from our short slumbers, my group and I realized we should head to the main venue. The entrance line had died down so we were able to make it to Ana Sia at Tripolee, which was the stage closest to the entrance of the venue. Surprisingly enough, the only time it rained the entire festival was fifteen minutes during Ana Sia’s set. The reason we expected more rain was not just due to the threatening forecast, but also by the enormous, dark clouds that overlooked Rothbury each day.

Next up was EOTO at Sherwood Court, the festival’s main stage, which happens to be the stage farthest from the campsites. I had unfortunately never seen EOTO before, so this was on the top of my list of “Do-Not-Miss” shows. Being upfront for EOTO was quite the sight, mostly because the musical duo improvises 100% of their live shows. And not to mention how sharp the colors of their lightshow were.

Then, I got lost in the Forest. All EFF veterans had warned me that the woods truly are magical and full of mini-events that are easy to be a part of. This is hard to put into words once experiencing it, but Electric Forest has an upper hand to all festivals due to the detail-oriented and themed productions occurring among the wooded trees.

Being found by some music, I hit up the Elm&Oak Takeover at the Silent Disco. This event showcased DJs and producers who are associated with Elm&Oak, a record label and entertainment group based out of Boulder, Colorado. I personally like to discover each festival’s own interpretation of a Silent Disco. Plus, I follow Elm&Oak and their artists, so this stop in the Forest was important to me. As I observed onlookers, I noticed that there were actually a lot of grooving bodies without headphones. This group even included myself. Then, I spotted friends. Not the group I came with, but other ATLiens. I have got to say that is my favorite part about music festivals – bumping into old pals without the use of any technology, and also meeting new friends the same way.

Although I enjoyed my time at the Silent Disco, I knew I could not miss Lotus. Last time I saw this group was at Counterpoint Music Festival and I had been impatiently waiting to see another one of their captivating shows. And this set was not disappointing at all. So I wandered back over to Sherwood Court. Lotus opened with “What Did I Do Wrong” and played other tunes from their latest album, Build, such as “Neon Tubes” and “Ashcon”. The lightshow was unbelievable; I had the best view in the very back, especially towards the end of their set when they played “Spiritualize,” one of my favorite older Lotus tracks that’s chill and funky.

Sadly, that was the end to the music of for the first day and I found my way back to camp thanks to a taxi golf cart driver. I arrived to my campsite to my friends fast asleep already.

Friday, June 28th

Electric Forest 2013

Electric Forest 2013

Waking up a little late, my crew and I decided to eat, get ready, and head over to our friends from Athens who were camped closer to the main venue. After drinking some cold beer, my friend Carter began painting our faces, arms and legs with bright acrylics. We truly looked like we belonged in a tribe walking down the miniature Shakedown Street.

Somewhere deep within the Forest, I wound up lost. Again. But, I was happily lost because I spent the daytime seeing all the music I had wanted to catch that day. First, I caught Pigs on the Wing ft. Murphy of STS9. This Pink Floyd cover band got the crowd wild in the middle of the day and I made an effort to stay the entire set since it was my first time seeing them. Staying at Sherwood Court, Break Science continued to transfer energy from the stage to the audience. The duo replaced Grimes’ set time, who was forced to withdraw after the cancellation of Kanrocksas Music Festival. Break Science consists of Borahm Lee, who DJs and plays keys, and Adam Deitch, the live drummer who also plays with Lettuce. Although I wish I could have stayed for their entire set, I wandered off to the Forest Stage to catch the end of Up Until Now’s show. Jay Murphy, who produces for UUN, was joined on stage by drummer Kyle Holly, and brother, David Murphy of STS9. (Yes, I had just seen Murphy play not even hours before hitting up the Forest Stage.) At the end, Jay played a few tunes by himself to close while costumed people on stilts walked by. “I think the obvious difference [between Electric Forest and other festivals] is the art installations that they have. They create an environment that is unlike any other fest. You can tell that a lot of thought and work goes in to planning the look and feel of the festival grounds,” said Jay Murphy from Up Until Now.

I decided to adventure around by myself for a little bit. I caught pieces of Dispatch and The Polish Ambassador; both were at Wakarusa as well. The day had been carefree and exploratory, but I decided it was best to meet up with my friends at their campsite before the night’s festivities.

Oddly enough, they were just leaving on the same mission I had in mind – to see GrizMatik with Special Guests. My new friend, Taylor, was just as eager to get to this set as I was. So when we ended up having to wait in a long line, we got a little stir crazy. Beyond the Ferris Wheel, the clouds were formed in a gloomy, yet beautiful scene. After interpreting clouds and taking a few pictures with my disposal camera, we made it into the venue and rushed off to Sherwood Court as fast as we could. We got there just in time. Big Gigantic had joined the likes of GRiZ and Gramatik to form the collective Big GrizMatik. The groups performed Big Gigantic’s remix of Kanye West’s “Get Em High,” as well as GrizMatik’s own “Digital Liberation is Mad Freedom”. Paper Diamond and Michal Menert came out towards the end of the set, which stacked up the stage even more. The audience went wild and I swear we all danced like we’ve never danced before.

Electric Forest 2013

Electric Forest 2013

For the last show of the day, we made our way over to The String Cheese Incident’s first of three sets during the festival. Electric Forest has been deemed SCI’s festival since its inception. (Keep in mind it was Rothbury until ’09.) The six-piece jam band played two sets and an encore on Friday. Their first set included funky tunes such as “I Wish” and “Rosie”. Set two played “Rivertrance,” a song split into two parts of the set. This song truly exemplifies the vibe the Forest had offered the entire weekend. Begging for more, String Cheese came out for an encore in which they covered Eddie Harris’s “Freedom Jazz Dance” and transitioned into “Just One Story” to end their first set of the weekend.

Although the music was ending, our adventurous Friday night had just begun. My crew was just about completely together and we spent the remainder of the evening exploring the many art installations of the most unique form all over the Forest. We all gravitated to the Saloon the most probably, but we also ventured through a maze made of the brightest colors of yarn, a miniature house and crawlspace, and a garden of love. Perhaps my favorite installation included a trip to Space. I know that sounds insane, but it was a gong circle experience of another world.

Photos by Katie LeVan | click to read part two