Electric Forest 2013: A Retrospective – Part 2
Saturday, June 29th
I awoke earlier Saturday morning, with the clear Michigan sky and already sizzling sunrays. My camp, along with my other friends’ camp, decided we were going to try and go to the pool party. But when we found out it was $20, we decided to save the money and to the Bell’s Beer Tasting at The Forest Stage Bar since it was, well, free.
Waiting in line, Katie and I met some new pals around us before grabbing a couple small cups of free, cold beer, which is a blessing to have in the afternoon at a festival. We discovered there were other little free giveaways, so we grabbed a couple pairs of shades and received temporary tattoos.
Then the real fun began.
My group and I were on a treasure hunt to answer riddles from different characters in the Forest, including Father Time, in order to receive trinkets. Once we got all of the trinkets, we would receive the elusive key to the Forest. We were on a roll answering riddles; so my friend Hugo led us to receiving all the trinkets and eventually, we were given the key to the magical Forest. More adventures through the Forest caused for us to take many pictures, but then we decided to abandon the woods for some Lettuce up at the Ranch Arena. This exceptionally funky band was definitely a highlight of the day. And not just for the audience either. Jesus Coomes, bassist for Lettuce, explains, “My experience at Electric Forest was entirely synchronistic and full of perfection as far as the eye could see in every direction.”
My friends and I put up our hammocks, stacked three high on two trees, and watched Lettuce perform. I checked out the official Electric Forest merchandise table and my friends and I continued the miniature photo-shoot we started earlier in the Forest.
Soon enough, it was time for some String Cheese again. The following behind SCI is so devout and artistic; totems and signs ranging from all different Cheese puns, including my personal favorite of a picture of Chester Cheetah above the phrase written above it saying “Cheesey Does It”. The Colorado group opened with “Outside and Inside” and closed their first set of the day with Cheese guitarist Bill Nershi’s “Colorado Bluebird Sky”. For their second set, Dominic Lalli, saxophonist for Big Gigantic, came out to open with “Bumpin Reel”. Streamers, big gelatin-like balls and fireworks were all additional visual displays beside the amazingly vivid lightshow on stage during “Desert Dawn”. Before closing with “Texas,” String Cheese Incident covered Bob Marley’s “Kinky Reggae”.
The rest of the evening was spent roaming from show to show, while also spending many moments in the Forest. We caught Flosstradamus, Empire of the Sun, Knife Party, and A-Trak. Although I am usually a big fan of EDM, my favorite show out of those four was definitely Empire of the Sun. They put on such a well-produced show, with costumes, makeup, and visuals unlike any other group I have seen before. Gallivanting from vendor to vendor, we talked to butterflies on the way back to our campsite. Yes. Butterflies.
Sunday, June 30th
After having a late night, I decided to sleep in a little later and chill by our campsite. Although our tents were in the sun, we took our tapestries and brought them over to the shade right across the way.
Before heading to the first show of the day, my group got distracted once we got into the main venue. First, the boys wanted to try and walk the slack line set up by Ranch Arena. Greensky Bluegrass was playing Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved?” in the background. It hit me that today was the last day and I already felt the post-festival blues. But I quickly got out of that funk as I was handed a beer and energy bar. Next, my friend and I wanted to go to a vendor we met the night before so we went to back to make our own custom, marble-painted hats. We let them dry under the basking sun while still on our heads as we strolled back into the Forest.
On our way to see Reptar, we stopped by The Observatory, perhaps the most interesting part of the Forest. The Observatory is made of bright red Chinese pagodas, one of which is a bar. Then on the opposite side, there is a small stage. Walking up the stairs to the stage, I heard the faint beginning of Pretty Lights’ “Finally Moving”. Sam Klass was performing that cover by playing live guitar and singing. Klass also beat boxed, which truly made him a one-man show. We decided to head to Sherwood Court for Reptar, but again got stopped by a loud percussion sounds – a trailer made up with all different metals and unique instruments to bang on the metal-framed house. Oh and there was a guy dressed as a turtle playing a saxophone.
Two of my friends threw around a Frisbee, while the rest of us laid down a tapestry to watch Reptar at Sherwood Court. After changing and eating a meal (finally), we got back to Sherwood Court in time for Emancipator, the set I had been looking most forward to. Doug Appling and violinist Ilya Goldberg performed older songs such as “When I Go” and the moving “Anthem”. While a giant blue dragon passed by us in the crowd, the duo played “Minor Cause” from Appling’s latest album, Dusk to Dawn. But I was most excited when I got to hear my favorite Emancipator tune for the first time, “Elephant Survival”. Moments like these make people addicted to going to shows and attending music festivals. Leaving the front area, we relocated to the side of the stage. A girl I had just met was hooping perfectly with the music.
Before we knew it, Pretty Lights was about to go on. We got upfront to the Ranch Arena before Derek Vincent Smith had taken the stage. Being one of the main headliners, Smith already had a huge crowd awaiting his set. Much of this hype was attributed to a passionate group of musical friends who are PLF, Pretty Lights Family. Another reason Pretty Lights was a do-not-miss show was due to the fact that Smith dropped his new album, A Color Map of the Sun, almost a week early, which fell right before Electric Forest began. Not disappointing the audience at all, Pretty Lights opened with a new track off ACMOTS titled “Let’s Get Busy”. Then, Smith played older tunes such as “High School Art Class” and his popular remix “Finally Moving”, as well as “Hot Like Sauce” and “You Get High”. Smith did a phenomenal job of mixing while also keeping the crowd in suspense in between songs. And those lights were so pretty. Other new tunes played included “Yellow Bird,” “Prophet,” and my new favorite “Vibe Vendetta”. The new album tracks were all recorded on vinyl, making Smith’s long-awaited original album an artistic, electronic project.
Unfortunately, I was forced to leave Pretty Lights earlier to catch all of Beats Antique, since they were closing out the festival. This final set is definitely one of the highlights of Electric Forest. The three-piece group never disappoints live, mixing belly dancing, electronics, and Middle Eastern sounds. They played their cover of Bob Marley’s “Satisfy my Soul,” as well as my favorite – Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”. The group also performed their remix of Bassnectar’s “Voodoo” before the Mayhem Marching Band joined Beats in their closing. The marching band had appeared in the Forest earlier that day. That closing performance was spectacular.
All in all, Electric Forest 2013 was one for the books. My favorite shows were String Cheese Incident, Beats Antique, Emancipator, Big GrizMatik, Pretty Lights and Empire of the Sun. It is hard to narrow it down to one, but if I had to choose, Beats Antique stole the show at the very end.
I have only been to four other festivals, but I can proudly say that Electric Forest has been my favorite festival. Not only was the lineup incredible, mixing electronic music with bluegrass and jam bands, but also the Forest really is a sight to see. Now I know why I was warned that I’d get lost and I recommend everyone should try getting lost next year at Electric Forest 2014.
Photos by Katie LeVan