Review & Photos | Electric Forest | Rothbury, MI

Images by: Brian Spady & Justin Ciccone

Words by: Jeanne Bettencourt

Electric Forest :: 06.27-30.13 :: Double JJ Ranch and Resort :: Rothbury, MI

The third consecutive year of Electric Forest may have been its best yet; not only was the infamous Sherwood Forest renovated and expanded beyond belief, but the connection felt between those in attendance was one of the most powerful displays of human interaction I’ve ever witnessed. Madison House produced an environment that pulled an eclectic group of individuals together to form a community living and interacting as one. The strength of this connectedness resulted in a beautiful weekend of spirituality and great parties. Not only was the music and visual art incredible, but the amount of performance art was unbelievable. I have never seen that many well-rounded and gifted spinners together, vibing off the music and each other. It truly was a weekend of sheer creativity produced by all those involved.

Day One was filled with an enormous amount of energy, and the weather only added to its intensity. A hot and humid day was followed by a short amount of rain, rejuvenating us all for the night ahead. Notable daytime performances included a heavy and dance worthy set by Suckerpunch at the Ranch Stage and self proclaimed ‘psychedelic dance rock’ jamtronica band The Werks at the Sherwood Court. The two bands were a nice intro into the festival with live instrumental music, but I was equally impressed with Digital Tape Machine (ft. Cummins & Myers of Umphrey’s McGee) as they shifted the the mood with a mix of different types of house, drum n’ bass, & hip- hop. Next up on at the Sherwood Court was EOTO and their electronic rock inspired by SCI’s Michael Travis and Jason Hann. After paying respect to the duet’s impressive entirely improv performance (no pre-recorded loops) we ventured into the Sherwood Forest to catch the last of Orchard Lounge’s set at the Forest Stage.

It took quite a while to actually locate the Forest Stage, as it was in a different location than last year and the forest had quite a few magnificent additions to the controlled chaos. After basking in awe at the mini-Chinatown and being mesmerized by the countless light instillations we finally came across the Forest Stage, tucked away in a back corner of the forest, hidden behind lines of trees decorated with hammocks, and Orchard Lounge had bass radiating throughout that entire side of the woods. Shortly after, Lotus took the Sherwood Court Stage and ended out the night with an excellent mix of high energy songs and touching and spiritual notes, putting forth one of the best festival performances I have ever seen them play.

As day two got underway, my group of friends and I wandered around the forest and crash landed into one of the craziest performances I’ve ever born witness to by the Fungineers. The group typically consists of 4 people, 2 dancers, an MC, and a puppet wearing DJ, but the group was so involved with the festival (performing 11 times over the course of the weekend) that they had roughly 20 hired dancers all being just as silly. Describing the music is difficult to articulate, and the only words that come to mind is colorful and eccentric!

Break Science never ceases to entertain me and put forth one of my favorite electronic sets of the weekend at the Sherwood Court mid-evening. Their vigorous set cranked up the bass and the duet soared through a mixture of hip hop and trap step material. My group was fortunate enough to camp right next to the Tripolee Stage, and enjoyed some extremely fresh live sound mixing by the California based Polish Ambassador. With an extremely eclectic range of styles, he incorporates everything from glitchy EDM to funk and it’s artists like this that help me appreciate electronica and help steer the scene in the right direction.

The String Cheese Incident headlines the festival every year and put on their first of six sets starting just after sunset. I continue to be impressed with the artistic range and fearlessness of this jamband, and although their performance the third night of the festival was the most memorable for me, no set was short of incredible. These guys go from psychedelic rock to electronic then slow it down with some twangy bluegrass. They continue to evolve and embrace all types of music scenes and music lovers of all types can appreciate the talent that these musicians put forth. They had a few guests on stage with them over the course of the weekend, including Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic and Greensky Bluegrass. Also, the Ranch Area’s lights and fireworks display during Cheese’s sets were gorgeous and set their performances over the top.

Around midnight I decided to venture into the forest to check out Luke the Knife play at the Forest Stage. Luke Miller, the keyboardist, back up guitarist and song writer for Lotus typically has a nu-disco sound for this side project, but you could tell he really opened up and allowed the other music at the festival to influence his style and the music was much heavier than other performances. It’s always fun to watch an artist break out of their shell and experiment with different sounds, and his enthusiasm was contagious.

The third day was my favorite in terms of quality of electronica, but daytime performances by Moon Hooch (2 saxophonists and a drummer that add house to the mix) and Lettuce were quite enjoyable. My only complaint about the festival at all was that all the electronic music at the Tripolee Stage was turned up very loud but was much quieter during Moon Hooch’s set. Lettuce put forth an amazing funk experience, and I couldn’t stop bouncing around the entire set. Dominic Lalli also guested with the band as well as pianist Nigel Hall, who completely blew me away with his intricate and soulful solos.

As the sun went down, the bass went up. Just Blaze kept his crowd moving by staying busy on the turntable, mixing hip-hop with dance and trap. Above and Beyond killed it at the Sherwood Court with their loud and heavy progressive trance, and Knife Party closed out the stage to an entirely packed lawn. I am very picky when it comes to dubstep, but was thoroughly impressed with the English duo. Walking back to our campsite we bumped into A-Trak keeping the late night house/hip-hop dance party going at the Tripolee Stage.

The last day of the festival had such a mellow and friendly vibe to it and the artist placement throughout the day added such an incredible ambiance to the day it was by far the most memorable of the four. One of my favorite artists Eliot Lipp graced the Tripolee Stage with his eclectic style and unmatched craftsmanship at producing. One of my favorite moments of the festival was a sound clip he included describing a sunset. Another highlight of the weekend was Emancipator ft. violinist Ilya Goldberg, filling our ears and souls with gorgeous melodies and slow yet movable beats. Renowned for their ability to incorporate all types of world music and gorgeous dancer Zoe Jakes, Beats Antique closed out the Sherwood Court, putting on a great act as usual. Finally, Keys n’ Krates finished off the festival with a closing party at the Tripolee Stage, and it was obvious that no one wanted to leave.

I’ve said it already and will continue to until probably next year’s Electric Forest – this was by far the best festival I have ever attended. Music, artwork, and performance art alike were all put out by the best of the best, and the organization and efficiency of the festival was unbelievable. If you have yet to attend an Electric Forest, do yourself a favor and get on top of it next year – the Sherwood Forest pays for the ticket alone!

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[Published on: 7/17/13]

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