The String Cheese Incident | Favorite Electric Forest Memories

Like they have every year, The String Cheese Incident will headline this summer’s Electric Forest festival being held at Double JJ Resort in Rothbury, Michigan June 25 -28. The only band to perform at least one set each night of every Electric Forest, SCI’s long history of expanding the boundaries of the concert experience has served as a muse for EF producers. With Madison House, SCI has helped foster the strong sense of community shared with EF attendees through the incorporation of art installations, storylines, themes interactive programs, curated events and projects that integrate artists, producers and festival goers in which everyone involved takes on ownership and pride. The String Cheese Incident’s yearly Saturday night Hoopla set is the pinnacle of each EF and culmination the more-than-a-music festival experience the forest provides. 

With Electric Forest 2015 just a few weeks away, the members of The String Cheese Incident have shared their favorite memories of past festivals while looking forward to fostering many more memorable moments at this year’s event.

Michael Kang

Personally, I am super connected with the art installation stuff that first happened in the Forest because a lot of the people that started the art installations like Dolla Bill, Shrine and Nature are friends that I worked with on our non-profit Our Future Now during the year that SCI took a break. We ended up filling a 53-foot semi truck of all the original, version-one artwork that ended up coming out to the first Rothbury Festival in 2008. We brought all this art from Bay Area artists, loaded it in the semi (like personally, I loaded the semi myself) and set it up for the first two Rothburys. 

[Photo by Brian Hockensmith]

In this sense, Electric Forest is kind of like a big art show for me because I wasn’t playing music, I was setting up art. So I’m super passionate of that part of Electric Forest. A lot of the people who help make that magic happen are my old, dear friends from outside the music scene. 

It’s obviously grown over the years and to see what it’s become – not to sound weird – but it makes me proud. It’s not just the art for art’s sake, it’s the intention that all the artists have put into it that makes it so special. It’s super satisfying because I think it really affects people in a positive way – and that was the point, even back in the early days – to inspire people to consider change without preaching about it. To me, that’s what sets Electric Forest apart from any other festival that you go to. It’s nice to see the art be such an important part of the experience and have it be appreciated by so many people.

Kyle Hollingsworth

The connection for me with Electric Forest is in its surroundings, in the Forest itself. When I walk through the tall pines and enjoy music and art in natural surroundings it brings new life to the experience. And I think being outside is an important part of the SCI summer Incidents, it brings us to a whole new level of musical expression. The band is a bit more relaxed and can settle in when we are in the open air and away from the club atmosphere.

There have been so many great musical moments at EF, too many to mention. But overall it’s the general spirit of collaboration that is always there that makes Electric Forest so special. Anyone from Dominic [Lalli] of Big Gigantic to Lauryn Hill, folks bring their talents to the Forest and we all intermingle on stage and on the grounds … a new type of music emerges.

I think the EF community is always growing because of the varied music to be experienced at the festival. The musical connections go well beyond whatever we may think first brought us there – electronic music or jam music or whatever. I’m always finding people with lots of different musical tastes in the EF community. For me, it makes this festival more unique than any of the other “electronic” festivals out there. I think the “connection” is being part of that community. For me, everyone in the Forest Family is part of our extended SCI family. It’s super special.

[Photo by Brian Hockensmith]

Jason Hann

First of all, it’s been amazing to see how much Electric Forest has grown over the years. The Sherwood Forest itself started as a small handful of super creative artists and a couple of lights in the Forest and has expanded to include full on venues between the trees. It not only has extra stages, but it has very inspired performance areas and art that create incredibly unique micro-gatherings within the festival itself. I love all the steampunk/burning man themes, alongside the DJ venues and hammocks in the trees. The way that the light design colors the different areas just makes the Forest an adventure all on its own. Even if you don’t necessarily go for the music – which I can’t imagine why – to hang out the whole weekend in the Forest and have that zone to go to is easily one of the most unique festival experiences in the country right now. 

I love to be able to get to all the stages and see as much as I can. There’s always something special that I’ve been waiting to see, hear or discover. That’s happened every single year. I’ve always found something that surprises me.

In terms of performance memories, all of our SCI sets have had that “at home” feeling. For the amount of music we prepare for, everything is set up in such a way that by the time we get to the stage, the atmosphere is relaxed and it’s inspiring to look out at the crowd and the Forest, you can almost see the trees perking up to listen. The sit ins we’ve had were all superb, bringing different energy and styles of music to our sets.

One of my favorite memories is rehearsing and performing with Lauryn Hill last year. I’ve always been such a big fan of hers. 

When she came into our SCI rehearsal area, we didn’t really know how things were going to work out. Her band came in first, and we started going through the songs to get things going. When she arrived, she led us through the songs like we were already on stage. She didn’t hold back, singing a bit and her ears were tuned into anything that needed attention with the rhythmic or melodic instruments. It’s great to know how in touch she is with all aspects of her music. She was even full-on during pre-show backstage. She wanted to go through vocal rehearsals/warm-up and she was singing full out with her singers, as her keyboard player played a virtual keyboard on his iPhone. Her drummer and I were getting the beats going with empty soda cans. It felt like more of a pre-party than a warm up. This was all as Lauryn smiled, with a relaxed demeanor that showed she was also excited for this collaboration to work.

Performing with Travis as EOTO to open or close the festival has proved nothing less than a really amazing amount of support, in front of some of our biggest crowds – maybe 20,000 people at The Forest Stage during our most recent set. Our computer crashed for a few minutes and I ended up leading the crowd through a “no P.A.” sing-a-long of Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” until Travis got the computer going again. We had [Grateful Dead drummer] Billy Kreutzmann sit in with us when we played Tripoli stage, as well as Lynx, and even Jeff Austin throwing down some awesome freestyle rapping skillz. 

I’ve really enjoyed the times that I’ve done my renegade Prophet Massive DJ sunrise “bacon and lasers” sets in the campgrounds. Christopher Gewald brought the bacon. We went on a golf cart mission to transport lasers to the area. People were coming from all over the camp area to help throw down in such a beautiful sunrise setting. Hard to picture anything more unique than those moments. 

[Photo by Brian Hockensmith]

There are so many right vibes and things in place at EF to have such a memorable time. I give huge credit to all of the things that are going on inside of the Forest and what they support and what they allow the community to check out. It all adds up to create a pretty glorious experience year in and year out.

Michael Travis

Electric Forest as an amazing amalgamation all the things we’ve learned over the years in regards to immersive festival environments. We really wanted to create a place that people could really be living in a fantasy for the weekend. All of the installations and all of the extra care taken to bring a theatrical, phantasmagorical and engaging experience to a large scale festival is unprecedented and I’m very proud of being a part of that. 

Playing with Lauryn Hill was INCREDIBLE. She’s quite the force. We really worked hard to pull off that set and were nervous as she arrived in practice the day before the set but she seemed pleased. Very powerful.

Billy Nershi

Electric Forest is special because we have taken a lot of the elements from festivals that we’ve been to around the world and tried to incorporate them into our own unique scene. Things that you might see in Fuji Rock in Japan or at our own festival Horning’s Hideout in Oregon, we’ve helped incorporate our own version into things like he Sherwood Forest, where you go in there and you might see faces projected in the trees and different light shows going on in the middle of the woods. There are stages and bars in the woods that is just a trip to go through and check that all out. It makes it such a unique festival!

We’ve had some great times playing with other musicians, my favorite part of the musical scene is the Sunday evening bluegrass jams that we’ve had with Del McCoury Band and Keller Williams and whoever is there and ready to jump on stage and a do a little improv, rootsy music set on Sunday evening. That set has always a good wind down for me after a crazy weekend. It’s amazing that the same person can dance their ass off to EDM and then turn around there’s a bluegrass band on stage and they just keep going and there’s no stopping the dance action.

[Photo by Brian Hockensmith]

Keith Moseley

My favorite memories of EF are all about hanging out in the Forest. Last year I spent several hours in the Forest late Wednesday night before the festival opened the next day. It was amazingly calm and peaceful to check out all the art and sculptures and beautiful lights before the crowds arrived. I remember sitting in the giant “Nest” with several friends enjoying a smoke and some good laughs with a few close friends. We all felt incredibly thankful to be a part of such a unique and mind blowing event. I don’t think there is any other concert or festival experience that even comes close to capturing the vibe of the Electric Forest!

Electric Forest organizers recently announced both a third round of artist additions to this year’s lineup as well as the daily stage schedule. While tickets for the festival sold out shortly after going on sale, we’re offering one lucky reader a pair of Good Life Village VIP Weekend Passes for Electric Forest. Head here for more information and to enter.