Electric Forest made the very bold move this year to extend their four-day festival to two separate, consecutive weekends. An understandable move though, considering how successful 2016 was for them (they sold out before the lineup announcement). This year, my core crew made the simple decision to head to the second weekend over the first. This decision was mainly lineup based, as the first weekend didn’t feature some of our favorite heavy-hitters like RL Grime, EPROM, and Chris Lake. Little did we know that this decision to attend the second weekend would pay off in more ways than one.
The main thing we were all thinking about during the days leading up to the festival was the weather. The past three years I’d attended Electric Forest were blessed with gorgeous sunshine almost every day of every weekend. This year was proving to be a bit different. Social media was blowing up with videos of massive mud puddle dance parties and floating, abandoned campsites. As much fun as music festivals can be, I think we were all dreading having to party in a swamp up in humid Rothbury, Michigan. Social media also told us, however, that the Electric Forest Crew was doing everything they could to mitigate the weather issues, like throwing down as much sand and wood chips as possible.
We all wanted first dibs in a camping spot in one of the grassy areas, so we threw down an extra $30 per car to get early arrival passes. This allowed us to arrive as early as noon on Wednesday (the festival would officially start the following Thursday). We were a bit nervous due to the ominous grey clouds that hung above us as we set up our campsite. And, as if on cue, as soon as we were finished hanging up our tarps, a freaking monsoon came sweeping through JJ Ranch. With safety being top priority, Electric Forest began sending out notifications that they were closing the entrance to the campsite, and advised us to take shelter in our cars. We knew the integrity of our campsite would be put to the test, but when we woke up the following morning, everything remained standing. The sun even started to peak through the heavy clouds.
For the first time of the week, we were able to forget about the weather and focus on what we were actually there to do, have a good time. The Forest Crew wanted to make sure anyone’s first impression of their amazing venue wasn’t tarnished by the mud from Wednesday night’s storm, so they pushed the entry time back to 5:00pm. I don’t think there were any complaints there. We all took our time pregaming and introducing ourselves to our neighbors (who, for some reason, are always awesome at Forest), and eventually made our way to what we thought would be a huge line at the gates.
Previous years of Electric Forest received a bit of flak for how long their lines were, and how crowded the venue was getting, but we soon realized that this wouldn’t be a problem for the second weekend. Perhaps Electric Forest was a bit too ambitious when they chose to extend their festival to two weekends. It was obvious that they were making a big marketing push to sell whatever remaining wristbands they had. They even went as far as to sell two-day and single-day passes near the end of the weekend, something they also had never done before. This, of course, isn’t a great thing for Electric Forest, but it worked out really well for us attendees. It was awesome to not have to stand in line at the entrance for long periods of time, and to have more than enough space to dance wherever you wanted to, at even the most popular stages (excluding Bassnectar, lol). Tripolee, which can be considered as one of the main “EDM” stages, wasn’t nearly as crowded as I remembered it. We stuck around there for the majority of the first night to bounce around to some bumpin’ house DJs like Wax Motif, Chris Lake, Shiba San, and more.
Eventually, the sun had completely set, and it was time to take the newcomers in our group into Sherwood Forest for the first time. Seeing the actual forest during the daytime is fantastical. You’re filled with a whimsical feeling, like you’ve stepped into some fictional universe you imagined when you were a child. There were literally mythical creatures (I believe they’re called fauns, hooves and all) that were prancing around the trees. All you want to do is explore.
It’s necessary to check out what the daytime version of Sherwood Forest looks like so you can fully appreciate the transformation that takes place when the sun goes goes down. What once felt like a playful fairytale world morphs into a psychedelic lucid dream gone right. The lights and lasers bounce off the seemingly endless trees and trippy ornaments all around the forest. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there is no other music festival out there, that I’ve seen, that puts this much detail into their art experiences. With every corner you turn, there’s something new to discover. To get an idea on the creativity behind these experiences, read about a project Bassnectar participated in that he describes in detail here.
As much as I wanted to remain lost in the forest, there was a tight schedule of music that I was planning on sticking to for the first couple of days that included SHADES, Wave Racer, Alison Wonderland, Flume, Golf Clap, and Jai Wolf. Oh, and there was also a “Turntablists” curated event that featured Eprom, Shiba San, and A-Trak. The turntablist event ended up being one of the coolest parts of the whole weekend. You had EPROM playing a heavy, live, improvised B2B set with Zeke Beats, who threw down some masterful scratching that had everybody losing their minds. Shiba San came through with a half-hour of old school, scratched hip-hop jams and then switched back to his normal tech-house bangers for the remainder of his set.
After two days chock-full of dancing, it was time to relax for a bit. Electric Forest has over seven different stages. Even though they are nearly all raging during the nighttime, most of them double as great places to just chill out for a bit during the day. The Observatory and the Forest Stage are both located within Sherwood Forest, and both are easily within earshot of many different places to hang up a hammock. We decided to post up near the front of Sherwood Court, which is probably the largest stage of the festival, area wise. There we all took turns napping and mingling with other foresters while Autograf provided the perfect afternoon soundtrack.
The fourth and final day was the one we’d been really holding out for. We attempted to pace ourselves throughout the first three days, but failed pretty miserably. Now we had to fire up whatever we had left in our gas tanks and leave it all out on the floor. Woolymammoth, Dirty Audio, Ekali, Minnesota, REZZ, RL Grime, Bassnectar, Claude VonStroke. It seemed like Mission Impossible: Festival Edition, but we filled up our Camelbaks and gave it everything we had. The performers gave us everything they had too. It was easily the best day of the weekend, music-wise, and possibly one of the best single-day lineups I’ve ever seen. We knew we had accomplished our goal when we all immediately passed out as soon as we got back to the campsite. We had nothing left to give, and I think the Forest felt the same way.
I want to take a second to actually thank the rain. Following Electric Forest, I always end up getting sick as a dog by the time I leave, without fail. The enormous amount of dust that is kicked up over the weekend finds its way into my sinuses and lungs and has me absolutely dreading the 18-hour drive back to Colorado. This year, there was virtually no dust to deal with. I know this because I didn’t have to participate in the morning routine of pulling dusty, black, boogers out of my nose (too much, ok, sorry). Regarding next year, I’d much rather get a little muddy than get owned by the dust.
Another special shoutout goes out to the team that handled the weather situation and still managed to put on one of the best rounds of Electric Forest I’ve experienced.
Madison House Presents and Insomniac continue to prove that E-Forest is one of the cleanest, most organized and well put-together festivals out there. Considering their struggle to sell out the second weekend, I would be a bit surprised if they tried to do it again for 2018, but I also know the people behind this festival are very ambitious, so who knows! I do know, however, that I will be back, regardless.
Electric Forest 2017: 9/10
Top 3 Sets of the Weekend
1. EPROM (BRB Zeke Beats live scratching)
2. RL Grime
3. Claude VonStroke
See our photos from Electric Forest 2017 here.