Electric Forest 2012: Day One

To kick off the weekend, a minor roadblock en route to Electric Forest unfolded due to construction on 31 that led to a mandatory detour and major traffic jam at an unsuspecting rural junction somewhere in southwestern Michigan.

Hours later at the festival, the entire day was sunny and hot. Day arrivals endured a painful, sweaty camp set-up while evening arrivals found slightly cooler and more tolerable temperatures.

It appears the Michigan has had the same dry weather that we’ve been experiencing in Indiana. Although their grass isn’t brown like ours, things are definitely dry and everything is coated in dust. The campgrounds echoed with coughs and hacks as sleepers woke from their slumber Friday morning and their bodie attempted to clear out the foreign particles.

Reggie Watts

Photo by C-Style Photography

Reggie Watts’ show was a baffling experience and not at all what I expected. Shortly after 7 p.m. he stood alone on stage delivering a long, psychedelic round using a loop machine and beat boxing techniques. Somehow tolerating the sweltering heat, he sang dressed in pants and a long-sleeved shirt, topped off with his famously huge head of fluffy hair.

The next song’s lyrics included Frisbee commentary for those intending to hit up the glow-in the-dark disc golf course in the forest that advised, “You’ll hit somebody and you’ll feel bad, but that’s the risk you take… for freedom!” He was met with a roar of applause from the Ranch Arena.

Although some songs were written and practiced, the majority were improvised to be relevant to the audience’s current surroundings. References to festival life included: “You might be dusty and shit…”; “Would you die in a festival?” and “Wear some sunscreen tonight!”.

Watts also suggested that everyone be sure to watch “the Nectar of Bass” on Sunday. He then played what he named “The Official Electric Forest Welcome Song”. Now more than halfway through his performance, listeners were still puzzled when he began what sounded like a political soapbox speech that transformed into mention of monsters under the planet and then ended with instruction to make friends and love each other.



Two hours later, The Ranch Arena had transformed from a sunny field of very dry grass, to a meadow illuminated by twirling glow toys. Although a surprising new rule that glow stocks are not allowed inside the venue has many campers angry, resourceful ragers are finding ways to smuggle them in anyways. Armed with knowledge of a relatively laidback search crew at the front gate, there will likely be many more of the favored rage accessories used this evening; if it only sprinkled glow sticks last night, I expect them to rain tonight.

Wolfgang Gartner

Wolfgang Gartner was loud and hopping with big beats and booming bass. A giant Octopus floated through the dancing crowd of Electric Forest attendees. The monstrous piece of interactive art was operated by eight or nine people, each holding a stick attached to the end of the creature’s arms and lit up with glowing light rope. If you saw the famous umbrella jellyfish at any festivals in 2011, understand that this octopus dwarfs last year’s most famous rage stick and raises the bar more than just a couple of notches.

On the topic of rage sticks, it’s a festival trend that has caught on with unbelievable popularity. More than 20 vertical poles bobbed up and down in Wolfgang Gartner’s rowdy Ranch Arena audience. The Thursday crowd filled the bottom half of the main stage’s vast field and the dancing fans were not holding back. The Electric Forest was finally alive!


Photo by C-Style Photography

Quixotic performed on the forest stage in the time between Wolfgang Gartner and Ghostland Observatory. Quixotic performed an encompassing show that included live musicians and dancers on the center stage accompanied by an aerial performer and her hanging contraption on the left and a steel hoop fixed to an elevated platform on the right.

Their show included dancers with lit-up wings, ambient music driven by tribal rhythms, aerial acrobatics, glowing costumes, and so much more.

Stay tuned next week for an interview with Quixotic where I’ll find out how such a large, diverse group of people starting making such enthralling live art, what kind of improvisation is used during their unique performances, and where they find inspiration for their stunning costumes.

Read more: Electric Forest 2012 – Day Two