Welcome to the Electric Forest. (photo by C-Style Photography)
In three weeks, the second annual Electric Forest Music Festival will unfold at the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury, Michigan. Accordingly, here are the top three reasons I hope it’s on your summer calendar.
1. highly electronic music line up
Vibes, sights, and overall experience are major factors in a festival’s success and popularity (all of which The Forest has plenty of), but the fact remains that you can’t have a music festival without music. Electric Forest organizers understand this simple truth and have gone the extra mile to craft a lineup that’s utterly enticing for anyone with even a mild taste for EDM.
Super Dre performs in the Sherwood Forest at EF 2011. (photo by C-Style Photography)
While there are quite a few understandable repeats from last year’s bill (The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Beats Antique, Big Gigantic, 12th Planet, Papadosio, EOTO, Paper Diamond, Keller Williams), there are just as many new exciting headliners such as Thievery Corporation, STS9, Girl Talk, Santigold, Steve Aoki, Ghostland Observatory, Major Lazer, Zeds Dead and more.
Though electronic enthusiasts certainly appreciate the emphasis on bass and beats, The Electric Forest also does a nice job of presenting the more traditional jam and bluegrass sounds of a music festival- most obviously by featuring three nights of The String Cheese Incident, supported by appearances throughout the weekend from The Travelin’ McCourys, Keller Williams, and The Infamous Stringdusters. Hip hop will also have a strong presence at Electric Forest this year, including sets from Das Racist, Reggie Watts, and Chali 2na.
2. Michigan weather
One’s ability to truly appreciate Michigan’s mild summer weather is largely dependent upon previous experiences at other festivals, particularly ones located in the south. If you have ever sweat buckets of perspiration at Bonnaroo, Wakarusa, or even Summer Camp, you can certainly get excited about heading north to camp and rage at Electric Forest.
Mild Michigan weather makes day time rage comfortable. (photo by C-Style Photography)
Daytime temperatures are usually warm (ranging from 65-80), but tolerable. Expect sunshine, but not the kind that can’t be properly blocked with sunscreen and a hat. On most days, it’s not necessary to dress like you’re sitting in a sauna, but if the sun’s rays do start to get to you, simply escape them under the forest’s canopy of leaves and branches. However, once the sun sets it gets chilly when temperatures drop to the mid 50’s and 60’s; an evening change of clothes is typically needed.
When I went last year, it rained pretty hard for the first night. The campground roads turned into mud pits and the entire festival grounds were sporadically covered in ankle-deep puddles. But after just a half day of sun exposure, things had dried up enough to leave the rain boots at home in my tent and return to my favored festival footwear, sandals.
Thursday night rain left campgrounds muddy for half a day at Electric Forest 2011. (photo by C-Style Photography)
3. the forest
It’s simply undeniable that the main attraction at The Electric Forest is the forest itself. I’m positive I had the same expression as a kid in a candy store the first time I set foot in Sherwood Forest last year. In all my years and miles of festivaling, no other event has ever compared to the visual aesthetics at EF- not even the beauty of a mountaintop view at West Virginia’s All Good.
The Sherwood Forest is the nucleus of the Electric Forest Music Festival- during the day and at night. (photos by C-Style Photography)
Daylight hours are the best time to admire the sea of hammocks you’ll find tied between the forest’s dense population of tall pine trees (send your thanks to sponsor ENO for that). It’s also the hardest time to find an unoccupied hammock, as they’re usually at full capacity and flooded with afternoon siesta-takers seeking solace from the sun and a hard night of partying. When I ran into a friend last year who told me he had nabbed one for a short nap, I felt a pang of jealousy shoot through my body. Daytime is also a great opportunity to explore, sight-see, and get your bearings straight. Because once the sun goes down, that wooded playground turns into a completely different place.
Hundreds of hammocks fill the space between Sherwood Forest’s towering pine tress during the day. (photo from the Electric Forest facebook)
At night, vividly bright art installations illuminated by black lights come to life and pop like three-dimensional creatures bulging from the trees. It’s large enough that you can be on the opposite end of the forest stage and only hear a distant thumping, surrounded in the foreground by laughter, hazy conversation, and strange noises that escape the mouths of awestruck wandering souls. At random, the large liberty bell will ring, sparking a wave of vocal reaction across the woods.
The Electric Forest mystifies at night. (photo from the Electric Forest facebook)
Do you remember when you were a child and you were taught to hold a flashlight up to your chin to cast unnatural shadows upon your face? Imagine the same concept applied to countless towering pine trees, wrapped in some sort of transparent, gauzy material with a light installed at the base pointing up the trunk toward the sky. Alongside the trippy trees, you’ll find larger-than-life structures made of wire wrapped in colorful pantyhose-like material that you can actually walk into. It’s like discovering an adult’s oversized version of a McDonalds playland that’s been decked out with so many brilliant, pulsating lights and foreign, peculiar sounds that even a stone cold sober wanderer can feel as if they’ve been transported to a different dimension.
They call it “electric” for a reason. (photo from the Electric Forest facebook)
Are you going to Electric Forest this year? Who are you most excited to see? What was your favorite thing about the festival last year? Leave your comments below!