Nestled within the pristine surroundings of Rothbury, MI’s Double JJ Resort, newcomers to the area could not have expected the transformation that would take place over the extended Fourth of July Holiday. True, the resort held the previous Rothbury festivals, but with bill toppers Bassnectar, Skrillex, Edward Sharpe, and Pretty Lights, Electric Forest Festival brought a considerably different audience than the jam-band heavy editions of Rothbury. However, as in year’s past, the cornerstone of the festival is the highly decorated Sherwood Forest. Holding a small stage, Sherwood Forest was also packed with hammocks available to the masses, an amazing luxury given the unrelenting afternoon heat, breath-taking art installations, a reincarnation garden, a gong message circle, and ample trails to find (or lose) a new best friend. And the forest only became more electric as the sun went down, and the festival’s DJs took over nearly every stage.
Similar to the West Coast festival Lighting in a Bottle, the event held much more than just music. Attendees that were able to wake early enough were treated with yoga classes, hoop and poi spinning seminars, and even a morning of story telling. The resort also featured a swing set, a small pond that served as both a way to cool down during the day’s heat and as a shower alternative, and a nearby waterpark that revelers could take advantage of for only a small fee – and, if they were lucky enough, land some face time with many of the festival’s artists.
While curated for a fairly distinct audience, the String Cheese Incident-heavy lineup contained artists from across the electronic music spectrum – just how many similarities do Keller Williams and TiÃ«sto really share except working audiences into a sweaty dance party? But with stages stretching for what seemed like miles, the relentless walking through Sherwood Forest took a strain on attendees who made it for all four days. However, with the majority of festival favorites performing Saturday or Sunday, and the availability of a weekend-only pass, several thousand attendees chose to forego Thursday and Friday, a bright idea given the inclement weather that shortened several Thursday night performances and created several mud pits throughout the venue.
A failure to mention another side of the festival, a very distinct drug culture, would be a disservice to the experience. While Michigan State Police were abundant, announcements for molly, magic mushrooms, acid, nugs, and nearly every other psychedelic were never more than a few yards away. While not one to endorse experimentation to the masses, do acts like String Cheese Incident, Shpongle, Bassnectar, and/or Lance Herbstrong produce beats for the sober masses? I think not.
The following is just one writer’s journey through the Electric Forest. An event that will hopefully live on much longer than the Rothbury predecessor. Just one note to festival organizers, how about more after-parties in the camping area for 2012? Even at five a.m., the vast majority of camp was still wide awake.
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, June 30th
LYNX – Sherwood Court – 6:15 p.m.
LYNX jump started the festival with an energetic blend of pop, electro, and beat-boxing. With festival attendance still low, the crowd turned out strong to witness one of Thursday’s more memorable sets. Even though LYNX recently put out an LP (On the Horizon), the young producer performed several fresh tracks, a couple centering around guitar-driven folk music – to quote the performer herself: “I’m a folkie who has joined the dark side.” Demonstrating a unique mixture of Adele-esque R&B vocals and live-world beats, the crowd warmly welcomed LYNX to the “dark side” of electronic music.
Kyle Hollingsworth Band – Sherwood Court – 7:45 p.m.
As the current keyboardist for festival headliner String Cheese Incident, Kyle Hollingsworth filled the void of a Cheese-free Thursday. The hour long-set was most memorable for its guest appearances, with Jason Hann of SCI sitting in on congas for a song and LYNX joining the band for an extended jam – providing her services as a beatboxer and powerful female vocalist.
Keys N Krates – Wagon Wheel – 9:45 p.m.
With the first of several thunderstorms rolling through Rothbury, several fans sought protection from the pounding rain underneath the awnings of Wagon’s Wheel permanent wooden structure. This helped generate a modest audience for the three member Keys N Krates, who already possess a sound and style that could have filled a much larger stage or venue. Keyboardist Matisse kept hyping the crowd as the band worked through inventive remixes of tracks ranging from Jay-Z and Snoop to Prodigy. Utilizing a live drummer and the talented DJ Jr-Flo, the Toronto outfit worked unlikely time signatures that kept the audience (literally) on their toes the entire set, and had one attendee exclaiming: “You can smell the bass!”
Emancipator – Wagon Wheel – 11:30 p.m.
Very few artists have a more appropriate sound for an electric forest. Aided by midi-violinist and several nature samples, most notably bird chirps, Emancipator created beautiful, mind expanding electronica. The crowd may have been reduced due to a conflicting Kaskade performance, but the duo’s intelligent dance music truly brought the audience together with a signature blend of hip-hop beats and organic, world music production.
Lotus – Sherwood Court – 12:30 a.m.
For Electric Forest’s jam-band faithful, Lotus‘ late night performance may have been the most sought after post-midnight set of the entire weekend. But then again, Lotus are not your typical jamband, at least not in the same vein of String Cheese Incident. Lotus trade the banjo, fiddle, and extended solos, for electronic-led group improvisations. The four-piece’s set exemplified the sounds of the weekend, with an aesthetic ranging from roots rock to contemporary electronica.