All words and photos by Babak Haghighi
Check out the full photo album HERE
Well, that was awesome. What The Festival 2015 certainly left its mark on us, and we’re already counting down the days until we get to return to beautiful Wolf Run Ranch to party in the Splash Pool, become enlightened by the Illuminated Forest, and lose our minds while surrounded by vast landscapes and endless skies.
Located on a private ranch two hours east of Portland, What The Festival takes place at a gem of a venue, with stunning views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams. For this and many other reasons, What The Festival is truly a festival like no other. Its influences are clear, but it has shaped a fun, quirky, outrageous identity of its own. The festival sold out this year with 5,000 in attendance, a perfect number of people for the stunningly beautiful venue. It’s an intimate amount of people, yet still I overheard veterans of the festival (this year being its 4th outing and 3rd at this venue) saying, “Holy shit, there’s so many people here this year.” Yes, it seems like everyone told their friends how awesome this festival is, and who can blame them? I certainly told all of my friends the minute it was over, and now we are telling you. What The Festival is so, so, so good.
During the day, until just before sunset, the only stage of music going is the Splash Pool Stage. Whoever thought of the Splash Pool Stage is some sort of sick genius. Friday and Saturday featured a lot of future bass at the pool, with artists such as Jpod, Gladkill and Wave Racer sending currents though the splash pool with their low-end mayhem. Sunday was more of a house day, with Thomas Jack’s Tropical Pool Party closing out the daytime festivities with a bang alongside Anna Lunoe, Justin Jay, and more. Basically everyone at the festival is spending their day at the Splash Pool, and it really builds a strong community vibe at the festival– a community that likes to party like maniacs. The costumes and characters found at the Splash Pool are truly hilarious and absurd. From nuns to grandmas in wheelchairs rolling through the pool to a freaking poodle or a Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man— there is no shortage of characters in the pool that will make you think, WTF?!
Once the pool party is over, it’s time for everyone to go back to camp and get ready for the night. And what a night it will be. Two main stages supplied most of the evening’s music with huge yet intimate sets by the likes of Big Gigantic, Odesza, Slow Magic, Justin Martin, and more. Once the main stages ended, the real fun began, as What The Festival had some of the best late-night activities of a festival we’ve seen. There was an awesome Silent Disco going all night and some thumping late-night bass at the Equinox Stage, but the real star of the show was the Illuminated Forest. Basically, every art installation of the festival was condensed along one stroll through the woods, making the Illuminated Forest a beautiful and unique way to experience an array of incredible interactive art. Even better was the new Dragon Stage nestled into the depths of the forest, featuring awesome late-night sets by the likes of Rob Garza (Thievery Corporation) and Sister City (EPROM and friends). But also scattered throughout the forest were some smaller stages and lounges such as the LOL Stage, which featured an array of live music and DJs, including one of my favorite sets of the weekend by local Portland self-proclaimed “live electronic badass,” Solovox. There was also the Starlight Grove, featuring a projection mapped stage and environment that provided trippy visuals to go along with the psychedelic tunes going until past sunrise. And then there was Shinto A Go Go, one of my favorite spots at the whole festival, featuring a blend of East Asian and Spaghetti Western aesthetics and a diverse lineup of music and performances, including everything from haunting acapellas to a funky live latin band wearing luchador masks to an erotic bondage performance or even some sweet, dark, tech house. There were tea lounges, soup being served, no bright lights allowed, and an overall specific vibe kept intact that made this one of the most comforting and entertaining environments at the festival. Overall, there was an overwhelming amount of stuff to do after the main stages ended, and I found myself staying out until sunrise (which was pretty early luckily) each day.
What The Festival is a place to just go crazy. A place that’s hard to describe. A place that makes no sense. A silly place for adults. And a place that is just way too much fun. This festival is just clearly designed to be a sensory overload of entertainment, and that’s a truly great thing. The fact that we get to party like animals in this incredible scenic landscape is just really tasty icing on a really good cake.