I’ll start this off by saying I’m doing my best to keep my point of view as objective as possible. Throughout my time at Electric Forest I kept finding myself audibly comparing it to the California-based festivals I have attended recently, only to have my friends giving me shit for turning into a “heady California bro”. True, living in California for the past two+ years and experiencing some amazing festivals during my time here has changed my perspective, but I’m writing this article to shed some light on what makes Electric Forest such a magical place.
My journey to Sherwood Forest began back in December of 2015. I received a text from one of the MMIBTY co-founders and the extent of the message was “tickets go on sale today – buy one”. For as much as I love festivals it may be a surprise to you that I had never really considered Electric Forest as a serious option. Why? I’m not sure – maybe it was my perception of the crowd it attracts or the fact that it’s far from both coasts or that it’s put on by Insomniac (I’ll get to that later). But because the festival was six months away I thought to myself “eh what the hell, I can always sell my ticket”.
Well as you might have guessed, I never sold my ticket and instead at the end of June ventured to Michigan (for my first time ever, by the way) to reunite with two of my best friends for a weekend in the Forest.
In preparing for the trip I learned a lot of the veteran attendees opt for the “Good Life” VIP experience, or do early arrival, or simply show up in an RV. As first time attendees my group showed up with the bare minimum and camped in one of the parking lots furthest from the festival entrance. There was a lot of walking and not many “perks” that the VIPs had, but such is life. I’m not sure the early arrival or VIP experience is worth the extra money – but that’s just my opinion.
Electric Forest was one of the lengthiest festivals I have experienced, clocking in at four days of music plus whenever you arrive and depart. My primary reason for attending music festivals is to experience the music. But I’m also there to explore. I felt that during the day there wasn’t much to do besides sit around your camp site and wait for the music to start – unless you want to venture to the water park or visit Lake Michigan, both of which are a bit off campus. I did notice a lot of people driving around the camp ground lots during the festival but that wasn’t something my group ever opted to do.
Musically, Electric Forest was spot on. I never thought I’d say this but Dubstep is very much alive and well. Bass Music, to whatever extent you want to consider it, was easily the focal point of the weekend. Frankly I think as long as Bassnectar, who was one of the headliners, is touring and producing music there will always be a Dubstep scene. He is only one man but he has a hell of an influence on the music scene… and everywhere you turned at Electric Forest there was Bass Music. Which left me craving House and Techno that much more. [Editor’s note: there was no presence of Techno at Electric Forest. Personally I think that should change].
It’s pretty hard to explain what Electric Forest feels like. Only about 50% of the festival takes place in the forest, which features three stages of music (The Forest Stage, The Observatory, and The Antique). The rest of the forest features audio/visual stimuli that you can get lost in – from art installations to gong therapy to glow-in-the-dark body paint stations and much more. Outside the forest on either end are four large stages that featured acts like the Anjunadeep curated stage, String Cheese Incident (four nights!), Major Lazer, Rusko & Caspa, GRiZ, Savoy, The Floozies, Mija, Will Clarke, Hayden James, Brillz, Bassnectar, Louis the Child, Hermitude, and so much more.
The group consensus was that the Forest Stage and the Observatory were the best stages all weekend. The Forest Stage on Day 3 was the Night Bass curated stage and easily the best end-to-end lineup of any of the days – featuring Petey Clicks, Taiki Nulight, Landis LaPace, Low Steppa, Chris Lorenzo, Justin Martin, and Kry Wolf. You also can’t forget the Night Bass master himself AC Slater and special guest Gorgon City. AC Slater, Gorgon, and Justin all played fantastic sets and Justin – who I’ve seen countless times – pulled a set out of left field that I’ve never seen before. This was likely fueled by the fact that Justin had played a more traditional Dirtybird set earlier in the day but man oh man did he crush it.
Special shout out to Soul Clap at the Forest stage for easily the funkiest set of the weekend (sorry GRiZ).
Over at the Observatory Motez tore down the house while we had the pleasure of witnessing a surprise Golf Clap set (holy shit they brought the heat) and a surprise GRiZ b2b Shooka set. I’ll take the time to pause here and highlight that Electric Forest, at least in 2016, was GRiZ’s festival. He must have played 10-15 different sets throughout the weekend, most of them secret or unannounced. The surprise set with Shooka saw GRiZ on CDJs playing some dope G-House which eventually transitioned into bass music and all around madness. And when all the official music had died down for the weekend, who was left standing? GRiZ! He played a secret set with Louis the Child and friends at the Ferris Wheel Ticket Booth. Wait what?
I could go on and on about Electric Forest – it really was a surprisingly great weekend (I have pretty high standards, what can I say). The vibes were better than expected and the people we met were incredibly friendly. Maybe it’s that Midwest love or maybe the Forest just brings out the best in people. And despite my personal gripes with Insomniac, their events, and the typical crowd they attract, I must say my opinion has changed.
Special thanks to Alex at Live Loud for giving us the opportunity to cover our first Insomniac event – which is crazy to believe since we’ve been covering festivals for over five years. Even more thanks to AC Slater and the Night Bass team – to Sammy Sokol and the Soul Clap clan – to the security who continue to be amazingly nice – to our camping neighbors we met – and everyone else.