It’s the Fourth of July (wahoo ‘Merica & stuff ??) and I have a hard time believing just 7 days ago, I was preparing myself mentally and physically to experience The Saturday Cheese Set followed by Bassnectar at the legendary Ranch Arena.
Every music festival is a whirlwind of adventure full of intoxicating dance parties, endless laughter, new best friends and not sleeping until the sun comes up. Electric Forest is a magical place where all of these and more are turned up past 11. It can get intense. One thing I knew going into the Forest this year: it’s impossible to catch every moment. FOMO can easily take over your actual enjoyment of Electric Forest. This year, I went into the festival wanting to be fully present at each moment I was at and try not worry about what I was missing. There’s a lot of FOMO to be had. The lineup alone boasts so many quality artists, you’re bound to miss something. There are so many other things going on as well!
I genuinely think some people just go to Electric Forest every year to a) chill in a hammock all day with bae, b) walk around the forest all day or night messing with people, or c) do normal festival things. You would be surprised how many people actually fall into the a) and b) categories. Those tricksters are the ones you have to watch out for! In between sets, they’ll hand a piece of string to neighbors and get them to pass it around to stretch it out and trip people as they walk through.One guy was a professional trickster (or tripper?), he had a mask that looked like a 3D Zoolander face and a long, sneaky feather to get all of the giggles and confused looks. There actually are some hired character actors and actresses throughout the Forest dressed up as the colonial upper class, police officers, cheerleaders, you name it – some top notch entertainers were scattered everywhere!
The setting is a lot to take in, too, although each stage is relatively basic. The Ranch Arena has all of the production for String Cheese but even with acts like Skrillex and Bassnectar, it seemed like the stage was down (compared to their usual production), which actually enhanced the intimate environment of those sets. This year, the Forest introduced a new area – the home to The Hanger and Jubilee tent. I absolutely loved these additions!The Jubilee tent was a great place to catch some medium sized acts in more of a club setting. The tent was complete with all kinds of mystical decorative hangings. The Hanger was a big open tent with a large stage up front, bar in the middle and little parlors on the sides. Inside each parlor was a different little room to explore. One had a tattoo shop, there was also a hair salon, a massage room, and a dated speakeasy. All were full of actors playing out the parts of each room! Definitely a couple of good improvements to the festival (I also believe this space provided for more capacity-even though it definitely took away space that had been used as GA camping last year).
One thing just came to my mind…the festival did something relatively unheard of … they did NOT hand out paper schedules. Most attendees were outraged at the loss of this convenience. There are multiple theories to try to explain this (none of which are from an official source, just speculation). 1) Save money – probably costs a good penny to print thousands of pamphlets. It was pretty obvious EF, or the GIANT companies behind EF, were cutting a few corners to save at the bottom line (not enough volunteers/staff per attendee, overselling Good Life and GA camping, etc.) 2) Reduce unnecessary waste – Forest has made it clear, the festival is devoted to taking care of the environment through community waste management programs during the event with incentives for festival goers. Maybe organizers thought eliminating thousands of pieces of folded paper would be a good stride in the right green direction! 3) An encouragement to live in the moment (this is my favorite explanation!) There’s so much going on at Electric Forest, if you’re nose is in a paper schedule all weekend…you could miss out! Without a paper schedule to look over all the time, I had no choice but to be more flexible while catching music. I had taken a picture of the schedule on my phone (I don’t like using apps at fests) so I had it in case of need but didn’t look too often to save my phone battery. I felt a little freedom from not having that pesky paper schedule reminding me of the overlapping sets I would miss out on or worrying when I needed to run across the forest to catch something else! So anyway, that’s the conspiracy of the non-existent Electric Forest 2015 paper schedules. (We did find out that there were some offered to Good Life attendees-not sure if that changes any of the theories)
The Forest always holds some big surprises for its fans. The gracious hosts of the festival, String Cheese Incident are known for having some special tricks up their sleeves just for Forest. On Friday, SCI brought out dubstep icon, Skrillex, to play bass! That was nothing compared to what the boys had planned for the epic Saturday set. This year, the production was on a whole other planet! A few glowing blimps casually floated above the crowd at one point. I also distinctly remember a giant balloon with a trapeze artist tethered to the bottom. It was like she was spinning an imaginary web with her movements, while being hoisted up by the giant balloon. There were fireworks, dance parties & no explanations as to what we were all witnessing-exactly how that set should always be!
I can’t help but discuss some more of the awesome music I caught at EF this year! Like I’ve already mentioned, I missed a lot….simply because there was so much to try to catch. I focused on key sets each day and allowed myself time to wander around during the rest of my time in the venue. Because of the long line to get in Thursday morning, I had to run through the venue to catch Galantis. I’m happy I did! I needed a dose of happy house music that afternoon after waiting 6 hours in line to get to our camping spot.The only other artist that was a must see on my list for Thursday was Flume. He absolutely blew me away. Out on Sherwood Court, the Australian producer threw a sexy hipster party with a genre blending set full of his hits and some tracks on the uptrend. Although Flume’s set was the same time as house legend, Kaskade, the giant field at the Court was full of fans!
Friday was all about the BASSRUSH curated event on Tripolee. The mini event boasted a lineup of some of my favorites bass producers: Mt Eden, Koan Sound, Minnesota, Snails and Datsik! Those guys were enough to keep me from catching Skrillex jam with String Cheese. Later that night, Lotus played a mesmerizing set, including a cover of Talking Heads and Disclosure. They have been one of my favorite bands to see live this year! Simply put, Saturday was a roller coaster. I was a little afraid I might fall off the ride a couple of times. It began on a pleasant and surprising high from discovering a new band from Australia, Jakübi. I am in love with them now, actually. Still love struck, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros was the next stop. I hadn’t seen them since the band kicked Jane to the curb (which didn’t sit well with me).
However, I found myself feeling a familiar deep connection to the music and atmosphere of that set. Alex interacted with the crowd multiple times; asking for song suggestions, asking for stories. One of the stories brought everyone to tears. I couldn’t catch all of the details but the teller was either working at or staying at a children’s hospital. The nurses were trying to figure out healing and nurturing music. They tried Edward Sharpe and she said she watched the music heal those children. It was a truly moving story. The whole crowd sang “Om Nashi Me” with tears in their eyes and pure joy in every heart. After those beautiful sets, it was time to prepare for a night of mayhem
I cannot further describe the Cheese and Bassnectar sets. Both set lists are out there but do no justice to the whirlwind ride each act took us on. I even had to take a break in between and caught some Phatogram and Chali2na with the Funk Hunters, overall a very good decision. I was on cloud 9 seeing 1/5 of Jurassic 5 at the Jubilee stage!! After Bassnectar, the massive crowd filtered out in multiple directions. Barely holding on, I steared myself along the current heading towards Tripolee. Claude VonStroke was a beacon of reality. His set was everything I needed.
Sunday, I got to see a few of my foreign crushes! Australian, Alison Wonderland did her thang, playing a dope set full of hip hop. She really is The dream girl. The two blond boys of Cape Town, Goldfish, played a fun house set infused with live instruments back in the Forest stage. In between those sets, I bounced between Sherwood Court and Tripolee. Gramatik played an awesome set on the Court stage but the sound was definitely turned down a little because Cheese was playing at the same time at the Ranch. I missed the headliners on Sunday because it was time to catch my ride out. We could hear Paul Oakenfold as we packed the car though!
And that was it, I headed home and began the ever familiar post-fest assimilation back into my “real” life. Until next year, Happy Forest!