As beautiful Rothbury Michigan hosted The Electric Forest Music Festival over the forth of July weekend, the outside world can only begin to wonder what magic was created. With an astounding 30,000 plus attendees, the festival’s love was percolating through the campgrounds to the stages, to the forest and back! The festival kicked off at 5:30 sharp on Thursday June 30th and filled fans with an action-packed weekend till the late evening of July 3rd 2011. Over 90 plus acts were featured on five strategically positioned stages in order to promote an exciting new atmosphere during all sets of music. After attendees rolled in on Thursday and set up shop, it was time for one of the most anticipated events of the summer to begin.
As the entrance gates into the festival grounds opened it was apparent that festival goers maintained a one-track-mind as they headed towards The Sherwood Forest. The priceless look on faces and harmonious laughter filled the forest as people explored the marvelous creations and art displays. After making way through an abundance of hammocks, fans were graced with the Reincarnation Garden. This sacred space was created by a team of four with astonishing visions, and lead by a curator from the west coast who goes by the name of Nature. The garden featured a thirty foot enclosed angel’s nest built out of fallen branches and vines, an eight foot heart composed of flowers, intricate metal structures (such as an eight foot tall Buda on a lotus flower), and a plethora of mandala grids designed to activate the mind and spirit. To polish off the relaxing vibe of the forest, a gong message circle was installed to promote deeply rooted meditation. The forest set the tone for the entire weekend as it successfully molded music and art into one main focus of The Electric Forest Festival.
As storm clouds rolled in, creating rapid thunderstorms, bands were forced to cut sets short, however; Toubab Krewe, Emmitt-Nershi Band, and The Kyle Hollingsrth Band focused on delivering as much music as possible. As the clouds cleared and night fell, the LED light installations brought the forest to life as it continuously illuminated it with an array of colors, from all across the spectrum. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe took the stage and the saxophone wailed throughout the grounds. Emancipator featured a classically trained Russian violinist, during his set at The Wagon Wheel Stage. Their emotion invoking beats and seamless transitions had the crowd both grooving and transcending as one collective whole. This small barn featured many artists over the weekend and successfully created an intimate concert feel for those who were driven enough to seek it out. Lotus polished off the night with jams that flowed in and out of dynamic electronica rhythms.
Friday afternoon’s schedule was packed with music from JJ Grey & MoFro, Zion I and The Grouch, to Stephan Marley; but the weather wasn’t looking too promising. Luckily the clouds began to clear up just in time for The New Deal’s in your face beats, and remained sunny and warm throughout the rest of the festival. After the New Deal announced Robert Mercurio (Galactic’s bassist) would be joining in, a continuous flow of long buildups, and heavy syncopation permeated the air.
What a pleasure it was taking a short walk through the Sherwood Forest right into two full sets of The String Cheese Incident. Cheese was so on the level that they kicked off their set with “Best Feeling” and the crowd immediately became entranced. It was apparent that SCI isn’t just about the music; their about dance, theatrics, art, celebration, and pride. Through uninhibited dancing, dressing up, and displaying artistic signs, the crowd grows into part of the show itself. Second set opener “Eye Know Why,” spilled into an electrifying jam. However, playing” Shanty Town” was brilliant do to the fact that it captured the eerie feel of the Sherwood Forest through its expressive lyrics and spell bounding rhythm. The night wrapped up with a funky refreshing set from Galactic into Tiesto’s high energy house music.
As Saturday rolled in, the sun was shining bright and the lineup just seemed to keep getting better. Keller Williams featured Michael Kang and Keith Mosley of The String Cheese Incident for a good part of the set, and finished off solo delivering kind-hearted upbeat music. Taking a small break from music, and visiting the Wild Cat Lake, was rather relaxing. On the way to the lake was the visionary artist tent. Many of these artist travel and paint during sets of music while displaying previously completed prints. One of the most breath-taking prints was a collaborative print painted by Ashley Foreman, Andy Reed, Christian Jaxtheimer and Andrew Wagner. They continually worked on the painting throughout multiple sets over the course of the weekend.
Please visit any of their sites here Ashley (http://www.mystictransmissions.com/)
Andrew and Christian (http://majik-eye.blogspot.com/ and
As the afternoon was wrapping up The Ragbirds, Eskmo, and REO Speedwagon all had overlapping sets. Can you say diverse selection of artist or what? The Ragbirds infused an array of musical instruments and featured a dancer performing West African movement, as Eskmo offered a mellow, down-tempo set featuring more of his music by Welder in the middle of the forest. As for REO Speedwagon, they played a majority of the hits, and it was humorous to notice a large group of the Police officers assigned to work the festival hanging out during their set. Their music, visuals, and a fan with a dreaded mullet were certainly a flash out of the eighties, however deep down inside we should all allow a soft spot in our heats for power ballads.
Lettuce took the stage bringing nothing shy of dirty fly funk, leaving an impression on all people who attended their set. Their music stems from a cluster of individuals that know how to collaborate on a stage to create an exclusive sound. As the evening set in, The String Cheese Incident played another two exceptional sets of music that instilled more heavy electronic rhythms. They even blew the crowd up with Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” while simultaneously infusing EOTO’s (drummer and percussionist of SCI) drum n bass. The atmosphere resembled The Macy’s Day Parade as white angelic hula hoopers, large inflatable’s, and deck-out dancers pervaded the area.
Colorado based Big Gigantic’s sound is a bit of a twist as it features a live drummer and saxophone player continuously backed by heavy beats. Hard executive decisions have to be made when the evening is wrapped up with overlapping sets by Bassnectar, Shpongle, Two Fresh, and Skillex, however, all these artists brought irreplaceable sets of music to close out Saturday night. If you had it in you to capture one last bit of music after all that heat, 12th Planet brought the house down at The Wagon Wheel with very special guest Skillex.
It’s a hard to imagine what could possibly be left in store for Sunday. Time had flown by and surprisingly enough the energy was still high after a long weekend. You could feel the love as many gathered to start the day with Zach Deputy’s soulful harmonies directly into Railroad Earth. Asheville’s Papadosio continues on the rise in the music scene and really stepped up their game at the Tripolee stage. Their sound combines live electronic music filtered out by improvisational jams and euphoric melodies. Joining Edward Sharp and The Magnectic Zeros was anything but dull, and Beats Antique brought the most crowds to the Sherwood Court Stage as they twisted minds through their cabaret gypsy dub.
The String Cheese Incident began the last of their two sets playing all bluegrass with many very special guests. Continuing the boogie parade party they graced the crowd with many fan favorites including “Jellyfish” directly into “Dirk”. If you played your cards right you were able to indulge in a little bit of music between Pretty Lighs, Conspirator, and EOTO to close the out festival. No matter what there is no wrong decision when your selection has to do with this many outstanding artist.
Heading home on the fourth of July after one of the most amazing weekends of music, art, and friendships, one can only become excited for an annual local fireworks show. Recapping with friends/family who attended or with friends/family that unfortunately missed the bliss of the weekend, there’s nothing short of smiles all-around when referencing The Electric Forest Music Festival. Between the diverse selection of music, unique worldly venders, state of the art light and art installations, carnival of hoopers, stilters, jugglers, and overall performers Electric Forest stands out amongst the other music festivals. Throughout the weekend, humanity connected in ways that only can be created by bringing this diverse amount of individuals together. Typically, when a great festival officially comes to a close any true music lover endures momentary sadness; however the Electric Forest Music Festival provided so many amazing musical experiences, scenic diversity, and spiritual activations, that most were left filled with positive proactive thoughts of how different things will be from now on. Don’t miss your chance to share in the groove of this festival next year
Written By Marcella Neff
Photos courtesy of Abby Miller