Photo Credit: Vladmir Zaytsev
The end of June is always special for us at The Dankles because of a festival that has the production elements of a larger festival, but keeps tradition and community it’s top priority. Previously known as Rothbury, Electric Forest Festival held at the Double JJ Ranch and Resort, isn’t just your ordinary summer music festival. Festival veterans share stories about the wonders of the Sherwood forest located in the heart of the venue grounds, complete with art installations, lights, music and people from all different backgrounds. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a picture doesn’t even do this forest justice, which makes seeing first timer’s reactions one of the greatest things about this multi genre festival.
As the sun came up Thursday morning, cars anxiously waited in lines to get through the entrance and to the campgrounds. The cars were checked for forbidden items and then waved along to the campsite that would be their home for the next 4 days. My friends and I set up camp and then took a moment to relax. After a couple hours of chill time, we packed up our bags with blankets, water bottles and any other miscellaneous items that we might need for the night and set off for the festival grounds.
When we got to the gate, security checked our bags and we proceeded forward to scan our wristbands. The staff greated us warmly with “welcome home!” and in that exact moment, it did feel like home. The first stage you saw when you walked through the gates was “Tripolee.” This was the stage where mostly all EDM acts played and the home of the “Fools Gold Clubhouse.” Located near this stage were mini platforms with girls dressed in a variety of costumes and a light up Ferris wheel. We continued on our path to the main stage also called the “Ranch Arena.” The combination of lights, lasers, projectors and intricate physical design of the stage made for a fantastic production to accompany the wide variety of talent that was on the bill.
Earlier in the week, Paper Diamond hinted via his Twitter that a secret set was in the works for the coming weekend and everyone should be on the lookout for those oversized glasses and snap back at some festival. Giving his twitter followers only 20 minutes to race over, he announced his set would be on the beach stage behind the artist lounge at Electric Forest. We rushed over early enough to have a quick chat with the man himself before he proceeded to throw one hell of a beach party for the 150 lucky people that made it. The unique thing about his set was that all of his triggers and crossfading were executed wirelessly with an iPad that was connected to his laptop. Because of the intimate setting, you were able to get up close and personal with the technical side of his show.
According to the schedule, Grizmatik would perform with special guests at the “Sherwood Court.” The speculation was that Big Gigantic would be joining them for a very special performance at the forest, and the rumors were true. The super group Big Grizmatik, consisting of Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken of Big Gigantic, Grant Kwiecinski of GRiZ and Denis Jasarevic and Eric Mendleson of Gramatik, came together for their second performance ever and did not disappoint. In an interview we conducted with GRiZ at Electric Forest, we asked him what it was like to work with such high caliber musicians, he stated:
That’s interesting because everybody’s music has a different vibe to it. And it’s all about creating a set where all the vibes come together and work in this big picture, it’s kind of like collaging all these pieces together. That’s what’s so fun, we get to collage with the coolest pieces of music that I could think of collaging with. That’s what’s so awesome. I love these guy’s music so much, that it’s an honor to be able to be a part of it.
As the sun set, the five friends from Boulder played tracks such as, “I Need A Dollar” (Big Gigantic Remix), “Talkbox Intented” by Gramatik, “Gettin’ Live” by GRiZ into “My People” by Grizmatik and closing out the set with a Big Grizmatik remix of “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. To get more information about the future of Big Grizmatik, Grizmatik and GRiZ be sure to keep an eye out for our interview with GRiZ that will be released soon.
Manic Focus, the Chicago based producer, kicked it off at the “Forest Stage” by throwing down deep bass lines with electro-soul influences. This intimate setting and awesome atmosphere created the biggest party inside the forest that I had seen all weekend. This up and coming star played tracks such as, “You Can Dance If You Want To” by Men At Work (Manic Focus Remix), “Pine Sol Fresh” by Future Rock and Manic Focus and original track “Forever Blasting.” Manic Focus now finds himself as one of the opening acts for Big Gigantic’s massive Red Rocks party entitled Rowdy Town II, where I’m sure he will win over a lot more fans just like he did in the forest.
One of the most talked about acts of the weekend, Knife Party, showed everyone at the forest why they are one of the most intense live sets in EDM today. Rob and Garth give you a non-stop barrage of fast paced tracks that really make you want to move your feet, so they say. You can always count on these guys to provide you with a set list full of surprises and songs you’ve never heard before and this set was no different. It included some of their original in your face bangers such as, “EDM Death Machine” and “Bonfire.” but also some new remixes like “LRAD (Porter Robinson Remix)” and “Power Glove (Knife Party VIP Remix).” As the duo raged on with the rest of the rowdy crowd at the Sherwood Court, they ended with a huge bang as giant tanks shot out massive amounts of confetti all over the audience during the encore. Rob Swire recently said via his personal Twitter, that starting in 2014 he will be taking a 6 month break from all tour duties to strictly write more music. Knife Party will continue to roll on as one of the premier EDM acts within the scene and I’m sure they have something up their sleeves for the fans before 2013 is over.
After the chaos of Knife Party settled down, the crowd headed into the forest to partake in their own adventures. My friends and I had got word that GRiZ and Minnesota were both going to play secret sets as a late night show in the Good Life VIP lounge, so without a doubt, we were there. As we headed to the canopy, I realized just how intimate this was going to be. With minimal equipment set up under a roof that could roughly hold around 100 people, these guys absolutely killed it. The extremely small setting was a perfect example of how artists love this festival setting just as much as the fans. Dominic Lalli, for example, was seen in the back enjoying the late night experience with his girlfriend. Both guys jammed out a slew of their original songs mixed in with some tracks that I’m sure have never been played live before. Jeremey Salken of Big Gigantic also joined in on the fun by making a guest appearance on drums for GRiZ’s set. You could tell by the movement in their bodies and the smiles on their faces that everyone was simply loving every second of it, including the masterminds behind the music.
As the night sky took over the festival grounds for one last night of fun in the forest, people gathered from every which way toward the Ranch Arena for none other than Derek Vincent Smith a.k.a Pretty Lights. The set list was surrounded by his new album A Color Map Of The Sun, which came out just two days after this performance. He opened with “Let’s Get Busy.” which quickly grabbed the attention of the crowd and brought them to their feet. The soulful bass music rang through the night sky as he dropped such original tracks as “Still Night,” “I Know The Truth,” “Shining Bright Despite The Phlite” and “Hot Like Sauce” to name a few. The high production value of his music and stage show had me in awe as he played his smooth hip-hop single “Around The Block” off his new album featuring Talib Kweli. As his set came to a close, he instructed everyone to “Get real close for this last song, hold on the one you love and never let go”. The crowd became one living, breathing, organism, as the sights and sounds became uplifting with the tune “Yellow Bird” echoing through the forest. This was the perfect way to close out the Ranch Arena and one of the best sets I’ve seen from the digital sample master himself.
Video by HODJ Music
To officially end the festival, Beats Antique took everyone on a journey at the Sherwood Court with Zoe, the band’s belly dancer, as their leader. She wore a beautifully detailed outfit as she mesmerized the audience with her unconventional, graceful moves. They played music with a bass line driven by a baritone sax and accompanied heavily by percussion, making you feel as if you were in the Middle East at a party you would never forget. We were lucky enough to have a guest appearance by LYNX during their track “Crooked Muse” and also heard a their new cover of “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. Earlier in the day, Beats Antique premiered their Mayhem Marching band consisting of a drum line, horn section and flag girls who auditioned prior to coming to the forest. As a very special encore, the Mayhem marching band joined the stage for a once in a lifetime jam session with the guys themselves. Beats Antique proved exactly why they had the honor of closing out the entire festival.
It was now officially over. The crowd walked a little bit slower then usual to soak in every last moment they could with the forest. As we all filed back to our tents feeling dirty, tired, sun burnt, smelly, and half way deaf, there was still a part of us that wanted so much more. The forest is truly a special place to the people that attend every year. Everyone’s forest experience is different in so many ways, but almost every single person leaves with a smile on their face that’s just a little bit different then any other smile they’ve had before. As long as Insomniac and Madison House Presents continue to host this event, The Dankles will be counting down the days to each and every Electric Forest to come.