Electric Forest Weekend 1 Review – God Bless The Forest
By Sean Thomas – Photos Courtesy of Electric Forest
It’s been a week since the day my group and I departed from the camping grounds of Electric Forest. One of the most common questions people ask me is “what’s it like?” In short, it makes you feel like a little kid going to Disney World for the first time…times a Billion. This was my third year attending and it was EF’s first year doing two weekends. This is my Electric Forest Weekend 1 Review…
We drove up from Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit, Wednesday afternoon to meet up with our group. We had Wednesday early arrival passes, which allows attendees to arrive at noon rather than midnight. This gave us time to get set up, let loose and make new friends
The drive wasn’t too bad; it was quiet a gorgeous day to be driving through the Michigan country. We stopped at the traditional rendezvous point at the Meijer in north Muskegon of 31 to link up with our other friend who drove up from Chicago. After some last minute shopping we hopped on the road and 20 minutes later we were in line. The wait time was only a half hour and we were inside in no time. We arrived at our spot in Group Camping in General Admission. We had a great spot and we’re lucky to be within a thousand feet from the venue entrance and a short walk away from Shakedown St. This was the second year my group and I did group camping. Last year we had roughly 25. This year our family doubled. Our group had peeps from Detroit, Chicago, northern Michigan, Oregon, Tennessee, and a couple locals from Rothbury. Everyone got along well; we were all feeding off of each other’s good vibes throughout the weekend.
Wednesday during the day we went exploring around camp, meeting and greeting our lovely neighbors. Shakedown St. was the popular place to be during the day. With vendors serving delicious food to cool souvenirs and a general store. The day parties in the camp consisted of DJ’s playing pop up parties, BBQ’s, throwing Frisbees, playing hacky sack, and slapping the bag. This was a good kickoff to the weekend. And then along came the rain.
During the early hours of Thursday morning there were periods of rain and thunderstorms. It was quite a wet one, up to four inches in rainfall. Inside the venue, it looked like Woodstock ’94 at Tripolee. But that didn’t stop the Forester’s from partying and dancing like maniacs. Some were in full rain gear and boots. Others were shoeless and shirtless. I was wearing running shoes that I decided not to bring home after the weekend because I knew they were going to get destroyed. Despite the rainfall, it didn’t stop us from having a good time. Luckily though, Mother Nature gave us a break in the evening.
One of my favorite moments from Thursday night was at Dirtybird’s curated Birdhouse stage at Tripolee. Maya Jane Coles was playing a beatufiul tech-house set. Near the last 15 minutes of her set at around midnight, the rain came back. Claude VonStroke came on stage and they both went back to back. As she was wrapping up her b2b session with the papa Claude, the rainfall got more intense. Some were retreating to get shelter, others like myself were embracing the wrath of nature. There I was, shirtless, in my basketball shorts, going back and forth with a poncho, Dakine backpack strapped to my back, and wet glasses. At one point I thought of going back to camp to dry up. And out of nowhere Claude plays The Rain Break. There is a part in the song where an electronic voice goes “I saw you and him walking in the rain,” and it came together so well with the audience. Everybody rushed to the stage and started dancing. Even people who were about to leave the venue ran back in the crowd. I couldn’t resist this energy and I ran back in too. Everybody was dancing together in the rain with the bass driven house music from Papa Claude.
Then I ran into a good chunk of peeps from my group camp. They told me they were going to Jubilee to see Vince Staples. As we were walking through the magical Sherwood Forest we couldn’t help but notice how cool the lights looked with the rainfall. When we got to the end of Sherwood, we walked though a muddy trail to get to Jubilee. It was damn near impossible to find a dry spot, but it was worth the adventure. Vince Staples was an artist I had never heard of prior to EF and he became one of my favorite acts of the weekend. His Long Beach influenced hip-hop was candy to my ears. After he closed out the night at the Jubilee tent the rain had stopped. But the mud was brutal. We were up to our ankles in mud walking back to the Forest. As we waltzed through the main trail of the Forest a loud bolt of lighting banged out of nowhere. We later found out that it had struck an AT&T tower. This caused AT&T customers to be left without service for a couple days. The first day of weekend one was definitely a wet one.
The next day the weather was much better. However, there was a challenge. EF vets will tell you stories about long lines on day one. They say after day one the lines won’t be so bad for the rest of the weekend. By the time got in line we had to deal with a wait for about a half hour. When we made it inside the venue we were quite pleased to see how well the organizers took care of the mud. There were still some muddy spots here and there, but it wasn’t too bad to deal with during the day.
Our group splintered off into smaller groups. I ventured by myself and spent most of my time in the Sherwood Forest that day for my schedule of artists. I went to see Ardalan play a groovy set at the Forest stage, followed by Redlight who also played an amazing set. During this time I ran into some friends from back home in Detroit. After sharing stories of the weekend with them I took a trip to Ranch to the pizza vendor to get the famous Spicy Pie (pepperoni and jalapenos). That is one of my personal favorite eats at EF. It is tasty and gives an instant boost of feel-good energy.
I ventured back to the Forest to catch the rest of Redlight, where I ran into a few people from my group camp. By then Chris Lake got behind the decks. Of all of the artists I saw that magical weekend, he was by far my favorite performer. He played his new tracks on Skrillex’s HOWSLA label, a sub-label of OWSLA for house music.
After Chris Lake’s incredible set, my buds and I went our separate ways to check out other acts. I headed to the Observatory for Dixon’s Violin, another personal favorite artist of mine. He is a staple for EF and usually plays every day of the weekend at the Observatory and Forest stages. His live electronic violin loop and his spoken words of wisdom and meditation are a good way to take a break from raging before raging some more. His sets are known for being incredibly chill and full of positive energy. After his set he stuck around to give hugs and sell copies of his material. I ran into one of my group camping members who had also been watching his set. We stuck around to meet up with other members of our group for Barclay Crenshaw’s late night closing set.
Barclay Crenshaw, Claude VonStroke’s real name, was another favorite artist of mine from the weekend. I’ve seen CVS many times and this was my third time seeing him perform as Barclay Crenshaw. Unlike his other material, Barclay Crenshaw’s music abducted the audience into a UFO hip-hop party. Dressed in desert influenced camping gear with an explorer back flap hat, he welcomed the crowd with a fun vibe. He mixed it up with the chill hip-hop vibes to hyped up ghettotech to futuristic influenced sounds fused with classic Detroit hip-hop beats, he was without a doubt one of the best sets of the weekend. Everybody was in awe after he closed out the Observatory.
Saturday came with a beautiful sunshine and great weather. By then Tripolee was covered in dry dirt. There were still muddy spots in some areas in the venue, but it was easy to deal with, and there were no long lines. The producers and organizers behind this festival are known for being on top of their game. They do their best to make sure everybody attending is having a good time and getting their money’s worth. They did a good job of handling the situations with the rain and the mud.
The majority of my crew wanted to go see the Floozies. We all made our way to Ranch near the right side of the stage, dancing and having a blast. The sun was shining and people were getting down to the futuristic electro funk beats. At one point we got together for a group photo.
When the Floozies finished we splintered off and did our own thing. My crew went to Ganja White Knight. I wandered around in the Forest and met tons of amazing people. During my time in the woods I made my way over to the memorial that was set up for Wally Wojack aka Cowboy Wally, the late owner of the Double JJ Resort, which hosts the venue. I was happy to meet him last year before he left us. The memorial consisted of his ATV with a portrait of his face. On the back of the ATV was a TV showing a 15 minute video of him doing interviews, discussing his love for the festival and the people who attend it. He was known for being a kind and peaceful man. He is and always will be the heart and soul of Electric Forest.
After paying my respects to Cowboy Wally, I met up with my group again at Sherwood Court. We laid down on tapestries and listened to the mellow bass sounds of Illenium. The evening had a nice cool breeze to relax our sweaty bodies. When his set was finished some of us went back to camp to get warmer clothes for the night. We went back in and reunited with our group at Tripolee for Oliver Heldens, who played techno-remixed pop music songs. He played many cool remixes such as Eifel 65’s one hit wonder Blue (Da Ba Dee). Everybody was signing along and dancing the night away like nobody was watching. Night three ended on a high note.
Sunday was also met with beautiful weather. We were a little nervous with earlier reports that it may rain, but Mother Nature played in our favor. We kicked off the day at Tripolee with Asadi, who produces Persian Influenced trap. Our group had a prime spot with our Chillbeans and tapestries spread out. Asadi was quite good. He played some unique songs, including remixes of the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song and music from Game of Thrones. He told the audience that EF was the first festival he ever attended and he told his friends that he was determined to play their some day. This place truly is magical and dreams really do come true at EF.
At 5:30 PM we made our way to Jubilee to catch DJ EZ play funky house music that set a proper tone inside the tent. Near the end of his set the crowd had increased and all of the sweaty attendees were boogying their booties off. His set was followed by Minnesota. Once he got behind the decks the inside of the Jubilee tent was packed with many vibrant Foresters getting down to the booming bass music.
The night was still young and everybody was off doing his or her own thing. After Minnesota I went back to get my warm clothes for the night, I decided to spend more time in the Sherwood Forest getting lost and meeting people. Later in the night as I was walking through the woods I passed by the silent disco. I had never visited the silent disco in my years attending EF. In fact I had never even been in a silent disco, so I decided to give it a go. I walk up to the gate and a worker wearing headphones is smiling and dancing. He hands me a headset, I smiled right back when I put it on my ears, listening to DJ Mancub throwing down. It was wild, you take off the headphones and see everyone dancing and cheering, but when you put them back on it gets lit. After 15 minutes I ran into my friends by a stroke of luck. They told me they were going to meet up with out crew at Ranch for Dillon Francis. We decided to make our way over there. But we had a little detour along the way.
My buddy’s girlfriend had to use the bathroom really badly. I had to stop and get some wood chips out of my shoe. We told her we would meet her at the bathrooms by the shortcut path to Ranch and head to our crew. Well, she went the wrong way and my friend and I were contemplating what to do. Do we go to the spot where we told her to meet us or do we go down the main path and see if she went to the other bathrooms? We chose the latter. As we were walking down we were calling her name. This became a challenge because every time we called for her, someone would start a “Carl” chant. Carl was a guy who got lost at Forest years ago and his friends kept yelling his name. This eventually turned into a joke and a tradition to yell his name at the Forest, specifically when people are yelling for their friends or sometimes to start a random chant. We reached the bathrooms and luckily we found her there after she heard my friend calling her name. We all formed a train and held each other’s backs so we wouldn’t get separated again.
We found our group and watched Dillon Francis close out the Ranch Arena with a spectacular set filled with great music, cool visuals, and a wonderful fireworks show. While we were all together I went up to every member of our group and hugged each and every one of them. The love was so strong with our group camp, never have I ever felt so happy and peaceful. Dillon Francis set a great tone for closing out the final night of one of the greatest music festivals in the world.
Once his set was over everybody ventured off to EOTO and Big Gigantic. I headed to the Observatory to watch Dixon’s Violin play his closing set. Ever since I’ve been coming to EF I have made it a tradition to close out the final night with Dixon. As I said before, his chill music is perfect for relaxing and resting from a long weekend of raging in the woods. I laid in my lime green Chillbean and lit it up with an LED strip for some visual eye candy. Dixon was giving powerful words of wisdom, encouraging people to always be themselves and never give up on hope or dreams. One thing he said that stuck with me is that nothing is impossible. Anything is possible; the only reason why things are impossible is because they haven’t been accomplished yet. He told everyone that people told him what he does on the violin wouldn’t be possible, and now he’s following his dreams and playing all over the world. He’s one of the biggest spiritual characters I look forward to seeing every year I attend EF. At the end of his set I spoke with him and thanked him for another great journey and positive words of wisdom. Every person he spoke to he had this biggest smile on his face and is by far one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. It’s always a pleasure to end EF with him and his music.
Monday morning came and luckily it didn’t rain. Weather reports earlier said we were going to get showers in the morning, but we lucked out. As we were all packing and cleaning our campsite, we laughed and reminisced about the good times from the weekend. The toughest part is saying goodbye and going back to our daily routines in the real world. We all hugged, wished each other safe travels, and exclaimed how we can’t wait to do this again next year. Everybody made it home safe and sound. Electric Forest is truly a magical place that brings together great people in a great setting. Despite some weather mishaps it was a ridiculously fun time. Until next year, Happy Forest! Hope you enjoyed our Electric Forest Weekend 1 Review.