Electric Forest 2014 Recap

               Starting on Thursday June 26th, Sherwood Forest was once more illuminated with positive energy and optimistic spirit as the 4th annual Electric Forest Festival took place in Rothbury, Michigan. For many, this festival has turned into an event that can continually be counted on to bring the utmost peace and serenity as many groups returned for their second, third, and for some diehards, fourth time as Electric Forest. Some even attending the event since when it was called strictly “Rothbury”, prior to the existence of “Electric Forest”. Alternatively, for others such as myself, this was my very first forest experience, and I can speak for almost everyone else in the same boat when I say that there were high hopes due to all the talks of awesomeness that surrounded this blissful event.  Arriving late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, I was shocked by the mile long lines that trailed all the way back to the nearest highway exit as the attendees excitedly waited for admittance. Family, friends, and people of all different ages and customs assembled far outside the venue as the anticipation was off the charts for the start of this glorious adventure. After a few hours wait to get settled into the camping grounds, tents were pitched, friends were made, and campsites were put together right before the majority of the festival caught up on some sleep prior to the first day’s madness. The hot Michigan sun made sure to get everyone up bright and early, as the beaming rays of sunlight cooked everyone’s tent, making for an overall early awakening from the majority of the campers. It was clear that hopes were high, and as you walked up and down the different rows and campsites, there was nothing but smiles and euphoria to be found amongst all the different festival goers.

               As the day approached noon, the vendors row how already begun beaming with bright individuals, as each different tent seemed to bring their own unique form of art or talent as the intellectual designers all attempted to spread their creations for all to enjoy. At approximately 3 PM, the line begun to build up outside Sherwood’s main entrance, and it was clear that the Electric Forest community was ready to dance. After about an hour or so wait, around 430 PM, the gates finally opened, and it was time for the craziness to commence. Shouts of joy could be heard from all around, and it was something special to see all the different totems that so many of these individuals had put so much time into making.  With 5 separate stages: the Ranch Arena, Sherwood Court, Tripolee, the Forest Stage, and the Observatory, there was no doubt that any attendee could find some music of their liking due to all the variety the planners of this event had made sure to schedule. First on my list was Cherub, and following a short delay due to the evil that is airports, the duo finally made their way onto stage to make for one hell of an opening performance. The love and positive spirit could already be felt flowing throughout the crowd, and it was clear that we were all in for one hell of a weekend. After embarking on my first journey through the wondrously illuminated forest, it was time for Late Night Radio to do his thing at the Observatory stage. On that note, it was truly incredible to watch the amount of people that came out to support this Houston born, Denver based producer. As Alex began to spin, there was hardly any room to move, as the stage had completely filled up far past the intended boundaries. Following an absolutely killer set including singles such as “Forever in a Day”, “For Dreamers”, and “Your Ghost-LNR Remix” it was evident that electro soul is slowly but surely taking the scene by storm with such an intimate performance. Following Paper Diamond’s energy filled performance on the Ranch Stage, it was time to get down as EOTO took the stage at Sherwood Court a short walk away. Following the drum duos deadly setlist filled with the optimal amount of bass and depth, it was time for the Glitch Mob to do their thing at the Ranch Arena. This trio has, in my personal opinion, coined the glitch genre, using their live drums to add a whole other level of depth to their performances that simply separates them from so many other electronic artists today. During the set break following the Glitch Mob’s set, a majority of the attendees made their way back over to Sherwood court where the legendary Umphrey’s McGee had just started the first of their two energy packed sets of the weekend. Not soon after, Canadian duo Zed’s Dead approached the turn tables back at the Ranch Arena, and madness had officially been unleashed. Dropping a majority of their most well-known tracks, these two talented individuals made sure to illuminate the crowd with bass throughout their entire set. The performance was everything that it had been hyped up to be, and following a rowdy set such as that, it was time to finish off the evening with some beautiful Umph love. Following a magnificently powerful set and energetic encore, it was time to head back to the campsite and prepare for the next day’s festivities. After a night filled of such intimacy and head banging, it was hard to believe that we were still blessed with three more days full of euphoria still to come.

               Friday morning was once again started off by the beating sun heating up the tents like ovens, and most of the campsites were already flourishing by 10 in the morning. The line to enter soon began to build and expand far beyond the entrance, as the daily morning yoga was soon to commence at 12 PM. Following a few DJ sets at Tripolee, the Forest Stage, and the Observatory, I finally made my way in around 5 o’clock to catch the up and coming electronic jam band, Zoogma. These guys most certainly knew how to throw down, and after hitting the crowd with their remix of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, it was obvious that we were once again in store for a day filled with absolute serenity. Speaking of serenity, who better to next take the stage than the euphoric Papadosio, who has been expanding at such an exponential rate, that it was no surprise that the entire Sherwood Court has seemingly began to fill with their loving fans. Along with hit songs such as “Cue” and “the Sum”, my personal favorite part of this set was when the guitarist took a moment in between songs to remind everyone to put away their cell phones, and simply “be here with us”, a phrase that really stuck out to me and in my opinion represented the whole vibe of the Forest excellently. After a simply magical set, and a short 30 minute intermission, Philadelphia based band Conspirator was next to take the stage at Sherwood Court. The String Cheese Incident had also just commenced their very first set of the weekend at the Ranch Arena, so it was very interesting to see who stuck around to watch these electronic cover geniuses do their thing. This set was just simply plain amazing, and the band even proceeded to bring out rising electro-soul artist Manic Focus, better known by his nickname JMac, to play some live keyboard over his massive remix of Disclosure’s “Latch”, making for some of the happiest vibes one could find. Heading back over to the Ranch Arena, I made it just in time to catch Cheese’s love filled “Joyful Sound”, captivating me for the next 20 or so minutes before finally finding a pause to head back over to the legendary Sound Tribe Sector Nine, who was next to take the stage at Sherwood Court. Their musical flow soared throughout the vibrant crowd, and it was evident that STS9 was back and better than ever following the first of their two enthralling performances. The legendary German house producer Zedd was next up at the Ranch Arena, but for me it was all about the Umph, as their final set of the weekend was jam packed once again with powerful energy and rock filled vibes. Following an absolutely insane encore, Umphey’s time had finally come to an end, as the band made sure to thank the crowd for being blessed with such an incredible opportunity. As the majority of the festival made their way towards the exit, everyone passed through the bass packed producer Excision’s closing performance at Tripolee. Following shortly under an hour’s worth of madness, Excision finally had to call it quits, and the entire audience was left in awe as the first half of the unbelievable ecstatic weekend has just came to an end. With only two days left, it was hard to say that anyone was ever going to have to leave this enchanted forest/ escape from reality.

                               Saturday marked the highlight of the weekend for me personally, as rising live electronic producers the Floozies were first on my list as they lit up Sherwood Court with their unbelievable stage presence and live energy. Throwing in a few new originals as well, the entire audience could be seen getting the funk down from all different angles. Next up was hippie gangster Schoolboy Q, and I must say I was thoroughly impressed with what this bucket hatted innovator brought with him as his DJ did a surprisingly awesome job with transitions and overall song selection. I shortly thereafter left to catch some of Bob Marley’s reincarnated son Stephen “Ragga” Marley, and he brought with him the whole Ghetto Youth Crew, making for some of the most peaceful and relaxing songs of the weekend. It was something special getting to see Stephen bring his children on stage to jam out with the band, and I personally gained a whole lot of respect for what the Marley family is trying to do with their sound following his performance. Next on my list was the Emancipator Ensemble, and as Doug Appling took control of Sherwood Court, I can honestly say that this might have been my favorite set of the weekend as I had never been more at peace and more connected with that flow of the sound than when I was vibing with what Emancipator was laying down for us all to enjoy. Simply amazing - that is all I can say about this performance, and as his time came to an end, I could not believe how beautiful the past hour or so had just been in my eyes. Not to mention, String Cheese’s Saturday night set was about to begin, and it’s safe to say that if you classify yourself as a lover of some jam band craziness, there’s no place on planet Earth that you’d want to be than right at the Ranch Arena for what was about to go down. The very first song saw glorious loads of fireworks, beach balls, butterflies, PacMan ghosts, and huge blow up “?” cubes all throughout the venue, and man oh man did Cheese come to live up to their expectations and then some. Following incredibly intimate jams and deep, deep, beat progressions, the first hour and a half simply flew by, and before we all knew it, the band was due for a short set break. Not a worry though, because following an energetic first tune back on stage, the band brought out the immensely talented Lauryn Hill, as it was time for a Ms. Lauryn Hill Incident to take place and captivate the entire forest. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced as much euphoria in a single set than what these unbelievable talented producers decided to collaborate and bring together, and following what seemed to be an entire lifetimes worth of positive energy flow, it was finally time for the newest Incident to exit the stage. Wow what a performance that was, and that set alone goes to show why Rothbury will always be the String Cheese Incident’s home festival. After unfortunately missing Flying Lotus, and the beginning of European producer’s Booka Shade’s live set, I finally found myself back at Sherwood Court to catch the end of the deep house filled performance. Thumbs up to those guys, as their set was truly one of the most awesome live house sets I had ever gotten a chance to witness. During the intermission, some folks decided to head on over to one of the remaining Swedish House Mafia’s members, Steve Angello, as he closed out the Ranch Arena just a short walk away. I personally stayed put for Sound Tribe’s final performance of the weekend, and man did I make the right decision. Hitting the crowd with the ultimate blast of happiness, STS9 showed exactly why they have accumulated such high acclaim through their unbelievable flawless flow during their entire set. The band members even decided to make it rain for their debatably most well-known song “When the Dust Settles”, and even incorporated the crowd’s live vocals when dropping “EHM” for all to enjoy. This set was truly magnificent from start to finish, and my hat goes off to all the members of Sound Tribe, as they have firmly established themselves as one of the best jam bands in the scene following those immensely enchanted past two sets. As I headed back to the campsite, I remember feeling like I was on top of the world, and there was not a worry within site, as the forest has simply captivated me with all the positive euphoria it could possibly offer for me to take in.

               As the sun rose that beautiful Sunday morning, it was the last day to make it count as the glorious festival was soon to come to a close. Starting off the day with Lotus’s very own keyboardist Luke Miller’s side project, Luke the Knife, the funk started of early, and it was clear that the final day was going to blow some minds as this talented individual displayed some of his smooth DJ skills, showing why he is simply one of the best in the game. Following a few more performances by all different sorts of producers and DJ’s, the Jersey Club producer Trippy Turtle was next on my list to make sure I caught in its entirety. Just one of this talented young lads producer names, Trippy also incorporated a bunch of his alternate persona Lido’s original productions including tracks such as “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Trippy’s BFF Cashmere Cat even decided to set up to the turn tables for a minute when the Turtle unleashed a bag of “DJ Yolobears” as he calls them, on the crowd for all the audience to enjoy. This set was filled of energy, and following such a vibrant set, it was next onto the rising Norwegian legend Kygo, who was next to take the stage at the secluded Forest Stage. To say this stage was packed prior to his set would be an understatement, as attendees gathered at all different angles to try and catch a glimpse at this rising producer’s magic. Shortly after the performance commenced, not a word was said throughout the crowd, and Kygo simply put the entire audience in a trance for the next hour and a half. Simply beautiful to say the least, and watching a set like that just left the entire crowd with such uplifted spirit that it is hard to put the overall vibe into words. After catching a little bit of the rising Australian artist What So Not’s set at Tripolee, it was Seven Lions turn to throw down some intimacy as he was next to take the stage. “Superstep” as he calls it, definitely is meant for these kind of environments, and it was awesome to get to hear some of his biggest tracks being dropped on the big stage. Moving my way back over to the Ranch Arena to catch some of the String Cheese Incident's final set of the weekend, I was once again blown away by the amount of energy those guys are able to bring with them every time they take the stage. As much as I wanted to stay and watch this set in its entirety, I felt the need to capture the rising young producer Cashmere Cat’s set in full, and I was most definitely pleased with my decision to do so.

As I settled into to Tripolee, the long blonde flowing haired young lad strolled up to the turntables, and put on his headphones. Not a word was said, and it was evident that Cashey had come to impress. He simply didn’t miss a beat, and the looping and sampling that he included showed why he is at the forefront of this new rising electronic movement coming out of Australia. To say I was impressed would also be an understatement, and I simply cannot wait for my next opportunity to catch this Cat live at some point down the line. I then proceeded back over to Sherwood Court, where the serenity that is Tycho began their enchanted performance. This set was incredibly peaceful and euphoric, and never before had I been so impressed with a band that I had not really gotten the opportunity to sit down and listen to in depth prior to their enactment.  As their set came to an end, I quickly scurried over to the Forest Stage which was of course absolutely swarmed with electro soul fans who had come out to see the talented duo “Manic Menert” do their thing. It was actually kind of unfortunate that they were given such a small stage, as drummer AC Lou was barely even visible from the right side, and the sound seemed to cut off anywhere out of the speakers direct frontal range. None the less, they absolutely made sure to make up for this by simply blowing away the audience, and following a performance with such intimacy and depth, it was hard to believe this was the first time these two had actually gotten to play together on stage. They fed off each other’s live energy so well, and honestly gave me a slight glimpse into where the future of electro-soul music is really headed. Following that set, I got to chat with JMac, Michal, and AC for a while, which was simply the icing on the cake for me, as these guys are more or less some of my musical inspirations for wherever I go in the future. After Moby’s DJ set was cut short due to weather conditions, it was finally time to exit the forest once and for all, and time to say goodbye to all the unbelievable opportunities it has provided me with in just the past 4 days alone.

               Words simply cannot do this festival the justice it deserves, but here’s to saying thank you for all the marvelous friends, performances, and experiences I was able to have during the course of those 4 glorious days. Electric Forest Festival was everything I could have possibly asked for, and then so much more on top of that. Going into this festival more or less completely blind, I was blown away by the overall positive energy of all the festival goers as a whole. It truly felt like an escape from reality for me, and it’s crazy to think that this sort of event has been going on for so many years. After getting to live and experience something of that stature, it makes me so extremely excited to see what next year has in store. I just want to take a moment to thank everyone who I got the opportunity to meet, as all of you brought such a loving energy with you, and for that I sincerely cannot thank you enough. I really did feel at home for those few days, and it only makes me want to keep riding this wave of positive flow throughout my entire life in every aspect that I can see possible. Rothbury truly did change my life, and I’m extremely stoked to say that I got to experience this with so many of you beautiful people.

Written By: Cooper Turley

Photos By Madi Lawton