Electric Forest: Saturday 6.29.13

Double JJ Resort
Rothbury, MI

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis

The sun beat down on our tent until we rolled out of bed and into the grass in an attempt to escape the polyester inferno. It was clear that Carly would not make it to yoga, but fortunately for me, there was no time limit on burritos. On our way back to camp from the vending/food area we stopped for a $10.00 bag of ice, as all of the $5.00 bags were conveniently sold out. After about an hour of staring off into space followed by a quick rinse and we were as fresh as we could be given the circumstances. We passed yet again through the festival gates and settled in at the Ranch stage for some Jeff Austin and Friends. To our absolute delight, his friends were comprised of Eric Krasno (Soulive), Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), Cody Dickenson (North Mississippi Allstars) and a bass player whom I was not familiar with. The group's output was as loose as I had ever heard from Jeff Austin. A couple of times Jeff came flying out of the gates, only to slow down and purposely let the song slip into disarray. It was interesting to watch Krasno and Anders pass the lead back and forth as they smiled and motioned towards one and other.

Upon the conclusion of our first set of the day, we made our way towards the forest. When we arrived, we found an impromptu show taking place that involved juggling and rope work. It was cool to see the police among the crowd enjoying the tricks and maneuvers from the hired performer. Continuing on we once again found ourselves at The Observatory, the perfect location to fill up on cold Bell's products. As we did a group of folks in costume passed by participating in a magnitude of tomfoolery and general grabass. At some point we caught wind of a special Greensky Bluegrass set that was taking place. We made our way backstage to find the native group setting up for an intimate show by the lake. As we waited, we mingled with friends both old and new. Coordinator, Erin Steele, prepared the band as Anders cruised by on a golf cart headed towards the stage with the Lettuce camp. With one call of Anders' name from Erin, he was off of the golf cart with a humorously disappointed look on his face. When the band was ready, we made our way to the side of the lake alongside a small group of lucky fans and VIP for one of the highlights of our weekend.

Back on the Ranch stage Lettuce's set was underway. Even during the middle of the day Lettuce throws the kind of party that makes you feel like it's the late night. Soaring horns and ripping guitar work lead the way with Adam Deitch keeping count from the back court. Special guest Dominic Lali from Big Gigantic came out to participate in the funk, to the delight of the young crowd. Guitarists Krasno and Adam Smirnoff battled it out before Nigel Hall took the stage in his fashionably late style to kick it into high gear. We quickly made our way back to camp before returning to the festival gates for a search that bordered sexual assault. Without being sure of exactly what they were looking for, we were flagged through the security line that seemed to have a heightened sense of operation.

At the Ranch Arena The String Cheese Incident took the stage and reflected a tighter feel than the previous night. The evening opened with "Outside Inside," and featured a decent "Birdland" with special guest Dominic Lali and a "Shine" into "Colorado Bluebird Sky" to close the first set. At the end of the set Michael Kang said "Alright, you guys. How are you doing out there? We're going to take a really quick break... Like really, really quick. Then we're going to get ready and blow this place up." That was enough to peak my curiosity. Like many others, we returned to the forest. The saloon was bumping, the interactive zone was packed with hippies all beating to a different drum, the bars were happening and there was magic in the air. A short time later, per Kang's foreshadowing, we returned to the VIP section on the front right of the stage, as to be deep in the middle of the craziness.

As expected, the second set was kicked off with a holler from Billy before a menacing "Bumpin Reel" took over. Performers made their way out onto the stage and lit the fire to the wings of an aerial performer who was then hoisted into the air, high above the stage. She spun around with fire blazing as the music built and built. Dominic Lali returned to the stage for some added horn work. The second song of the set, "Desert Dawn," provided the background to the peak of the festival. Without warning giant balloons slowly rolled and bounced across the crowd. Fire shot from the stage, first in bursts, then in all out pyrotechnics, before fireworks exploded in the distance. I didn't know what to look at. It was pure chaos and as if that weren't enough, confetti cannons exploded and a plethora of glow toys were tossed into the crowd. It was pure insanity and the worst time to have a full beer in hand. I quickly drank up as we got hit from all sides. The crowd was in complete bliss as the band launched into straight dubstep before returning to "Desert Dawn's" signature melody.

As quickly as the chaos came, it was gone with all of the giant balloons being extracted from the crowd before the band began "Search." Cheese sounded much better than what we were given the previous night and as the evening grew later, I kept glancing back at the forest, teasing us from a distance. Following SCI's sets, we returned once more to the forest. We put a lot of mileage on our legs that night, wandering from one end of the forest to the other in search of laughs and entertainment of all sorts. Out front of the porta johns about twenty State Troopers subdued a man who was clearly out of his mind, a reminder that all things in moderation are key. As the 4:00 hour neared, the initial sweep of the forest began in order to clear folks out for the morning.

Set One: Outside And Inside > Rain, Far From Home, Birdland(1), Sometimes a River, Can't Wait Another Day, Shine > Colorado Bluebird Sky

Set Two: Bumpin Reel1, Desert Dawn, Search > Drums > Search, Colliding, Give Me The Love > Sirens > Texas > Kinky Reggae > Texas

Notes: "1" with Dominic Lalli (Big Gigantic) on Saxophone

Back at our campsite fireworks ripped through the skies, dubstep blared in the distance and the same egomaniac girl screamed into a megaphone to no one. It's moments like these that put large scale festivals into perspective. Sure, on the surface the crowd was young and even a bit obnoxious, but in the end, we're all just music fans seeking some sense of community, regardless of the sub-categories of genres in which we cling to. Kudos to Electric Forest, Madison House and Insomniac for throwing one of the best produced festivals that I have attended. I was grateful that among much of the overdone electronic music, there was a path on the schedule for fans of more organic instrumental output. Festivals like Electric Forest help to raise the bar for fan's expectations of entertainment, consciousness and all around attentiveness to the needs of the concertgoer paying the premium cost of a ticket. Ultimately, Electric Forest is much more than another music festival on the circuit... It's a pioneer in an elevated category of flawless, well-excecuted large-scale musical experiences!

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