Electric Forest: Thursday 6.27.13

Double JJ Resort
Rothbury, MI

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis

The sprinklers came on in the darkness with the first signs of the morning's light. The closing of the trunk on our Jeep signified the beginning of a long journey that would take us from Denver, CO, across the country to Electric Forest in Rothbury, MI. From Electric Forest we would head up the serene west coast of Michigan, across the Mackinaw Bridge to Lake Superior, before starting our long return trip across Michigan's Upper Penninsula, through Wisconsin, then back home. 3,000 miles sounded like a lot of driving and indeed it was. From Colorado to Michigan we went, arriving late that night at a Comfort Inn in Muskegon, a mere stones throw to Rothbury. One last shower and a warm breakfast the next morning was followed by a short trip, a reasonably efficient line and eventual access to the grounds of the famed Double JJ Resort! With a little negotiation, a prime camping spot was secured for the weekend. A short set up at the corner of Forest St. and Maple St. was followed by an interview with MLive and our weekend was underway.

The campgrounds filled in quickly, with a continuous line of cars flowing like a mountain river after the melt, though the melt had long passed in the hot, humid heat of the Great Lake region of the country. Out front of the main gates to the concert venue, anticipation built for the "grand" opening. Folks chanted and tossed around notions of what would be seen in this year's Sherwood Forest. With the opening of the gates came an influx of energy and a scattering of festival goers in all directions. Just inside the main gates sat a young man holding a sign on a pole that had a question mark and read "info." He began fielding questions immediately and in an attempt to test his knowledge, I inquired about the name of the stage in which we were standing directly in front of. He replied with "I don't know." I smiled at the irony.

There was a very clear Michigan State Trooper presence, which I hoped would play out as the Rothburys did, with mild amusement and little to no aggressive action. Through the vending area we went, past the Ranch Arena, which would act as the festival's main stage, to the forest. The first sight of the forest halted me in my tracks. I took a deep breath and proceeded like a child approaching a playground. We passed under a rustic sign kept company by metal sculpted owls that read "Sherwood Forest," as the fun began. Characters in elaborate costumes popped out from behind trees and slithered up from places unseen. Fog from a fog machine crept across the main path through the forest, creating a very interesting silhouetting of trees, people and structures. In the distance a saloon appeared. Through the swinging doors we went back in time to an all too familiar western movie style set. Even before we approached and after we departed, the folks in place remained in character. We walked past what could best be described as a "giving tree," where one could take and/or leave a random trinket, to another almost gypsy camp looking old west stop. A man stood inside singing very dated material and he strummed on his guitar. As we watched "reality" unfold, I overheard a conversation behind me about trading gold for antiques. I turned around to see two actors/characters engaged in an in depth conversation that played a small part of a much bigger experience.

Back on the main path, bewildered eyes bounced back and forth in response to an all out sensory assault. Past the "gardens" of well placed natural material we went, stopping at the sign of a multi-story tree house/temple. Giggles could be heard from inside, eluding to harmless non-sense that may be better left unsought. Through a section of well manicured trees came the view of something big. A structure in the middle of the forest that represented what could best be described as the "town square." On elevated platforms, decorated in an Asian style theme appeared one of the most elaborate setups, and what would become our go to bar for the weekend, "The Observatory." To my absolute delight, the festival had one of my favorite beers on draft, Bell's Two-Hearted, with a backup choice of Oberon! Yellow flags waived in the wind, contrasting the bright red of the detailed structure. From "The Observatory," we made our way out of the woods into view of the Sherwood Court stage. From the field we could see all three entrances to the far side of Sherwood Forest. Each one looked like a portal into a mythical world. We opted with the only path we had yet to explore through the woods past the Forest Stage.

On the stage opposite to "The Observatory," we caught the first music of our weekend in the form of Dixon's Violin. The solo looping project was beautiful and the timing in conjunction with an almost classical approach was masterful. On the Ranch Arena stage, Pimps of Joytime battled sound issues as the system settled its kinks. That being said, their set was very enjoyable, energetic and danceable. Back at the Forest Stage, Cosby Sweater output a tasteful mix of instrumental electronic music, not that different from what Big Gigantic is doing. Cosby Sweater's "ace in the hole" was Umphrey's McGee's Joel Cummins', who from what I could tell, added very little to the mix. It was easy to get distracted by the forest itself, as a form of entertainment beyond the music. We wandered around aimlessly as darkness fell. As it did, things began to get weird. At the far end of the forest a competition of sorts played out like a battle under a dome. This battle involved dancing as opposed to fighting, with a crowd gathering and offering belligerent support.

On the Tripolee stage, Ana Sia offered up an attempt at tasteful world beats that felt forced and seemed to lack a clear resolve. Following Ana Sia on the Tripolee stage was Colorado's own, Michal Menert. Michal's output drew a decent crowd and with the support of A.C. Lao on drums, what we saw of the set, we really enjoyed. It seemed as if Michal was enjoying his set as well, as he swigged vodka and danced his ass off. Back in the woods, previously wide eyes were even wider as the night unfolded like a dream. The reality of the woods was that they resembled no reality that people had ever scene. As we made our way through the thick of the woods, a discoball shot light in all directions, and then the lasers shot through the trees. EOTO did nothing to keep our attention, leading us to end up at Orchard Lounge on the Forest Stage. The solid grooves and conscious sampling made for a very directional and cohesive party that concluded just past midnight. At that point it may as well have been noon, as many were just getting started.

Lotus' Setlist: What Did I Do Wrong, Tip of the Tongue, Neon Tubes, Bush Pilot, Greet the Mind, Ashcon, Gilded Age, L'immeuble > Spiritualize, Umbilical Moonrise, 128

Our final set of the evening/morning was Lotus on the Sherwood court stage. The set was action packed with songs from their past through to some of their most recent material, all performed with the flawless stylings of a seasoned juggernaut. Flags flew as far as the eye could see across the sea of people. Glow sticks, glow toys and inflatable animals buzzed throughout the space above the packed court. The killer set was accompanied by fantastic lights and visuals for what we viewed as the evening's "headliner." Upon the conclusion of the set, we stumbled once more back through the forest, past the Ranch Arena, through the vending, out of the main gates, into the campgrounds. Our bodies ached from all of the walking and dancing... And this was only night one.

Carly's Photo Gallery



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