For me, I was late on the bus. I missed the two original Rothbury Music Festivals, as well as the first annual Electric Forest. But after finally making the trek in 2012, I’ve now foundmyself in a recurring trip that I have a hard time believe I will ever stop.
This year marked far more excitement leading up to the festival, as it was announced for the first time ever, the Electric Forest was sold out. Wednesday (the day before the festival) served as a primary travel day for a majority of the attendees, choosing to either lodge in surrounding cities or wait through the night in line outside the festival. For my group of about 20, it was a spent in Muskegon (approximately 30 miles south of Rothbury) to ensure a good nights sleep.
Early on Thursday we awoke and began our journey into Rothbury, arriving to the festival ground at approximately 10am. Once again (for the third year in a row), I was blown away by the efficentcy of the workers and volunteers, in getting the attendees into the festival and divided amongst the several area campgrounds. In total, over 35,000 guests are divided into 23 different area campsites (not including Good Life Back 40, Village or Frontier) but it was amazing to see how quickly the workers were getting through gauntlets of cars to ensure everyone could get to their new homes and set up as quick as possible to start the party. Echoes of the United States USA Cup Game rang throughout the grounds as set up coninuted until the early afternoon, all leading up to the ever special first journey into the festival grounds.
In years past, Thursdays have been packed and provide an amazing opportunity to get around to see an insane amount of tunes and this year was no different. The smooth sounds of Kaytranada greeted guests entering via the main venue entrance at the Tripolee stage as a majority of those heading in early seemed to be making the trek to the Ranch Arena for Cherub. I’ve been fortunate to watch these guys continue to grow as a duo since August of 2012 and it was truly something special to see a massive crowd getting down to a combination of older tunes and new jams off their new major label release “Year of the Caprise.” Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber of Cherub were quick to mention to the large crowd how extrememly grateful they were to be performing in front of such a crowd, as the two went on a little late due to travel issues. At one point during the show, Kelley exclaimed how happy he was to be playing and even that the duo wasn’t sure if they would be making their set time to open one of the festivals main stages.
After Cherub, I found myself taking my first trek into the Sherwood Forest and just from the initial walk in during the afternoon, I could tell that once again, this year was going to be just as amazing as in the past. The artistry was once again on point, as landmarks from years past how now become staples inside the forest. Both The Observatory and the Forest stage lend different views of the forest, as the Observatory gives you more of a bar vibe while the forest stage gives you a more shaded and secluded view. We bounced around inside Sherwood Forest, catching some of Late Night Radio at the Observatory, as well as Jon Wayne and The Pain at the Forest Stage. With a big night of music on hand, it was back to the campsite to take in some rest and relaxation before a night of EOTO and Umphrey’s McGee.
Jason Hann and Michael Travis have continued to grow as a duo and shined on Thursday night at Sherwood Court when EOTO played to a packed field of festival goers. But everyone could tell that the vibe back on Sherwood Court was quickly turning rockier and gearing up for Umphrey’s. While some of the crowd quickly turned back into the forest to start the trek to see The Glitch Mob, Umph got to rocking, opening their first night with a barrage of tracks off their most recent release “Similar Skin.” The six-piece outfit conintue to rock deep into the night, including a crowd favorite mash-up of MGMT’s “Kids” and Nirvana’s “Come as you Are,” respectively named “Come as your Kids.” It was the first time in 84 shows (last time played 8/29/13) that Umphrey’s jammed their mashup that debuted at Halloween 2011.
Once again, Thursday was quite the kickoff for the festival.
Friday came and once again was no shortage on good tunes, as right away, attendees were faced with a challenge of who to see come 3:30pm: Anders Osborne, The Revivalists or Lindsay Lowend. You could tell the direction this choice went with a majority of the crowd once arriving to the front gates and nearing Tripolee, as producer/DJ Lindsay Lowend was playing to a full crowd in the mid-afternoon. Luminox continued on Tripolee until the early evening while a bevy of artists including but not limited to Chrome Sparks, Zoogma, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Pegboard Nerds.
Now, if you thought that Friday during the day was packed with music, Friday night most likely proved to be more of the same story. Attendees had to choose between the first of three nights of the String Cheese Incident, the first of two nights of STS9, 12th Planet and/or Bro Safari (four headliner shows in their own respects). Personally, I’m a cheese head and fell in love with the Colorado based group “The String Cheese Incident” in 2012 when attending this very festival; Friday even marked my 20th Incident in just two years.
Friday’s incident proved to be quite spacey at times but also really upbeat and dance heavy as well. The highlight for a majority of people seemed to be one of a few songs: A new Keith Moseley track “Sweet Spot” which debuted recently at Wakarusa, A cover of Chromeo’s “Bonafied Lovin’” which was sandwhiched between the SCI groover “Rosie,” or The sent end of Desert Dawn which segued into an encore of the dub-heavy frack “Rivertrance.” As Cheese ended, we began an intense trek (eerily similar to the 2012 trek through the forest of Moo’ing and other farm animals from SCI>STS9) back to Sherwood Court for our second of two nights of Umphrey’s. UM once again showed how on-point the play and tone is with an amazing two hour set that was played infront of quite the small crowd compared to the night before. Highlights from the second of two Umph shows include a wicked Wizard Burial Ground > Den but more impressively a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time,” which was sandwiched between the UM original “Bridgeless” during the band’s encore.
Saturday gave attendees another big decision to make between seeing Xavier Rudd or the Floozies jamming the festivals two biggest stages. This then gave way to another important decision: Stephen Ragga Marley and Schoolboy Q. I was especially blown-away by the energy that not only the crowd, but also Schoolboy Q had during his hot and sunny early evening set…all gearing up to an Incident that the entire community was looking forward to. String Cheese kicked off their night with a set of recurring originals and a cover before taking on the tracks “Outside Inside” and a Nintendo based 8-bit visual explosion of Valley of the Jig.
The Lauryn Hill Incident kicked off after the explosive fireworks spectacle of Valley of the Jig with the first of eight first time played covers; a funky version of Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life.” The group then transitioned into covers of Bob Marley’s: Master Blaster (Jammin’), Don’t Rock My Boat and Is This Love (first time played since 3/20/2003), as well as a cover of The Beatles classic “Something.” The Lauryn Hill Incident ended with a run of The Fugees classics “Fu-Gee-La,” “Killing Me Softly” and “Ready or Not” before ending with an encore of another Marley track and SCI recurring track “Could You Be Loved.” Overall, the Ms. Lauryn Hill Incident was one to remember.
After Cheese, it was another late-night stroll through the illuminated forest for what would be my first time seeing STS9 with their new bassist Alana Rocklin. Easy to say, TRIBE IS BACK. The band was on point on Saturday night as rain sprinkles found their way in and out of the late night set. STS9 came out jamming with rotational tracks: Kakuki, Evasive Maneuvers, GLOgli and Move My Peeps before throwing down on the track EHM. After playing Scheme Reprise, Grow and When the Dust Settles, the five-piece pulled out their first edition of “Ramone & Emiglio” in 2014 before ending their set with a new track that has been a staple with the new lineup “World Go Round.”
All of a sudden, Sunday was amongst us and approximately 35,000 people were trying to find the energy to rally for what would be the festivals last day. As a DJ myself, I was excited and very satisfied with my first times seeing: Trippy Turtle, Kygo and What So Not. All three offered different vibes to each of their sets, as Kygo’s emotional barrage of tracks was perfectly set on the Forest Stage, while Trippy Turtle and What So Not entertained crowds at Tripolee.
With a scheduled four-plus hours of String Cheese Incident on Sunday night, it was the most excited I’ve been going into an Incident. Set one included hard hitting versions of Yo Se and Betray the Dark, as well as a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” and an emotional cover of “Just Passin’ Through” sang by Billy Nershi. Set two included more Cheese rotational bangers and even included a cover of the song “Spirits in the Material World” (The Police). The double-encore by the band lasted well over 45 minutes and included covers of “Zombie” (Fela Kuti) and “Crosseyed and Painless” (The Talking Heads) sandwiched between the reggae-vibed “Rollver.” SCI then double encored with the first “Good Times Around the Bend” since the Greek Theater on 7/15/2012.
We trekked back to the campsite and started loading up our cars to the sounds of Moby as the weather report finally showed heavy rain coming into the area at about 2-3am. After quite the round of thunderstorms into the early AM, everyone started heading out and beginning their trek home from another amazing year of the Electric Forest.
This festival has been the center of controversy, including whether or not it will take place in the years to come. I can easily say after being fortune to visit festival after festival after festival…EFF continues to take the cake. The vibes are unreal and for the most part, you won’t find yourself running into kids who cannot control themselves. And where there are folks running around out of control, its truly one of the festivals I’ve seen where people are willing to take time out of what their doing to try to better the festival and the people around them.
Until next time, take care of yourself and those people around you … and Ray John.