ELECTRIC FOREST 2013
DOUBLE JJ RANCH
By: Casey Jones
Ever since 2008 one place has been synonymous with magical energy, incredible music and vibes that are simply out of this world: Rothbury, Michigan. (But more specifically, Double JJ Ranch.) To say that Rothbury (the original festival hosted here from 2008-2009) was legendary is to say that a Blue Whale is a majestic sea-dwelling mammal. It’s a HUGE understatement. Those 2 years featured headlining performances from The Dead, Dave Matthews Band, Bob Dylan & His Band, Widespread Panic, and The String Cheese Incident. There were also the late night jam sessions from STS9, The Disco Biscuits and Umphrey’s McGee, plus performances from Bassnectar, Pretty Lights and Diplo when you had to squint to read their names on the lineup poster.
The other thing everyone remembers about Rothbury was a certain forest. Nestled right in the middle of the festival grounds, Sherwood Forest was a mystical realm unlike anything you’d ever seen. Festival goers would get lost in the LED trees, mind-bending art installations, and ogling the cavalcade of characters roaming the trees. If there wasn’t any music you wanted to see you could always kill a few hours, or the whole night, inside Sherwood Forest.
After attempting to jump one too many financial, event permit, and artist hurdles, festival promoters Madison House and AEG Live had to cancel Rothbury in 2010 much to the broken-hearted dismay of many. But on Valentine’s Day 2011, Madison House announced that it had partnered up with Insomniac Events and that a new festival called Electric Forest would be taking place from June 30 – July 3. When the lineup was released 2 weeks later it was the clear that this festival would be taking a clear step toward electronic music but that it would still maintain those Rothbury roots by having The String Cheese Incident headline 3 nights and bringing back the legendary mythical Sherwood Forest.
After a successful first year and an even bigger turnout in 2012, Electric Forest is taking huge steps in 2013 to cement itself as one of the top-notch music festivals in North America. Sherwood Forest is getting upgraded in size and that only means more room for awesome art, beautiful people and, most importantly, unpredictable tomfoolery! There are sure to be an endless amount of surprises awaiting festival goers inside. Some of the new and featured art installations can only be described as next level. The Cerebrum of Electric Forest will be suspended in the air and scaled to replicate a polygon-style brain. According to the festival’s website, “Every time you come across the brain and a visual show will be displayed to give festival goers a chance to “perceive themselves as a part of the Electric Forest macrocosm.” Another installation that sounds awesome is the Electric Garden. Described on the festival’s website as “…an interactive, electronic, touch-sensitive garden that glows brightly upon human touch. This electroluminescent field of over 40 giant glowing flower sculptures will be situated deep in the Forest for festival-goers to play, touch, engage, and relax.” Now if that doesn’t sound cool to you then you clearly don’t have any sort of imagination. Those are only just 2 of the many art installations you can expect to see in the forest this year.
This year’s lineup is without question the biggest in the short history of Electric Forest, once again headlined by 3 full shows (that’s 6 sets) from The String Cheese Incident. Other top names on the bill include Pretty Lights, Passion Pit, Empire of the Sun, Knife Party, Above & Beyond and Dispatch. With such a sonically diverse lineup it’s hard, and almost impossible, to narrow down the artists we want to see most but one thing’s for sure, it will be a whole lot of fun. Here’s Ray John’s list of the ten acts we’re most excited about seeing on the Double JJ Ranch this year…
1. THE STRING CHEESE INCIDENT
Anyone in The Know will tell you, Electric Forest is String Cheese’s festival. Or is it? With rumors running rampant that this could be their last year at the forest, we can expect to see an incredible 3 shows from Cheese. Not they wouldn’t be incredible anyway as SCI is considered by many to be the best jam band around right now. With 3 nights to play, you can be sure to hear some awesome covers as well. That “Could You Be Loved” cover last year with Dominic Lalli from Big Gigantic on saxophone, was the dictionary picture next to “on point.” Add in the number of amazing musicians/friends of the band who will also be there and there’s an endless number of sit-in combinations that could occur. Whether it’s their last year or not, expect these shows to be nothing short of some cheesy goodness!
2. EMPIRE OF THE SUN
Along with Passion Pit, Yeasayer and Grimes, Empire of the Sun lead an injection of indie electronic into this year’s lineup. Coming from the land down under, Empire of the Sun are only comprised of Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore in the studio but feature a full band for their live performances. They’ve played very few times in the U.S. and are also known for wearing extravagant costumes on stage, adding to their Freak Kingdom mystique. We’re looking forward to hearing tracks from their upcoming sophomore album, Ice on the Dune, and their 2008 classic, Walking on a Dream.
3. GRIZMATIK with SPECIAL GUESTS
At last year’s Electric Forest, Gramatik & Griz joined forces to play a secret set in Sherwood Forest along with Big Gigantic. It was one of the most talked about moments of the entire weekend. Having only played a handful of shows together under the GrizMatik moniker, Gramatik & Griz will add another one to the list with a performance that’s billed as “with Special Guests”. Speculation will run rampant all the way up until they take the stage as the possibility of surprises is endless. Even though Big Gigantic isn’t at the festival, don’t be surprised if Dominic Lalli makes an appearance for some dueling saxophone action with Griz while Gramatik lays down that funky, guitar driven, soul-filled electronic.
The Lebron James of Electronic music? Maybe not, but if you take the phrase ‘fresh out of high school and straight into the pros’ and apply it to electronic music, you’d be talking about Madeon. At the time of this writing, Madeon is only 18 years old. EIGHTEEN. YEARS. OLD. The kid makes music that is well beyond his age and his composure on stage reflects his maturity. Add the fact that he’s from France and it all kind of makes sense, seeing as France is home to a few other awesome artists: Justice, Air, Phoenix, M83 and Daft Punk. It doesn’t matter who you ask, that is good company.
For those who want to jam, we suggest you go here. Comprised of an all-star lineup, Suckerpunch features Marc Brownstein & Aron Magner of The Disco Biscuits, Jamie Shields of The New Deal and Mike Greenfield of Lotus. Yeah. They first got together in 2003 and only played a handful of shows then took a short break for 9 years. (side note: The original lineup also featured Zach Velmer of STS9 on drums. Are you kidding me?!) The band got back together in 2012 but has only played a few shows here and there. With the lack of big name jam bands on the lineup (aside from String Cheese), expect Suckerpunch to scratch that jam-infested itch and put on a dope performance.
6. DANNY BROWN
The biggest rapper on this year’s lineup is Danny Brown. He’s from Detroit, is missing one front tooth (the other one is chipped), he rocks a wacky haircut, and doesn’t give a damn what you think. The dude can also spit some mad raps that will you make laugh, cringe, and say “oh my god” all in the span of 3 minutes. His performances are known to get a little ratchet and just about anything can happen. And I mean that literally. At a recent show in Minneapolis, a woman came on stage, pulled down Danny Brown’s pants and proceeded to give the rapper oral sex. With a place that can get as weird as Electric Forest and a rapper that can get as wild as Danny Brown, expect his performance to be interesting.
7. JEFF AUSTIN & FRIENDS
Though this year’s lineup boasts some impressive bluegrass with Railroad Earth and Greensky Bluegrass, there’s no Yonder Mountain String Band. Not to fret! Jeff Austin will be performing and he’s bringing some pretty talented friends along with. The performance will feature Eric Krasno from Soulive & Lettuce, Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass, Cody Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars and heralded bassist Eric Thorin. If you’re a fan of bluegrass, newgrass and even jam, this a show you will be kicking yourself over if you miss it.
If you haven’t seen an Eskmo show before then please do yourself a favor and see him at Electric Forest. The sounds he creates can only be described as alien, really unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. His performances are even better as he loops live vocals performed by him into the song while improvising with everything from soda cans to snow shovels. It is a performance that’s truly something different and special. Expect minds to be altered and surely blown, hopefully during a very late set.
9. PIGS ON THE WING
While cover bands aren’t something you’d generally get excited about seeing at a festival, Pigs on the Wing is definitely an exception. Headlined by David Murphy from STS9 on bass, the Pink Floyd cover band will be sure to turn some heads and melt some faces. Can you imagine wandering around during the late night hours only to have your ears caught by the sound of Comfortably Numb coming from deep inside Sherwood Forest? Hey Electric Forest, that sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? Wherever Pigs on the Wing is playing, that’s where you’ll want to be.
10. COSBY SWEATER
2012 was a big year for Cosby Sweater, who virtually came out of nowhere. Hailing from Indianapolis, IN, Cosby Sweater blends together elements of electronic with live drums, saxophone and keyboard. While normally Nicholas Gerlach would be pulling double duty on sax and the keys, Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s McGee will be holding it down on keyboard. Cosby Sweater can do it all too as they have great originals, sick remixes and dope covers to keep your rump shaking from start to finish. Maybe Jamie Shields will even join them for “VL Tone”, fingers crossed!
PRETTY LIGHTS: With his first new album since 2009 finally on the horizon and a legion of old-school fans hoping it will be the Pretty Lights they fell in love with, it will be interesting to see how he incorporates the new material into his set.
HEADHUNTERZ: Critically acclaimed as one of the best, pure DJs in the world, Headhunterz will be bringing his hardstyle to the forest for the first time in what’s sure to be a rowdy set.
FEMI KUTI & THE POSITIVE FORCE: Afrobeat and Jazz legend Femi Kuti brings his band, The Positive Force, to the forest for a performance that should not be missed by anyone who appreciates great musicianship.
RUSS LIQUID: Virtuoso instrumentalist and producer Russ Liquid brings his trumpet-infused electronic beats to the forest for a set that will be perfect for anybody looking for that middle ground between funk, chill and weird.
THE FLOOZIES: The Floozies have been turning heads with their fresh take on dubstep, dropping some fresh, nasty beats that are accompanied live by guitar and drums. Expect this duo from Kansas to put on a fun, high energy show.
THRIFTWORKS: For anybody who likes to feel like they’re floating on a cloud while simultaneously pimp walking through a field, you’re going to want to check out Thriftworks.
Tickets for Electric Forest are still available but don’t be surprised to see them sell out as the festival nears. With new installations, more artists and a bigger Sherwood Forest, Electric Forest 2013 is going to go down as one of those stories-you-tell-your-grandkids. If you’ve never been, you need to stop slacking and get yourself to Rothbury, MI. It’s going to be four days of good music, good people, good times, and good vibes. Now how can you say no to that?