Article By: Meghan Chancy Ledington
Photos By: B.Hockensmith Photography (www.facebook.com/bhockensmithphotography)
Electric Forest Music Festival opened up on June 30th with the makings of a hippie mud party. Set at the beautifully wooded Double JJ Ranch near Lake Michigan, it seemed like the rain on the first day would never end. Toubab Krewe was jamming away as the evening’s lightning storm rolled in, leaving the crowd to decide whether to escape the rain or to embrace the natural shower that we would all be needing soon. The artists stopped on most stages as the storm intensified, leaving fans to seek refuge under tents or run back to their camp. Due to lightning, music on most stages was stopped after 9:30 PM.
One stage, nestled inside a two-story barn (the Wagon Wheel) was able to continue as scheduled with acts like Panic Bomber and Keys N Krates, who both brought the beats to the soaking wet crowd still eager to dance. To get to this cozy building facing the beach and the swampy, lily pad covered pond, we headed down a newly muddy trail near the general entrance to the venue. This trail would only worsen as the weekend progressed, becoming a horribly smelling pond of its own that would claim many a flip-flop. A skinny concrete ledge beside an unused building was the slower yet drier path chosen by many to get to the late-night hangout spot by the pond. Luckily, the rain subsided after Friday morning giving Sherwood Forest and walking paths to other stages a chance to clear up.
Many wondered if the storm would let up and if the schedule would resume with all the artists still performing in order, regardless of their new starting time. Luckily, an hour later the all-clear was given to resume the first night’s lineup of music, and fans soon maneuvered through the newly formed puddles and mud pits towards the heavy bass thumping from the Ranch Arena as Excision started up on the main stage.
Dropping bass line after bass line with only a few seconds of uptempo melodic breaks in-between, Excision quickly lifted the dampened mood back to party level. The enthusiasm from the rain-drenched crowd of dubstep-lovers was apparent from the heavy stomping of mud and raging spray of glow sticks being thrown near the stage. Further back, the loose sea of dancers with their light-up toy of choice twirled their poi, hula-hoops, gloves, and light ropes with the same intensity as the decibels that rained down upon them from the speakers.
Over in Sherwood Court, through the majestic forest full of surprises—glowing artwork, hammocks, light-up pyramids, spheres and tepees playing electronic sounds, canopies of every abstract design, Zen rock gardens, color-changing lights—Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe had begun their own dance party. The field full of sparkly, glowing hula-hoopers was a fantastic sight as the band created the feeling of being in our own tiny universe full of a shared spiraling hope for having the best weekend ever among these celebrated fixtures of nature.
Back in the Wagon Wheel, Emancipator produced his seamless melodies and groovy beats with live violin accompaniment. The fans inside tore off their layers as the mercury steadily rose, easily eclipsing the 60-degree temperatures outside. Swaying together to the uplifting sounds, the audience smiled as the friendly vibes circulated the packed cabin, ushering in new friendships and shared memories of Emancipator sets past and present.
Pretty Lights Music recording artist Michal Menert took the stage less than ten minutes after Emancipator stepped off. His fiery personality came across intensely as he raised his hands toward us, jumped up and threw his arms down as he dropped his first beat. The small crowd cheered and raised their arms in unison as more fans rushed in both doors to fill up the room. Michal thrived off the energy from this intimate setting and couldn’t help but smile and dance right along with his fans. Before his one-of-a-kind remix of "Yes I’m Ready" by Barbara Mason, he asked an usual question, “Who here has ever been in love?” and we all cheered in response, raising our arms, ready to move in unison as the crowd favorite began. Thursday night in the Wagon Wheel was full of unforgettable feel-good vibes from two of the most exciting up-and-comers in electronic music.
Later in the night, Kaskade enthralled onlookers with a huge LED screen pulsing abstract designs behind his booth as the vocalized stylings of his club trance songs like “I Remember” pulled the crowd up onto their feet. A masked fan with a glow stick skeleton taped to his black clothes danced around us as LED poi spinners grabbed our attention away from Kaskade, who swayed on stage.
Lotus closed out the first night of Electric Forest in Sherwood Court with a rager of a show that ended at 2 AM. The animated and colorful audience danced hard and fast, not wanting the night to end now that the rain had faded. They cheered during the final song when all the sound cut out except for the bass and drums, which only prompted Lotus to show us what they could do with what they had. The buzzing group of music lovers chanted “one more song” until it was clear the night had come to a close as white lights came on from the stage. Walking through the magical Sherwood Forest as a mass mob of adrenaline-pumped equals, the anticipation and excitement for the next three days was nearly tangible.
Rothbury is a prime locale for a festival of less than twenty thousand, with friendly staff and security who appear just as happy to be a part of this epic event as anyone, artistic and open minds from every walk of life ready to enjoy all that music has to offer, and every surprise that nature can bring.
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