Article By: Meghan Chancy Ledington
Photos By: B.Hockensmith Photography (www.facebook.com/bhockensmithphotography) and Matt Thomas
The anticipation was evident for the big names on the lineup to hit the stage on the second day at Electric Forest Music Festival in Rothbury, MI. Later in the evening, The String Cheese Incident was to play their first two sets of six total, and world-renowned Dutch producer Tiësto was slated to follow thirty minutes later on the main stage. By noon the rain had moved on for good. The moist ground around the Tripolee stage near the entrance to the venue was filled with yoga enthusiasts healing their muscles from the first night’s exercise. A poi workshop followed and on the Forest stage, completely surrounded by trees and low to the ground, there was storytelling with Wally Wojak though much of the audience seemed to be napping or gazing at the art constellations in the tall trees.
Stephen Marley rallied with Jamaican flags and crew at the Ranch Arena while a hula hoopers showcase entertained an audience in the forest, followed by a DJ set by KRAZ on the Forest stage. The New Deal played an inspiring set in Sherwood Court to a crowd of fans all too aware of their imminent breakup later this year—a fact made painfully evident by the conspicuous absence of bassist Dan Kurtz, who was replaced by Galactic bassist Robert Mercurio. With only a handful of shows left, drummer Darren Shearer and keyboard/synth guru Jamie Shields still made the crowd at Electric Forest feel appreciated by saying, “This has got to be the most artistically-inclined festival we’ve played all summer.” The band received cheers from the active crowd of hula hoopers, fire dancers, stilt walkers, and live painters scattered around the clearing of the Sherwood Forest. Not to be pegged in the bittersweet column, their self-described progressive breakbeat house kept the audience grooving until it was time for The String Cheese Incident to take the main stage as all other artists took a break.
Colorado’s own VibeSquaD opened his raging masquerade with his usual party favorites at the Tripolee stage as SCI began their second set. Many filtered over for a dose of Aaron Holstein’s electronic finesse: bass music textured with funky grooves and flowing melodies weaving through hard hitting beats. L.A.-based Eliot Lipp had a set added after Holstein, seemingly after the schedules were printed since every schedule had been stamped with a white sticker over the time slot. (My thoughts go out to the volunteers!) This was his second performance of the day after a surprise set during the Good Life Happy Hour in the VIP tent from 4-6 PM, which received a warm welcome. Accompanied by drummer Colby Buckler from Two Fresh, Eliot came out excited, thanking the crowd, saying, “I was here two years ago at Rothbury and that shit is amazing, it’s so good to see everybody again!” They laid down crowd favorites like “Rap Tight” featuring downtempo grooves layered with hip hop leanings and Eliot pulled off some highly technical scratching that whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
One of the world’s most popular DJs, Tiësto, is still on tour promoting his latest release Club Life Vol. 1. With his Ibiza residency at the “world’s biggest club” Privilege, he’s reached the pinnacle of the industry. His show on Friday night at Electric Forest was highly anticipated, with many fans seeing him for the first time. The crowd, eager and waiting, some not having left after SCI finished, held thousands of glow sticks, spirit sticks, hoops, and homemade festival toys at the ready. They whooped and hollered for their beloved trance DJ, who rarely plays in America (but is about to embark on a Fall college tour with Porter Robinson), to bring them the universal dance party they desired. Tiësto didn’t disappoint. He played remixes of the hottest current songs, like Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Swedish House Mafia’s “Save the World Tonight.” During his trance hits, he built us up with the repetitive uplifting melodies then faded out the rhythm, leaving us in almost silence, before bringing down the bass lines hard causing an uproar of clapping, yelling, and dancing. For a moment, we were transported beyond our shores by the European dance god.
It was announced at the last minute through Electric Forest’s Facebook page that Bonobo’s set had been cancelled, and Dieselboy was taking over that spot on the Tripolee stage. Many fans, and some personal friends of mine, were very disappointed that British musician and DJ Simon Green would not be making an appearance at the festival due to unforeseen circumstances. With a lineup that big and diverse, though, it’s hard to stay bummed for long.
As Tiësto’s set ended, NYC-based modern electronic group Break Science began at Sherwood Court. As the crowd left the Ranch Arena and maneuvered through the mud together on the narrow fenced path into the Sherwood Forest, Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee dropped heavy bass lines that rumbled through the woods and caused eruptions of cheers to carry forward. The funky, soulful sound they created in the night kept our feet moving while giving us the hip-hop and reggae inspirations to keep our minds full. We responded with cheers of agreement as they said, “This is, like, the best show of our lives right now! Thank you so much. It feels so good to be here.” Truly.
Austin’s Lance Herbstrong, started their set less than an hour after arriving on site, telling the crowd they hadn’t unpacked their car yet but were hoping that their party favors were kicking in just as ours were. DJs Kamal Soliman and Bill Sarver and their live band of Peter DiStefano (Porno for Pyros) and Ricky Gonzalez were pumped to get the last party of the night started in the Wagon Wheel at 3:30 AM. Throngs of wide-eyed electro-lovers, ready to dance until the venue closed, came rushing in, overflowing the building and bringing the dance floor to the beach thanks to the speakers outside. Herbstrong’s covers blew fans away, including “Cocaine,” “Come Together,” “Kill a Man,” and “Electric Avenue,” which they said was a special version just for us. Friday night ended with smiles, cheers, and high fives all around as many of us mingled and reflected on the night’s highlights until security shooed us to the exits.
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