Photos by: Jack Anderson
Story by: Mitchell Treend
What The Festival closed out its sixth year under half a dim-orange moon and the sun crawling its way back over the horizon across central Oregon. Thousands of exhausted bodies lay nestled throughout the 250 pristine acres of Wolf Run Ranch, each one dreaming of the bizarre and wonderful experiences shared over the course of this 4- day Summer solstice weekend. As I walked back to camp wondering over my own magical encounters, the glow of the sun emanating from around Mt. Hood captured me in a daze.
This Festival is expertly curated, in that; it provides seemingly endless opportunity for exploration inward and outward. Over the course of my long weekend on the ranch in Dufur, Oregon, I was consistently reminded that I mustn’t cling to my preconceived plans but instead, I needed to allow myself the space to get swept up in the currents of discovery.
It cannot be overstated that What The Festival has created something special through the focus on the interactive experience of art. As the sun sets and the wild things rise, The Illuminated Forest opens its portals for attendees to spend a little time getting lost in playful, thought-provoking installations and live discussions.
Each creation challenges perceptions and brings about some opportunity for a little paradigm shuffling. They also provide some much-needed opportunities to relax and break away from the hefty cast of talented performers rocking top-tier parties across 8 stages at almost all hours. That being said, the focus on a multi-dimensional experience gives this event the unique quality it needs to solidify its place as a foundational platform for supporting the local creative community. Nothing validates this more than the moments spent bonding with strangers over the weird delights encapsulated in these projects. It might even be easy to spend all your time roaming the woods in search of everything that is has to offer, but it was also hard to tear myself away from the torrent of amazing music calling out all around me.
The lineup featured some highly acclaimed acts like Cut-Copy, Gramatik, ZHU, and Bakermat. This crew alone could usually draw huge crowds almost anywhere in the world. At What The Festival however, the playing field is completely level. It seemed like most of the local talent drew crowds as prolific as any other artist performing over the weekend, which made it impossible to choose where to go and what to see at any given moment. To me this was one of the most rewarding aspects of the festival. I never felt the need to clamor to a certain stage at the risk of missing a headliner, instead I settled in to the comfort of wandering into unknown territory, discovering the rising talents of future stars.
This led me to discover a few gems like Barisone, Chris Bower, Chrome Wolves, Eastghost, High Step Society, Laura Lynn, Matt Wax, Onhell, Pressha, PRSN, Quarry, Spekt1, and Tiger Fresh. Some other top sets of the weekend include, Barclay Crenshaw, Kozmo, VNDMG, Pacific Patterns, Big Wild, Classix, Brasstracks, edIT, Falcons, Subduktion, Fort Knox Five, Funk Hunters, Octaban, ill.Gates, Mad Zach, NastyNasty, OTT, Reva Devito, Rezz, Stylust Beats, The Last Artful Dodgr, The Russ Liquid Test, and Aztek.
I think anyone in attendance would agree that this is something everyone should have the chance to experience once in their lives. What The Festival has found a way to balance all of the most important aspects of a community gathering together without sacrificing the integrity of the art that supports it. Today, creativity is more essential that ever. It is refreshing and inspiring to know that there are communities of people like those building and supporting What The Festival to rely on for a reminder of this.
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