The first weekend of the seventh annual Electric Forest Festival was more than I could have ever hoped for. Throughout the weekend we were faced with some rain, but nothing could have put a damper on the spirits of festival goers, who spent the weekend exploring nature, bonding with each other and celebrating incredible music.
Weekend one lasted four days and attracted a massive crowd of over 40,000 attendees from all over the world. Sets by The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, ODESZA, Dillon Francis, Above & Beyond, Big Gigantic, Eoto, Oliver Heldens, Claude VonStroke, Matoma, AC Slater, Space Jesus, Liquid Stranger, Rezz, My Morning Jacket, Nero (live), A-Trak, and others provided the soundtrack to the festivities.
It’s hard to sum up what makes Electric Forest so unique, but I’ll give you a run-down of what I considered to be the musical highlights of the weekend. Below is an overview of some of the sets that blew me away, what I think makes the Electric Forest so magical and more.
It’s to be expected that Electric Forest will unveil a killer lineup every year. What made 2017 really special was that this year many of the performers were placed on both weekends, instead of just one. So if you didn’t have time to catch them the first time around, you have another shot! Throughout the weekend I got to enjoy some of the DJs that I already know and love as well as getting to discover some new ones.
Thursday’s lineup was a nice way to ease into the weekend. For the first couple of hours I was happy to just wander around the festival grounds and get a lay of the land. I stopped here and there to catch a few minutes of different people’s sets before stumbling upon Corrupt, who was playing at the Forest Stage. His set was filled with upbeat remixes of chart-topping hits, and before I knew it, I had watched his set for a whole hour. Afterwards, I made my way to Ranch Arena for Above & Beyond. The duo seemed to control the weather as they went through their set. “Sun and Moon” played and the crowd embraced the rain while the duo sang “it’s raining, it’s pouring”. I ended the night at Tripolee with Claude VonStroke’s closing set to the BIRDHOUSE curated event.
At most camping festivals, I’m used to being woken up early in the morning by the heat created by the sun beating down on my tent. So it was quite a surprise when on Friday I was woken up by loud thunder and drops of water leaking through my tent ceiling. The weather delayed entry for the day, but it was worth the wait because the festival grounds crew did a wonderful job of drying up dangerous muddy areas. This cleanup continued throughout the weekend, as there were still some mud puddles near the stages. I spent a lot of time at the Sherwood Court on Friday, and got to see Jai Wolf and Troyboi. A fellow creative festival patron thought to bring a rainbow parachute toy and people had a lot of fun mingling and dancing under it throughout Troyboi’s set. ODESZA, who was the most liked and scheduled artist on the Electric Forest app, played at Ranch Arena. I’ve seen ODESZA many times, but they still manage to amaze me each time. Recently they dropped their new album “A Moment Apart”, so this set was filled with new material along with the crowd favorites that everyone could sing along to. After ODESZA I rushed over to Tripolee to catch Nero’s live set. Nero holds a special place in my heart because they were the first EDM concert I saw when I was just fifteen years old.
If I had a to pick a favorite day, it was probably Saturday. The weather was perfect, I was still (somehow) full of energy, and felt ready to continue dancing and exploring. I felt like there was never a dull moment on Saturday -probably due to the excitement in the air for the upcoming Bassnectar set. Most of my day was spent at the Tripolee stage, starting with AC Slater, who played a remarkable set that everyone was shuffling too. Saturday was also my favorite because I saw two groups that I had never considered seeing before. Ganja White Night was followed by Liquid Stranger at Tripolee. I had heard of both groups before but never got a chance to see them play a live set. I’m so grateful to my friends for bringing me to these two sets because they were amazing and I’m definitely planning on seeing them again soon. Both Ganja White Night and Liquid Stranger offered incredible visuals during their sets, keeping me and the rest of the crowd utterly mesmerized. Rezz, who is a favorite of mine because of her unique sound, played afterward at Tripolee and as expected, she killed it. Then it was on to the main event, Bassnectar. Whenever I passed by Ranch Arena that day, I caught sight of bassheads camped out for the perfect spot to see Nectar. Even though ODESZA was the most scheduled act on the Electric Forest app, Bassnectar drew the largest crowd without a doubt. I’m not a Basshead myself, but anytime Lorin plays I’m there. You can tell that there is something special between Lorin and the Forest Family, and I think that’s why his Electric Forest set was one of the best I’ve seen him ever play. The night ended back at Tripolee with Oliver Heldens. His upbeat and elastic sound was the perfect feel-good music to bring my favorite day in the Forest to a close.
Getting ready for the last day was bittersweet. I was excited because one of my favorite DJs would be playing that day but bummed out that it would also be my last night in the forest. I spent most of the day wandering from stage to stage and exploring the forest one last time. I saw Matoma’s set at Sherwood Court, which was filled with his tropical remixes of throwbacks. The main event, for me, was Dillon Francis. I’ve been a fan of his since he started mixing, and spent the whole weekend hyping him up to my festival crew. Luckily, his set went far above and beyond the hype. Dillon’s set was a party all on its own with plenty of people holding Gerald totems (Dillon’s piñata sidekick). He blended his new tracks with throwbacks from his early work, all to the backdrop of his hilarious visuals, pyrotechnics, and fireworks. Big Gigantic, who is a forest favorite, closed out Sherwood Court Sunday night with a carefree set that no one wanted to end. At the end of the night, my friends and I retreated to the forest one last time and savored our final taste of Electric Forest magic.
Electric Forest prides itself on being environmentally conscious, and they make a big effort to involve those who attend. The Electricology program is well publicized and I saw many people taking part in it. The program is based on a fun “ecopoint” system, and there are many ways to collect points. You can even trade them in for prizes like eno hammocks, water packs, t-shirts, posters, and more. Protip: once you collect enough eco points, you can enter for a chance to win Electric Forest tickets for life!
PRIIIIZE CART!!! I will probably never get the Prize Cart tune out of my head, but I’m not complaining. Whenever a stage closed for the night, a prize cart was a familiar sight. While their silly song plays, carts pass out trash bags that people can then use to pick up festival litter. The Prize Cart works like a mobile Electricology store, allowing you to earn eco points or Forest swag while protecting the environment.
I am a big foodie, and one attraction I always make time for is the food vendors. Forest brings a lot of great businesses in, and there is something for everyone. The crowd favorite is the Spicy Pie, which I highly recommend. The Curry Thai Noodles and Rosemary Mac and Cheese are also a huge hit – the mac and cheese was so good I went back a second time.
Even when there are no DJs playing on the stages, you will always find a party going on somewhere. The RVs host parties throughout the weekend. Early arrivals all congregate at the RVs Wednesday night. DUDEandGUY played an amazing set there at the MASSEDMC RV. Anyone who wants to keep partying post-festival is welcome at the RVs.
There are also more relaxed activities worth checking out, especially if you’ve a creative type. Arts and crafts tables can be found around the forest, and near the entrance of the festival is a piano that anyone can play. Electric Forest also hires actors to run around the forest and interact with attendees. Fairies, forest hippies, dolls and more roam around and get people dance and explore the forest. Having unique little treasures scattered all around just waiting to be discovered is one of the features that really sets Electric Forest apart from other festivals as something special.
At the end of the night when there are no more performers, people are allowed to roam around the forest for a few hours. My time spent with friends on nights like these in the forest are always the most magical to me. Exploring all the different activities and art that are set up in the forest is what makes EForest so special.
I had two moments in the forest that will forever stick with me. On the second night, I ventured in with three friends and we found a little geometric dome that people were sitting in. We joined them and someone commented on how the glow sticks in the middle must have been placed there by people trying to mimic a fire pit. A girl then put her hula-hoop on a red glowing setting and I turned on a crackling fire noise from an app on my phone used to make sleeping sounds. We threw it all in the middle and it gave the illusion of a fire pit. Everyone started chatting as if we were old friends and it was a really special moment, something that you can only find in the forest.
The third day my friends and I stumbled upon The Living Mandala, which is an area where people can mingle. When we arrived people were challenging each other to dance off and someone was acting as a fake announcer. It turned into a game that everyone was involved in, with the announcer shouting that we would now play the compliment a stranger game. Someone shouted how much they loved the people who attend this festival and it turned into 50+ people coming in for a big group hug. The group broke out in song, singing only the chorus to Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” because it’s the only part everyone could manage.
Electric Forest was magical in every sense of the word. It’s easy to see why some people call it their home. There is something special about the people that this festival attracts. I usually think it’s cliche when people talk about ‘loving’ random festivals patrons, but I really do have so much love for everyone I met at weekend one. The Forest Family cultivates this amazing vibe that can’t be found anywhere else. I can’t wait for next year and I hope everyone at weekend two has a happy forest.
See you in the Forest 2018!