This last weekend, June 15-19 2017, we were able to experience What The Festival (WTF) for the second year in a row. WTF is a carefully curated weekend of electronic and live music, interactive art, speaker series, movement classes, and easily our favorite music festival. Located at the Wolf Run Ranch in Dufur, OR, WTF is the perfect festival destination, with just a 2 hour drive from Portland into the beautiful, scenic Mt. Hood area. We can’t help but feel at home here with all of the amazing people we meet, mind blowing performances from some of the biggest names in the game, and in true Oregon form the earth friendly environment that is so familiar to us locals.
Entering the Festival and Setting Up Camp
Getting your camp setup is relatively easy, especially with the ability to checkout dollies from the WTF General Store to carry your gear and belongings into the forest. You will probably have to make a few trips, but the dollies make a world of difference as well as a few extra hands & beverages ☺. Even better, they ask for a $5 deposit and will return your money if you return the dollie within an hour!
The campgrounds are always great to explore and look at other people’s setups. The forest is filled with a plethora of tents, tree tents, tapestries, hammocks, and canopies that help create little communities throughout.
Pro tip: If you want a good spot, go early. We arrived at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday (we had an Early Entry Pass) to a slew of cars and excited people waiting to go through check-in. The process takes awhile as the festival security search your car for weapons, glass, and the like. However, all of this is a small inconvenience and it’s nice to vibe out with your future festival attendees via the car window ☺. While no glass might be seen as kind of an arbitrary rule, it helps keep the forest and the venue clean and you don’t have to worry about possibly hurting yourself by walking barefoot.
Variety is a theme at WTF and the lineup was no exception. It helps to keep the experience fresh, and when you get a little tired of hearing a certain genre you can always find a stage that’ll satisfy your need for something new.
When you have had enough with the DJ sets, there are just as many shows with live components to add that natural feeling to performances from live instrumentation, to singers and rappers. It was also nice seeing some electronic acts with live components including Hawyre slaying the piano live, Brasstracks with drums and trumpet, Big Wild with drums, MPC, and piano, and Russ Liquid Test with an ensemble of drums, piano, and guitar.
Some of our favorite sets from the weekend have to be from Rezz, Stööki Sound, Big Wild, Gramatik, Electric Mantis, Stylust Beats, Brasstracks, Manila Killa, Claude Vonstroke, Giraffage, Manic Focus, Haywyre, and ZHU.
Rezz, aka. Space Mom, completely crushed it. Visually she was the artist that stood out the most with her hypnotizing LED goggles. At moments all you could see was her silhouette and the eyes looking out at the crowd as she played her unique style of techno and choice dubstep/riddim selections.
Stylust Beats slayed the Qube with an array of sinister basslines and choice vocal cuts, and even mixed in a little Bohemian Rapisody by Queen which was really impressive. This was the first performance from the Qube that really wowed us.
Electric Mantis also paid his respects to the Qube on Sunday by delivering a set of some of his unique, signature tunes as well as throwing down the hype. It was a great blend of mainstream electronic tunes, futurebass, festival trap, and bass music.
Stooki Sound brought the hype as well. One of the English trap-duo even got some crowd time as he rapped to the filthy beats, surrounded by fans. However, the main highlight of this performance had to be “My G’s” ft. Jelacee. Great song, great crowd interaction, and catchy as hell.
ZHU was fantastic as well. Incredibly melodic and soothing, with some mainstream touches here and there. We especially enjoyed it when he mixed in Thriller by Michael Jackson, and skeletons appeared behind him on the LED screen doing the iconic dance. Big Wild had us bobbing the whole time, with his tunes oozing out those luscious summer vibes. You can’t help but feel happy listening to his music, and his hair… beautiful.
What The Festival- The Experience
The many stages came with upgrades from the previous year, including a metal dragon (previously red), an LED screen for the WTF Stage, and lasers for the Groove Qube. We want to give special kudos to the lighting department on all stages, and especially the Groove Qube. The lasers almost seemed like they had a life of their own as the hovered over the Qube and mimicked the intricacies of a LED glove show.
Despite less than stellar weather at times, the pool stage was fun as ever! Pool shenanigans were in full effect as giant piles of floaties were created, someone was in a human hamster ball at some point and was moving in-between pools, there was a mystical buffer man giving people massages out on the grass, and much more. The special guest this year was the legend himself, Claude Vonstroke, who has yet to miss a WTF. From the get-go he brought the energy as he instructed the crowd that they too can “bake a cake, ah ah ah ah ah ah ah.” :). Other highlights from the stage include sets from The Funk Hunters, Hotel Garuda, Giraffage, Classixx and Wingtip.
One of my (Rashae) favorite memories from this weekend was protecting Otto the Octopus. It all began when I saw this adorable octopus inflatable toy and I reached for him to hold. I was instantly scolded (in a fun way) by the people near him for being too aggressive. They informed me that Otto (yes, the octopus had a name) wasn’t ready for that, and if I wanted to interact with him I had to be gentle as if I were trying to pet a skittish animal. For the next 2 hours we protected Otto from other attendees that were drawn to the adorable pool toy, and it honestly was a blast. This is all a testament to the type of kind & fun-loving people you’ll meet at the festival.
Shinto A Gogo
Shinto A Gogo was mystical & mysterious as ever, with dim lighting and seemingly pagan rituals taking place throughout. We were able to catch Soul Trigger perform there doing a variety styles of dance including popping, krumping, and b-boying. Their performance really fit the mood of Shinto A Gogo, with a great selection of music, and dramatic speeches for the dancers to further hypnotize the crowd.
Transitions from Day to Night Sets
Artist and stage scheduling is one of WTF’s many strengths. The schedule curators help create a musical flow & feeling from stage to stage and set to set. At the splash pool stage, it was largely house and futurebass influenced with a slew of daytime melodic feelings. As the day progressed the splash pool DJs would also add a little more flavor to the pot, with some trap and dubstep selections just as it was time to turn it up a bit.
As the sun slowly begins to descend, the Effin’ and WTF Stage opens. The placement of these stages on the top of a hill truly adds to the magic of the festival with the sunset and Mount Hood in the distance. These stages will host a variety of genres and beautiful sets from artists like Manila Killa and Big Wild, and then progress to more filthy sets once the sun has set. Then night falls and the bass of the Groove Qube begins to rumble throughout the forest, and the night is on.
Not only do the founders create a unique experience with transitioning stages, but they also take careful consideration on who is playing and at what time (or at least it appeared so because it was too perfect). For example, ZHU, one of the headliners this year, performed on the WTF Stage at 10:45 on Saturday night. This set couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Everyone in our group was a bit fatigued by this point as we were going HAM for REZZ and were in dire need of a break. We all sat in the middle of the field playing with gloves and looking at the stars as ZHU just took us away. Don’t get me wrong, you could definitely get down to ZHU’s set if you had the energy, but it was just as good sitting and enjoying his musical transitions and all the feels.
Volunteers & Security
We would also like to give a special shout out to the volunteers and security working this weekend. All of the volunteers and security personnel on site were amazing. Not only did they make us feel safe, but they were also obvious fans of the music. Most of them could be seen smiling, dancing and laughing while performing their duties. It was awesome walking in and out of the festival and being greeted by the same people who began to recognize us, and make references to our earlier interactions. I (Rashae) never felt violated as they searched our gear, which is something that has always bothered me about other festivals. If I ran into a situation where a friend or I needed help, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask one of them.
Movement Classes and Talks
While our main course was the music and the art, we did catch a few movement classes and talks along the way. With some refreshing yoga in the mornings with Ezentially Yin from Corrine Hathaway, House Dance from Donna Mation, a highly energetic class from the Dance Commander Experience from Celeste Bolin, and catching the Easy Speak Talk, “A Unicorn’s Guide to Getting Your Horn On 2.0” from the Guardians of the Vibe. One of the elements I love about these classes and talks is that it helps to create an experience of community that many larger festivals can’t accomplish due to scale. These talks and movement classes are also accessible for novices, and only the word humble describes all who attend. The talks are especially nice to attend if you’re feeling a little fatigued but still want to experience the festival!
The creativity of the art installations brings the forest to life and offers festival attendees places to explore, interact, and solve little mysteries. There were incredible additions to this year of art installations along with some old favorites, like the Registroid, the Heart of the Forest, the Labyrinth, and the Immersive Jelly.
Some of the new art installations we enjoyed were Axis Mundi, Jungo Blizzard, and C3. Axis Mundi looked fairly unassuming before going in, however inside the 6-sided gazebo lies a mirrored-kaleidoscope that contains the galaxy itself. Another epic addition was “Jungo Blizzard” from the Colossal Collective, a nearly 20 foot gargantuan gorilla manned by ten
puppeteers bringing it to life. Lastly, I really enjoyed “C3” by Dotdotdash, a reactive light and music sculpture where you could touch a small orb and create a crescendo of music & light.
The first time I (Eric) saw this we were laying down in the middle of the field between the Effin’ and WTF Stage, listening to the melodic tunes from ZHU when the behemoth of Jungo Blizzard walked by us.
Pro-tip: If you see an installation you really want to go into, GO INTO IT. We forgot to go into the Star House which looked really comfy and squishy inside.
Food Vendors & Community Kitchens
All of the meals that we bought this year were absolutely amazing! Coyote Coffee was a lifesaver this year! We ordered plain Americano’s and they helped us get the day started on the right foot. On Saturday we stopped by Bates Steak House. All of the items on the menu looked so good but we decided to get a burger. A little basic of a choice, but it was so good. 🙂 Dump City Dumplings was a definite crowd favorite this weekend. They offered delicious dumplings for $3 each—What’s not to like? By the time we went through the line up Sunday, they only had 1/3 types of dumplings available they were so busy! We also stopped by Fuego Food Carts twice. The first time we ordered a chicken burrito bowl, and the second time we went for the full burrito. Again—AMAZING. The chicken tasted fresh and the guacamole was on point. For more bang for your buck we would recommend going for the full burrito. Purchasing drinks and meals from vendors can run a bit expensive, but you kind of have to realize you’re in the middle of no where and can walk a couple feet to get a pizza if you want and that’s pretty awesome!
If you want to save some money you can always bring food with you, however WTF has a policy against open flames and using camping grills. This is why WTF offers community kitchens for an area to cook your food and hangout while you do it. On a side note, there are designated smoking areas as well!
The community kitchens are perfect places to meet people and a great way to save some extra cash. It isn’t uncommon to walk by a community kitchen and get some leftover food. This year, the only issues we ran into were slow cooking meals (user errors on our part), and I (Rashae) burned some of my hair off because I turned the stove all the way up while lighting it (Again, user error). If you run out of food or just don’t feel like eating what you brought, you can always purchase some from the many food vendors on site.
There’s a reason why What The Festival our favorite festival; everything comes together so well from the music, the stages, the food, the classes, the art, and of course the people. We could talk about this festival forever. What the Festival, it’s been fun! We look forward to returning 2018! 🙂
10 out of 10 — We will be back again