Those who have attended Electric Forest know that there are few things about the four-day event that can be explained in words. So much goes into the atmosphere and aesthetic of the festival that it is practically a Disney World theme park where the main attractions are phenomenal musical talent instead of roller coasters and your meet-and-greets are with your favorite artist instead of your favorite movie character (courtesy of thissongissick.com, shouts out to them). It being my first time at this festival, consider this write-up a glossary of memories and happenings in the Forest I found most poignant.
‘Everyone was paying tribute to Prince on Thursday’
DJ Jazzy Jeff, What So Not, and one of the DJs at the silent disco (please forgive me for forgetting the name of that act) all played at least one Prince song to pay tribute to the recently deceased icon. DJ Jazzy Jeff literally opened his set with three Prince songs including “Purple Rain” (What So Not also played “Purple Rain”). The fact that I witnessed all of this Prince commotion on the first day of the festival, Thursday, June 23, is peculiar but holds no significance. I found it very cool that artists and DJs from another corner of the music world found it apt to play a song in memory of The Kid.
‘AIRWAV was the right pick for this year’s Discovery Project artist’
First of all, AIRWAV is an artist you need to get familiar with right now. He’s blowing up fast with several releases on Daruma and a collab with MYRNE out now on Hegemon that I absolutely love. Insomniac has this platform called Discovery Project that is aimed at providing a spotlight for emerging talent in electronic music, and every year for Electric Forest they hold an open casting call for submissions to play at the silent disco at the festival. Not only is AIRWAV putting out heat consistently and making a name for himself in the production realm, his DJ set Thursday night of the festival was dynamic, fluid, versatile, and covered all of the bases. He started with some thumpy R&B-style house, dipped his toes in Sam Gellaitry’s “Waiting So Long” (which I’ve wanted to hear played out in a live setting for quite some time now because that’s an awesome tune), then eased into the future bass and trap upon which he’s making a name for himself. Big ups to AIRWAV for a great set and to Insomniac’s Discovery Project for selecting a great act for this coveted slot.
‘If you have the opportunity to see Tennyson live, do it’
The brother/sister duo (named Luke and Tess) put on what was (for me personally) the most entertaining and intuitive set of the entire festival. It was early in the schedule on Friday around 4:00pm, and I’d seen their name on some OWSLA releases (which means Skrillex is a fan), so I made it a point to see their set. I’m so glad I did. Take Matt & Kim, give them ten times the musical prowess and aesthetic consciousness, subtract a lot of the vocals, add a sprinkle of jazz and polyrhythms, and make them siblings, and you’ve got Tennyson. They are such an amazing act finally getting out and playing some massive shows this summer and into the fall. They deserve every bit of attention they’re getting. Toward the end of their set, Tess remarked that she thought that it was “the biggest crowd [they] have ever played for.” I’m honored to have been a part of that crowd. Check out their schedule in their SoundCloud bio and see them if you can. I cannot say enough good things about them.
‘Mija’s two sets were very different but equally phenomenal’
Two slots on two different days on the schedule were allotted for OWSLA’s poster girl; Friday and Saturday. Upon closer observation, I saw that her Saturday set included an ending overlap b2b with Anna Lunoe with a succeeding one-hour set from Anna. My wish was that Mija’s Friday set would be more open format, the obscure type of set we’d normally expect from her at any show and that her Saturday set would be more of a return to the house and techno with which she got started at the very beginning of her career catapult when Skrillex hopped on the decks with her at Bonnaroo 2014. This is exactly what happened and both sets were remarkable. Mija’s ability to crank through several genres in a single set so aqueously and with such profound effortlessness did not fail her for her Friday set, and she showed out with a brilliant house set for Saturday. Additionally, her farewell to Anna Lunoe when she left the stage after their thirty-minute b2b set was adorable; she simply asked the crowd to give it up for Anna, and then turned to her with the mic to say “Bye, Anna!” and to share a hug, like two pre-teen children would say farewell after summer camp in hopes that they’d be in the same cabin the next year. I’m a huge fan of Mija and seeing her twice in the same weekend made me an even bigger fan; she continues to keep things interesting and weird and true to herself. I hope she keeps doing what she’s doing.
‘GRiZ came out with his sax during The Geek x VRV’s set and played an unreleased tune’
People went absolutely nuts. It was on Saturday night at the All Good Records-curated stage. GRiZ is All Good’s heaviest hitter and came out on stage for a brief appearance during The Geek x VRV‘s set to play sax on an unreleased VIP of GRiZ’s tune “The Anthem.” The crowd got so hype to see the Detroit-based producer putting on a surprise performance in his home state. He reps Detroit hard everywhere he goes and it was such a delectable cherry on top of The Geek x VRV’s already stupendous sundae of a set. The energy was palpable, you could taste it. It’s moments like these that make Electric Forest, unlike any other festival.
‘Porter Robinson keeps coming up with new live stuff’
Porter was probably my favorite set of the festival for multiple reasons. Firstly, it was my third time seeing his live show and it was just as potent an experience as the first and second times I saw him (in Chicago in September 2014 on his Worlds Tour and at North Coast Music Festival 2015 in Chicago). The live versions of the tracks on Worlds are such special pieces of work that can only be experienced in a live setting for full effect, but I do hope and pray he puts out official recordings at some point of all of these live versions. At his Electric Forest set this year, it was my first time hearing the live versions of “Natural Light” and his exclusive vinyl B-side “Shepherdess,” which were both incredible. He also mashed up Kanye West’s “The Glory” into his own “Flicker” using visuals from Kanye’s third album “Graduation.” Porter has been documented as looking up to Kanye as an inspiration, but I never thought he would drop any music that wasn’t his own into his live sets, either original or a remix. It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.
‘Louis Futon’s and Slumberjack’s sets were criminally under-attended’
They both may have been relatively early in their respective days (Australia-based Slumberjack was at 4:15pm on Saturday and Philadelphia-based Louis Futon was at 3:00pm on Sunday) so I understand that some attendees needed more time to sleep in and recuperate from the night before, but they missed out big time on two incredible sets. Both dropped massive unreleased material and were unlike any other sets I heard throughout the weekend. There was a too much homogeneity between much of the trap/dubstep and open format sets at Electric Forest (lookin’ at you, Desiigner and Dirty Audio x Rickyxsan) and frankly I was getting sick to my stomach of both of those tunes, but Louis Futon and Slumberjack stayed away from that and did their own thing in their own spheres and it was amazing. Slumberjack played a lot of future bass, 90-100 bpm stuff, and an unreleased remix for What So Not’s and GANZ’s “Lone” (watch out for that) while Louis Futon stuck to more minimal, Soulection-style beats and his own brand of bouncy, melodic tunes including an unreleased collab with KRNE (watch out for that as well).
In the end, I came away from Electric Forest with these particular musical memories and I hope they are insightful to those reading this, but I was but one face of the 40,000+ in attendance this year and I understand that there was a lot that I didn’t get to see and hear. Such is the reality of such a huge event with so much going on, but that’s part of the beauty of it; one gets to choose one’s own adventure and each adventure is unique. This was mine, and I eagerly look forward to next time.
We had time to catch exclusive interviews with Adventure Club and Bro Safari. Find out what these amazing artists had to say during their performances at Electric Forest here.
To stay up to date on all Electric Forest news, please visit electricforestfestival.com and the official Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube pages. Electric Forest is produced by Madison House Presents and Insomniac.