Electric Forest Dazzles Once Again
Article by Mario Khoury, Photographs by Filip Zalewski
Not many festivals ever approach the beautiful community demonstrated by the production of Electric Forest, and this year was no exception. Aside from the gloriously well-executed lineup and efficient flow between musical artists on magnificent stages, there was absolutely no shortage of live painters and visual artists, including so many wonderful character performers placed throughout the venue. The vendors brought all the very best products for people eager to consume with delight. Everyone attending or helping organize felt blessed and expressed it, however possible, in every moment.
Thursday would have been a wonderful opportunity to witness the shreds of Tauk and Spafford plus a special 75-minute full set rendition of “Rosie” by The String Cheese Incident, with EOTO continuing their improv into the night and so much more. However, the travels forbade such endeavors for us in particular.
Friday began our main coverage with Bassrush, which showcased Digital Ethos, Ivy Lab and Charles the First b2b Thriftworks for some of the weirdest low end of the weekend. This was followed by Loadstar b2b DC Breaks, who played a lot of heavy drum and bass, which was refreshing for a mainstream festival. That expo continued getting harder and harder with noisier EDM through the night as it was echoed through the campsites from Tripolee. Ghost-Note always rips through the jams, but Brandon ‘Taz’ Niederauer surely took a piece of that also for his young self during the day. The String Cheese Incident played their first long set of the weekend, which included guest performance by Lynx and some classic tunes like “Joyful Sound” and “One Step Closer.” Kygo brought a ‘higher love’ at Ranch Arena for some of the more mellow crowd with catchy melodic and ambient soothing house music, followed by a tricked-out set by STS9, playing a little more hip hop influence dance-oriented style to much enjoyment at Sherwood Court.
Saturday, Minnesota began to drop the bass for crowds who likely stopped over to Jantsen as well for a similar but tighter-knit set inside Jubilee. Opiuo threw down afterwards with a lot of his classics and some new renditions plus immense trumpet solos by Balkan Bump. The String Cheese Incident played their second longer set of the weekend, which included a powerful tribute of “Baba O’Riley” by The Who and also “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd. Wuki and Jaenga had some heavy moments on the Tripolee stage before Charles the First smothered Jubilee to prep everyone for one of the most main attractions besides Cheese. Bassnectar definitely gave the forest a set worth talking about. Some said he held back, but most agreed it was a much needed proper dance floor manipulation of grandiose proportion. After that insanity the crowd generally split between more bass wobbles from Ganja White Night and the bubbly jams of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. There was also an epic beatbox jam with Lightship and Honeycomb in the forest Honeycomb stage.
Sunday there was a Her Forest Humanity Circle and musical set by Handmade Moments in the Honeycomb stage followed by the Carousel Club getting lit up by Litz, who left nobody hanging with the utmost of jams. Mihali from Twiddle then played in the Carousel Club for a grateful crowd, while Horseshoes and Hand Grenades tore up the Observatory with bluegrass-picking to satisfy the forest in one of its most raw forms. Hippie Sabotage provided a unique danceable sound of ambient bass at Ranch Arena, slightly overlapped by Boombox jamming it up at Sherwood Court. Govinda truly showed out with his liquid glitch bass and seemingly endless lineup of sensual visual performers during the Jubilee set. The Floozies gave up a funk-tastic set of beats that bumped for those who needed to dance it out before head banging to Zeds Dead. Dixon’s Violin echoed through the forest with magical sounds after that, while Twiddle filled Jubilee with shreds and songs to provide a more than passionate closing set for this incredible festival.
Silent disco thrived all weekend as well with wonderful expositions by many DJs, including Untz festival challenge winners, Her Forest specially curated sets, and many more. Walking by the colorful swarm of headphones always brought a smile, and especially once immersed in the sounds among the silence there were a lot of good times and moves to be shared. Campground RV renegade stages were also among some of the rowdiest places to be. Saturday night most of all, the party did not stop through sunrise. Some camps had upwards of a thousand people gathered for their unique taste of bass. This community so dedicated to music is part of what makes the forest spectacular as a whole.
Art installations also seem to be the main reason Electric Forest is able to win so many hearts every year. A wide variety of sculptures with function and flavor filled the forest with inhabitable seating areas but were also quite awe-inspiring simply to view. Some have multiple floors, balconies, heavily landscaped tiers and levels comprised of complex floral arrangements. It was hard to miss the giant peacock near the piano inside of an open air library or the louder electric piano where crowds gathered and sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. The towering wooden sculpture of a goddess always pleases those who seek to praise divine feminine imagery.
There was also an exceptionally loud Volkswagen bus to hang inside, and many did very often. You never know what you’ll find walking through the bridge of umbrella ceiling, but you will very likely hear people yelling the name Carl. You might be confronted right after by strange forest ‘Rafiki’-looking creatures or silky white angels on stilts. The Trading Post was an especially unique place which allowed people to trade belongings for trinkets inside. All sorts of hilarity did ensue from awkward encounters and attempts at hustling here, reflecting the hustle of all the life breathing inside the forest as a whole.
Some live artists painting during the festival adding much life and color to the Reincarnation Village, included Dillon Endico, Rae Vena, and a large elaborate collaborative effort by Randal Roberts, Morgan Mandala, Krystleyez and Sweet Melis. Cavan Koebel of Raw Deviations mesmerized viewers on Main Street near the entrance. It is always a treat watching artists work amidst the chaos of the constant music and party surrounding them. It allows for meditative self-reflection which mirrors the very art being created. One artist who appeared newer to the scene was Momin Tabusum, working on a fresh tapestry painted on directly like all his work, which was very sexual but somehow simple and innocent also.
Other vendors who left impressions in fun ways include Third Eye Pinecones and Laser Guided Visions, both always on point with after-hours DJing. LGV sports material by prominent artists Android Jones, Mugwort, and also Dima Yastronaut. Scummy Bears have a very interesting design combination of cute and scary. Black Ink Art always amazes crowds with a unique approach to colorful and psychedelic imagery that often arouses dark and light emotion simultaneously. Jon and Dave Swartz are super friendly and provide a lovely atmosphere for viewing their incredible work.
Astral Hoops by the Ranch Arena covered all the people’s needs for flow toys, with Tyler Chic and Rager Rabbit being more than accommodating to specific requests, greatly appreciated by many. Umba Love clothing store had a sale rack to “make an offer we can’t refuse” which was both enticing and admirably efficient. Collin Salazar had a truly impressive booth filled with gorgeous paintings of eyes and unique wooden magic wands created by his brother Clayton, branded Salazar Sorcery. Zen Glass boasts one of the greatest collections available, and it was in full form on Main Street with esteemed artists like Mike Dorr. Tame Mane also had an exceptional collection of pinecones. Miguel Vargas is more than committed to his craft, as are all the artists and vendors involved with making the forest such an uplifting environment.
The Hanger was a festival on its own, filled with amusements, attractions, and multiple stages including a beautifully designed Carousel Club stage, a tattoo parlor, barber shop, travel agency, mini-golf course, speed-dating service and more, all filled with character performers acting out a marvelous scene for attendees to enjoy. Nova Han Productions was informed to be the spearhead for this facility, along with many other of the more luscious organic art installations throughout the forest. The wedding chapel which created so many memories and also the classically elegant Honeycomb stage were both built by this prolific name.
Some performers had an opportunity to tell us about their experience as a part of Electric Forest and the Hanger especially. Ashley Acton was part of the matchmaking room and spoke highly of so many people she was interacting with, including a guy who broke down his emotional walls and opened up in ways that even therapy could not make him do. Ashley was especially fond of the way people were able to find intimate space with no judgment, only support. McKenna Raymond was a production assistant attending to the needs of all Hanger performers and organizers along with doing much coordination herself. She was working very hard in her fourth year, beyond passionate about helping to contribute so much to the music and art community. The love and appreciation she said was felt all around made it all worth it.
This was a sentiment reflected throughout the festival as well, with so many similar thoughts expressed by attendees, volunteers, and workers alike. People always tend to lift each other up in the forest, which is truly spectacular to witness. Everyone involved in both consuming and producing helped each other find unique inspiration for beauty blossoming, and it only furthered the collective effort for self-realization. All seemed rightly thankful for these efforts, including dancers like the lovely Kitty Hawkk with inflated airplane engines on her breasts who said, “The Wright Brothers never did a damn thing wrong when they fired up my fuselages! It’s probably safe to say that the fuselages of Electric Forest will remain filled for a long time.”