Electric Forest shakes off early showers to host second weekend.

July 3, 2017

Electric Forest shakes off early showers to host second weekend.


By Mark Lewis. Contributing Writer.

ROTHBURY — Many said it was going to be a disaster, that there was no way the 2017 Electric Forest Festival was going to recover after a wet opening weekend to host its first-ever Weekend 2 event.

You can consider that kind of talk as annoying as the dust currently being kicked up along the festival’s main thoroughfares and more-secluded trails. Although evidence of the heavy rains the festival suffered in Weekend 1 and to open the second week are still on display, attendees simply maneuver around them now – for what is a little mud when your favorite musical artists are ready to take the stage?

No, this isn’t any TomorrowWorld, which ceased hosting an event in 2015 after disastrous weather conditions in Georgia clashed with a poor disastrous weather plan by festival organizers, sending festival goers out into dangerous weather while failing to keep the main festival grounds free of water. People still talk about that disaster, and they were starting to make the comparison with Electric Forest.

“It’s like night and day right now,” said Stewart Elkhurt, a southern Arizona native visiting the Mitten State for the first time. “We were all ready to leave after Wednesday night but glad we stuck it out. It’s been mind-blowing so far. All that rain before the thing even started showed me to appreciate what we did end up getting.”

A little preparation and a well-executed plan seems to have saved Electric Forest from itself – organizers held off letting people into the grounds until Thursday afternoon, allowing much of the stand water to vanish, while quickly offering refunds to those who paid an extra charge to enter the campground early. Quick-thinking and acting seems to have quelled any remaining dissension. A brief rain shower Saturday night, and showers Sunday afternoon didn’t seem to dampen many moods.

It couldn’t come at a more opportune time, with many similar festivals ceasing operations – including AllGood and Wakarusa, among a dozen others – and with the bad press resulting from another disastrous festival, Frye, which stranded festival-goers on a deserted island with FEMA tents, cold cuts, and no music, all that after promising them the world. Fyre Festival organizer Billy McFarland recently was arrested for allegedly defrauding the attendees.

Nevertheless, it was obvious the second weekend was far from a sellout, unlike Week 1, although the smaller crowds made traveling through the festival grounds and getting close to the stage much easier. Thus, it remains to be seen if there will again be two weekends in 2018.

The music was often brutal and disorienting, although it appears the popularity of all-out ‘banging’ shows is starting to fall off as sets with long diversions into dynamic quiet were wells upon which the DJs often drew. Headling DJs Bassnectar, DJ Snake and A-Trak shook festival goers across the weekend, while jam bands Lotus and The String Cheese Incident soothed the need for a more analogue approach, featuring the more-traditional musical arraignments of guitars and rhythm sections, albeit with many of the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) trappings, including ‘drops’ and amazing light shows.

Ironically the idea the DJs are simply push buttoners was often upstaged by impromptu chant-alongs, including Tripolee Stage DJ Matona’s imploring the rain (with expletives, mind you) that popped up during his stage time to scram.

“I’ve seen (Matona) before,” said Michigan native Dawn Samche, “but that set was just outrageous. There was some rain (during his set), but that didn’t stop anything. It made it better.”

The String Cheese Incident, traditional festival headliners, outdid themselves on Saturday night midway through their final set of their two-week residency, employing a real helicopter to circle the Ranch Area Stage while confetti blew over the entire crowd, a hot air balloon, from which a gymnast hung from a harness, dipped over the crowd, and fireworks exploded above.

The festival again featured stunning art installments and interactive displays throughout the festival grounds. But it’s the festival’s heart, the Sherwood Forest, where the visuals go from impressive to sublime.

The multi-acre complex holds several stages and music areas – slightly lesser known DJs, jam and alt bands, and acoustic acts may be found playing throughout the forest on the Forest and Observatory stages. A variety of acting/music crews take many of the Sherwood Forest stages, sometimes without a set schedule, and often to spectacular results. One spot, the Juke Joint, offered craziness through sketch comedy and novel music performances, while the ’Silent Disco’ offers the strange view of a full crowd dancing to what appears to be silence.

“The’ve raised the bar,” said Caleb Mercin, from Ohio. “The Sherwood Forest is too amazing to describe, even better than I imagined, even during the day. But at night, the place turns into Wonderland. I’ve gone in there before the sun went down and stayed in there all night. I just keep finding things to hold my attention.”

Photos by Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

This story is copyrighted © 2017, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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