2023 Electric Forest: Who, Where, When

June 19, 2023

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2023 Electric Forest: Who, Where, When

By Ross Field, Contributing Writer 

ROTHBURY — With over 35,000 people, six major stages, and over 130 musical acts, the 2023 Electric Forest Festival happening this weekend at the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury is a gigantic wonderland of music and art. It is true that most of the artists are of the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) genre, and that is because the demographics of the festival skew to the young, and the youngsters demand dance music.

But along with EDM acts, there are numerous acts from around the world playing rock, funk, soul, acoustic folk, and world music on various stages throughout the four days of the festival. Here are my suggestions for amazing artists and bands to catch that aren’t of the EDM school of music.

Trust me, you’ll still hear a lot of EDM while traversing the sprawling festival site. I hope that you — like me – will find yourself stopping occasionally, listening to the DJs, rappers, and electronic musicians with their incredible special effects, and saying, “Well, this is interesting.”

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The Electric Forest officially kicks off at 3 p.m. Thursday, June 22. If the Electric Forest has a house band, it is the one-man band called Dixon’s Violin. Dixon has appeared at every Electric Forest Festival. Using looping technologies and his violin, Dixon creates improvised symphonies of sound that are entrancing to hear evolve. Dixon opens the festival at the Observatory stage at 3 p.m. Thursday; does another set there Friday; and closes the festival out at 12:45 a.m. Monday at the Observatory.

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Following Dixon on Thursday at the Observatory is Danielle Ponder, a former defense attorney from Rochester, New York, who followed her muse into becoming a soulful rhythm and blues singer. Ponder’s powerful voice is a force to be reckoned with — think Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner. I’m not kidding.   

From the Observatory head over to the Carousel Club to catch the East Coast band, Neighbor, at 6 p.m. This jam-rock quartet goes from quiet soul to heavy rock seamlessly and they may be the heaviest rock band at the festival this year. 

Next up at the Carousel Club at 8:15 p.m. is the Grammy-nominated, Afro-Cuban musician, Cimafunk. Called by NPR a “visionary Cuban musician,” Cimafunk and his band of Cuban musicians create an infectious groove of Latin rhythms. Don’t miss this show if you like to dance.

Friday night The String Cheese Incident will be playing their first of two shows at 9 p.m. at the Ranch Arena. My advice has always been to never miss a concert by the String Cheese Incident at the Electric Forest. Their seamless combination of rock and bluegrass and funk, and their ability to cover someone else’s song and make it their own is an incredible experience. 

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Preceding The String Cheese Incident at the Ranch Arena is Fletcher (AKA Cari Elise Fletcher), an Asbury Park, New Jersey, native who had a hit with her pop-rock song, “Undrunk” in 2019 and has graced the stages of Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.

No matter how much you love the String Cheese Incident I suggest that you exit the Ranch Arena early and head for the Carousel Club where the Congolese band, Jupiter & Okwess, appear at 10 p.m. Friday night. NPR has described them as making “urgent music. It’s music that stems from the gut but has thought and theatrics to flesh out the feelings. It’s music to be experienced.” Their mix of African rhythms and American soul and funk will surely be a highlight of the weekend.

In between shows on the big stages Friday be sure to catch your breath at some of the acoustic sets from LVDY, Samuel J, Dave Yaden & Danny Asadi, and the pianist, Robbie Fitzsimmons, at the Honeycomb.  

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Saturday night looms large at the Ranch Arena as the String Cheese Incident takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. for their famous Saturday night show and “shebang.” The “shebang” is an over-the-top concert experience with special effects, aerialists, and lasers culminating in a huge fireworks display. If you only see one concert at the Electric Forest this year, make sure it is this one. The great funk band, Chromeo, gets the crowd warmed up for the String Cheese Incident at 6 p.m.

If you need a break from the action at the Ranch Arena, head over to the Carousel Club for the one-man band, Mobley, at 9:15 p.m. Mobley accompanies himself on guitar, keyboards, and drums to create what he calls “post-genre pop”. 

Two Feet and his electro-rock band will rock the Carousel Club at 12:30 a.m. Combining live guitar and drum virtuosity with electronics, this band creates soaring music.

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The great jam band STS9 closes the Sherwood Court stage at 1:45 a.m. STS9 have played numerous times at the Electric Forest, and they are a favorite band for EDM and rock fans alike.

On Sunday, start your evening off at the Ranch Arena at 5:30 p.m. with Dogs in a Pile, a rock quintet from Asbury Park, New Jersey. Dogs in a Pile evolved from East Coast music schools and with their exceptional musicianship merge funk, jazz, and rock and roll to create vast aural soundscapes.

From the Dogs in a Pile show head over to the Carousel Club at 6 p.m. to catch Snakes & Stars, a new improvisational electronic duo comprised of two drummers and multi-instrumentalists – Michael Travis of the String Cheese Incident and Aaron Johnston of the David Byrne Band.

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Apase is an electronic musician who has performed with string orchestras and live bands. His show at Sherwood Court at 8 p.m.will be interesting to catch as he is performing with a brass ensemble.

The biggest show of the evening — and maybe the entire festival — occurs at the Ranch Arena at 9:15 p.m. when the Goose takes the stage at the Electric Forest for the first time. Goose formed in 2014, and since a legendary set at The Peach Music Festival in 2019, they have made a meteoric rise in the music world. The members of Goose describe themselves as an “indie groove” jam band, and much like seasoned jazz musicians, they create new music by improvising off each other’s cues. The Ranch Arena and its amazing special effects is the perfect place to experience Goose for the first time.

Will you want to keep rocking as the Electric Forest winds down Sunday night, or will you like to chill out a little? If you want to rock, head for the Carousel Club where the raucous, rocking funk band, Thumpasaurus, starts their set at 11 p.m. Thumpasaurus creates a sound that seems to be a blend of Funkadelic, Sun Ra, and Devo, and they put on a great stage show.

If you want to chill out a little before you exit the forest, check out Brandi Cyrus at the Honeycomb at 10 pm. Brandi Cyrus is an actress, DJ, and fashion creator, and if her name sounds a little familiar, it’s because you’ve heard of her younger sister, Miley Cyrus.

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As always, if you seek to get away from the crowds at the bigger stages, check out the smaller, more intimate stages like the Carousel Club, the Observatory, and the Honeycomb. And don’t forget to see the daily schedule at the Grand Artique Trading Post. The Grand Artique is in the heart of the Sherwood Forest, and it is the smallest stage at the festival. You never know who might show up!

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The Electric Forest Festival takes place this week — June 22-25 — at the Double JJ Resort in Rothbury. Early entry arrivals are Wednesday, June 21, and most festival goers leave the venue beginning early Monday morning, June 26. Expect heavy traffic on US 31 this Wednesday and next Monday.

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