June 28 - July 1 – Rothbury, MI
Regular Weekend Tickets: $242.50 + fees
2nd year – Last year's attendance: 30,000 – Camping: Yes
The Rothbury Music Festival hit the scene hard in 2008, creating buzz unlike any other event that summer with a spectacular forest right on the grounds and a killer lineup. When 2009 rolled around, word had spread about the magical music event and people came out in droves to attend. String Cheese Incident reunited on the Main Stage at Rothbury after years of pursuing solo projects, and the best in jam and electronic music, like STS9, Umphrey's McGee, The Disco Biscuits, Lotus and Pretty Lights, joined them.
With anticipation at an all-time high for Rothbury 2010, the festival was abruptly canceled, and organizers vowed it would return. The complete story is still a bit hazy (permits, money, etc.), but one thing is for sure: festivalgoers were bummed out.
Rumors swirled for months until they solidified and String Cheese leaked plans to bring a festival back to the Double JJ Ranch. Thus, Electric Forest was born. Debuting in 2011, the festival featured three nights of SCI and the biggest names in electronic music with Tiësto, Pretty Lights and Bassnectar topping the bill. EF had a little something for everyone with funk, old-school rock, hip-hop and livetronica. There were plenty of Cheese fans and young ravers, making the event an unusual yet welcome mix of fans.
Though purists maintain Electric Forest can never recapture the magic of those first two Rothbury events, Sherwood Forest remains one of the most iconic and imitable places in any festival in the world.
In 2011, an estimated 30,000 fans attended the event and that number is expected to skyrocket in 2012 wih a lineup that includes three more nights of SCI, two nights of STS9, Thievery Corporation, Bassnectar, Girl Talk, Steve Aoki, Big Gigantic, EOTO and many more.
With an amped-up production, more stages and a heightened focus on the festival experience, the second Electric Forest has all the making of a legendary event that will be talked about in the same breath as the Rothbury festivals of old.
The entire festival seems like one big late-night event. I'm sure if organizers could, they would have the sun down at all times.
Thursday night Conspirator, Wolfgang Gartner and EOTO will headline with Ghostland Observatory, Beats Antique and a Rob Garza DJ set for the late-night.
Friday will feature a near-four-hour block from String Cheese Incident before midnight hits and STS9 and Thievery Corporation will overlap sets. "Asian Jesus" Steve Aoki will close things out on the Tripolee Stage.
Saturday night features another SCI block with Girl Talk overlapping STS9's second performance of the weekend. Major Lazer takes over festival-closing duties.
The last day of the festival won't let you ease out of the weekend, with SCI's last headlining slot followed by Bassnectar and Big Gigantic. The moral of the story is pace yourself. Or at least sleep in.
The land of Robin Hood. Besides being an awesome place to chill and escape the hot, Michigan sun, Sherwood Forest is one of the best festival locations in the world. Between the crazy art installations, comfortable hammocks, acrobatic dancers and intricate lighting, it's a place you'll find yourself dreaming about for weeks. Oh, and there's a stage in there too so you really don't even have to leave.
Cheese overload. With Ticketmaster gouging you with random fees despite everyone's best efforts to minimize them, you have to admit seeing 12 hours of SCI and all the other bands on the bill for $242.00 is a pretty solid deal. String Cheese isn't resting on its laurels with three four-hour performances planned. Sure, they'll take a set break, but that's still a lot of dairy for your diet.
The little things. The festival organizers have worked hard to make every inch of the grounds interesting and engaging. And they're actually making sure to sweat the small stuff.
"[We're] looking at creating a way for people to walk away from the experience being wowed and knowing that regardless of who's booked and what's going on, they know they want to return next year," performance art director Tia Christiansen said in an interview with Headstash last month. "They're ready for the overall experience. [We want people to say], 'that is the craziest thing I've ever seen in my life.'"
Diverse bill. Yes there's a ton of electronic music at Electric Forest (hence the name, obviously) but there's still a good amount of bluegrass, funk, jam and rock for those who can't stand the computerized womp. And just because there's a computer on stage doesn't mean it's grating dubstep. The electronic music sub-genres are well represented, too.
Overlap. To Electric Forest's credit, they switched Bassnectar and Girl Talk so that the bass-king wouldn't be performing during STS9, but there are still a few conflicts fans have to deal with. The most notable is Thievery Corporation, one of the headliners, performing completely during STS9's first show. But with so many amazing acts getting such long slots, these things were inevitable. There are always conflicts at solid music events, so I'm sure fans will figure out what to do.
Broaden your horizons. Whether you're a jam purist who hates any band that doesn't have all its members playing instruments or you think String Cheese is too "slow" or "boring" to rage to, this is your perfect opportunity to give new acts a chance among people who really appreciate it.
Compete in the CrowdsEye Electric Forest Challenge. By submitting photos, stories and reviews via the online scavenger hunt, you can win two VIP tickets to Electric Forest 2013 as well as merchandise packages. And all you have to do is document your time in the forest. Trust us, you're going to want proof.
Keep your eyes open. As Tia said, they are working hard at doing all kinds of crazy stuff like sending out dancers and acrobats in costume and creating impromptu performances. Be aware of what's going on or you might just miss the coolest part of your weekend.
Hear your neighbor out. If a bunch of 18-year-old kids pull up next to you decked out in glow sticks, don't scoff and grumble, "Kids today . . . " Hear them out and maybe you'll rekindle that childhood spirit. The reverse is also true. The old salt camping next to you probably has some wild stories.
Don't go in close minded. Electric Forest truly has one of the most diverse lineups in the festival circuit. An open mind usually garners new favorite bands. Remember the first time you ever heard your now-favorite band? Now think about the day before that. Your world got rocked.
Don't be disrespectful. Electronic music and its fans have a bit of a bad reputation as being young, inconsiderate and more interested in the party than the music. It's cool to rage, but don't do it at the expense of others. Clean up after yourself and help someone else have as good a time as you. Prove those judgmental adults wrong.
With as many old heads as new-school boppers, there can definitely be a divide at Electric Forest. There's a ton of electronic music to go along with all that Cheesy goodness. The one unifying factor is the surreal and amazing Sherwood Forest. Once you're in that area, everyone's the same and we're all music lovers having the best time of our lives. Expect wide smiles all weekend.
Who To Check Out . . .
Obviously you're going to check out STS9, String Cheese, Big Gigantic, etc., so we wanted to tell you about a few under-the-radar acts that are worth your time.
Quixotic. The jam scene's Cirque du Soleil, complete with entrancing beats, fire dancing, aerial acrobats and more is a can't-miss after rave reviews at Wakarusa earlier this summer. It's a unique act that fits in perfectly with the feel of the event.
Forest Stage: Thursday - 11:00 to 11:45 p.m., Friday - 10:00 to 10:45 p.m.
Zoogma. After a headlining performance at Georgia's IMPULSE festival, Zoogma is flying high and ready to take their unique style of livetronica to the magical grounds they know well. "I went to Rothbury 2009 . . . [with] some friends and it was just perfect," drummer Matt Harris said in an interview with Headstash earlier this month. "You can actually sleep in during the day . . . it's not miserably hot like a lot of festivals. It's a really beautiful site."
Forest Stage: Saturday - 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
TBA. No word yet on who is going to fill this slot - but it's a pretty good one, so rumor has it there could be a super-group or the birth of a brand new combination of multiple artists. With so many great musicians on the grounds, something special could be in the works . . . (Or maybe a Gigantic Underground Conspiracy set with Disco Biscuits/Conspirator and Big Gigantic members.)
Forest Stage: Saturday - 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
SPEKTR. The winners of The Untz' Festival Challenge got to play Summer Camp, Wakarusa, Sonic Bloom and Electric Forest as a result. This one is the last of their run, so you can expect they've only gotten more comfortable in the large setting. "Out of all the festivals we're playing, we're especially excited for Electric Forest because it's geared towards our style of music," Clint Chapman said. "We're psyched to be on the lineup wth so many of our inspirations."
Forest Stage: Sunday - 4:30 to 5:00 p.m.
Inspired Flight. With a DJ, a multi-talented instrumentalist/guitarist and a female singer with an angelic voice, Inspired Flight creates a sound all their own, incorporating elements of hip-hop, rock, jam, electro, indie and more in each composition. Check them out and dance, chill or just stand there and enjoy. It's all good when you're seeing IF.
Forest Stage: Sunday - 6:45 to 7:45 p.m.
Who's excited for Electric Forest 2012? What are some of your favorite things about the festival or your do's and don'ts? Let us know in the comments below . . .