Day 2 of Electric Forest was the first full day of music and attendees came out in droves for a number of big-time national touring acts. The hundreds of hammocks in Sherwood Forest were perpetually filled with napping or relaxing fans.
Philadelphia livetronica quartet Brother’s Past got things going on the Tripolee Stage with steady jams and some funky electro. Within their solid set were moments of true greatness where you wondered why they wouldn’t be playing on a bigger stage at a later time. The set was a perfect late-afternoon performance – well placed on the schedule and well played.
Though some took refuge under the shade, bobbing their heads keeping it low-key, others were up on the rail hanging on every note. The band’s tightness was impressive as they shifted gears masterfully much like you’d expect from a veteran group.
Over on Sherwood Court, eight-piece The Soul Rebels took the stage with glowing smiles and various brass instruments. At a festival dominated by heavy bass and electronic synth, the band went without keys or a bass guitar (and there were certainly no computers on stage) and were a breath of fresh air to the event.
As is typical with afternoon sets, there were a few hundred in attendance, but you could tell every member of the band on stage was glowing with happiness and thrilled to be there. You get the impression they would be just as happy playing in front of 5,000 or 50 people.
The tuba player acted as the bassist holding down the low end as the two drummers kept the beat and saxophone, trumpet and trombone players kept things funky. The band was an eclectic crew of all ages and sizes, but they all worked well as a unit united by their apparent love of their music.
The set carried a funky, old-school vibe to it and the jamming was evenly distributed amongst them. Five stood shoulder to shoulder in a line as if to symbolize their equality. The highlight was a surprising cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” with that always welcome New Orleans flavor. They truly made it their own and showcased why they were worth a trip through the forest.
Roots reggae artists, Midnite took to the Ranch Arena as fans sat in the shade and relaxed along with the familiar compositions. Lead singer Vaughn Benjamin crooned emotionally stirring lyrics while the rest of the band sat back and let him preach.
Regardless of whether you love or hate dubstep – because it seems like there are very few in between – anyone had to be impressed with NiT GriT’s producing skills. Dynamic doesn’t begin to explain how all over the place each track was. Though there is an easily danceable backbeat at all times, he never allows the song to become stagnant or fall into a groove for too long
His music should be classified as machine gun dubstep – a blistering pace with constant synth assaults as fast as the firing of a weapon. Each track must take forever to fully develop.
Each song had multiple layers so you could latch onto more patient, deep bass and move slowly or jump around with the fiery electronic sounds.
His cocky on-stage persona was appropriate for the set as he raced through some extremely dark yet still somewhat airy tunes. One highlight of the set was a new, “yet unmastered” song near the end that featured a variety of string instruments, showcasing his versatility and the vastness of his sound.
The string instruments would be slowly built up as NiT GriT danced and goaded the audience in front of a large LED screen. As it reached a peak, he broke it down into extreme dubby glitch.
The set had people going wild, prompting one fan who was stomping the ground hard to exclaim, “That’s how dubstep should be!”
Finally, festival hosts The String Cheese Incident took the stage for their first two sets of the evening. The first was expectedly bluegrass inspired with the crowd bouncing around balloons and holding up jellyfish while stilt walkers, aliens, bears and other costumed artists made their way through the crowd.
In typical SCI fashion, they interacted with the crowd joking about the various poles being held up and polling the audience about who had never sent them before. In addition to their new single, “Can’t Wait Another Day,” which had a bouncy, “Under The Sea” style feel to it, the highlight was a waltz-style tune and an uplifting and emotional set closer.
The second set featured some SCI classics like “Texas” and “Way Back Home” as the crowd lit up with the sun past the horizon. The show was tight and technically sound with Jason Hann taking MVP honors for some really amazing percussion duels with Michael Travis and other exciting flourishes.
One of the fastest up-and-coming group in the festival circuit, Quixotic hit the Forest Stage with a set that absolutely delivered and lived up to the hype. With amazing visuals like Day-Glo painted dancers, acrobats, laser pointed gloves, masks and other accessories, this was an experience, more than merely a show.
Maybe the coolest part was that the dancers stayed in character the entire time. As they peered into the crowd (who were just inches from them on the stage), they didn’t smile or react to the crowd’s prodding, opting to remain true to the emotion and feel of the set.
The music itself would have been great enough on its own merit even if it weren’t exacerbated by the other aspects. Much like Beats Antique with an even more worldly feel. The lithe dancers and the electric violinist made for a truly surreal moment.
As the largest crowd of the event packed Sherwood Court, STS9 took the stage in white shirts and black ties as an alien voice welcomed the Electric Forest crowd and waxed poetic about space, time and life. The set was full of newer material but many of the tracks were reworked since their debuts, including “March,” “Hidden Hand, Hidden Fist,” “Scheme” and “Looking Back On Earth.”
A surprising cover of “Shakedown Street” made an appearance about halfway through much to the joy of the crowd. Only played a handful of times since it’s debut a few years ago, it was a nice treat for those in attendance.
Regardless, the LED pyramid light show was thus far the best of the festival and LD Saxton Waller’s more conventional lighting was absolutely on-point with the music. The end of the show really gained steam with a smooth and brooding “Move My Peeps.” A patient and really drawn out “What is Love?” was potentially the best song of the night with Hunter Brown shredding on guitar as he built the delicate tension only to break it down.
A fun “Aimlessly” also saw Hunter take the lead with some masterful use of the wah pedal. STS9’s set was probably the most popular of the festival so far and showed why they remain among the livetronica elite.
The encore featured “Metameme > Atlas” and a “Scheme Reprise.” Though “Atlas” had some seemingly technical problems and missed cues, the other songs were played well and ended the night on a positive note.
My only complaint with the set was the fact that the huge LED box in front made it impossible to see David Murphy, David Phipps and Hunter playing bass, keys and guitar. Though they certainly were on their instruments frequently, if you didn’t know any better, you’d think they were a DJ collective. Fog machines made it tough to see Zach Velmer drumming and percussionist Jeffree Lerner was also in the far corner.
Steve Aoki finished things off at Tripolee with his expected antics like climbing on the DJ booth and throwing a blow-up boat into the crowd and jumping into it. It was definitely a party and the music was easily danceable and a great cap to the night, but most people who weren’t raging like crazy were left thinking, “What exactly is he doing up there?”
Aoki was in front of his equipment about as often as he was behind it. Deadmau5’s latest blog post may have ruffled some feathers in the EDM scene and been making the rounds amidst the biggest names in producing today (like Sunday performer Bassnectar who responded with an incredibly thoughtful and thorough post), but he may have been spot on in some cases . . .
The highlight was a long and drawn out remix of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” where he enabled some genuine crowd participation. If you look at Aoki as a hype man, he definitely did his job and did it well. People were dancing and smiling all night long.
Crizzly was on the Wagon Wheel stage finishing things off at 3:15 a.m. but Electric Forest set up a screen and speakers for those who couldn’t get into the intimate venue to rock lakeside. Remixing “Zombie Nation,” Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Niggas in Paris” and various other hip-hop and pop songs, the crowd ate it up before heading back to their tents to crash for the day.
Day 3 of Electric Forest will feature the second of three String Cheese Incident performances, the second of two STS9 performances, Girl Talk, Zoogma, Santigold, Major Lazer and more.
Be sure to check out the CrowdsEye booth at Electric Forest and submit your pictures via their website to win prizes like tickets to next year's event. If you're not in the forest, check out everything that's going on in real time.
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