Posted Jul 16th, 2015 (12:17 pm) by Staff
Festival Review - Electric Forest 2015
Image by Zak Littrell

The hype surrounding the fifth year of Electric Forest was so real. Unmatched by any previous year, we felt it the minute we pulled into the security lines at 3 am Thursday morning. Due to the lightning speed sell out of this years tickets, many of us were greeted with longer than usual waits but many did not care, we were just excited to be home. Rothbury, Michigan and all its green forest glory welcomed back an estimated 45,000 attendees this year to Double JJ Ranch. The ranch allowed for expansion of the festival and welcomed a sprawling new area featuring two new stages, new vendors, more bathrooms (yay!) and more dancing space. Since 2011, The String Cheese Incident have curated what has clearly become one of the most desired festivals to attend, having sold out this years tickets in early February, one day after announcing the lineup. It is obviously not just the lineup that draws people to Electric Forest, but the main attraction of Sherwood Forest, topping itself once again this year with exquisite art installations, even more spots for music and more weird shit than ever before.

Section One: Organization/Production

Expanding the size of a festival only creates a challenge in accommodating the people who are going to occupy that space. I knew this year was going to be massive, but I truly realized that after about 4 hours of waiting in security lines until the sun came up. Having attended every year, this was the longest I had ever had to wait. I suppose the festival could have had more security lines in place with more volunteers to prevent this but overall did a fantastic job at getting people into the festival as quickly and safely as possible. Everyone was kind entering the camping areas, hi-fiving volunteers and hoping out of their cars to claim their spots. The venue itself expanded in size by adding two new stages past Sherwood Court. You could feel that attendance had definitely increased, to an estimated 45,000 from 37,000 last year, yet there was still plenty of space for people to get loose. Production increased quite a bit within the forest, at the two new Jubilee and Hangar stages and particularly at the forest-famous Tripolee stage at the entrance to the festival. Tripolee featured two robotic looking heads a la iRobot, facing opposite ways, emitting lasers and lights, drawing 15,000+ people to the stage. So many heavy hitting acts took the stage including techno & house legends Carl Cox and Claude VonStroke, bass killers Minnesota, Snails, Flux Pavilion and a multitude of genre bending acts. Tripolee stage is arguably the best stage of the festival. Equally important to the venue is the general admission camping area, which expanded quite a bit this year with Camp Blueberry (however those poor souls had a long trek to the venue entrance). The GA camping area becomes the wildest city in miles that pops up for six or so days full of people with two missions: see great music and party.

Score: 23/30

Section Two: Presentation

The attention to detail in the overall festival and expansion of the venue itself past Sherwood Court allowed for these missions to be accomplished at the new Jubilee circus-like tent stage, a la TomorrowWorld, which hosted artists Lindsey Stirling, Delhi 2 Dublin, and Dam-Funk, whom all sounded fantastic in the tent. Across a open field of food and craft vendors you walked into The Hangar, a literal airplane hangar inspired by old time post-war America. It housed a stage, bar, and other little 'storefronts' including a barbershop, where guys could get a “Forest Fade,” a (temporary) tattoo parlor, a pin-up photo studio and more. Foresters sipped beers and specialty cocktails while dancing to Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Bart & Baker, rising hip-hop star Lafa Taylor and more unique acts that were new to many of us. Walking throughout the expanded Sherwood Forest was once again the most aesthetically pleasing walks one could ever experience. More than 20 massive art installations, the Silent Disco, Observatory area, the Forest Stage and areas like the Jive Joint and the most 'turnt' pop-up library all boasted unique, unparalleled entertainment. Designated hammock zones in place this year provided for a bit of confusion but people were kind when they were told by security that they had to relocate. Performance artists roamed the forest, pretending to drive cars, giving people candy, some even asked us to play bingo with them. Insomniac and Madison House Presents cut no corners this year in terms of production and presentation. It was shocking and amazing to actually see Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella driving his own golf cart with wife Holly Madison and baby Rainbow in tow, right past us down Main Street in the GA Camping area checking out the craziness of this amazing festival he and his team have built, taking photos with foresters. These companies truly turn out amazing event after amazing festival and with the growing American EDM festival market they wont be slowing down anytime soon.

Score: 20/20

Section Three: Sustainability Practices

Due to the fact that there were so many more people this year, there was a lot more trash left on the ground. It was sad to see because the festival does a great job of placing a trio of trash cans all around the festival, one for trash, compost, and recycling. There are signs above the the cans with examples of what can go in them to assure they can dispose of all waste properly every day. The abundance of trash cans was nice, yet there could always be more. This would sadly still not prevent some people from leaving trash on the ground. Luckily once again the Electricology contest was held, giving people the chance to win upgrades and prizes for picking up trash and recyclables from the festival grounds. A great incentive which we saw many people taking part in. After the festival ended it was posted to Facebook that clean up was “ahead of schedule and started that way because of how many of you left clean campsites, nice neat piles for hauling, and shared resources with your neighbors.” Electric Forest has some of the best practices in place when it comes to trash and recycling, with the highest standards set to keep the festival clean during the shows and after the whole event is over.

Score: 22/25

Section Four: Non-Musical Entertainment

As I said earlier we were walking around the forest and were invited to play a game of bingo by impromptu performance artists. We sat down with them, one carrying a ball spinner, the other three handing us bingo cards. For about twenty minutes we played bingo with them, laughing and playing along with their act. Not breaking character once, they abruptly ended the game claiming they had to go find their friend who was trapped in a dreamcatcher, I assume by the Reincarnation Village. This festival has more non-musical entertainment than any other festival I've attended, including Bonnaroo, EDC, TomorrowWorld, the list goes on. Paintings hanging from trees, a dragon sculpture made out of CDs and the beautifully trippy clock tower are all elements that make the festival so special. The sheer beauty of every installation and sculpture of the forest could keep you there all day if you chose to miss some music you wanted to see. There is always something happening at Electric Forest, it is an immensely interactive music and art festival.

Score: 10/10

Section Five: Overall Atmosphere

After a somewhat tense first day the crowd remembered that we were in a very special place. For four days we inhabited this luscious forest and got wild with some of the most diverse music this festival has seen in its five year history. Attendees become family when they get to Rothbury. Every encounter with a stranger usually ended with a “Happy Forest!” and a hug. The people you encounter at the forest make for so much of the experience. Whether you make a friend or meet a weirdo, there will always be a great story to come out of it. The amount of people really felt like nothing by the end of Big Gigantic's closing performance, where most of the festival was in attendance and had to make the trek back through Sherwood Forest to the exits. Big Gigantic's set was the culmination to another spectacular year at the forest. You never want the festival to end and luckily for my friends and I, it didn't have to. We heard from a friend that Big G was playing a surprise set in the general admission camping area and my body filled with excitement once again knowing the forest wasn't ending just yet.

Score: 15/15


We made our way back to camp, put on some warmer clothes and headed over to the RV campsite. Following the sights of totems bouncing in the air, we then heard the beautiful sounds of Dominic Lalli on his saxophone. We shimmied into the crowd and there they were, Big Gigantic and Cherub playing on top of RV's. The crowd grew and the sun rose as they played for about two hours. As the sun came up and the music stopped, Big G and Cherub thanked us for being there and for another amazing year at Electric Forest. The sheer beauty of the moment hit me, this was the end of year five. Another stellar year of great music, people, and great weather for the first time without a single rain drop. The Inyourspeakers crew was so blessed to be invited back to the forest this year. It truly is one of the fastest growing American music festivals and before we know it, it could be really huge. Rolling Stone named it one of the Top 50 Music Festivals of this summer and with the addition of two new stages that are here to stay, this festival will only continue to top more must-see lists. Ticket prices have remained relatively low for a four day camping festival and with sales expected to begin again in December, a sellout is extremely likely as the demand for 2016 will be high! So many new foresters fell in love this year and of course all of us veterans will be returning. I encourage you to put Electric Forest on the top of your list, save your money and get ready for the most beautiful experience of your life.

Final Score: 90/100

Words and Photos by Zakary Littrell

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