The 6th annual Electric Forest (EF) festival returned to its home in the forest of Rothbury, Michigan this past weekend welcoming 45,000 fans to experience live music, incredible art installations and the magic of the enchanted Sherwood Forest.
On Thursday, June 22nd, the festival opened its doors and welcomed the Forest Family to their home for the long weekend. Fans flooded into the festival site to hit one of EF’s seven stages for the first music sets of 2016, roam the Sherwood Forest and reunite with Forest friends. Major Lazer, Duke Dumont, The Disco Biscuits and Kamasi Washington were among the most anticipated headliners who kicked off the 4-day music and camping festival. New larger than life art installations and gathering spaces - including the BeijaFlor, USS Entertainer Starship Voyager, Lady Vine and the EF’s 16 Plug In Program Art Installation Grant Winners Fairies in the Forest, The Looking Glass and the Ocular Organ - were on display among the 14-acre Sherwood Forest.
London-based label imprint Anjunadeep hosted the first of EF’s 2016 Curation Series, bringing the deep house sounds of Yotto, Cubicolor, Way Out West, Moon Boots, Lane 8, Dusky and Bonobo (DJ set) to EF’s adeptly-named Tripolee Stage.
Friday night brought the first set from The String Cheese Incident’s annual three night, 2-set per-night run on the Ranch Arena Stage, where GRiZ made his first collaborative appearance of the weekend. The Michigan-born, saxophone-playing DJ’s official set was the Sunday night closing celebration on Sherwood Court, but fans found GRiZ performing throughout the weekend, popping up in all corners of the festival grounds with 9 impromptu collaborations and performances. Fans were treated to surprise GRiZ appearances including a B2B late night set with Shooka DJ in the Good Life VIP campgrounds, guest appearances with Sunsquabi and Dumpstaphunk, leading a roaming marching band with Muzzy Bear and members of The Floozies and Sunsquabi, an All Good Records Jam, and to finish the weekend - a pop-up set in GA Camping and a Sunrise DJ set in the Forest early Monday morning.
By Saturday, the festival had settled into a vibrant groove as campers continued to explore all the unique experiences and surprises Electric Forest is known for delivering. Celebrating and nurturing a community that promotes freedom of expression and inclusiveness, attendees were invited to join a panel discussion from the women behind EF as part of the HER Forest initiative. Hosted by Kiki Federico, panelists included Alana Rocklin (STS9), Alicia Karlin (Talent Buyer, Madison House Presents), Dessa (Doomtree), Nova Han (EF16 Art Director), and Miranda Zickler (Rabbit Wilde). Discussions included shared stories of working within the music business, the contributions of women festival culture, and considerations on how each person can help spark a bright future, not only at festivals, but in the world.
In other parts of the festival, attendees enjoyed appearances by EF16’s Music In Schools recipients - a flash mob by Shelby High School’s Marching Band, Montague High School’s “Noticeably Average Band debut performance in the Grand Artique, and a duo violin performance by students of the Arts Council of White Lake. Each of these organizations are recipients of EF’s Music In School philanthropic program, which to date has donated over $50,000 to support music in local public schools.
Throughout the weekend, fans stopped by The Giving Tree to leave or take a cherished item, or lounged in one of the over 400 ENO hammocks strung throughout the festival site. Curated events continued on Saturday with Night Bass hosting the Forest Stage and showcasing groundbreaking artists such as AC Slater, Taiki Nulight, Petey Clicks, Kry Wolf, Landis LaPace, Low Steppa, Flava D, Justin Martin and Chris Lorenzo.
By Saturday night, the anticipation at the Ranch Arena Stage was palpable. Per tradition, The String Cheese Incident’s second set of the night kicked off with incredible fanfare. Paying tribute to Prince and David Bowie with songs ‘Kiss,’ ‘Let’s Dance,’ ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and ‘Space Odyssey,’ the tribute was accompanied by fireworks, larger-than-life pegasus and cloud floats, performers on metronome-like platforms swaying above the crowd, and an inflatable balloon with a mirror-ball costumed aerialist performing high above the fans. Following The String Cheese Incident’s extravaganza at the Ranch Arena was fan-favorite Bassnectar. Playing tracks from his new album, Unlimited, the crowd reached a fever pitch during the newly-named resident DJ of EF’s set.
Sunday provided a final opportunity for fans to explore all that Electric Forest has to offer, whether resting in a hammock, exploring the various art installations, interacting with performers who roam the forest, and of course seeing live music. The HER Forest program hosted a Sunday afternoon Closing Women’s Circle, which was open to all members for the Forest, creating an opportunity for Forest Family to connect more deeply within themselves, each other and the meaning of their experience at EF. Electric Forest’s annual Roy Price Memorial Food Drive hosted by Conscious Alliance collected the last of its food donated by EF16 to be delivered to those in the local community in need – 65,000 cumulative lbs. collected since 2000, not including this year’s donation totals, which were still being sorted and weighed at time of press. Not-for-profit HeadCount, who was hosting a booth in the Ranch Lobby, finished up registering attendees to vote in this crucial election year. At EF’s Electricology Store, fans cashed in tokens, earned for doing “green” acts throughout the weekend, for prizes such as official EF merchandise, signed artist goods and more.
On the stages throughout the grounds, fans were soaking up the stacked Sunday lineups. Tripolee featured pulsing sets from fan favorites Whilk & Misky, Hayen James, Louis the Child and Gryffin. The Sherwood Court kicked off the last day with Sunsquabi, with huge crowds gathering for Rufus Du Sol, and GRiZ performing Sherwood Court’s famed closing set. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band closed their weekend artist-in-residence at The Hangar in true rousing New Orleans fashion, while fans took in the last of the venue’s unique offerings – bowling in the Game Room, a cut and shave at the Barber Shop, and much more.