Electric Forest Festival 2013 | Review & Photos

Article Contributed by June Reedy | Published on Sunday, July 28, 2013

I’ve read Treasure Island, Last of the Mohicans, Wizard of the Oz, Lord of the Rings, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Tarzan and my all-time favorite, Of Mice and Men.  All these stories do not compare with the living storybook of Electric Forest 2013.  There was a hole in a tree and I fell in.  Tumbling down the black hole there was voice that told a story.  It went like this:  Once upon a time at a grand ranch in Michigan, there was a magical forest.  In that forest lived the happy go lucky loving tribe of 40,000 smiling humans. They called it Electric Forest and they thanked the many benevolent spirits present for their time there. In the Electric Forest, the tribe spent their time dancing, singing, creating art, immersing themselves in each other’s art and loving each other and the world.  It was a natural cathedral where breath was prayer that only lasted for four days and four nights every summer.  The impermanence reminded the tribe that nothing in life is permanent and that every moment is precious.

In the third manifestation, the tribe was gifted with a bigger and more beautiful neighborhood called the Sherwood Forest within Electric Forest.  The traveling troubadours, Mayhem Marching Band, and Hoop Troupe brought their music and creative movements to match the lasers and colorful lights that glowed from within the Sherwood Forest.  Everything was multi-media and very touchable and there were more glittering humans than ever before.

Every branch on each tall tree was a library shelf of creativity.  Every book on the library shelves was actually a face on a beautiful human being.  Electric Forest is a living storybook where the fairy tales come alive.  It is these stories that give us meaning and reason as we walk the Earth in sync with the seasons and the stars.  There’s Molly, still plugging away at her math degree, she got a promotion at her job and has really perfected her hoop dance moves.  There’s James that has become quite the craftsman over the past year.  He has perfected his angel hair weave and begun his hand at crafts I have never even heard of, all the while spinning poi like never before.  He looks happy and healthy and that’s what is most important.  We’re still looking for Carl.  Their stories are being written every day.  The bridge of the book and the pages that hold the tribes’ stories cross the divide of time.  The excitement for Electric Forest represents the stories about to be written for four days and nights of forest living, 96 hours goes fast at 100 miles per hour

Conscious Alliance

I donned my Little Red Riding Cloak and took off to the front of the stage on the very first day.  Thursday and Sunday were power-packed line-ups of music.  I was super pumped to see A Tribe Called Red and I wandered off to write my own story.  I also had this basket of food to bring to poor sick ol’ Granny.  The Conscious Alliance folks happily accepted, and in return gave me a poster for feeding not only Granny but contributing to the Roy Price Memorial Food Drive that has donated over 17,000 pounds of food to local food banks in Michigan.  I took off through the forest of Glow in the Dark Disc Golf.  With so much state of the art illusions and fantasy lands to indulge in, I was glad to see other good guys in red.  They were the nice folks there to take care of anyone, should they need medical assistance.

'It’s the same story the crow told me – it’s the only one he knows. Like the morning sun, you come and like the wind you go.  Ain’t no time to hate.  Barely time to wait.  Wo-oh, what I want to know… Where does the time go?'

I’ve read lots of stories and they always serve as a reminder that my so-called-original thoughts aren’t very new at all.  Lots of stories have been handed down and changed and handed down again and maybe we’ve just been sharing the same story all along.  Forest Family love was flowing as we lined up at the opening to the abundance of the festival grounds.

Rosin Coven | Rothbury, MI

As soon as the gates opened we followed the path with our jaws dropped to the Sherwood Forest.  Dixon’s Violin called me home as I veered right on the path over to the newly constructed Observatory Stage, China-Gras as I heard it called.  It was appropriate as it has the feel of Mardi Gras and China town all wrapped up into one.  Dixon’s Violin opened and closed this irresistible new stage.  Last year’s performance was nothing short of inspiring and enchanting as he told the audience many times to never let go of their dreams.  Seasoned with macabre cabaret, I stayed to check out newcomers to the Forest, Rosin Coven.  Pungent like the sound of rain on a rooftop, the Pagan Lounge was in full effect.  The cello and toms were in harmony as the megaphone called all the beauty of a vanished world to the Observatory.  There was no fourth wall with their performance.  The show was all around you and I think that is the San Francisco vibe they aimed to bring to the Forest.  We are all one.  It was all around you! Rosin Coven blends strings, brass, percussion, and beautiful voices to blend genres in their theatrical experience.  I took a piece of this plot and carried it with me into the rest of the forest, forever changed by its twists and turns.  This was the excitement builder that left me leaving my mind behind and I began to follow with my heart as I heard the call of Tribe Called Red and the heartbeat of Mother Earth from the Tripolee Stage.

Tribe Called Red was banging on the Tripolee stage with their one of a kind sound stemming from the original inhabitants of the land.  The primal funk was mixed with the present day’s expertise with keys knobs and programming were filtered through the altocumulus clouds and seeped into the feet of the dancing crowd.  The Earth bounced back as the rage sticks raged and greeted the regalia dressed man, Two Feathers.  As best as I can tell he was dancing the Northern Traditional Dance telling the story of a prairie chicken.  Tribe Called Red is shamanic drumming ceremonial calls music mixed with danceable beats.  They throw in a lil Tribe Called Quest to mix good humor with contemporary music too.  It was a jungle of all the things I love.  I felt like a girl cub riding on the panther’s back.  Last year, Reggie Watts opened this stage and it was a political year.  This year we took a step in a different direction sharing in the groove.  We bonded to Tribe Called Red.  We are all Native Foresters.  Love your fellow human and they will love you right back.  Love abounds at EFF.

Ana Sia | EFF

The call of the thunder beings was like opportunity knocking.  The thunder beings answered right back.  Wakinyan, pronounce wah-key-un, are the source of both the power to live and destruction.  They ride the back of Minne Wichoni, the life-giving rains.  The rain revitalizes but it also delays and Ana Sia had some technical difficulties pulling off her set without pressure from above.  Smiling like the sun she continued on with the style that only Ana Sia has as she is a welcome addition to any lineup.  If only I could have actually seen more of her!  I wish she played the Observatory.  This huge techno set up, while fitting for her sound, was also foreboding.  She is a striking performer, but not towering in size.  Her delicate sounds groove as part of the pixie performance that I admire.  She is not dubstep but she don’t shy from the bass.  She has worldly influences you can hear from coast to coast.  Tech-yes, not Tech-no is what I’d call it because no should not be involved with anything about this woman.  She’s romantic but tough, short in height but tall in respect.  In the interviews I have read from her – I’m always trying to get my own chance to chat with this busy lady… hint hint- She speaks of her own sanity as she produces music.  It’s not for anything but her own chi to make music and have her music heard.  I love that.  She is constantly writing new chapters with her music and I will keep reading.  I would prefer if the next time I saw her live, I was on roller skates. She has some really perfect roller skating music.

I’m sorry that I didn’t have roller skates to keep me moving quicker through the festival grounds.  I missed Super Tall Paul and that is one of the only things I have to criticize about EFF.  So much great music all the time, everywhere and they have yet to perfect the transporter that would enable me to be everywhere at every time.  On that note, when I veered right in the Sherwood Forest, I didn’t veer left and therefore I missed Cosby Sweater!  Excuse me, I must correct myself, I missed Cosby Sweater with my special friend Joel Cummings.  Accept no substitutes; Cosby Sweater is shuffling their way on up the avenue.  The Silent Disco appearance on Friday night was unappealing to me.  I will lick my wounds and get over it.  Heed my words though.  Do as I say and not as I do.  See Cosby Sweater.

In the electric mist of the Thursday night Digital Tape Machine set, they too were having issues on stage.  Just before I arrived a piece of the lighting board on the back of stage fell!  It was not to be written that Kris Meyers was hit or hurt at all and the show went on through the rain.  DTM kills it at the pre-party to many a festival that I’ve been to.  They have that super funk to get the crowd pumped as they are Chicago’s own supergroup.  Be Here Now is the album they released this year after time staking effort that culminated with help from their Kickstarter campaign.  This album is a living version of what I believe today’s version of Ram Dass’s book Be Here Now would sound like musically.  Get Enlightened!

As the hours grew late, the night grew thick and the moonlight delivered Benny Benassi.  He looked confident and cool as he spun his remix of Icona Pop’s I love it.  I hung around long enough to see the master mix his magic on Cinema, the favorite Skrillex remix, and then drifted a bliss on to Quixotic.  I love Quixotic. They are kinky kewl and keep progressing to literally a higher level.  Again, the lack of a fourth wall puts me right into the story as I lay in the luxurious lap of their sights and sounds.  This year Quixotic covered the forest bigger and bolder this year with at least 7 set between the Forest Stage and the Observatory. I called forth the spirit that moves and bends and climbs high in the sky.  Shane Borth was summoning up the snakes from the strings of his violin.  Like the pied piper, this guy can lead me to far-away lands with his song.  His headdress for part of the performance looked like elk antlers but was actually made of feathers.  Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly, far, far, away.  Like a short story or a poem that night passed quickly away.

Love Bomb Yoga Flow with Mary Clare Sweet was unfolding at the Tripolee Stage under the Ferris wheel in the Friday cool morning air.  The heat would hit an hour later but I was already sweating in a standstill position.  As the instructor said, “If you want to be a warrior of the light, you have to stand your ground.”  This was by far one of the largest yoga practices I have participated in and the feeling was revolutionary. 

The endless opportunities to take notes and learn new things propel me at Electric Forest.  My next choice was the Drum Workshop with Kodi.  This is a man of Mickey Hart’s mold.  He was not so much teaching this class as he was living his example.  I watched as he held the heartbeat of his students and matched the throb of a monk that was attuned next to him.  It was energizing yet relaxing all at the same time.  Plunges of sunshine were warming my toes through the forest canopy as an adorable jewelry vendor approached.  I had to pick up a few of her handmade rings that now adorn my right side fingers.  They were simple wire wraps that she made into an eighth note and a treble clef.  It sparked up a great conversation and I hadn’t noticed when the music changed.  Up next was the Fungineers.

If you like flashbacks to Disney’s Dumbo Circus, you will love the Fungineers.  I got to high-five their character, Tea Bag and jam out to lyrics like, “I love wearing underwear on the outside.”  “I am special” was the chant as cats, rats, and scats were illustrated with an MC that was a unicorn puppet named Flavatar.  They had lots of amusing banter but at the end of the set, I was feeling like a child lost in a bad dream where my mommy wouldn’t pick me up and all I wanted was her attention.  I had to return to the land of adult music.  I had high hopes that the Fungineers could be my breakout hit of EFF 2013, but alas, it was not to be.  “If you want to be a Fungineer, you have to get super crazy weird.”  They had a See Spot Run feel that was a story that I just am not into these days.  Suddenly 6 dwarves stumbled through the crowd and I followed.  We were rushing so fast through the forest that when I looked up to see the towering 12-foot high mushroom flag when I looked back down they were gone but Railroad Earth was on stage at the Ranch Arena.

There was a humble loyal crowd kicking up the bluegrass dust.  They opened with Everything Comes Together and the crowd steadily fell into place against the railing.  A nice breeze made the sun bearable and the montage of the day was suited sweetly to the sounds of Todd Sheaffer on the microphone.  The dramatic twists and turns were orchestrated to the hugs and dips from RRE family members arranging effortlessly into their circles of salsa dancing in the sun.  The skirts went flying in colors of cream alabaster and pearl.  They went into Like a Buddha and then into their version of Tim O’Brien’s Walk Beside Me.  It kept it funky and flowing through this Friday afternoon at Electric Forest.  “I hear laughter in the thunder, I feel comfortable on the wind, I see hope in hopeless faces.  Someday they will love again.”  They encored with Dandelion Wine.

It was a perfect time to head back under the canopy of shade and stay somewhere between The Observatory and the Ranch arena so that I could pick back up with Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue in less than an hour.  I had a hankering for a Two Hearted Ale and wouldn’t cha know it, there was a heart full of sound coming from Dustin Thomas at the Forest Stage.  I had seen him dancing beside me having a great time at Tribe Called Red yesterday.  Now was an opportune time to take in his style on stage.  His shoeless self announced to the crowd that, “I am into social media but also I’m into physical media, so come give me a hug when I’m done playing. I’d love to meet all you beautiful people.”  His lyrics were story telling with soul and wit.  “Many roads I’ve traveled, I know I’ll climb the mountain when the good Lord says it’s time.”  He has that feeling of Bob Marley, Michael Franti and as I saw yesterday, the dances moves of Toots Hibbert.

Dustin connected with each and every crowd member that approached after he finished up.  Nahko Bear was in the crowd and together they touched and brought warm love to every one of them.  I found myself too shy to approach but I was unable to peel my eyes off the striking pair.  At one point I saw Nahko hug someone and hang on so strong he looked as if he collapsed!  It was like the movie Leap of Faith with Steve Martin where he has the power to exercise the demons out of people.  I couldn’t help but giggle.  I mused to myself that these photos would make excellent caption contests, if only I had the power to resist the staring and start photographing.

The brewery brethren of Bell’s Present’s Kyle Hollingsworth’s Brewru were offering up good conversation and beer samples so I headed over to enjoy.  There were beautiful thirsty people patiently hearing the similarities of brewing and making music from Kyle’s perspective.  I transcribed a bit of the conversation here.

I shuffled off into a hammock to sleep it off for a bit and almost reached Dreamtime.  I slept through the funk of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue!  Luckily, Shorty showed up on other stages throughout the evening.  I heard the he joined in on the Break Science set with Michal Menert and then again later Friday evening I caught him on stage with Dispatch.

The Dispatch fellas were yoking it up on stage.  After that nap to the sweet sugar of New Orleans voodoo in the eagle nest amongst the tress, I had to get up and boogie my booty to the cowboys and Indians that wore their war paint in pink.  Chad and Pete had on some pretty cute lil outfits.  It was a jolly live version of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  They ripped out Get Ready Boy, and then they had Tim Carbone of RRE join them onstage for Flying Horses.  I was dreamy-eyed from my nap and felt like I had ridden a flying horse here.  I opened up as they played Open Up into Josephine, my friend Niki’s favorite song.  It always gets my blood pumping to hear a friend’s favorite song.  I know I will have a great story for later so I try to really absorb that moment for better story telling later.  Again, Dispatch plugged their involvement with the Amplifying Education program and then gave the crowd a real treat when they played Friend of the Devil.

Dispatch | EFF

My friend Ben gave me the heads up that the GrizMatik set with special guests would indeed be very special.  GrizMatik already is a bit of a rarity, combining Griz with Gramatik from the Pretty Lights record label to, as they say, “cause Electro Soul Devastation.”

When I got over to the far end of the Sherwood Court for this set, the epic abundance of people was galvanizing.  The special guest came out and there was no way to even get near to see who it was beyond a dot on the horizon of the stage in the distance.  I knew that sound though.  Dominic Lalli’s saxophone sings like KokopelliBig G and Gramatik laid down the sound and Griz made sweet love to it.  From the Get ‘Em High into the Big G I Need a Dollar remix, the crowd’s jumps got higher and higher.  As they went into Talkbox Intended the beanstalk was growing towards the sky and we all climbed up it.  This set lifted off or possibly was it shooting below?  Was this the underground story that would take us all twenty thousand leagues below the sea?  Electric Forest is where the trio first met and began collaborating.  While some may complain that Big G, Griz, and Gramatik should have each had their own separate sets, this was exactly the melting pot that I love about this festival.  Why have just one when you can have all three at the same time.  Accelerated speeds of joy, the Big GrizMatik story was off the Richter scales and answered one of my pre-fest questions.  No Keller? No Big G?  Not only did they rage this stage but this one just the first time Dominic Lalli popped out over the course of the weekend.

It seemed the entire Pretty Lights record label made the trip to be at Electric ForestGramatik, Pretty Lights, Break Science, Michal Menert, Eliot Lipp… but where was Paper Diamonds?  Later I heard that there was a secret Paper Diamonds set beachfront.  I’m still wondering how you get the word about secret sets like that.  Last year I missed the early morning secret Michal Menert set.  One of these summers, I’ll find the secret of PLM.  I guess when you are on Pretty Lights record label you can do pretty much whatever you want.  The island of misfit toys was throwing their diamonds in the air, this PLM party amped up the energy in the forest to a potent degree.  They turned up the fun dial to a 12. 

Dustin Thomas | Electric Forest

We broke away from the huge crowd at Sherwood Court to flip the script and sit and enjoy the lights of the Observatory.  Dustin Thomas had moved over to this stage, singing his story of David and Goliath.  Dustin Thomas has that stature about him and I swear, with that guitar as his sword he could slay any dragon or Lion as it were.  The Observatory was my favorite new feature for 2013.  It was like my favorite bar under the stars with friendly bartenders and a great view of the music.  It was an electric version of Cheers with Sam Malone and a cast of freaks to provide intellectual stimulation to downright entertainment at all times.  Have a drink with Father Time? Don’t mind if I do!  The stage was at the far end and dropped down so there wasn’t a bad set in the house and photographs turned out very well.  The acoustics were nice with the drop-down feature as well.  If you wanted to listen to the music, you’d have to get closer.  There was the ability to sit and have a conversation while being near the music but not drowned out by the music.  The dreaded pine beetle had attacked and the production company took it upon themselves to do the right thing ecologically.  This stage would minimize the impact of the forest humans and all the while creating a dramatic impact to the forest with its beauty.  It lifted the audience higher into the trees where you could grab an eye full of lasers and the wondrous magic of the forest.  It was definitely a HIGHlight to my weekend.

Living the high life is what it is to be at a String Cheese Incident show.  They were crushing it at the first of three prime time slots on Friday night.  In a private performance for at least 10,000 smiling humans they opened with let’s Go Outside, a Kyle song.  That clinched it for me and there was no urge to go anywhere but to stay and enjoy the show until at least 1 a.m. when Passion Pit took the stage at eh Sherwood Court. 

In an interview with SCI, the band was asked, “When did you guys transition from bluegrass to electric?”  The answer from Travis was simply perfect when he responded, “We’ve always been electric, just masquerading around as a bluegrass band.”  They can write a book in performance from science fiction to romance.  They begin in Mandarin and end in French, Around the World in a three and a half-hour set. From Let’s Go Outside they went into Song in my Head>Can’t Stop now>MLT.  This was when my epiphany hit.  It may have been sparked by the Kyle heavy first set. That ripping piano goes straight to me.  But it occurred to me that : A) Colorado is way kewler than Vermont.  B) This up and down jam is what I used to love about jam band music.  This was the groove that kept me dancing. And finally, C) String Cheese is my new favorite tour.  I can’t keep up with Phish kids anymore.  This is the new lively activity to release me from my mundane Monday thru Friday lifestyle.  That beautiful organ disco-funk took us through the first set and I stopped thinking so much once Kang’s voice came out with I Wish by Stevie Wonder.  “I wish those days could come back once more.  Why did those days ever have to go?”  I was hanging with those hoodlum friends of mine.  By the time they went from On the Road into Joyful Sound, I was lost in the story of the jellyfish.

Maybe it was the culmination of the day, maybe it was the perfect weather, maybe the winds of change were upon me and the time was right.  String Cheese’s second set clinched it for me.  Miss Brown’s Teahouse> Best Feeling> Shantytown> Way Back Home> Drums> Rollover> Rivertrance> Mysterious Ways?  Rilly?  I don’t normally care for this song but they made it work> Rivertrance.  This band has been dealing with delicate yet powerful audiences for most of their 21 years as a band.  They have found a way to glory as they didn’t give it all away but rather built up the anticipation for the next two nights of more.  They encored with Freedom Jazz Dance> Just One Story.  I was smiling so hard all I could say was CHEEEEESE.  “It seems there is just one story passed around eternity.”  Didn’t I just say something like that earlier in this article?

In an Alt-Indie sort of way, Passion Pit had the Sleepyhead crowd swaying.  The Sherwood Court had a quarter of the people it had from earlier at the GrizMatik show.  They opened with their new hit Carried Away and carried it on with Talk a Walk.  When I consider the song sleepyhead and the oddly depressing song disguised by happier pop melodies, I began to wonder about the lies that can hide behind a face.  The character that we all portray doesn’t always have an environment like EFF to help them to divulge all their secrets and be free of them.  “Flicking fire like saltwater in my eyes” but “everything is going to the beat.”  The way the gentle music box loops is eerie like a Chucky doll is sneaking up on you.  I would like to see Passion Pit again, but perhaps like a movie on a rainy afternoon.  Someplace where I can intimately discuss the merits of this music and really focus on just this one act over a date by a lakeshore.  I was dreaming and it was time to put me out to dry.

We cruised back to camp and past Krewella.  I wish I would have had more energy to check out the ladies.  As I drifted to sleep, I could hear my heart beating in unison with their beats and I smiled contentedly as they introduced themselves from the great lakeshore city of Chicago.  The crowd was pumped as you could hear them all the way back at camp.  They must have had a decent-sized late-night crowd.  My ears could tell the story as my eyes shut to darkness.

Sleepy Saturday brought fresh meat and the two day passes crowd to revive our spirits again.  Not only was there more life but more crowds and it was now taking an hour to reach any destination for music.  I got up to the Ranch Arena about 3 o’clock to catch Jeff Austin and Friends.  Like Johnny Appleseed, he was spreading his style of mandolin loving all around to everywhere you yonder.  He had Eric Krasno of Soulive/ Lettuce, Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass, Cody Dickenson from North Mississippi AllStars on drums, and Eric Thorin on bass.

If you have heard Nahko & Medicine for the People, you know the story.  He is like Squanto, the inspiring guide and teacher that despite his troubled life, still wanted peace for everyone.  The Sherwood Court was magically transformed into Medicine Square garden when the transformative power of their real talk music hit the stage with gusto.  There is a method to this music, there is sage to the message they are sending out.  Chase Makai had No Fraking drawn on his guitar.  I was moved to tears earlier this summer at Summer Camp Music Festival when Nahko was asked to lead the crowds in a rally against Monsanto.  This performance at Electric Forest was breathtaking.  They played to all hands clapping like a massive version of Ring Around the Rosie.  It was a happy story unfolding in the midst of powerful people holding pockets full of posies to ward off disease.  It is the powerful people that always have and always will use the power of mind over matter to overcome. 

“A piece of my peace will be with you all-ways” Nahko & Medicine for the People

Sometimes when I think about the muse that affects musicians, I know that I do not share the same one.  I am a social person; I enjoy the company of others very much.  Musicians, in order to become crafted at their skill, listen to the muse that confines them to their rehearsal studio or to their bedroom as young budding teenagers.  I find that fascinating, how musicians adapt to the social situations that they may find themselves in without having necessarily a set of social skills that will help them out.  They can talk to their instrument, but can they easily talk with other people?

This of course, had nothing to do with the musicians that performed from Saturday night until the massive finale Sunday night.  They have crested that hump and come full circle, communicating with each other and the audience thru the love of music.  Music has been the connection; the sacrifice of a few years getting to know their instruments has been well worth it.  This higher form of connection and communication abounded as I think each one attending felt like a rock star in their own right. The high is something that resonates with us all. 

As the second set of SCI rolled on, Dominic Lalli had stuck around to play on stage with String Cheese.  You knew, despite having his band’s name on the performing list he had come to party with us all.  It got me thinking as he and Kyle traded solos that bordered between funky jazz café of the roaring ’20s to the electronic break beat of 2013, I wonder if that universal language could ever be archived.  Writing an article, trying to describe this moment has been difficult.  Is it, would it ever be, possible to capture this universal communication?  For example, Dominic’s sax can speak to 40,000 smiling humans in a way where each one of us individualizes that sound and it is special to us all in different ways.  Sitting in his bedroom rehearsing that saxophone has enabled him to speak to large audiences in a way that is indefinable.  The math of music was making sense to me.  Then my mind was blown all over again when a fire dancing beautiful lady was air lifted above the stage with SCI tearing it up.  Art is flight.

Russ Liquid was the breakout hit of 2013 for me.  Who Gives a F*ck Where You’re From is his top 10 hit, in my opinion.  I wanted to say he is from Florida, but then again I can’t confirm that and who gives a f*ck.  He’s good.  It’s probably Electric Forest’s fault, maybe EOTO’s fault but I feel I am able to tell a good from a not so good DJ/ producer.  I think Russ Liquid qualifies because of his multi-instrumental approach.  He plays trumpet, flute, drinks PBR, and rowked my world Saturday night.  He is tall and lanky with an odd motion.  When he is setting up the track, it’s almost as if he is connected by strings to his equipment.  Once he has looped the track or queued the next beat, he explodes.  Just like Pinocchio, he cuts those strings and becomes a real boy!  I recommend his track Butterfly Moonlight.  It gives you a nice taste of what my evening was like with his music.

Upon the conclusion of his set, I wandered out towards the fresh air.  It was getting filthy in the forest so I felt wound up tight and ready to head towards camp to unwind.  As we hit the Tripolee Stage, A-Trak and Danny Brown must have been on stage.  I can only say it that way because I had to look up their tune, Piss Test.  I have long felt very strongly against pee tests as a condition for employment.  I can understand in certain circumstances but they should be no reason that my interview or my skills on my application shouldn’t be good enough.  What I do on my personal time is my business.  I love Abbie Hoffman’s book, “Steal This Urine Test.”  I thought I felt very strongly about this topic until this moment.  I stood there, taking it all in.  I whispered to my partner, “I feel strongly about this topic.”  The lyrics raged harder and louder, “F*ck a P.O.!  F*ck a piss test!” The crowd was crazy for it, it was like the crowd at a Wu Tang show.  They were moshing and saying it like they meant it.  I like the quirky fun light-hearted cries of Cheesecake!  Say it like you’re pissed!  This was a whole other animal.  It was madness!  I heard a HeadCount volunteer ask one of the fans if they were registered to vote.  Ironically, he answered back that he wasn’t 18 yet.

"Will you be by November?"


It was at that moment, I again whispered to my partner, “I don’t feel that strongly about this topic.”  I don’t know if I got older or if I am starting to see that presentation is everything.  This was not my kind of show.  I struggled with why that bothered me so much.  I remembered the story of the ants and the grasshopper.  “Oh the world owes me a living…” Electric Forest is such a treat.  It is a release and almost too good to be true.  It is not a reason to ruin your life and go too far with bad choices.  Work hard, play hard. EFF is the playground of my dreams.  I didn’t like it dirty-ed with explicit profanity and anger.  We are blessed and lucky to live on the green planet.  I dream of a day when society can turn the corner like the grasshopper did.  After thinking that God will provide for all his whims and never working to supply himself with what he needs, he learns that lesson that I feel we all do as we grow up.  His fiddle keeps the same beat but the words change after the ants take him in and show him why they work so hard all season long… so that they can survive the winter.  “I owe the world a living” If you love something you will work to preserve and cherish it.

The last day of the forest had arrived so quickly.  All successes and failures only last for a little while.  Oh time! Why must you be so fleeting?  Time was on my side.  There was no time to be blue yet.  Until Greensky BLUEgrass got up on that stage.  This is the perfect weekend.  I would not like it any differently.  I would like it with a fox (poster).  I would like it without clocks. I would like it just as well as Pandora’s Box.  I love me some Greensky Bluegrass with sass, bass, glass, and grass.  This was my power-packed Sunday lineup that began with Michigan’s finest.  As a music critic I would say that the top 3 live acts of EFF 2013 were for me, in no particular order, Nahko & Medicine for the People, String Cheese Incident, and Greensky Bluegrass.  It is a serious change for me to claim SCI as a top pick, but GSBG I have loved, ever since I first laid ears on them.

Three years ago, GSBG played to a soaking wet raging crowd, for all of maybe 3 songs.  There was lightening for the inaugural Electric Forest.  As appropriate as that was, it did not play out well for the Michigan native’s set.  They did not return last year, and this was a triumphant return.  It was nice to hear them thank the crowd as they clearly had not forgotten the love they received in buckets that night.

“Your commitment was very admirable and I still think of it all the time.  Thank You.”  -Paul Hoffman

Greensky play so well off each other that it is mimicked throughout the crowd.  People are playful and friendly to one another.  The camaraderie that GSBG brings to every show I’ve seen is simply catching.  This was the weekend just after Telluride Bluegrass Fest and just before GSBG would play Red Rocks opening up for Railroad Earth.  There was a sense of Colorado in the Michigan band.  It felt good, bigger, and more confident.  (But not too much!) They opened with Tied Down.

“We’re Greensky Bluegrass and these are Instruments!” – Anders Beck

They too, must understand that communicating with music, spending time alone with their instruments thing I spoke of earlier.  The harmonies on Leap Year proved it.  After they played their smoking hot version of Kerosene, Anders spoke up and said that we would be privy to hear some of the tunes off their new album.  Yay! New album!  We haven’t heard anything new since Handguns in 2011.

"We’ve been trying really hard not to play the new tunes cuz that is what you’re not supposed to do, play tracks from the new album before it’s released.  But we’re terrible at that!"

Screams of “DO IT!” were coming at them from every angle.

"We’re never gonna make it as a pop band. I’m sorry.  All your hopes and dreams of us becoming boy band superstars are prolly not going to happen.  Greensky Bluegrass Boy Band.  Not gonna happen."

But they still look just as good, if not better.

They continued on with Out of Control, Letter to Seymour, and a dedication to mike’s parents.  As a well wish to them on their 35th anniversary, they played Can’t Stop Now.  Yay! Love Wins!  Dustbowl Overtures had the bluegrass dust flying and they finished up with no encore but a fantastic cover of Could You Be Love?  Isn’t that the question?  Don’t let them change ya, or even rearrange ya.  You got a story to write…

There is this whole Colorado Michigan connection, the natural raw folk music thing, that is like honey.  That’s all Pooh Bear ever wants and I agree with him.  Think, Think Think.  Most of Pooh Bear’s days are spent preoccupied with his honey.  There is never enough of the Greensky, Railroad Earth, and Jeff Austins in the forest.  I would love to have Earthwork Music showcased in the Forest one of these years.  Later this month, Railroad Earth will play with Bruce Hornsby on the Noise of the Earth tour.  Then later in August, Greensky will play with Bruce back in my hometown.  Paul Hoffman was watching Jeff Austin and Friends play from the audience.  This is the sweetness of life.  This is the stuff I would spend all my money on if I could.  Just like Pooh Bear, it is that simple to me.

It was a mostly main stage last day of Electric Forest for me.  Femi Kuti and the Positive Force brought out the big show with dancers and African beats and the gentle reminder that we are all related, Mitake Oyasin.  Thoughts of work the next day calling me back to Chicago to be ready to go at 10 a.m. were plaguing me.  I had to conserve energy because I refused to let that interfere with my 11 p.m. Pretty Lights set.

String Cheese eased us into the final set as the Greensky Cheese Incident unfolded.  They began with Nershi & Travis playing their side project, Sporkus’s only acoustic track, Elvis’s Wild Ride.  They have quite a sense of humor.  Travis played percussion on Nershi’s guitar while he played.  That would be reason # 63 that I am falling in love with SCI as my #1 seed band today.  From there, they went into Barstool> Missing Me> Boo Boo’s Pik Nic and out came Greensky! Together they played Atlantic City> Gold Rush> Doin' my Time> I Know You Rider.  They finished up the set with the Allman Brothers’ Jessica.

The second set started off with a sincere appreciation for all that is Electric Forest.  Kang said “fuck yeah! You guys are doing a great job.  Keep it going, take care of each other!”  String Cheese Incident rolled right on, giving the crowd what they wanted with more loving music to love to.

It is What It is> Smile> Piece of Mine> Betray the Dark> Pack It Up> Dirk> Ring of Fire> Black Clouds

When we reached Ring of Fire, I knew they were closing out.  That was the closing tune from last year as well.  They finished up with Valley of the Jig and a massive array of awesome fireworks.

This weekend had been a story in the making all year long and it will continue to get bigger as time goes on.  Pretty LightsDerek Vincent Smith has been making sure of that.  Not only was his entire label of musicians here this weekend but rumor has it that he would like to get involved more in the future.  Just one more Michigan Colorado connection, for him to want to be connected with the state of Michigan and this festival is big time.  His Pretty Lights family is so huge in Colorado; it’s time to bring that family here to the Midwest.  I met a new friend just before Greensky named Kathleen.  She was sporting the green n gold CSU hat.  We are both alumni! She is also illuminating at tonight’s Pretty Lights show.  What a great concept.  They illuminate at not every show, but as an effort to give back to the scene they will illuminate and not get fucked up.  They help out anyone is distress, even if that just means a hug or a smile to reassure the family that all is good in times of anxiety.  I found her raiding the rail when Pretty Lights was about to go on.  Illuminators and enlightenment and evolution, oh yes! Color Map of the Sun was set to be released just a day or two after Electric Forest, 7/2/2013.  The new Pretty Lights album is entirely made of music that he composed and collaborated on and then pressed to mix samples with.  It is a body of work to be admired for sure.  He played one of my favorites, Round the Block, featuring Talib Kweli.  The lyrics couldn’t ring truer than in the moment like that:  Hand to god, Word is Bond.  Right now is the best moment you’ve ever known; you got to make it your own.

Make it your own, write the story, paint the picture, do your thing!  The wind whistles through the ancient mountains, giving you ideas on the daily.  The best part of any story is like the waves crashing into the shore.  It happens a little differently all the time.  Something enormous could be just beyond the horizon.  This is our fairy tale.  The best part about it is that it never ends.  Stories just keep going.  It is a small world after all.

Life is good, it’s an option denied to many.  In the reincarnation nest you can commune with new friends and keep the memories of friends lost alive.  I’m going to come to EFF until I die – and I hope that will be many long prosperous years from now, dear forest family. Speaking of, I wonder how many babies were born at EFF festival since 2011.  Perhaps they could consider having Trojan Condoms sponsor.  So much love was everywhere, we wanna remember to stay safe!  Look out of any window any morning, any evening, any day.  Maybe the sun is shining birds are winging or rain is falling from a heavy sky.  What do you want me to do, to do for you, to see you through?  This is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon...

Check out more photos from Electric Forest: Thursday | Friday | Saturday | Sunday