Before Electric Forest 2014, I’ve never had to mix much, if any responsibility into my cocktails at a festival. My approach has always been steady, constant input with near-complete abandon. In a word, reckless.
It was with that reckless behavior that I jumped headfirst into the Forest from the get-go and completely whiffed on timely updates. The Forest is a deceiving mistress.
I sat down at Cherub’s Ranch Arena performance to review some of my photos and reorganize my pack. It was sunny, hot, everybody was smiling and there was plenty of dancing rom. As I was shuffling through my bag, I got the distinct feeling that I was being watched. I turned to my right and sure enough, there was indeed somebody watching me, a girl who must have just plopped down next to me while I was elbow-deep in my pack. She was staring intently at my holographic wristband, and it looked like she was thinking long and hard about it. Her face was really close to my wrist.
“Hello?” I sad, and she slowly snapped out of her deep thoughts, her gaze slowly made it’s way up to my face, where they stopped, if a bit unsteady. She was young, she was pretty and she was wasted.
“This,” she pointed at my wristband, dropping her index finger onto my wrist, “what is this for?” I told her it was a photo pass, that I’m covering the festival for ElectroJams. She didn’t understand, which wasn’t a huge surprise. I told her I write for a blog and I get to take pictures. Still no change in her facial expression, just confused oblivion. I couldn’t even be sure she heard me at all. I pointed at the camera in my hand, then at me. “I take pictures.” I told her. Three full seconds pass by, then her eyes grew big as saucers.
“A camera!” She exclaimed, “Can I take some pictures with it?” I’d never met this girl before, she was wrecked on God knows what, and could barely perform basic motor functions, or even a remedial conversation. So of course I handed it over.
She stood up, snapping photos of the people dancing around us, stumbling a few times and the she crouched down in front of me.
“You should have a contest,” She paused to gather her thoughts, “for best photograph.” I tell her okay and laugh, then she puts her hand on my forearm, to tell me that she’s serious and levels her eyes with mine. “And I’m gonna win.” She abruptly stands, then swivels on her heel, surveying the scene and the people around us, then turns and squats back down.
“I’m going to find the most gorgeous, beautiful girl here and I’m going to take a picture of her.” I nod and tell her that’s a good idea, I guess. “Of her tits.” She adds, then stands up as I’m cracking up and stops the first girl that walks pastand ask to take her picture, please. “For a contest.” She tells her, very matter of fact. The girl smiles and just starts dancing. Pictures are taken, and my new photo assistant sits back down next to me. “There,” she said, handing me the camera, “that’s the winning picture.” Sure enough, it’s the chest of the dancing girl.
She handed me the camera back, but only after I agreed that she won. She told me her name is Ellen, and apologized for being the cliché wasted girl who lost her friends at a festival. Because nobody wants to be that girl.
I ask who she’s planning on seeing the rest of the day. She says Cherub, and I respond with a puzzled expression and point towards the stage.
“That’s Cherub.” I remind her. She looks at me crossly, and tells me she doesn’t like Cherub’s music, but heard that they put on a great live show. Indeed they do. That’s not the first time I’ve heard that kind of review, either. They put on a fantastic live performance. It might be dirty, sometimes downright lewd, but everybody is happy at their shows. Electric Forest was no exception.
Then, I broke poor Ellen’s heart. She was excited to see What So Not play, and hopeful for a surprise set from Flume. (Who makes up half of What So Not)
“I mean, he’s already here, why wouldn’t you just play a set?” She asked, rhetorically, but I answered all the same. I told her he’s only a collaborative member of What So Not, and that all their live shows only feature Emoh Instead, the second have of What So Not. It took a couple seconds to sink in, and when it did, she lost all expression on her face. It was as if I’d reached over and slapped her in the face.
“What..?” She stuttered, “No?” It took some convincing, but it eventually sunk in. She was bordering on tears. I tried to console her, telling her “Jaguar” and “Tell Me” were good songs, and he even plays some Flume songs in their live sets. Strangely, it seemed to help and we hugged it out before she stumbled off.
I stood back up just in time to see Cherub bring their lighting director on stage to showcase the tattoos he got. Of Cherub’s faces. On his ass. People are baffling.
Their set was a little haphazard, as they were delayed at the airport earlier that morning. They got through it, the sound didn’t suffer for it and everybody had a good time.
Right as Cherub ended, we decided it was time to head into the Forest to show our friends the magic and wonder that we’d convinced them to fly out from California to see. There’s a long, wide path leading from the larger Ranch Arena to Sherwood Forest, and the Sherwood Court stage beyond that. Paper lanterns are strung across the path, which is a little deceiving, because you assume based on those decorations that the rest of the Forest are going to be decorated in similarly Ikea-sourced lighting. This is not the case. The Forest is expansive, has three stages for shows, the lighting is extensive, and definitely not available at Ikea. Our friends stumble through the trees, open-mouthed and dumbfounded. It’s a gorgeous place and difficult to sufficiently describe in words.
We caught half of Late Night Radio’s set at the Observatory Stage in the middle of the Forest. It was so packed that there was little chance of getting up into the bleacher-style wood benches up the steps up to the main platform. He had everybody up and moving, dancing and enjoying the forest for the first time. It was so cramped, and we were quickly so overwhelmed by people constantly running into us, trying to get by or get out that we decided to take off early and come back when it was less crowded.
We left our new friends swinging lazily in a hammock, smiling at the world around them, happy they’d found their new home.
Later, we returned to the Ranch Arena to catch the second half of Paper Diamond’s set. If you’d have asked me a couple years ago if you should see Paper Diamond live, I would have told you he’s “pretty good,” and that it depends on who he’s scheduled against. Between his performances in Minneapolis last May and his set at Electric Forest, I will emphatically tell you to see Paper Diamond.
Alex B makes a lot of pretty noise throughout his sets, incorporating a variety of genres and not just sticking to the Pretty Lights glitch where he used to spend most of his time. He nimbly transitioned between Trap, Dub, House, Electro and some music that I don’t know how to categorize. He built up a large crowd as he went, nearly filling the large bowl of the Arena by the end of his set.
The highlight of the first night of Electric Forest was by far The Glitch Mob’s blistering headline set. Accompanied by the Star Trek meets HR Giger-inspired stage set-up, The Blade, the trio laid waste to Ranch Arena.
The people who generally just show up and dance to the music, unconcerned with the stage show absolutely danced their asses off, happily oblivious to what edIT, Ooah and Boreta were doing to make the intense, murky sounds like “We Can Make the World Stop.” Others like me watched, open-mouthed in wonder at the stage set-up, struggling to find each of the member’s sounds to match with what their hands were doing. The Blade is filled with knobs, faders and touch pads, and is flanked across the back by a group of…I’m pretty sure those are drums. They’re also lights. The set-up is gorgeous and a perfect compliment to the tone of their music, and challenges the common assertion of plug-and-play producers.
It’s not just on the stage, either. Earlier in the day, they were high above the Forest in a hot air balloon with a lucky fan, and went over their allotted time for their Meet and Greet with fans on the ground. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more humble, grateful group of musicians.
I cannot stress this enough: if you get the opportunity to see The Glitch Mob play live, especially with the Blade, you owe it to yourself to show up. If they can walk in and dominate a festival like Electric Forest on opening day, they will surely impress on their own.
I work, live and play in Minneapolis.
I try to tell the story of the people that create music and experiences through pictures as well as through words.