One thing can be said about Aloe Blacc with absolute confidence: Aloe Blacc is classy. For his midday set on the main stage, which is positioned in such a way where you’d assume that the organizers intended to cook the performers. It’s hot. It’s in the blazing sun. But that doesn’t stop Aloe from showing up in a vest, button-up and a tie. I hope his mom is alive, because I think any mom would be happy to see their son dressed like that. Aloe Blacc is a sharp dresser.
Anybody familiar with Big Gigantic will instantly recognize his peppy, upbeat song, “I Need a Dollar.” Anybody who’s been in earshot of a radio or TV commercial in the past year will recognize, “Wake Me Up,” although he performs it slightly differently. Some would say better. Some would be correct.
In a festival heavily book-ended by jam bands and EDM, Aloe Blacc stood as a refreshing dose of variety and a more traditional approach. There were no drops, fancy light shows, or decks to be found. Just a guy singing his heart out with a traditional five-piece backing band.
I wish I could tell you that Kygo was really good, or what he looked like, or really anything substantial about the show. All I know is it was insanely crowded, that everybody seemed to be happy to be there, and for the fifteen minutes I tried to find a suitable place to sit or stand and finally that his “Sexual Healing” remix seemed to be playing on repeat.
There is a small path leading off of a main path in the Forest that leads to the Forest Stage. This small path was jam-packed with people, some trying to get in, some trying to get out and was flanked by hammocks between every tree. At one point I struck out through the crowd, winding my way forward and trying to find the path of least resistance, but that also led to a closer view of the stage. I walked with purpose, confident that I’d uncover a magical, untouched spot where I could see…something, anything.
I got up as far as I could go, where my face was mashed between a tree and a hammock strap. I could see the backs of a lot of heads, totems lazily weaving back and forth, and what I am confident stating was Kygo’s left hand bobbing up and down.
“There. I saw him.” I said to myself and turned on my heel to leave-and was met with a long string of people. Apparently I looked like I knew what I was doing, or that I had some secret to getting a view. They were all looking at me expectantly, like they were waiting for me to plunge forth into the intricate matrix of hammocks, limbs and people. I darted off under several hammock ties and left the group I unwittingly had led to a complicated dead end.
Matt & Kim
You can easily tell the difference between people who are seeing Matt and Kim for the first time, and those who’ve already been initiated. The ones who haven’t seen them before will be standing there with their jaws on the floor as Kim shows off her five o’clock shadow. On her vagina.
Matt and Kim keep a running dialogue with their audience at all of their shows, keeping everybody involved, getting people to clap along and what many people would call over-sharing about their personal lives. It’s all part of the show, and the show is highly entertaining.
They threw out balloons, showered the crowd with confetti, Kim stood on her drum kit several times
What So Not
In a live environment, What So Not is composed of exactly one half of its members: Emoh Instead. Flume is apparently off doing his own thing, posting photos of his gear and strange choice of jackets while Emoh pushes the live thing.
And push he does. The show was in full swing when we got there, and we weren’t the only people showing up late. At first, the outer edge of the crowd fell just short of the walking path through the Tripolee area, but after a few songs that outer edge crept out to the actual walls.
I learned one thing about Emoh Instead during his performance, which is that he’s a show-off. I stood up front in the photo pit, the bass rattling deep in my chest, waiting for the guy to open his eyes. Nope. Wasn’t gonna happen. I imagined him backstage before the show, asking somebody nearby, “Hey, how much of my set do you think I can do with my eyes closed?” Then, without answering (because when does somebody asking that question actually wait for an answer?) he’d add, “I bet I can do the whole thing.” What a dick, I thought to myself.
Then I caught him half-open his eyes, only to close them before I got my camera up, and that’s when I realized he was keeping his eyes shut to avoid looking directly into the sun. Who’s the asshole now?
I can’t tell you when What So Not left off and where Seven Lions began. WSN started late, so they must have expedited the switchover from one producer to the other, from one song to the next. I was sitting in back, on the ground, expecting to be assaulted again by a random wasted lonely girl, but wound up entertained by the dancing of this woman instead.
Seven Lions, who’s real name is Jeff, killed it. He picked up right where Emoh left off and pushed the party music hard at the crowd, which was a welcome departure from the more melodic, serious music of his very recent ‘World Apart’ EP.
He didn’t play anything generic, he didn’t play anything overly dubby, and he avoided playing even one second of Le7els. Altogether that makes for a great start, if not a good show. He also looked to be having a very good time up onstage, working the crowd. He may have had the best time out of anybody there.
Jeff could also very easily pass as a member of any metal band, which made for an interesting juxtaposition up against the music he played. He, too, played mostly with his eyes shut, and I’m sure he was thankful when the sun finally dropped below the horizon.
We had a little time between shows, so we hopped on the ferris wheel for a night time view, and to snap a few obligatory terrible-quality photos to prove we were there. It’s too bad that I couldn’t capture that moment, sitting at the top looking over Tripolee, and the dark, murky Forest beyond that. I highly recommend taking a night time ride on the ferris wheel. At night, you can see the multi-colored rays of light shooting up from the trees where the Ranch Arena is, and more lights further back over Sherwood Court. Directly below, Tripolee itself is quite a sight, what with all the poi balls, hoopers, totems and other random lit-up toys waving to the music.
Ferris wheel rides were a little more conservative this year, only traveling around 2-3 times once all the cars were fully loaded. Measly compared to last year when we got maybe 8-9 revolutions. I’m happy for what I had, and appreciative of the much shorter lines this year.
I like to think that Scott Hansen, aka Tycho, was an awkward and all-around unfortunate child. He wasn’t, but believing he was helps me to better accept knowing that there’s somebody out there who wins in all aspects of life.
He is an incredible designer, he makes gorgeous music and he is heinously good-looking. As envious as that makes me, my tensions are eased by listening to his music.
The stage set-up was a little strange. The four members were bunched together on the left side of the stage, as if they were allotting the extra space for the next band in the line-up, or maybe they thought it would be rude to hog all the available space just because it was there. In previous shows, Hansen’s animations play from several screens flanking the rear of the stage, but in this environment, with an almost comically large stage, they opted for simple lighting, combining no more than two colors at a time. It was minimal and fitting, much like the album art with each release.
Tycho’s set was scheduled at the same time as String Cheese Incident and Moon Boots, which accounted for the light attendance for their Sherwood Court set. There was plenty of room to run, jump, dance or, if you’re like most people who showed up, gently sway back and forth from foot to foot.
Their music stayed at a happy, mellow medium throughout their brief hour and fifteen minute set, never feeling drowsy or static. Even when the long, long, long fireworks display for Cheese was going, they trudged on through. Although, as much as it seemed they were concentrating on their music, you could see each of them sneaking looks up at the fireworks. By the time the finale hit, half the people at Tycho were facing away from the band, staring up at the sky with perhaps the greatest soundtrack possible.
Then, after what seemed like five songs, the show was over. There’s a sense of finality with bands like Tycho, who you know are done when they say they’re done. They don’t play the encore game, they don’t pander to the crowd, so when they’re done, they walk off stage and go home.
The prize for best show of Electric Forest goes to Moby. Hands down, he had the best combination of expected vs unexpected, an appropriate number of builds, played some of his material, a bunch of other people’s material and served as the perfect musical exclamation point to the end of the festival.
I find part of his performance a little baffling, though. In particular, the parts where he completely abandons his post at the decks to hype up the crowd. If you’re out there, Moby, standing with your arms outstretched in a giant air-hug with the audience, who’s at the controls? Are you just hitting play, then hopping up on the table to get hands in the air? If he is, does it really matter?
I did appreciate that he didn’t talk to or yell at the crowd. I’m of the mind that if the music is good enough, hands will find their way into the air, people will jump and get rowdy. It seems like a lot of producers and DJ’s ask for the hands up first, and often throughout the set. Moby already had ten thousand rowdy fans before leaving his post.
It was loud and it was so, so good.
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.