It’s that time again, Forest Fam. Time to shine yer dancin shoes, gather your prancing friends, and get yourself advancing to Electric Forest. It’s two weekends before, and whether you’re weekend one, weekend two, or weekend both, there’s a lot to keep you busy throughout your four days of adventure.
At its most basic level, Electric Forest is a music festival centered around an unharvested pine stand in western Michigan. But if you talk to anybody who’s attended Electric Forest for even just a few minutes, you’ll find that it is so much more. Even after you factor in the stage productions, the lighting and structures in the Forest, and the hours and hours of music, that maybe covers a quarter of the experience. The remaining 75% is wildcard, fill-in-the-blank, the breadth and depth of which depends entirely on your willingness to lean into the unknown and your openness to accept change.
In other words, make sure to pack your freak flag. And maybe your freak flag’s freak flag. There’s opportunity aplenty to fly it out as big and bad as you want, to be the person you want, or a character, or a ninja, or that guy in a banana hammock. It’s up to you. All you’ve got to do is show up.
Wait, that’s not all you have to do. Don’t be the person who shows up to a camping festival with no tent, sleeping bag, food, or plan. If you need help planning, check on the resources from the Electric Forest sub on reddit here or check out the official guide on Electric Forest’s site.
2017 will be the first iteration of the festival to take place over two weekends, with some performers on one weekend or the other, but from the looks of it, you’ll be able to see most people on either weekend.
Because Odesza + Electric Forest = Magic. That’s really all that needs to be said, but I’ll expand a bit. Harrison and Clayton treat their live shows in much the same way that Electric Forest does, with a visual component as well thought out and beautiful as the music. They’ve also been working on a new album, so it’s likely that we’ll hear new music beyond their two recent singles.
Above & Beyond
If you’ve never been to an A&B show before, I highly recommend making this your first. If you have been, then I don’t need to tell you anything. Their 2014 performance at Sherwood remains one of my favorite EF performances in the six years I’ve attended. The uplifting, though sometimes emotionally crushing music, coupled with the messaging they type out makes for a show unlike any other with plenty of dancing, tears, and hugs. I get goosebumps just talking about it. It’s the best.
Claude VonStroke/Barclay Crenshaw
Technically this is two recommendations, despite the fact that the music is being played by the same person.
Claude VonStroke is house music perfection. From “Who’s Afraid of Detroit?” through “Rain Break”, he’s got an ear for what works and a big heart. Expect to cheese pretty hard as you shuffle up the dirt at Tripolee.
As for Barclay Crenshaw, Claude’s birth name and hip-hop alter-ego, expect a lot of booty popping and deep, dark bass. Prepare to get filthy.
Maya Jane Coles
I’ve always considered MJC to be a slower and sultry kind of downtempo, but after I saw her play a commanding performance of no frills house two months ago, I’m not really sure what to call her, aside from amazing and a do not miss. With any luck, she’ll include more of her robust back catalog, but she did just fine playing largely unfamiliar material. I look forward to seeing what comes from her entirely capable hands.
This isn’t the trio’s first rodeo at the Forest, but after shows at the smaller stages like Observatory, they’re ready to step into the big boy pants of Sherwood Court. Given the size of the daytime crowd for their shows at Coachella, they could easily pack the field to capacity.
There are resources abound for scheduling your bouncing from stage to stage for music, like the Forest’s site or the official app, as well as the aforementioned subreddit’s trove of wisdom. You can sit down and meticulously load all your plans into spreadsheets or write them out on cards to be laminated, but the best advice I can recommend is to make as few plans as possible. With so much to do, you don’t want to miss anything important, right? This is true, but how are you going to know what is important until you are there, until you are in the moment. The ‘No Plan Plan’ is a difficult one to commit to, and there’s so much that seems to run counter to it. We love schedules and planning out each of our steps and feeling like we can predict success or happiness, but that’s an artifact of regular day to day life. That’s a piece of the rat race, and why we feel like there’s never enough time in the day and why we feel like we aren’t doing enough.
Leave that behind as you make your way to the Forest. Release your expectations, let go of control and let the experience take you where it may. At the very least, try this approach for one day. You won’t regret it. If you still need convincing, consider the words of Bruce Lee:
“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
Join me next time for a walk-through of Electric Forest’s initiatives on safe spaces, privilege, and a smattering of miscellaneous advice for Forest prep.
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.