With a scant seven days to go until Electric Forest kicks off (six if you’ve got early arrival), it’s time to map out your four (or five) magical days. Also, you should probably pack.
I’ll have you know that I have more to say, for starters, okay?! Geez, get off my back. I’m also very super overly excited to get back to the magical place I call home.
There are so many options, side quests, and mini adventures to be discovered at Electric Forest. It’s truly a real life Choose Your Own Adventure story, though thankfully without the, “You died” mishaps. Hopefully. I figured it could be helpful to provide a list of suggestions from an EF veteran.
In their own words, Electric Forest HQ says about the festival,
EF’s unique approach to focusing on the EXPERIENCE as much as the music, and the festival’s core commitment to building and nurturing community are the very reasons Electric Forest is so special. We sincerely hope you feel it during your time at the festival.
Their aim is not only to build a community within the festival’s attendees, but also push those attendees to continue building past the festival’s conclusion.
Boots and Cats
Want to see how a master does it? How a full song, complete with samples, is generated from one person’s mouth? Hit up one of the Honeycomb shows at the new-to-2019 space/stage, The….Honeycomb. According to him, the stage was not named after him, but after everybody sees him tear it up, that might change.
His, or any of the other fantastic lineup of beat-boxers schedule throughout the festival may inspire you to want to take up a mic yourself to figure out how to artfully push air out of your mouth.
At the Brainery, you can do just that courtesy of Forester Karl Olsson in his course: Beatbox for Beginners. It goes down Sunday from 2:00-3:00 PM.
Bend Gender with the Gender Benders
Let’s riff on a gender a bit, shall we? The concept of gender idtntity is about defining your journey, not determining your destination. It is about finding where on the spectrum that feels most right for you. It is also about respecting the place where others determine they feel most right.
Just because it is private information does not mean it must be endured or explored in silence, or by yourself, for that matter. This project need not be individual, it is an exploration that can be worked out in tandem or even in greater numbers.
It can be difficult at first to reconcile all of the shades of grey when you were born and raised in a society that’s beat into your head that gender is black and white.
After putting in the work, you might just end up where you started. You might have all of the biological bits and pieces of a male and that is what feels most right for you. That is totally fine, but it is also only one journey of seven billion on Earth. It’s important to keep that in mind.
One thing that throws a lot of people for a loops is that gender is not tied to sexual orientation or identity. Full stop. That can elicit a knee-jerk “DOES NOT COMPUTE” reaction from people new to this work, but it’s a crucial distinction to understand in order to progress.
Your journey need not be solemn. It doesn’t have to occur in a funeral or study hall-like setting. It can look like a party or it can be a party. That was my big takeaway from meeting the Farce Family at Lightning in a Bottle. They looked like a clown troop, which they were, but I didn’t understand their purpose or their lessons until much later.
The Farce Family will be in the Psychedelic Chapel throughout the weekend, and I’d imagine they’ll be wandering the woods in-between those times. They had a nautical theme at LiB, but I’m not sure if they’re going to keep that or come up with something new for the Forest. Only one way to find out. See you there?
Parties by the People, For the People…
New this year is a kind of space-loaning program where HQ partitioned out a couple time slots each day in the Psychedelic Chapel to provide an opportunity for attendees to produce their own Forest attraction.
It’s really too bad that they don’t provide more information each of these, because they’re a lot more involved than they appear at a glance. The only way I found out more about Forest Prom, for example, was due to me following one of the winners and she posted her crew’s plan for their Sunday evening hour:
Sethward, the bane of Simon Cowell
You may have caught him as part of the Jive Joint (which is sadly not making an appearance this year) at previous festivals, or as a camp counselor at Dirtybird Campout, and most recently failing gloriously on America’s Got Talent.
The Jive Joint may not be back, but Sethward is with the orgy of alliteration titled, “Sethward’s Show & Tell Screening Spectacular” at the Brainery. From Friday to Sunday, Sethward will unleash God knows what to an audience of young minds from 2:30-4:30 AM. I honestly have no idea what his project entails, but that isn’t going to stop me from checking it out, so it shouldn’t stop you, either.
Silent Disco, Holy Disco
To the uninitiated, the Silent Disco can look pretty lame. I know it did to me, prior to strapping on a pair of color-changing headphones at EF 2015. I’ve described this in more detail before, but the act of placing those headphones over your ears closes you off to the world that you see and places you in what is usually a very private endeavor.
But it’s not private. It is also not public. It’s just you and the people immediately around you. At first, it’s difficult to reconcile, but once you get used to it, Silent Discos are kind of the best. Do what you can to make it to the Silent Disco in the Forest.
However, if you happen to leave the confines of the Forest, all hope is not lost. If you’re out in GA camping, get your ass to the RV super camp sponsor Panky Rang’s Silent Disco, located near the Brainery on Main Street. You could always rent your own system and host a Silent Disco of your own. In fact, I hope you will!
RV Stands for Renegade Vehicle
Speaking of the GA campground and Panky Rang, it’s time I let you in on a worst kept secret of Electric Forest: The after-parties.
They used to be limited to official functions only, and once renegade parties in the campground got too big, they’d be shut down. But ever since the official Good Life sets were cut short with a hard curfew, the renegade parties have taken off.
The first big one that I saw was on Sunday of EF 2016, when Dom and Jeremy of Big Gigantic played to a u-shaped courtyard created by very closely-parked RV’s. Jeremy played what looked like a toy drum set for kids and Dom was very restrained in his sax playing. In combination with the speakers pointing directly down at the crowd meant it was isolated from many of the nearby campers. There was still crowd noise, but it didn’t sound like more than a regular party.
Flash forward to last year, where four specialized RV’s set up in a diamond pushed music out on all four sides from different DJ’s and producers. There were lineup posters and the rest of the RV’s had been moved out to provide plenty of room to dance. The renegade sets had blossomed into a legit festival within a festival.
Now the event producers are at a point where they collaborate with HQ and operate in an official capacity to run the afterparties. What a long, strange trip. It’s certainly a long ways from the after-party we found in 2015 after walking past all of the RVs, through a field, and into another field to find music to dance to, quite literally, to the break of dawn.
Top 5 “Little Font” Must-Sees
I covered the big names of the lineup already, but that’s not quite enough with four days’ worth of music, and that’s not even counting the tertiary lineups for the RV afterparty madness or the Grand Artique’s offerings inside the festival.
In the interest of brevity, which you’re obviously not interested in if you made it this far, here’s a Spotify playlist featuring songs from all of our suggestions.
Escapade (Walker & Royce and Ardalan)
This set is the obvious counterpart to our Top 5 Big Font, Claude Vonstroke. These fellow Dirtybird labelmates are like the high-performing children of Papa Claude and will likewise get down and dirty to some fantastic house. Friendly vibes abound, as is gratuitous booty-shaking. Beware of ass-quakes.
Here’s the rub: For some strange reason, the organizers plucked Claude from his normal outpost at Tripolee and moved his set to Sherwood for the first time. Escapade will be at the opposite end of the festival on Claude’s old haunt. The two sets don’t overlap, which is appreciated, however it means once Claude is done, you’ll have to huck it through the grounds to catch Escapade. You’ll be going through Bassnectar’s set at Ranch Arena, so make sure to use the west exit of the Forest so you come out at the rear of Ranch. Here’s a map:
Saturday @ 12:00 – 2:00 AM
If you don’t know, Little Simz is Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo, which is a mouthful and a great reason to opt for a more succinct name for her stage persona.
To call Little Simz a rapper is a similarly reduced name that strips her story down to a basic function. Many rappers will take the stage with a producer armed with a laptop to provide their backing, and that works great for some, but not for Ajikawo. She performs with a full band and a dude with a laptop. She doesn’t leave the responsibilites to her band, either, she’ll take up the production controls or the bass in addition to delivering sharp lyrics at a blistering pace.
If you want to see how much more can be done with hip-hop, make Little Simz’s appearance a priority.
Thursday @ 9:00 – 10:00 PM
Over the years, Sacha Robotti has been running a kind of Tour de Record Labels which is impressive in itself, but when you consider the particular labels he’s released music through, it’s impressive to the power of ten. Defected, Suara, Dirtybird, Desert Hearts, the list goes on and on.
It should come as no surprise that his music is mainly house. Of course I’d recommend going to see him, right? Probably, but that doesn’t make this any less earnest of a suggestion. He’s also the fifth Dirtybird labelmate on the lineup, so I’m not sure why they don’t have a curated stage this year. All the same, go see him.
Sunday 5:00 – 6:00 PM
Amtrac @ Electric Forest is a looooong time coming. For me, anyway. Ever since I found out about him six years ago, I thought his style would fit perfectly at the Forest. And now, all these years later, we will have the chance to see if I was right.
At its heart, Amtrac’s music is undeniably House, but the pieces he uses to assemble songs are not the typical bright, glossy vocals or major keys typical of House. Instead, many samples are muted, the keys and progressions down instead of up. In that way, it winds up closer to Deep House, but it still retains all of the feels in House.
Thursday 12:30 – 1:30 AM
Luttrell / Yotto
I could do a separate write-up for each of these guys, moreover I could write on and on about either one of them. And I have. But they’re similar in so many ways, often teaming up on b2b sets at Anjunadeep events or elsewhere, so I figured I’d smush them together.
Sunday 6:00 – 7:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 PM – 12:15 AM
Lee Fields and the Expressions
Lee Fields was an unexpected name on the lineup. Unexpected, but very much welcome. As much as I love House and Deep House and Future House, I really value variety on a lineup. Lee Fields and the Expressions are pretty much the icing on the variety cake. Or the lineup cake. Or both?
Think Charles Bradley in 2016 in Jubilee, but hopefully at a much lower volume. That show was criminally under attended and after his death in 2018, there was no way we could make it up to poor Charles. Let’s not do Lee Fields like that, okay?
Lee Fields is a soul and R&B singer who’s been making music since 1969. He got his start mimicking the singing and dancing styles of James Brown, but he wound up developing his own style, which earned him collaborations with the likes of Kool and the Gang, BB King, Dr. John, Sharon Jones, and so many more absolute legends.
More recently, he wrote a few songs and toured with Martin Solveig, of all people, so it should be a lot of fun to see, and there’s plenty of room for surprises.
Thursday 10:30 – 11:30 PM
Honest? Just listen to this song and tell me you don’t want to go jam out. This should be all you need. (And yes, I am aware that I am up to a count of 7, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to change the title of this section to top 7. No sirree.
Thursday 5:00 – 6:00 PM
Once you have an idea of what you want to accomplish, do your best not to procrastinate. “Later” becomes tomorrow, becomes Saturday, then Sunday, and before you know it, you’re on your way home.
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.