Electric Forest: The Experience (2017)

To be honest, I don’t think I even really need to recap Electric Forest. I think everyone knows by now that if EF were a person I would marry it; that’s how much I love it. But just in case you don’t fully understand that yet, you can read my “experience” post from 2 years ago, or the recap I just did for Mix 247 EDM, or the post I wrote solely about how freaking magical this festival is. Otherwise, let’s carry on with the deets.

Check-In/Security
Approaching the festival, my friends and I were a little worried. We knew how crazy the lines could get for having your car searched and getting through to camping and after driving for 15 hours we didn’t exactly want to spend more time in the car. We arrived at around 4pm, 4 hours after the gates opened on Wednesday (which was only for VIPs and those who had purchased early arrival). As we turned into the Good Life (what Forest calls VIP) check-in, I laughed maniacally because there were no cars there. THERE WERE NO CARS THERE. We were parked within 10 minutes. It was a great start to a great festival.

As anyone who has attended a camping festival knows, there are 2 security checkpoints – when you first enter a festival in your car, and when you go from camping into the actual festival grounds. I wrote 2 years ago about how on the first day of Electric Forest it took us 2 hours of waiting in line to get inside the festival grounds. Good Life, on the other hand, does not ever have a line. EVER. There are 3 separate Good Life entrances and far fewer people, so all you have to do is pick your entrance and go. Anyone who tells you that Electric Forest is the best festival for upgrading to VIP is not lying. Buy Good Life tickets. Seriously. Don’t do general admission. If you ever see me doing GA at Electric Forest I urge you to slap me in the face because what was future me thinking?

Crowd
To be honest, this crowd was a little bro-ier than I remembered. But there were still so many amazing, down to earth people and everyone is just looking to connect with everyone else. My friends and I splurged on these amazing bungalow tents, which were in rows of maybe 10 that faced each other. I came back after the music ended one night and someone in our row had hung light-up foam bats from the entry of every bungalow so our whole little avenue was aglow. He did this just to be nice. This is Electric Forest for you.

Fun Stuff
I’m just going to copy what I wrote in my Mix recap (which you should read in full):
“True to its name, Electric Forest contains a giant wooded area on the festival grounds that is home to seemingly anything and everything you can think of. There are large and small music stages, a silent disco, a ton of art installations, decorative places to sit, a rainbow of lights illuminating the area at night, and other wonders to discover. You can sit inside a giant bird’s nest, or pick up a random phone and talk to the people who are on the other phones throughout the forest. There’s a trading post for bartering with random items, and a western style storefront complete with saloon doors that, even though they don’t lead anywhere except to continue on in the forest, are fun to make a huge display out of bursting them open every time you walk through. There were light-up orbs suspended from the sky, a robot half-buried in the ground with coded messages displayed throughout its body, and an art bar to make stick figure people, write postcards, and other crafty activities. Does this sound like the weirdest and most magical place ever? It is, truly.”

Water
Water is one area where Forest could do better, I think. So many festivals have adopted those high speed spouts that fill up a bottle in seconds, whereas EF is still rocking some slow faucets. Thankfully, being in VIP meant that I was able to go back and forth between my bungalow and the festival pretty frequently, so I did a lot of my water drinking in my tent. But the few times I did fill up a water bottle on the grounds, the wait was a little long for the amount of people ahead of me.

Layout
I mean…there are a bunch of stages with a forest o’ fun in the middle. It’s the best layout pretty much ever. EF’s grounds are pretty large, but the addition of activities and art and other wonders smack in the middle of it make it less painful to walk back and forth because you aren’t just walking; you’re exploring. The downside of this is that it’s very easy to get distracted by shiny things and end up late to see music. (Is that a real downside? Debatable.)

Transportation
While in line for the ferris wheel we met some people who live 20 minutes from Rothbury and I am jealous of those people. Getting to Michigan is a pain in the butt and with the travel time plus the festival’s 4 days (instead of 3 like most others) I had to use 5 vacation days for this trip. FIVE DAYS. There are lots of options to get there and EF is great about providing shuttles from local airports and buses from major cities, but the fact remains that getting there still sucks. But it’s worth it.

Price
See above. WORTH IT. A ticket to EF ticket costs about the same as it does to attend any of NYC’s music festivals (Gov Ball, Panorama, Meadows, Electric Zoo) and none of those festivals offer camping or any of the things that make Electric Forest the top notch festival that it is.

Forest is the best. You should go. Trust me.

Electric Forest: The Music (2017)

Well, after over 6 months of looking forward to it, Electric Forest has come and gone. It was 4 full days of amazing music from artists I already know and love, artists I was seeing live for the first time, and some new discoveries. I attended wayyy too many sets to recap them all, but here are each day’s highlights.

THURSDAY

Dabin
Dabin was the first of my 2 Electric Forest interviews, and it was really fun for me to go to this set knowing I was going to chat with him directly after. It was my first time seeing him live and it was absolutely incredible, even though it was raining pretty hard. I like to describe his sound as “Odesza but harder.” Light and airy with killer drops mixed in.

Phutureprimitive
Phutureprimitive is so futuristic and weird. It’s really heavy but also…groovy? You don’t jump up and down to it, you skulk. I saw him briefly at Forest 2 years ago in a tented stage, but this year he played the Forest Stage (which is actually in the middle of the forest) and the setting was so dark and perfect.

Above & Beyond
OH MY GOODNESS. I decided to check out A&B because they’re legends in the trance scene. I don’t really listen to trance at all but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what they’re about. It was SO FUN. To the point where I even decided to leave to check out a different stage at one point, and then turned around and came back 5 minutes later. Does this mean I like trance now? I have no idea. There was one magical moment where right in time with the drop the skies opened up and immediately started pouring, with absolutely no warning.

Vourteque
Even though I wasn’t with them at the time, my friends and I both ended up at this set somehow and we all loved it. The electro-swing was absolutely perfect for the Hangar Stage, a 40s style indoor(ish) venue that has the most personality of any of the stages. I even caught the security guy busting some moves, so you know this set was good.

FRIDAY

Jai Wolf
I accompanied my friends to this set because I didn’t have anywhere else to be at that time, but I am officially converted. Jai Wolf is the happiest of all happy and electro-poppy music! Pure light and joy. So joyful, in fact, that a couple got engaged on stage toward the very end. I caught the last bits of it on Snapchat.

TroyBoi
It had been years since I last saw a good trap show. A lot of the first electronic music I listened to was trap, but I’ve been falling down the rabbit hole of funk for a few years now and a lot of other music has been pushed to the side. This performance was one of my favorites of the weekend and I legitimately feel like I worked some anger out of my body. The fact that such intense music came from someone with such a delightful British accent (and knee socks) only added to the experience, as did the fact that I used my media pass to spend some time in the press pit at the very front of the audience.

Tycho
I was looking forward to this set a lot despite the fact that I have never seen or even really listened to them. Tycho is just one of those bands I’ve heard about from countless people, particularly how amazing they are live. But you know what? I couldn’t connect to it at all. It was strange and experimental and didn’t have a consistent rhythm for me to latch on to. My friend and I decided that Tycho is a band you listen to in bed with your headphones, or sitting back watching the legitimately cool visuals with some popcorn, like a movie.  And in fact, for the last 20 minutes of the set we sat in the wayyyy back, eating a plate of nachos, and laughing about how we got our movie setting after all. (It was better, as we predicted.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kuNshckRIU

Odesza
I already wrote a more thorough post on Odesza’s Forest set. It was amazing and I almost cried. I would love to watch this set over and over again but it doesn’t look like anyone recorded it. Saddest of times. The video below is great because a) he’s pretty close, b) he scans the crowd so you can see the masses, c) it starts off with Odesza’s remix of Pretty Lights’ “One Day They’ll Know” which is such a good remix and I will never tire of hearing it.

SATURDAY

Francis and the Lights
When I was at Governors Ball a few weeks ago I was talking to a rando sitting next to me in the Bacardi tent and asking him which Gov Ball acts he liked and he mentioned this one. I had never heard of him but when he described it as “zombie Phil Collins,” I was intrigued. This guy legitimately DOES sound exactly like Phil Collins. But you probably already know this because Francis has a collab with Chance the Rapper so apparently I was out of the loop on this one. I queued up this video to the moment where Francis and Chance are both dancing. You’re welcome.

Opiuo
I’ve seen Opiuo a few times before but this might have been my favorite Opiuo set ever. The addition of Russ Liquid on the trumpet upped the funk factor and made this set so bouncy.

SUNDAY

Viceroy
I love tropical house and Viceroy is a master of it. And unlike Matoma, another tropical house producer who played later that day, Viceroy’s set was actually mostly tropical house (Matoma played a more generic big room type of set, which was also fantastic, just unexpected).

FKJ
French Kiwi Juice!! This jazzy dude is so talented and I was so pleased to finally see him live. It was everything I wanted and more even though I only caught about 20 minutes of his set. It was so smooth and yet again the Forest Stage provided a perfect setting.

My next festival, and last camping one for the summer, is in less than 2 weeks! Bisco’s lineup is my favorite of 2017 so I am super pumped for this one. Get ready for more music recaps!

How To Watch A Band Blow Up

In May of 2014, I went to The Knitting Factory in Williamsburg to see a little band from Seattle called Odesza. The venue, still one of my favorites, holds roughly 300 people, and the show cost $12. It was a fun evening with a friend I don’t see super often. The band was great; the music was ethereal and poppy; the crowd dancing but well-mannered.

18 months later, Odesza sold out a 3-night run at Terminal 5, a space that holds 3,000 people. I considered myself lucky to get a ticket and was somewhat in awe of what this little duo had become.

It is now 3 years after my first Odesza show, and they just announced a concert later this year at the Barclays Center, a stadium that holds 18,000 people. There is no doubt in my mind that it will sell out. Odesza has officially arrived.

I have strange feelings about this. I don’t resent the band’s success, because they deserve it. Their music is light and fun and extremely catchy. If you’re able to stand up close during live performances, both members (Harrison and Clay) drum live which is really exciting. Yet it just feels so crazy to me. I have never been the hipster who discovers the cool new music before everyone else (I’m still not; I was invited to my first Odesza show by my friend Natalie – so if you want to know who the next huge band is, check with her).

This past weekend I attended Electric Forest, my favorite music festival, where Odesza was scheduled to headline on the second night. Though there are 6 major stages (and a few minor ones) at Forest with constant music playing, it felt like everyone was planning on hitting this set. Out of curiosity, I checked the festival app, where you could see how many people had added any given act to their personal schedule. Bassnectar, an act so popular that Electric Forest has given him a permanent residency, had 21,000 people scheduled. Odesza, by contrast, had 22,000.

I was running late for Odesza’s Forest set, so by the time I arrived it was so crowded I had to stand so far back I was “in another state basically,” as I texted a friend who was trying to meet me. I finally settled in, and while I couldn’t see Harrison or Clay, I could see the giant stage setup and intense lights that are only afforded to a major festival’s closing acts. My view looked like this:

While Odesza is only two people, this show, and I imagine many of their other shows these days, now feature “The Odesza Horns” and “The Odesza Drumline.”

This teeny little band that I saw in 2014 at a teeny little venue now has a drumline. A drumline with a formal name. Absolute insanity.

I know a lot of people who are truly moved by music, but to be totally honest, there’s not a lot of music that really stirs my soul. I love music, of course, but the really emotional moments for me have typically been the connections I’ve made with people at music events more than the music itself.

Yet this time, as I stood alone watching this set progress, I was touched. By the end of the set, I realized that I was standing with my hands pressed together underneath my nose, in a stance of pure overwhelmedness (it’s a word; I say so). There were tears in my eyes, and I had no idea why. I couldn’t have told you if I was happy or sad or surprised or afraid; I was just emotional. The music was beautiful, the lights were majestic, and there was something, just something, about the horns that really tied it all together for me. And all I could think about was this little band from Seattle in this little venue in Brooklyn, and how far they’ve come. 50,000 people attend Electric Forest; it seemed like 40,000 of them were there at the Ranch Arena stage that night.

I was almost out of range when I realized Odesza was performing an encore, so I turned around to catch the end of the set and was able to see the full crowd from the side. There were totems and glow outfits as far as the eye could see and I managed to record a few seconds of the song that was playing, which ironically is not an actual Odesza song and is way more intense than their usual sound. Yet it felt big and important in that moment (it’s the horns, I tell you).

I’m curious as to where Odesza will go from here. As a band that has found an intense fan base that spans both the mainstream music world and the little electro-corner of the universe I reside in, it feels like they’re on the path to even more mega stardom. I feel oddly humbled just to even be a witness to their skyrocketing to greatness. “This is so surreal for us,” they said at the end of their Forest set. So I imagine they’re pretty humbled too. And there are a lot of us out there who are looking forward to whatever is next for these 2 guys from Seattle, who probably never saw any of this coming.

Meeting Odesza, June 2015

A Month of Mix Posts

As usual, over the last month I got to write about a ton of cool and interesting stuff over at Mix 247 EDM. So click through the links below to see what I was up to!

A recap of FestForums, a 2-day conference all about festival logistics and planning! To say I was in heaven is an understatement.

A preview of the Billboard Hot 100 festival on Jones Beach

Ravers, Let’s Do Better – a call to action for the electronic dance music community to stop giving ourselves a bad name

A really exciting written interview with Laidback Luke (!!!!). I loved researching this interview and learning more about him – such a cool and nice guy.

Disc Jam: The Music

I don’t think I normally would have wanted to go to Disc Jam as I’m not super into jam bands (my attention span taps out after about 4 minutes of a song). However, there are 2 reasons why Disc Jam attracted my attention this year:

  1. The lineup contained an excess of funk music, which I love
  2. I think I may, kind of, sort of, almost, be getting into jam bands. Maybe.

So anyway, I took one look at the Disc Jam lineup and knew I had to go. And as always, the music did not disappoint. Here were the highlights:

Funky Dawgs Brass Band
I had only heard of this band because I have a Facebook friend who posts about them obsessively. I listened to this set from my perch at the box office, and it was so fun and upbeat. I will definitely be checking them out next time they come through New York. The video below is 50 minutes long but click anywhere in it and I promise you’ll enjoy!

The Motet
I first heard of The Motet when I was reading about Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic and learned that he used to be in the band. I’ve seen a Big G/Motet collab set but never The Motet on their own. Their style of funk is a little more old school, and I loved finally getting to see them at Disc Jam. HOWEVER. Their set was from 11pm to 1am, and I was insanely tired. So I did a very responsible thing and I went to bed at 11:45. So I missed most of the set, but I regret nothing. Because sleep is a beautiful thing.

Turkuaz
STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND LISTEN TO THIS BAND. They’re a 9 piece band from Brooklyn and this set was so good it was life-changing. I had heard a ton about their live shows but hadn’t gotten to see them before, and apparently I picked a good first show because I talked to someone who has seen them roughly 30 times and he said it was the best set he’s ever seen. I gush about music a lot, obviously, but I have seriously never felt such joy in a crowd as I did during Turkuaz. The energy was infectious. I’m almost afraid to post a video here because it doesn’t even come close to capturing the live experience. It was unreal.

Break Science Live Band
Break Science is normally an electro-hip hop duo, but the live band incorporates most of the members of the funk band Lettuce, so it steers a bit away from the hip hop vibe and, like everything else I’ve talked about in this post, gets into a funktastic dance party. It’s actually been probably 2 years since I’ve seen a Break Science set that DIDN’T involve the live band. I love them as a duo but I will never complain about the extra instruments. This was the #1 set I was looking forward to at Disc Jam and while it was hard to match Turkuaz (especially right after their set), they threw down in a major way.

Esseks
Not a funk band! Esseks is a producer of egggggcellent bass music. He’s super diverse and is also a visual artist, which is often incorporated into his sets. I’m not sure how I first heard about him but I’ve seen him a number of times and every time is super fun. This set took place at the stage in the woods which was really cool late at night.

The first festival of the season has come and gone, and while I’m bummed that Disc Jam is over, I’m thrilled that Electric Forest is so soon!! I know there’s more great music on the horizon for me and I can’t wait to come back and share all about it. Until then!

Disc Jam: The Experience

Last weekend I traveled to a little town near Albany for Disc Jam, a new festival for me (yayyyy). It was a new experience not only in that I had never attended this fest before, but in that it was my first time volunteering at a festival, something I’ve often thought about doing but never actually did. Let’s talk festival deets and then I’ll discuss my volunteer experience. Heeeere we go!

Check-In/Security
Disc Jam is a festival of only around 2,000 people, by far the smallest I’ve ever attended. There are no lines for anything, ever, anywhere. Instead of waiting in your car for hours to get into a parking lot, you just…pull into the parking lot. It’s a magical thing.

Crowd
Cool people abound! The tiny festivals tend to attract the most down to earth, friendly people. Everyone I met was great. A+ festival friends.

Fun Stuff
If you play frisbee golf, which I certainly do not,  that’s a big deal here as they have a few tourneys throughout the weekend (hence the “disc” in “Disc Jam”). They also have really incredible art on display, and I would have bought a million pieces if I had both money and space on my wall. I had to settle for just looking at it.

Disc Jam has an unofficial/official symbol of a pineapple, for reasons unknown to me. In addition to pineapples showing up on festival art, the edge of the main stage is lined with pineapples. People take them, cut them open, and make fabulous fruity drinks out of them. I got back to my campsite one time and my friends passed me a pineapple where they had used a knife to chop up the inside into tiny pieces and poured tequila in it. I actually hate tequila (but will tolerate it in margaritas) but this was so fabulous and summery.

Water
There was one free water station, or so I heard. I also heard that the water from it tasted terrible. I do not know this to be true as I drank out of bottles the whole weekend (sorry, environment!).

Layout
The festival was tiny and we were able to hear the main stage pretty clearly from both my campsite and my perch at the box office, which was my volunteer job for the weekend. Everything is so close to everything else that I didn’t get nearly as sweaty or tired as I do at other festivals. There was one stage in the woods which was very reminiscent of Electric Forest (which I am leaving for in FOUR DAYS!!) and super cool.

Transportation
Friends with cars are cool! It was a little under a 3 hour drive from NYC. I cannot imagine that there is any type of easy public transportation there.

Price
I think the festival cost, at most, $180 for the weekend if you bought your ticket at the super last minute. And that’s for FOUR DAYS. (I have now capitalized “FOUR DAYS” twice in this blog post.) Super duper cheap.

Volunteering
Volunteering was an interesting experience. I initially signed up because I wanted to go to the festival but had no one to go with, and so I thought this would be a good way to meet people. I ended up having a whole Disc Jam posse and so while I was still happy to go to the festival for free, I didn’t really feel like I needed the volunteer experience anymore. I had 6 hour shifts in the box office but there wasn’t all that much to do, so it was a lot of sitting around and then making the occasional ticket sale. My shift was from 9am to 3pm so while I didn’t miss any music I wanted to see, I did miss a lot of sitting around doing nothing at the campsite, which is, in all honesty, some of the best parts of camping festivals. I did meet some great people volunteering, but I think in the future I would stick to volunteering only for more expensive festivals. Saving ~$150 was not entirely worth it, but it was a fun experiment, at least.

I would absolutely go back to Disc Jam in the future, especially if the lineup is ever as great as it was this year (more on that later). First camping festival of the season = success!

Governors Ball: The Experience

Governors Ball marked the beginning of what I believe will be a full and magical festival season. I had only been to this festival once before and only for one day, and even though I only attended for one day this year, I still have lots to say about it! So let’s get started.

Check-In/Security
As I approached the festival I got panicky because I saw a longgggg line. I mean long. It wrapped around in all sorts of ways and looked horrifying. I was pleased to learn that this line was for will call only, and if you already had your ticket you could proceed to the gate, which had no line at all. Victory! If you waited in that will call line – sorry, man.

Crowd
This crowd looked YOUNG. I’m talking high school young. Even the electronic festivals I’ve been to have never had an average age this low. The teenz were actually pretty well-behaved, but man did I feel old.

Fun Stuff
I give Governors Ball an A+ for their fun activities. They had a mini golf course, a candy bar (which consisted only of them giving out free sour straws, but whatever they were delicious), several 21+ areas with ping pong and lounges, many photo booth opportunities, and perhaps my favorite thing, a station to print your name (and a friend’s name) on a Coke can! I went to the festival by myself, so I printed my friend can for my friend Cody and it is now sitting in my fridge where I will probably drink it and not actually give it to him (sorry Cody). The can with my name on it will be a wonderful addition to my tchotchke shelf at work.

Water
It wasn’t super hot out so I only had to fill my water bottle once, and there wasn’t much of a line. I can’t speak to how the lines were later in the day when it was more crowded, though. Either way, bonus points for having those high speed faucets.

Layout
The layout of the festival was slightly different than I remember from a few years ago, but as with every Randall’s Island festival, I love that it’s never too far from any one point to any other point. I will say though that they put up some sort of pointless gateway/arch between two areas of the festival grounds that seemed to serve no purpose other than create a little bit of a bottleneck. There were also not nearly enough garbage cans – I carried my food garbage for awhile before giving up and just tossing it on the ground (sorry, environment!).

Transportation
Walking to Randall’s Island across 125th street is free and easy. GovBall always tries to sell you on a bus or ferry pass and have you ever seen one of those ferry lines at the close of a festival? No thank you.

Price
It could be cheaper, certainly. But they really pack a lot into a small space and a short amount of time (since it’s not a camping festival, it ends at 11pm each day). I would probably have a hard time wanting to shell out for a 3 day pass, though, considering this festival costs the same or more than festivals where you actually get to sleep there.

Want to hear about the music of GovBall day 1? While I would normally do a full recap of most of the sets I saw, I was so blown away by Lorde’s performance that I chose to only write about that. If you missed it, check it out now.

This coming weekend I’m volunteering at a teeny little jammy fest called Disc Jam, so stay tuned for yet another festival recap soon!