Another year of Electric Forest has come and gone, and with it a reminder of the magic that comes to Rothbury, Michigan just once a year. It is a magic that I have never been able to recreate in all my years of traveling the world going to music festivals of all shapes and sizes. This year was particularly emotional for me as it was my first time being there since 2019 and after even a few short talks it seemed I was not the only one with this thought.
Forest brings such a diverse group in from all over and if you stop and talk to your neighbors, to the people next to you at shows, to the people waiting in line with you, you will hear all sorts of reasons.
For many it’s a hugely transformative experience. For others, it is just a weekend away to have some fun. Some come to see their favorite artist play a set for the first time.
Whatever your reason is, be proud that you contributed to the magic of the Forest. Because Electric Forest is so much more than a music festival. It’s a true testament to the power of people’s energy coming together at once.
As I frolicked around the Forest this year I jotted down some thoughts that I wanted to elaborate on after being reinvigorated once again.
Let’s Normalize Double Duty Acts
This year more than any other year I have experienced at Forest you were able to experience multiple sets from artists performing at the fest. Artists like Louis The Child, GRiZ, Porter Robinson, and even Big Gigantic all played multiple sets throughout the weekend. LTC brought an open format Playground set on Thursday, while Porter Robinson brought his more progressive/disco/trance oriented Air2Earth set to close out Tripolee on Sunday.
It gives artists a chance to showcase a bit more than what they may be traditionally touring with at the time. It not only gives fans a chance to see some of their favorite artists twice in one weekend but lets artists explore the magic of Forest for themselves. And once you catch the Forest bug, there’s no escaping it.
Matching Energy Is Imperative
One of my favorite 1-2 sets I had the opportunity to watch was Tinlicker into Township Rebellion. Tinlicker took the stage promptly at 9:30 as the sun began to set for the night. The set he curated seemed to be perfectly in sync with the sun. As it got darker the energy began rising, bringing in some familiar songs and vocals. As I watched from the top of the observatory, the crowd grew and the air became almost thick with injury. You could taste it as the progressive vibes started kicking into a higher gear. As the set came to its crescendos and ultimately ended, Township Rebellion prompted filled the stage.
And their set had absolutely no build-up – it went 0-60 in a flash of a second – but it worked. The capacity crowd at The Observatory was way past being warmed up and Township fed off that energy and came in swinging. If you had to describe their 2 hour set in one word I would choose ‘Thumpin.’ ‘Bangin’ would also be accepted by the judges. But the choice to come in and match the energy of the set before was incredible.
Mistakes Happen. So Do Solutions.
Clozee was set to play one of the biggest sets of Electric Forest when she was to take Sherwood Court on Saturday night. Her set started off well but it came with a myriad of problems mostly stemming from not nearly enough bass coming from everything.
Of course the phrase “Bigger isn’t always Better” will always fit, but with an artist as bass-heavy as Clozee it was imperative. Frustration seemed to be at a boiling point on stage but the crowd stuck with it and almost seemed to will her on.
But a redemption set was surely needed. Enter the Sunday night Carousel Club set. I don’t know if this was planned from the beginning or was put together to give the French queen a chance for a proper 2022 set. And a proper set she delivered.
The hour-long set was packed to absolute capacity all the way to the back and she delivered what might have been the highlight of my festival. It was a bit more akin to a ‘DJ set’ in the terms of not having her own curated visuals – but it played its purpose to perfection. The energy was unmatched and spilling out of all the sides of the brand new Carousel Club. A true redemption set.
GRiZ Deserves It
Besides String Cheese Incident, Electric Forest has only ever had one yearly headliner and with him out of the loop it begs the question of if anyone else deserves it. And as of this writing, there is one artist that not only embodies the Forest spirit, but is in love with the vibes it brings. A Michigan Native by the name of GRiZ. He played three official sets and countless sit ins in between with a few other auxiliary sets throughout the weekend.
Does Electric Forest need another residential headliner that is there every year? That can be debated by many and you’ll have many different answers – but I do think that the majority would agree that if there is one performer that deserves it – it’s GRiZ.
Don’t Be Scared of Your Emotions
During a particularly emotional portion of Fred Again…’s set I turned in a few directions to basically take it all in. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman in tears, in awe. I waited a bit, made eye contact and approached her slowly, and asked if they were good tears.
In a flash her face changed into a huge smile and she said “Of course they are. This music is beautiful, but overall, I am so grateful to be here. I’m so grateful to be sharing this same energy with this huge group of people. I’m so lucky to be here.”
I asked her if we could hug, and it was the most natural, most pure interaction I had all weekend. I thanked her for sharing and told her to have a wonderful weekend and we went our separate ways.
And that’s what the magic of Forest is about. Come open minded. Come ready to face your emotions. Face a fear. Dance with a stranger. Hug someone you love. Hug someone you just met. Find something you love. Do something new. Emotions are natural. Bring them with you. Just be.
See you all next year.
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[All Photos Courtesy of Electric Forest]