More than 45,000 strong flooded the sprawling site in Rothbury on Thursday, with a Michigan favorite getting the music train rolling. First-day recap and photos at Local Spins.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERY, VIDEO
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Electric Forest 2019 couldn’t have lined up a better opening salvo than this: Bright blue skies, temperatures in the 80s and Michigan’s own Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers kicking off performances on the mammoth Sherwood Court stage with their trademark sunny, funky and feel-good pop-laced resplendence.
Yes, the ninth edition of this musical frolic in the forest officially geared up Thursday in Rothbury with 45,000-plus attendees streaming into the sprawling Double JJ Resort festival site for four days of electronic music, jam bands, funk, soul, rock and a little bit of roots music and bluegrass.
The opening day also featured the usual first-day annoyances: long lines of vehicles waiting to get checked by security (especially at the northern entrance to Electric Forest), long lines for food and for water refill stations, and long lines to have IDs checked for those 21-and-older seeking to purchase beer and alcohol (with attendants closely scouring licenses for fake IDs and booting people with falsified documentation).
But this neither deterred nor disheartened most festival-goers who embraced this weekend escape in every possible way – from flaunting colorfully festooned garb (and going ungarbed in some cases) to carrying creatively crafted totems, to gyrating happily in front of numerous stages, to relaxing contentedly in the shade amid the art-adorned Sherwood Forest.
The overriding festival sentiment was expressed perfectly by a gleeful festival-goer proudly displaying a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase, “Good Vibes Only.”
‘IT’S THE ENVIRONMENT’ WITH MAMMOTH CROWDS
For Hertler and company – who also play the smaller Grand Artique stage on Saturday night – it was a triumphant return to Electric Forest, with hundreds of the bands fans dancing in the brilliant sunshine during an opening set featuring the usual giant flowers waved by band members and fans, and soap bubbles floating through the air.
“It’s the environment,” said Hertler fan Mike Wessels, 28, of Kalamazoo, attending his fifth Electric Forest as part of a group of 32 people camping at the festival this weekend. “All the art installations. It’s the only one (festival) like this.”
That festival – which boasts attendees from all corners of the United States and beyond with perhaps the best people-watching quotient anywhere – seemed to be bursting at the seams on Thursday, with thousands rocking and bobbing to the heavy beats of Whipped Cream, Riot Ten and other EDM acts on the Tripolee Stage, which drew the biggest throngs in memory on Thursday.
Even the rain that touched parts of Michigan late Thursday missed Rothbury – aside from a few sprinkles – allowing acts on seven main stages to continue unimpeded.
STRING CHEESE, LETTUCE, ODESZA AND MORE
That included Electric Forest’s “house band,” String Cheese Incident, which, for the first time in the history of the festival, played the more intimate Jubilee Stage on opening night, literally hypnotizing diehard Cheese devotees with a non-stop, psychedelic 75-minute set of mesmerizing rock. In many ways, the more compact set than usual by the Colorado band – with one song morphing into another, in and out of the staple, “Rosie,” for the entire performance – made for a more vital and powerful set.
Other highlights included vintage R&B singer Lee Fields & The Expressions serenading a small-but-lively crowd in the chic and cozy Carousel Club and post-midnight sets by funk’s Lettuce at Jubilee, Odesza at Ranch Arena and Eoto at Sherwood Court, all unleashing an Electric Forest dance party that quite literally never ends.
At one point earlier in the evening, Local Spins spotted a retired couple sitting on a bench at the back of the Ranch Arena ogling the parade of peacock-like festival goers amid the thunderous din of a DJ on stage.
The graying, wide-eyed couple lives in New Era not far from Rothbury and decided to investigate Electric Forest for the first time this year. Their impression?
“It’s an experience.”
Indeed, it is.
PHOTO GALLERY: Electric Forest, Day 1
Photos by Anthony Norkus and Anna Sink
VIDEO: Electric Forest: Day and Night
Copyright 2019, Spins on Music LLC