Michigan’s Electric Forest festival ramps up for the ninth time starting Thurday with electronic music, jams, psychedelic art installations and a hippie vibe. Get the lowdown, Forest rules and preview at Local Spins.
It’s Electric Forest week at Local Spins.
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Arguably Michigan’s biggest camping-based music festival – and most internationally renowned – Electric Forest returns to Rothbury north of Muskegon this weekend with a hefty lineup of electronic music and jam-band stars, plus a fair number of funk and soul acts.
Not only will Local Spins preview and help guide festival-goers through the four-day extravaganza, it will provide weekend coverage of the musically colorful spectacle in the Michigan woods. And come back Wednesday for our “Musicians’ Picks” of acts to see.
About 45,000 attendees from across the globe are expected to attend the ninth annual festival taking place Thursday through Sunday in the sprawling Double JJ Resort about an hour northwest of Grand Rapids.
Nominated a couple of years ago as “Festival of the Year” by the Electronic Music Awards and named one of the world’s Top 10 music festivals by the London-based DesignMyNight.com, Electric Forest has cultivated an incredibly devoted fan base for its unique and colorful art installations, sustainability/recycling programs and overall vibe.
(Read more about the festival’s recycling incentives here: Electricology making Electric Forest a bit more extraordinary for the environment.)
It’s an atmosphere that resonates with a Woodstock-like hippie milieu and an anything-goes-when-it-comes-to-fashion approach that’s embraced by merry festivalgoers, many of whom return to “Forest” year after year.
“It’s a family unlike any other,” raved Electric Forest devotee Lori Metzler of Muskegon.
It’s also an immersive event spawning “very unique and amazing experiences,” according to fellow festival-goer and DJ Justin Wolbrink of Rockford.
After being staged over two weekends in 2017 and 2018, Electric Forest returns to a one-weekend affair for 2019. That just means this year’s festival has packed its daily lineup of performances on seven stages with impressive electronic music stars such as Odesza, Kygo, Bassnectar and Zeds Dead, along with hosting jam-band String Cheese Incident (playing three sets) and well-known names in other genres, including Lettuce, Twiddle and T-Pain.
MUST-READ TIPS, DOs & DON’Ts FOR FOREST 2019
To help navigate the mammoth affair, here are some important tips and must-see attractions for 2019:
• Make sure there are at least two people in your vehicle for camping when you arrive. If not, Electric Forest charges a $90 “single-occupant car pass” fee for those who drive in alone. The festival maintains that it “encourages carpooling for environmental reasons” and wants to ensure adequate space for campers. “With the record sellout this year, space is limited and at a premium,” noted an Electric Forest spokesperson. “We cannot have loads of single-capacity cars coming on site, taking up full campsites meant for multiple people with just one person in the car, or having people splitting up their crew into multiple cars in an attempt to grab a larger camping space, which is unfair to the rest of the EF community.” If you missed it when buying your wristband and plan to camp alone, the single-occupant car pass is available online here. Those who don’t purchase the pass ahead of time can pay at the box office when they check in.
As a further incentive to carpool, Electric Forest is sponsoring “The Great Carpool Challenge” — a raffle for those arriving in a vehicle with 3 or more people, on a shuttle or by bike. The winners receive an aerial tour of the festival, Good Life wristbands for 2020 and other prizes.
• Get your bearings and be prepared to rack up steps on your Fitbit. Electric Forest is a sprawling festival covering a lot of territory. After hiking to the entrance from the main campground, visitors will have their bags checked (no outside food or beverages other than water allowed) and wristbands logged electronically. Upon entering, festival-goers will find the EDM-oriented Tripolee Stage on the right, and continue – in order – to Ranch Arena, Sherwood Forest (featuring The Observatory, Grand Artique and other smaller stages), Sherwood Court, Jubilee and The Hangar/Carousel Club. For newbies, scouring a festival map ahead of time is strongly encouraged; scroll down to view a map and save it on your smartphone.
• Because it can get hot and dusty — and it will be hot, according to the weather forecast — drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen, bring sunglasses, hat and bandana, and take it easy on alcohol consumption. There are beer and food vendors in the venue, but prices are relatively high. Bring cash or an ATM card; Electric Forest recommends having $50 per day on hand.
• Electric Forest has a long list of prohibited items – from lasers to skateboards to Native American headdresses. “Out of respect for this community, it is inappropriate to wear headdresses outside of traditional ceremony,” one rule states. “Additionally, while (Electric Forest) supports diversity in signs, totems and articles of clothing, words or images that threaten harm to others are not welcome in The Forest.” Check the full list of prohibited items here. Note: There are lockers inside the venue area (near Ranch Arena) where you can store your backpack and other items. It’s also possible to reserve a locker ahead of time via the Electric Forest website.
• Keep your phone charged and bring along a charging cord. Download the Electric Forest app on your phone ahead of time so you can check the schedule and receive alerts and updates — including weather warnings — while on festival grounds.
• Sherwood Forest is a spectacle to behold. Make sure you experience the unique art installations and groovy lighting at different times of the day. With several intimate stages and a silent disco scattered through the woods, Sherwood Forest transforms from pleasant, wooded splendor in daylight to a psychedelic, mysterious marvel at night. And there are hammocks scattered throughout to help you rest up between shows.
LOCAL SPINS’ CAN’T-MISS PICKS
• Day 1 Can’t-Miss Performance Picks: Michigan’s Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers — one of the few Great Lakes State acts on the roster — churn out their funky and fun pop to kick off the big Sherwood Court stage at 3:30 p.m. Thursday; Forest “house band” String Cheese Incident rolls out the first of three straight nights of jams at 8:15 p.m. on the more intimate Jubilee Stage; electronic music sensation Odesza powers up Ranch Arena at 11:45 p.m.; funk’s entertaining Lettuce closes out the Jubilee Stage at midnight.
• Day 2 Can’t-Miss Performance Picks: Percussion-based funk/jazz/hip hop act Ghost-Note, hailing from Dallas, Texas, revs things up at 5 p.m. Friday on the Jubilee Stage; Grand Rapids’ own Desmond Jones – a late add to the schedule – brings its funky jam-band vibe to the Grand Artique Trading Post in Sherwood Forest at 5:45 p.m.; Dixon’s Violin brings his “visionary” music at 9:45 p.m. to The Observatory; Lee Fields & The Expressions gets authentically retro-soulful at midnight on the Jubilee Stage; Earth, Wind & Power, presented by The Nth Power, pays tribute to the funk/R&B classics of Earth Wind and Fire at 1 a.m. in the Carousel Club.
• Day 3 Can’t-Miss Performance Picks: Twangy Canadian singer-songwriter Steve Poltz gets things started – offering up a huge contrast to other EF acts – at 3 p.m. on The Honeycomb stage; T-Pain fires up his hip hop at 5:30 p.m. at Ranch Arena; dubstep star Bassnectar headlines the night with a 12:30 a.m. set at Ranch Arena; Baltimore funksters Pigeons Playing Ping Pong start jamming at 2 a.m. on the Jubilee Stage.
• Day 4 Can’t-Miss Performance Picks: Chicago-based jam band Mungion shows off its instrumental virtuosity at 6 p.m. on the Jubilee Stage; progressive bluegrass outfit Horseshoes & Hand Grenades pumps things up at 6:45 p.m. at The Observatory; rootsy rock jammers Ghost Light follows that at 8:15 p.m. on the same stage; Toronto electronic music duo Zeds Dead wraps things up at 11:30 p.m. at Ranch Arena.
Return to Local Spins on Wednesday for the “Musicians’ Picks” of must-see performances at Electric Forest.
Although tickets for Electric Forest 2019 sold out quickly, festival wristbands are widely available online via ticket brokers and Electric Forest oversees an “official wristband exchange” for those seeking to sell their wristbands. Details at electricforestfestival.com/tickets/wristband-exchange.Copyright 2019, Spins on Music LLC