Lets bring you back- pre Electric Forest Festival- to its original roots, Rothbury. The Rothbury festival was an eclectic four day music festival nestled on the west side of Michigan and featured music, arts, and an earth friendly environmental theme that eagerly educated the youth on many earth friendly related principles and practices. During its first two years, the festival featured such elite musical artists as The Dead, John Mayer, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Damian Marley, Snoop Dogg, Black Crows, Modest Mouse, Dave Mathews, Thievery Corp, Primus, Widespread Panic, Crystal Method, and a slew of other high caliber acts paving the way for what was hoped to be one hell of a festival in the making.
Quickly overshadowing the music with attendees and the press was the visual mind bending escape called Sherwood Forest. This vibrant thick covered earthy walkway strewn with 100’s of hammocks quickly became a heavenly destination for the artistic and creative minded folks who helped carry this festival to its second year. Escaping the potent rays of the summer sun Sherwood Forest was a shaded tranquil retreat for the herb cultured youth and simply just an environment where you felt safe and at ease in a festival that estimated brought over 30 000 attendees. The forest, with its psychedelic vibe, featured many different artists from all over the globe showcasing their creative releases. You could find painters, sculptures, modern medicine demonstrations, theater arts, as well as a wide range of musical acts, but most of all you would find a very tranquil escape from the sun while enlightening your mind. When the sun dropped out of site and the moon rises, the Forest become alive with a mesmerizing pulse that just had to be experienced. Venturing on pathways strewn out that lead the followers on a mind bending journey filled with vibrant lights and a visually intoxicating experiences that would always be sketched in their memory banks for years to come. It is with no doubt that Sherwood Forest is still the main staple of this incredible festival and it still remains true to its roots. One walk thru this visual maze of color and free spirited vibes and you easily get the sense that the Rothbury tradition is still alive in the woods.
Now, flash forward a few years to 2012 and a drastic musical transformation has taken place on what once was a instrument driven festival to an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) extravaganza that has led many to question the state of music and our youths’ culture in general. A huge game change and transition within the festival has definitely brought out many youth that trek across states to enjoy from what the outside appears to be a weekend filled with synthetic drugs and nitrous filled nights. I would predict the average age of festival goers is probably early twenties and many seem to have little education on the founders of the music genre they hold dear to their hearts. This year’s Electric Forest Festival closing night headliner was none other then electronic music guru Moby, and almost every kid I seemed to ask about Moby sadly had no clue who he was. Dub Step with it’s low end bass grooves and hypnotic beats seem to now overshadow what this festival was originally about and with this has brought many of the youth that have no interest in the music in general. Rothbury in its first years showcased many genres of music including artists from the underground DJ scene, but at the same time mixed so many varieties of music exposing kids to so much more. An easy observation if you attended the first two Rothbury festivals to what it has transformed into now is a bit sad to say the least. Where once you were exposed to so many different kinds of musical artists in your four day adventure, now has become a weekend full of DJ’s using Ipads to entertain a seemingly easy crowd to entertain. The festival has to its regard built their music schedule based around jam rockers The String Cheese Incident’s three night headline stint but 2014’s event was easily fueled by the huge EDM following. Trade in your guitars, drums and other actual instruments for light walls, fog machines, and lasers synced to electronic beats, and you have the Electronic Forest Festival of now. It is with no doubt that Sherwood Forest is still the main staple of this incredible festival, and it still remains true to its roots. One walk thru this visual maze of color and free spirited vibes, and you easily get the sense that the Rothbury tradition is still alive in the woods.
It does take a few years for a festival to find its identity and mold into a successful and long lasting event that brings enjoyment and memories, ultimately bringing back fans year after year . I firmly believe Electric Forest Festival is on a positive path of achieving this goal, and in its short existence has done one heck of a job.
It’s been heavily rumored that what actually pushed ticket sales to over 40, 000 this year was the addition of Umphreys McGee and from their two day show appearances and crowed filled stage area, and I believe that there is a lot of truth to this rumor. I believe that this alone will be the convincing factor that will help bring back more of an eclectic lineup in future years ahead.
Sadly with the short existence of the festival there has been some deaths and drug related hospitalizations that have marred what honestly is a very well mannered event. I would honestly have to say whenever you put over 40, 000 people in a condensed location over a four day event, you are bound to have some tragic situations, but no different than a small city population has. I can easily guarantee if you offered this type of environment to a hard rock audience many more negative problems would arise, which gave me faith in the future of our youth to say the least. The temperament and rude behavior that has marred such festivals as Rock On The Range and other testosterone fueled jock rock touring acts is all but non-existent at The Electric Forest Festival and is quickly felt within your first hours of arrival. It becomes easily noticeable that it becomes a place of kind hearts and honest youth who have some class and consideration for others in general. Obviously it can take a few years for a festival to find its identity and mold into a successful and long lasting event that brings enjoyment and memories to fans year after year . I firmly believe Electric Forest Festival is accomplishing this and will only keep maturing into one of the best festivals in American up there with Coachilia and Bonnaroo .
This year’s third installment of Electric Forest Festival was easily a huge success on so many levels. Electric Forest Festival has with out a doubt left a positive mark on a west Michigan community that has flourished financially from this festival in a time where its economy has been hit extremely hard to say the least. The festival yearly has done many positive contributions to the Rothbury/Shelby community including helping feed needy families and helping out in the school system with it’s all but lost music programs which is much more then any organization I have seen on this corporate level stay committed to.
If festivals and camping under the stars is your summer thing then it is with out a doubt that a visit to the forest is sketched into your bucket list of events to attend. The adventure alone of spending your evenings lost in a world of art and music all the while meeting so many positive free spirited minds is well worth the trek.
For more info on THE ELECTRIC FOREST FESTIVAL CLICK HERE!