This year, we decided to level up in our camping experience and bought a 17’ geodesic dome from Edgedomes. It fits up to eight hammocks, provides a Forest-appropriate central seating area, shielded from the elements with a tarp. It worked out so well, and I recommend either picking one up or renting it for your next festival.
Our first scheduled show was Galantis in a confoundingly placed 5pm set Day 1 set. Daytime is one thing, but putting Galantis on a south-facing stage in the heat of the afternoon sun was just an odd choice. I guess nobody bothered to notice they always wear black leather jackets, or that that kind of heat would probably kill their Seafox.
I was also a little reluctant to jump into a Galantis set straight away, considering their Day of the Dead/Mayan sets I saw last fall were more like yelling/airhorn parties than the emotional, clever powerhouse of their Coachella debut.
Before we got very far, though, well before the Ranch Arena, we were introduced to Electric Forest’s new feature called The Line, a weaving snake of humanity ten to twenty people wide, gaining both length and girth by the second. Granted, this was in the first hours of the first day, and Galantis and the Forest and everything amazing was on the other side of the gates. Naturally, there would be a wait. All four previous Forests had a line of some size, especially on the first day, but this one was different. The Line never quite went away during daylight hours until, sometimes extending way back into Shakedown Street about 1500; from the entrance, with some reports of a four-hour, water-deprived wait to get into the festival.
But this wasn’t our first rodeo. it was our fifth rodeo. We don’t wait four hours for anything. Hell, I don’t think we slept for a solid four hours at a crack last weekend. We eeked our way in towards the front of the line (admittedly adding to the problem) and got through in about 40 minutes.
As fortune would have it, Galantis were also late and still on their first song. In a word, their set was masterful, weaving their way through their recent LP Pharmacy, along with a hefty dose of dance classics (Mylo), new classics (Drunk in Love), and head-scratchers (Van Halen. Not even kidding.). They created a carefree party atmosphere, but with less of the yelling and none of the airhorn of their more recent shows. Sure, they still yelled at us to put our hands up, but they also pushed a strong “love everybody” agenda, and encouraged everybody to stay hydrated. I thought that was a fairly obvious PSA lead-in to their album closer, ‘Water,’ but it turned out they were just genuinely looking out for the health of their fans. And their mascot, the Seafox. The poor she-Seafox looked inches from passing out.
While Galantis was tearing it up, I noticed the stage itself at Ranch Arena was largely unchanged from last year’s version. The stages typically undergo drastic makeovers from one year to the next, so it was a little confusing. However, the stage is beautiful, features intricate carved wood latticework, so I can understand their hesitation to discard it.
It turned out that Galantis’ arguably too early Thursday set made for a perfect kickoff to the weekend, like an exclamation point at the beginning of a sentence. After we were sprinkled with Gold Dust, slathered in Peanut Butter Jelly and drenched in sweat, we made our way into the forest for the first time. It’s an incredible experience to walk through the trees, the art, and the lights, but the real treat is watching the noobs witnessing the Forest for the first time. Everybody, however brief, becomes a kid again, staring in open-mouthed awe at the sheer spectacle.
Once through the main gates, we left the path and snaked our way through the trees, a task made much easier by the newly-instituted “hammock zone” policy. The new rule dictates that hammocks are limited to specified areas in the Forest, with both ease of movement as well as tree conservation in mind. I balked at the idea when I first read about it, but once I was in it and saw the benefits, and that there was still plenty of room to hang, I was quite pleased with the new way.
We found our way to the slow slump hill of Sherwood Court, and plopped down to watch Mr. Carmack unleash his own brand of hip-hop on the groggy crowd. He seemed to help most of the people get on their feet and dancing, and I was elated to hear “Rappers Rapping” before Wave Racer showed up to take the reigns. He did, briefly dropping from garage-produced hip-hop into shiny, happy trop-house, complete with Miami Vice-inspired graphics…but a minute later I looked up, and Mr. Carmack hadn’t left yet. But Wave Racer had, and we were somehow back in a Mr. Carmack set.
We dipped out of Sherwood to get a look at the new area, with two new stages, The Hanger and Jubilee. The decor of each was a couple generations old, circa the 1920’s and 30’s. Jubilee was housed in a large, Pepto-pink circus tent, and decked out in Art Deco accoutrements, lighting and decorations that looked like inverted stained glass lamps, hanging crystals and glass beadwork. The stage was covered in ornate wood lattice work painted white, and an incredible array of lighting provided an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of colors. It was gorgeous.
I walked back and forth in a U around the crowd at Sango, watching the lights shift from one dreamscape to another, from seafoam green to blood red to aquarium blue. Sango’s music shifted fluidly from hip-hop to R&B and back. He’d work the crow into a frenzy, then a wash of sexy calm over the audience. I felt lucky to have a friend push to see the show.
Back at Sherwood Court, Waver Racer (for real this time) was finishing up what sounded like the soundtrack of a Miami Vice game for Sega Genesis. I kinda wish one of these trop-house guys would just commit and go full Don Johnson for their live sets. The hair, the brightly colored suits with rolled-up arms, all of it. Doesn’t seem to be Wave Racer’s game.
Nor Lido’s, for that matter. Lido is a simple, one-man performance in black and white. Minimal theatrics, no distractions, and the only color came from the Future Classics LED screen off to one side. He did provide a running commentary between songs, talking about his musical history, being raised on gospel and hip-hop, and how he worked out ways to put the two together. He laid down a hip-hop beat, overlaid a gospel chorus, added more percussion, then a piano melody and boom, it was a Lido song.
Sherwood Court was a curated stage on Thursday, by the Australian label/music hegemony Future Classics, but it may well have been called the “Damn, that white boy got soul!” stage instead.
It’s always such a struggle to get the the Forest at night, doubly so for the first night. You start into it with such purpose, and this clear goal, but the deeper you venture into the constantly shifting colors and cacophony of sound, the Forest unfurling before you beings to obscure those goals and diminish that purpose into a faint memory. Curiosity gets the best of you, and you wander through the trees, lazily directed by whimsy. Just when you’re surveying the ground for a place to post up, you feel a hand on your shoulder, and that hand has an arm, and the arm has a body with a head that’s yelling, “Hey! Let’s go! Odesza is on soon! OH-DEZ-UH!: The voice attached to the hand is urgent, so you nod and follow it.
Seattle duo Odesza have been enjoying a much deserved Jeffersons-like hype trajectory in the year following the the release of the “In Return” LP, so it should come as no surprise that they were on the main stage of a festival, but it was still a little jarring. They always put on a quality show, each dancing as much as anybody in the audience, and the visuals they use are a perfect extension for the music and complimentary to the album’s artwork.
They drummed, tapped, and bounced through what seemed like a handful of songs, but in reality was legitimately over an hour’s worth of music. It was punk, purple, syncopated rhythms, and above all, it was beautiful.
We spent about thirty seconds catching our breath in the afterglow of that performance before embarking on another mission through the forest to catch the latter half of Four Tet’s Sherwood Court set.
I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember much of his set, which kind of breaks my heart. I have a couple photos, so I know I was there, but that’s all I got. The Forest is a hell of a drug. That may also be the only explanation for missing Kaskade’s first EF show since the inaugural festival in 2011. It’s a damn shame.
I do recall Flume, though, who followed Four Tet to close out Sherwood. He was conversational with the audience, which is to say he talked quite a bit between songs. I didn’t mind it when he was meek, and a little too shy to get on the mic much, but that’s the way it goes.
Flume’s upper half writhed back and forth across his gear, hands jutting out to adjust a knob or fader, and sort of oozed through his set while his lower half remained relatively stationary. It was moderately creepy. There wasn’t much in the way of surprises, but it was a solid group of songs where he hit on all the points he needed, and enthralled everyone up front with his hexagonal vortex light show. Somewhere in the distance, Carl Cox was yelling at the audience of Tripolee, schooling them on how to audience, and the Forest was teeming with lights, and confetti’d bits of melted faces.