Name: Electric Forest Music Festival
Dates: June 25th-29th
Location: Rothbury, Michigan
Size: 45,000 (estimate)
Years Running: 7
Lineup: Electric Forest’s shift away from jam bands and towards electronic music continued this year as DJs dominated the lineup. You can’t really blame the promoters, as this is where the music industry is at. Overall, the music was on point and well worth the ticket price.
Stages/Sound: The music viewing experience at Electric Forest is excellent overall. It took a major step forward this year with the additions of the Jubilee Stage and the Hangar. The Jubilee Stage is the BEST tent you’ll see at music festivals due to its perfect sound (as long as you had earplugs) and lighting that makes you feel like you’re in a movie. The Hangar stage featured electro swing, which gave attendees a place they could go to at any time and dance their asses off. While the new additions were well done, it’s time for an upgrade to the main stages. The Ranch stage’s excessive lighting at the back of the crowd is too bright and distracting (unless you’re at the very front). The Sherwood Court Stage is beautiful, but needs speaker towers added so the sound is as good at the back of the crowd as it is at the front.
Art: The art at Electric Forest is nothing short of fantastic. The entire venue is a decorated to the nines and turns any journey across the property into an adventure. Along with art installations, you’ll also find performance art troupes roaming the property and interacting with the crowd. These troops are a great addition to the experience. They make you feel like you’re living in a fairy-tale world similar to Alice In Wonderland.
Greening: Electric Forest does a great job of encouraging green behaviour by creating programs to reward attendees for picking up trash inside the venue. The festival also has a strong voice on social media and posts signs inside the venue encouraging attendees to pick up after themselves. This combination has created a loyal crowd that gets a little cleaner every year. PROGRESS!! But while there’s been improvement, there is still a long way to go. I’d like to see Electric Forest put programs in place next year that help attendees recycle in the campground, and as a group at the end of each show.
Crowd: This is a tough one. The Electric Forest crowd is great overall. Most attendees are amazing people who produce great vibes and know how to festival. On the flip side, there is a strong population of 18-20 year olds who have never been to a festival and get way too messed up on whatever substances they come across.
The other unfortunate reality about the Electric Forest crowd is that it has a major problem with theft. It’s the worst of any festival I’ve been to. For example, I was taking a nap in my new Eagles Nest Outfitters hammock, and someone stole the little nylon bag that holds my hammock straps. I think it’s time for Electric Forest to address this issue by announcing that they are creating an in-house anti-theft task force that places objects out in the open and waits for people steal them. Anyone who is caught stealing loses their wristband. Just announcing this would at least make people think twice.
Food: The food was fantastic all weekend long. A wide variety of dishes was available at standard festival prices. The lines were manageable outside of peak hours on the last two days, when attendees had given up on cooking their own food. It wouldn’t hurt to bring in extra vendors in the future to reduce food-line lengths.
Organization: This is where it gets tricky. The campground organization and entry into the festival was a disaster on the first day. Some festivalgoers waited for seven hours to get to their campsite. To make matters worse, Electric Forest ran out of room at the General Admission campground, which forced festivalgoers to park in overflow camping located far from the venue. I don’t believe this was all Electric Forest’s fault, because as I walked beside the line of cars on my way to the box office I noticed that about one out of five cars contained only one person. This may have been convenient for these people, but their car took up extra space that Electric Forest had not counted on and caused them to run out of room. Next year, Electric Forest should implement a program that encourages attendees to carpool by charging anyone with less than three people in the car for the extra space they’re using.
The other major organizational issue was that the line into the venue on the first day took upwards of four hours. This caused thousands of attendees to miss some of their favorite artists and begin the festival on a sour note. The line was created because the gates didn’t open until 4 p.m. By the time the gates finally opened there was a giant line, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. This problem can be easily fixed next year by opening the gates earlier in the day so the line never builds up in the first place.
Overall: This was a big year in the evolution of Electric Forest. While there were definitely some hiccups in getting everyone into the venue, once you were inside Electric Forest offered a magical festival experience. The new stages took everything to a whole new level. I’m giving the 2015 festival four out of five stars. This can and should become a perfect five stars once the organizers fix the growth issues they experienced this year in the camping department. I know I’ll be back, as this is a festival I’ll attend every year until I get boring.