2012 Electric Forest Festival – Part One

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The rollercoaster of emotions continued as the trip back through Sherwood was now under the cover of darkness and everything came alive. I walked dropjawed through the amazing red pine forest, soaking it all in like I do each and every time in that place. I’m convinced Sherwood Forest is medicine that goes directly to my soul. It was a nice boost on the way to catch Wyllys, the only representative at EFF of the nu disco wave. And not only was his genre different, his entire game was different. This dude brought a ton of vinyl with him and spun an honest to goodness, old school DJ set. It’s too bad all the kiddies weren’t in the Wagon Wheel watching this, because he put on a clinic.

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Wade’s gotta be the most animated DJ I know. Every adjustment, every minor tweak of the mix was met with a flourish of his hands, like some sort of disco magician. And he would bust out the occasional air guitar to accentuate a particularly sleazy parts of songs. He is just a blast to watch work, a true artisan of the turntables & mixer. I was lovin this shit, but for some crazy reason, the festival still hasn’t figured out how to solve the intolerable heat in that tiny room. It was unbearably hot, I could only last in 6-8 minute bursts before I’d have to go outside to cool off — and it wasn’t even cool outside! It got so bad that I had to take a walk, and I could hear Wolfgang Gartner through the trees, it sucked me in like a magnet.

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I will admit that I was skeptical of Wolfgang Gartner. What I’ve heard from him before, I really didn’t like. But he was making one hell of a ruckus, so I wandered over to check it out. It took me a minute, but before I knew it, I was walking closer and closer to the stage, really enjoying what I was hearing. His style is about as aggressive & uptempo as electro gets, but it had a certain European pace & energy that won me over. He utilized these strange little sounds and weird bits of space, a very complex production, to create room for his drops, which were skull shattering. This was also when I was reminded that EFF/Rothbury always has the best sounding festival stages, especially Ranch Arena. The sound was perfectly loud, and crisp like fresh linen. There’s no question, Ranch Arena is the best sounding festival stage I’ve experienced. I left Gartner quite pleasantly surprised and with a boost of energy, perfect for another trek back across the forest.

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That’s really the genius part about this festival: they place the two main stages on either side of the forest, literally forcing you through to get to the music you want to see. This places a huge emphasis on the experience of the forest and it matches the focus — I think it’s impossible to bore of that place. I made it over to the Court to briefly catch a really sweet segment of EOTO’s set. They did this slick little remix of “Electric Avenue” in the way only EOTO can. They sounded great, but over the years they’ve developed this after-party vibe, so it felt out of place to be seeing them this early in the festival. I would have stayed much longer, but the Forest Stage was pulling me back.

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Not just the Forest Stage, the mind-blowing group Quixotic. I had my dome busted open the first time I saw this combination of electronic music and performance art, but this time was even more impressive, which is hard to believe. There were performance areas on the ground off to the sides of the stage, which made the show feel all-encompassing. The dancers, contortionists, and aerialists obviously captivate your mind, but the music is the absolute perfect soundtrack for the action. Everything about this show sucks you in, it’s like candy for the sensory lobes of your brain. You wanna dance because the music is so sexy & dirty, but you wanna watch everything that the beautiful girls are doing too. Forty-five minutes flew by in what felt like ten, which is typical when you’re stimulated to such an intense degree. They absolutely owned that stage, fitting right into the ethos of EFF, while presenting a totally new, and envelope-pushing act for the festival. I can’t see why they wouldn’t just give this stage to them next year, all four nights for like four hours each night. This exactly the type of beautiful, mind-altering, positive-energy radiating performance you’d want to experience in a place like Sherwood Forest. This was a heavy dose of that magic.

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All of a sudden, after getting spit out of the forest, I felt some tired creeping in. The Ranch Arena seemed like a good spot to gain steam, but Ghostland Observatory just wasn’t doing it for me. A song or two was cool, but after the fourth song dude’s voice started getting incredibly aggravating. So I meandered back towards Tripolee to see what the Thievery Corporation side project See-I was all about. They sounded great, a healthy funk-reggae attitude and bright energy. Tripolee was also brilliantly decorated, with a massively colorful display. This is another area where EFF truly stands out: their stage productions are intricate and huge at the same time, always different, and never half-assed. But there weren’t many people at this stage to enjoy this rare nighttime non-EDM set. The attendance was woefully low, in fact, maybe 200 people tops. I looked at the schedule and really wanted to see Beats Antique and then Rob Garza after that, but I had the full-on yawns by this point and has running on fumes. I’ve learned over the years not to chase the night too much, especially on the first night of the festival. So I made my way out to my campsite, flopped onto my air mattress, and called it a night.

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Jeremy Frazier is the editor-in-chief of Soundfuse.