2012 Electric Forest Festival – Part One


Friday morning I was up like a jet at nine o clock sharp. Sure, I had gotten a great night’s sleep, so the early hour wasn’t an issue this soon into the festival. It was that goddamn sun screwing everything up. He was beating down on my face with hot iron gloves, making it impossible to sleep. I don’t do well in extreme heat. Thick blood, ghastly pale skin, rotten DNA all around for these conditions. I could live in a snow bank for a week but I’d die in three days in the desert. It was 90+ degrees already, and just my luck, it would be like this for the entire weekend. This had a huge effect on my desire to leave the friendly confines of a heavily shaded area, or my air conditioned car, which led to missing far more daytime sets than I would have liked.

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But it wasn’t just the daytime sets on this day that I missed. A bit of a pissy attitude carried over from Thursdays negative feelings and I found myself feeling oddly apathetic. This never happens to me at a festival, but I was really feeling like EFF had gone sour on me. I even ditched my camera, opting for a Go Pro/Flip on a monopod, my own version of a rage stick. Missing a bunch of music and being free of the anchor that my camera sometimes becomes had an interesting effect though. By the end of the day, I had only seen music that I truly loved and I had a literal and figurative weight lifted off my shoulders. That shark I was talking about? Not jumped. That magic I was talking about? Abound. Amazing music does amazing things.

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The one day set I was bound and determined to catch was Cherub. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like I’ve hyped them up almost too much, like my expectations were too set too high. Shit, I hadn’t even seen an actual full set from them yet, who knows if they were as good live as in the studio? Well I’ll be damned if they weren’t better, my expectations were shattered. They ran through all the gems from MoM and DaD, an unexpected and ridiculously good cover of Daft Punk’s “Around The World,” and Dom and Jeremy from Big Gigantic joined them for the last few songs, saving their cornerstone song “Doses & Mimosas” for last. Their sly, throwback disco attitude translated surprisingly well to the stage, obviously with a lot more energy and some hilarious banter. Look out for this band, they will be much higher up the bill on a lot of festivals next summer, they are primed for a blow up.

Aaaaaaand… scene. That was pretty much it for me until the sun went down. Seriously, it was chillin hard time until I the temperature started to drop along with the sun. I made it back in as String Cheese Incident’s second set was beginning — perfect timing for my mental state on this day. But I was with some good friends and we didn’t stay in one spot for any length of time. Cheese sounded fantastic but our hooves beat down the road. We ended up at Paper Diamond and stayed for a solid half hour; it was an awesome half hour too. I caught my favorite song of his “Steady Swinging” and a badass remix of SBTRKT’s “Wildfire.” For some reason I never expect Paper Diamond to be as much fun as he is, but this set showed me the power of his music. I just wonder what he’s up there doing with that iPad…

Cheese was getting into the real meat of their set by the time we wondered back. That forest is so just so damn distracting — a “quick” trip can turn into an hour of gawking, giggling, and getting weird in a hurry. “Valley of the Jig” greeted us back and my one friend, who had never seen Cheese, was instantly stoked on how dancey this jamband could be. The always loved “Texas” closed out the set with a huge ball of joy. Once again, Ranch Arena sounded impeccable, now it was Cheese’s turn to step up and take the reins of their festival. They came out for the encore, what seemed like a standard “Desert Dawn” at first. Well, this song isn’t exactly standard by any means — it’s one of their finest, a seriously juicy jam vehicle. But this was no ordinary jam, all of a sudden we were plunged into the middle of “Desert Dawn-step.” The EOTO Incident, if you will. It was an abrupt change, so very deftly maneuvered that it pulled a powerful gasp from the audience. There was a certain segment of people who went apeshit at the drop, and there were definitely some that were totally confused & dismayed. I loved it. The way they dropped in and pulled back from this aggressive dubstep jam was brilliant. SCI takes a lot of heat for doing stuff like this, but I applaud their moxey for attempting it, and their skill for pulling it off so well. This is what Cheese at Electric Forest is all about.

After that incredible moment, I was feeling pretty damn awesome. Negativity gone. Shark safely back in the water, far away from being leaped over. But it would get even better. My most anticipated set of the weekend, Thievery Corporation, was still to come. After yet more forest time, I finally settled back in at Ranch Arena for the long haul; I wasn’t going to miss a drop of Thievery. And for good reason: this was hands down the best set of the weekend. Thievery never disappoints, and with a set this long they were able to run through a ton of their catalogue — including all the favorites — setting off on luscious sonic journeys in every direction of funk, reggae, and world music through the prism of electronic production.

There is no group on the planet as intricately beautiful as Thievery Corporation. It’s like floating through the most comfortable clouds, soaring aloft in this sensual & flowing musical fluid. I went back and forth from plunging myself into the crowd to be a part of that beautiful orb of human energy, to moving into some space in order to get in touch with my spirit animal more freely. I got down. And I wasn’t the only one. Everybody around me was glowing, smiles were swept across every person’s face I saw. So it was a shame that this ended up being the lowest attended headliner at the Ranch Arena stage all weekend. It’s absolutely insane to me that so many people were at STS9 when they were playing the following night. Don’t get me wrong, Tribe is awesome, but Thievery is on a completely different plane.

After that set I was positively radiant. I’m not even sure if my feet touched the ground for the next hour. One more trip into the forest was in order, then it was back to the campsite for a wind down session. This day showed me the complete spectrum of emotions I could experience at a festival. But when my eyes shut for the night, I was as high as could be. This feeling carried over into the rest of the weekend; any negative thoughts were in my rear view mirror and I never turned back.

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