There are few festivals that boast the kind of diversity that Electric Forest does. Where else do you see bluegrass fans and kandi kids? Rainbow and confederate flags? Sixteen year-old Skrillex fans and older, more seasoned veterans of the festival scene? Sure, Summer Camp and Bonnaroo might fit the mold, but along with Electric Forest, these are rare representations of diversity and unity through music.
Just a glance at the Electric Forest lineup and you can tell that it’s one of the most eclectic festival bills out there. Every inch of the spectrum is covered in both the jam and electronic music worlds, from main stage headliners like Kaskade and Skrillex to the more experimental stylings of Four Tet and Dām-Funk. Perhaps the most popular of acts are the Colorado EDM style that’s embodied by Big Gigantic, Gramatik, Pretty Lights, Griz, Exmag, etc. The former two of which drew some of the largest crowds of the festival’s history this weekend.
As far as jam bands go, you have Yonder Mountain String Band and Keller Williams representing ADM (“acoustic dance music” as Yonder’s Ben Kaufmann joked on Sunday), Galactic and Lettuce playing funk, Lotus, Dopapod and The Werks blending funk with electronica, and String Cheese Incident blending everything together over three nights and six sets in the Forest. There’s also the likes of Lindsey Stirling, Charles Bradley, Edwarde Sharpe, Seun Kuti, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band that are sort of odd balls, but hardly out of place.
How does it work out? Well, it works out unbelievably well. Anyone who’s ever been to Electric Forest will attest to the happiness and positivity that is pulsating throughout the festival. Even though the dude with the Confederate Flag got punched, the bigger picture was still an overwhelmingly positive environment. The festival scheduled the world record attempt for the largest group hug ever, for crying out loud.
The result of the music programming is a choose-your-own adventure that can leave you raving away to Bassnectar or singing Dead tunes with JRAD. You could have seen Datsik or String Cheese Incident or Lettuce or Charles Bradley, for example. The plentiful amount of music taking place at any given time is as diverse as the patrons, and it sets Forest apart from most other festivals we’ve attended over the years. Don’t want to take it from me? Take it from Mr. Carmack…
There’s all different types of people enjoying all different types of music, and it’s nothing short of a beautiful thing. It’s truly a pinnacle of what this scene can accomplish when you put your guard down and keep an open mind. It’s a party thrown by Insomniac and Madison House, TOGETHER, where Burning Man artists set up installations in the Forest, and the stage hands were watching the Dead broadcast. If that isn’t a sign of unity and diversity, then I don’t know what is.
Diversity of the festival and its patrons: it was a topic that was touched on throughout the weekend. Michael Travis, drummer of the String Cheese Incident, touched on it before SCI jumped into their final encore on Sunday night. Michael Kang and Kyle Hollingsworth also eluded to the diversity and happiness of the patrons throughout the course of the weekend. Of course, String Cheese Incident is sort of the center-point of the whole thing. Not only do they headline each night, but they’ll play bluegrass with members of Yonder or the Infamous Stringdusters, but also invite Dominic Lalli or Skrillex up to jam with them too. It’s only fitting that ‘Eclectic Forest’ is spearheaded by (arguably) the world’s most eclectic band. Stay tuned for a thorough review of the Cheese shows in Part 2 of our Electric Forest blog coverage.