The legendary Sherwood Forest has once again been enchanted. June 28 – July 1, 2012 will see tens of thousands of festival-goers making a pilgrimage to the small town of Rothbury, MI for what has become one of the most storied music and art experiences — the Electric Forest Festival.
While the musical lineup is commanding enough to stand alone, its physical environment and aesthetics are what really set Electric Forest apart from other events. “We’ve all been to tons of festivals where you stand there looking at a stage with musicians performing,” an Art Director and Lighting Designer for headliner The String Cheese Incident, Andy Carroll, told MLive.com, a Michigan newspaper. “We’re bringing a little more of an interactive element — even if it’s getting people involved in the sense of, here, here’s a hammock, lie in it.” A ‘little bit’ of an interactive element seems a little bit of an understatement.
“The magic of Sherwood Forest… is perhaps the one universally agreed upon concept in the jam band and electronica communities,” reads a May 16, 2012 article from online music magazine Headstash.com. The forest, the renowned epicenter of what is described as the perfect festival venue, is a nine-acre art installation on the grounds of the Double JJ Ranch. Sixty years ago lines of trees were planted for the purpose of being clear cut, which never happened; today they stand as an unrivaled grid of towering pines known as Sherwood Forest, both a literal and symbolic gateway to Electric Forest’s experience.
Bridging utility with art, there are two defined paths leading through the woods to the far reaches of the festival grounds, so patrons must walk across Sherwood (though most choose to amble through it) and take in an all-senses “Alice in Wonderland” phantasmagoria. By day the woods are riddled with hammocks, hidden performances, and two bars, so it serves as a welcome reprieve from the summer heat. By night the forest is illuminated with world-class lighting displays, towering visual installations, avant-garde performances, a main stage, and hidden theatrics to be discovered.
While music isn’t the festival’s whole focus, it’s an equal part of the atmosphere and is as deliberate as Electric Forest’s art — 2012 will play host to some of the best acts in Electronica, Jam, and Bluegrass. Headliners include The String Cheese Incident (3 shows), Bassnectar, and STS9 (2 shows), and notables include Thievery Corporation, Girl Talk, Beats Antique, Steve Aoki, MiMOSA, Keller Williams, Big Gigantic, and Reggie Watts. A complete roster can be found on the festival’s official website, ElectricForestFestival.com.
Wandering beyond Sherwood Forest, festival-goers will find a glow in the dark disc golf course, an onsite lake with a beach front, a roaming magic circus band, an array of workshops from African Drum making to environmental activism, and at additional costs to the festival passes, horseback riding, an indoor water park, and a golf course.
With half of the attendees yet double the artistic implementation that its first incarnations had, Andy Carroll projects this to be the best Electric Forest yet. Seamlessly joining new art, artists and ideas, the festival has become annual for many people and will “blow minds for anybody who’s never been.”