Over 50,000 people came together in Rothbury Michigan on June 22-25, 2023 for an experience of a lifetime. You can’t find another festival like this anywhere else in the United States. For four days straight, Festival punters engulfed themselves in exceptional music, creative art installations, projection mapping and light shows, scavenger hunts, this year’s newest addition known as the Dream Emporium, and so much more!
The Dream Emporium:
This festival has so much more going on than just the music, which makes your time frolicking around that much more special. They’re paid actors all throughout the forest who interact with festivalgoers with the intention of making for a unique experience. They will not break character and each actor has an interesting narrative attached to them. The Dream Emporium was home to many of the actors and attributed to the most exceptional time!
As someone who has attended every year of this festival since 2017, I have seen the festival transform over the years. This newest addition is by far my favorite and I believe the insomniac team has completely outdone themselves. In previous years, this space was known as the “Hangar” and had a stage and little rooms with various activities to engage in. One year there was a mini golf course, a secret stage known as the Carousel Stage, and secret rooms with speakeasies and live burlesque performances. It seems as though they still kept those concepts, but just moved them about the forest while replacing that space to create the most unimaginable experience ever.
Upon arriving at the Dream Emporium you’re greeted by a magical-looking building with multiple grand entrances with their own unique touch. They limit the number of people allowed in there at a time to create a better experience that isn’t crowded and more interactive, so there is typically a line to get in. Each entrance brings you through its own journey that eventually leads you to the center of the emporium. The center is surrounded by multiple doors that bring you to a dreamlike place with its own story and entertainment. Each door has an entirely different theme than the others as well as actors contributing to the storyline of the room, which makes for a unique experience for each festival goer. One of the rooms is a secret room you can only get into if you have the pin from completing the scavenger hunt. in light of keeping the secret alive, the only hint I can give is that there are a lot of disco balls!
All throughout the forest, you can find different art installations that light up at night. There were many new art pieces added this year that were absolutely perfect for nighttime projection mapping. My favourite was the mushroom lady, which is all white in the daytime and then completely changes looks depending on the mapping at nighttime. There was also a sculpture with many different faces on it that would also change into various different looks at nightfall.
insomniac is no stranger to using innovative light tricks to make the forest come alive at night as well as putting on fantastic light shows for their performers. For instance, you can attend any performer on a main stage and see that the lights are always in sync with the beats and drops of the artists’ music. When walking around the forest you can see that there is also an entire production going on just for projecting the lights throughout the forest, which are also in sync to a programmed pattern.
When walking around at nighttime you can see that many installations hat already blew your mind in the daytime, have an entirely new look to them. I took pictures next to this butterfly art piece that had an entire LED screen in its wings that I didn’t notice until I walked by again at night. it was completely lit up and contributed to the overall awe of the festival at night. You should definitely take some time away from seeing music to enjoy the immersive experience at nightfall.
Any of the music you find at Electric Forest you can expect to be exceptional. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked any music performance I’ve ever seen there. There is a genre of music for every taste and the opportunity to experience new sound you may never have heard before at every stage. Some of my personal favorite sets from the weekend were from artists i had not ever heard of. Discovering new artists at the festival is one of the many expectations you should have when you plan your trip to the festival.
Kaipora – Brazillian folklore consisting of two guys. Ronnie Holguin from the Philippines, and Kevin Rodriguez from San Diego. Their performance immediately stuck out to me. They engaged with the crowd in a way i have never seen done before and it made for a fantastic time. They have a very unique livetronics style that expands into a mixture of womps, with delicate builds followed by a great anticipated bass drop. Their live work and crowd engagement was so impressive, they asked the audience to rap into the mike and then live mixed each person’s vocals into a smooth bassy sound. If you ever see them on a lineup, they are an absolute must see, no questions!
Two Feet – Alternative/indie consisting of Zachary Wiliam and his bandmates. He is an American singer and producer from New York City. This performance was so memorable, and they lit up the carousel stage in a way i could never forget. The lyrics in each song are so relatable and well written, you can’t help yourself but sing along while dancing to the strong bass in the background. You can expect a mixture of lyrics, instruments, and beat drops. This is also a must-see performance at any other festival you may attend in the future.
Sudden Death – Dubstep/electronic artist Daniel James stole the show on Saturday night. The Sherwood court stage was entirely packed with eager fans. He was performing a VOYD set and the Los Angeles native didn’t shy away from pleasing everyone in the crowd with a perfectly curated set. The side project Voyd is a spin on his alter ego that is full of heavy hitters and has come with many highlighted moments for his career. He has made his mark in the scene and will continue to create exceptional music for his adoring fans.
Dailybread – Electro-soul and hip-hop producer Rhett Whatley had many performances throughout the weekend and i personally caught every single one. He has a side project known as Cloud Conductor that was also filled with his style of music and unique sound. He played a sunrise set at the renegades that felt like he knew exactly how to create the perfect sound for that time in the morning while still keeping it lively. He keeps it very bassy but with a soulful touch, a perfect combination for the most fun and memorable set. If you have the chance, never miss an opportunity to see this very talented man live.
Saka – Experimental beatmaker and producer Eric Chou performed on the Observatory stage on Sunday night and packed it out. everyone showed up for this set and for good reason. His style of bass music is inspired by his roots of living in Hong Kong, so you can expect a particular flare of sound you wouldn’t typically find in the bass scene. His music is full of destructive bass patches with a delicate blend of chaos. He has incredible talents and his sound design is unmatched within the bass community. He is making headway and will continue to thrive within the music industry so be sure to keep an eye out for him on big festival lineups in the upcoming future.
There were four days jam-packed with incredible music, it is hard to pinpoint the best performances of the weekend. No stage I personally went to was a disappointment. The sound was bumping on each stage and the performers all showed up with their best foot forward. Although there is much more than the music going on at the festival, the music you find there is perfectly curated for the festival’s vibe and will always exceed your expectations.
There is so much going on at all times it’s hard to see and experience everything going on within the forest, but some of the must-see activities other than the music and dream emporium are scattered about. Some notable and newest additions are listed below.
The Erotic Blue Print Experience – This was something I stumbled upon having no previous knowledge of and just went into it with an open mind. Essentially it’s a place to expand your sexuality and learn more about what you like and what others may like. There was a room with sex toys like whips and feather toys and you’re encouraged to try them on yourself or your partner. It created for a very interesting and fun experience and I would definitely recommend giving it a try. It is a very respected space and consent is given by any and every participant beforehand.
Trading Post – This a place where you can haggle and barter for cool and intricate finds. Essentially it is a store where you can trade similarly priced items for interesting pieces! It is right next to the Grand Artique Stage, home to some of the best performances of the weekend. Definitely give this space some time and bring cool items to trade!
The Giving Tree – This is a massive tree in off to the side of the walkway between Tripolee and the Ranch stage. It has the idea of taking something and leaving something and is always surrounded by festival goers looking to find something unique. I try to make it a point to visit it once a day and have always found memorable items I keep with me for forest memorabilia. I wouldn’t skip out on this because you never know what you might find!
The Scavenger Hunt – This is such a fantastic touch to the festival, and creates for a magical time. It brings you all around the forest trying to complete it. I was inside the dream emporium trying to decipher a code one moment and then in the secret room the next. There are many friends you can meet along the way that are also on the chase for the prize that comes along with completion. Make sure to set aside time though because it does take a decent amount of time.
Overall, this festival is so well put together and pays attention to every single detail. You can tell there is a lot of love in this community and this is a festival that will just continue to expand and transform into something bigger and better every year. I will personally be attending this festival every year for as long as I possibly could. Definitely add this to your festival schedule if you haven’t already! If you go four-plus consecutive years in a row they give you a loyalty pin that gives you access to your own line to get into the festival. The forest is constantly giving back and thats another contributing factor as to why this festival is simply a must!
ELECTRIC FOREST SOCIAL MEDIA:
Tune into Electric Forest Radio online or 99.5!