I’d like to start off with a disclaimer, though I feel I’m a seasoned veteran of Electric Forest having attended 2012,2014 and now going to 2015; I am far from an expert. All tips and suggestions here are also based on my learning experiences and adventures so please don’t feel like all of this will pertain to you exactly.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Electric Forest in Rothbury, Michigan is in my opinion the best music festival in the Midwest. The difference maker is its Sherwood Forest which is transformed into a magical place anyone could get lost in for hours exploring all it has to offer. That being said if you DON’T believe me check out my review of Electric Forest from 2012 HERE and some pictures HERE, and the review from 2014 HERE and the photo gallery HERE.
Check out the original guide posted after the events and experiences of my first Electric Forest (2012) HERE
Protection from the sun: Sunscreen, hat, bandana, sunglasses, canopy/tapestry. It sounds obvious but you will be in the middle of a field with no protection from the sun outside of the festival grounds. Be sure to bring whatever you need in order to make life comfortable especially where you sleep/drink/eat and recharge your batteries for the next day. Without a canopy you will be rudely awoken by the heat in your tent at roughly 7am each morning.
Hydration: Water, Beer, Energy Drinks, Camelback. The walk from your tent to the festival grounds alone could be 30 minutes in the sun. If you walk from Sherwood Court (the furthest stage) back to your tent it could take up to an hour if not longer. YOU WILL NEED TO DRINK WATER. Add to that the fact that you will be partying and most likely drinking alcohol most of this weekend you will need to hydrate. Food will not be as important as a cold liquid to drink all weekend long.
Food: Power Bars, Trail Mix, PBJ, Beef Jerky. Fruit I’ve experienced Electric Forest with and without a grill and both have their upsides. With a grill you can make a lot of food that tastes good and does not get redundant (bacon, sausage, hotdogs, chicken, steak and burgers to name a few) the problem with this is storage and cleanup. Last year trucks drove around the campgrounds selling ice for $5 a bag. Our campground usually picked up at least $10-$20 of ice a day to keep drinks cold and food refrigerated. There will also be stations set up around the campgrounds where you can buy ice without waiting for it to get to you. The reason why I would say NOT TO bring a grill is the absolute fact that you will be less inclined to cook food the longer you stay. Even though you have energy to grill all 3 meals day 1, by day 3 you’re half asleep chugging red bulls to wake yourself up and to make it in time for your favorite artist. Most people will NOT eat a meal in the evening back in camp unless it’s a late night snack/craving. It’s too far of a walk and the food is too good inside the festival; (last year a stir fry bowl which was I believe $5-$8 dollars fed 2 people very well). Fruit is a great way to get some water, sugar, and some vitamins in you that you will so desperately need. A watermelon is great but it needs to be finished same day unless you have some Tupperware containers. Bananas, oranges, grapes, plums peaches and apples seem to be a safe choice that could last a few days in the coolers.
Hygiene: Baby Wipes, Baby Powder, deodorant, toilet paper. There’s nothing worse than going to a port-a-potty and NOT having any toilet paper in it. This is where baby wipes will be your savior. Plus you’ll have that clean feeling which most people can’t live without. Baby wipes will also help you freshen up throughout the day when showers are just too far or too packed to wait in line. Baby powder is suggested for people who have a problem with chaffing. I have that problem and I’ve lived through the worst of it. Bring baby powder you’ll thank me later.
Pack in Groups: What I mean is if you have a group of people all going together on this trip; make sure everyone brings something that’s a common necessity. You don’t want everyone to bring forks spoons and knives but to have NO plates or paper towels. This will also help minimize the clutter in everyone’s car. Remember if you have more of one thing but need something else don’t be afraid to befriend and trade with neighbors.
Miscellaneous: Here are a few things most people might forget to bring but could make or break your electric forest experience. 1) An extra pair of shoes. If it rains once and your only pair of shoes gets soaked chances are they will not dry in time for you to wear them the next day. An extra pair of comfortable shoes you can walk in ALL day is a necessity. With rain in the forecast 3 of the 4 days this year you might need 2 extra pairs of shoes. 2) Duct tape and a pocket knife. You never know when something might come crashing down on your tent and you’ll need to quickly duct tape the hole. It’s good for keeping broke shoes together too, or ripped backpack straps. Pocket knives are good tools when those plastic knives don’t cut it. 3) Clothes for all occasions: unlike the festivals we enjoy here in Chicago, we don’t get to just go home after each night at Electric Forest. Having clothes all possible weather conditions is key. That includes a hoodie and some sweat pants for the chilly evenings and nights. This is also where I started to understand why so many people walk around is swimwear. It covers you up, minimizes the chance of you dirtying up other clothes and it dries quickly. 4) Extra Tarps, Chairs tables. As much as people think they have everything they need to party hard at the forest they seem almost always forget a table; Which helps to keep your stuff off the ground especially when it rains. It’s hard to play beer pong without a table too. The extra tarps come in handy to expand the reach of your canopy and to create more dry space to live in if it were to rain. If you have several canopies next to each other a good idea is to put a tarp over the side where the two canopies meet. Chairs are a convenience but its better than sitting on the ground for 4 days especially when relaxing in the campsite. Some people bring inflatable chairs or bean bags. 5) “TOYS” you heard me toys. Why? Because why the hell not were miles away from our normal lives and it’s time to get weird/fun. Bring body paint if that’s what you want to do, maybe a few water guns to fill with liquor. A kiddie pool can be a fun makeshift open cooler you could fill with ice each day. Buy a cheap slip and slide that you can entertain people with or make one with soap water and a tarp (that extra tarp you said you didn’t need)
I hope that you found this guide helpful. I purposely left out the very obvious list of things to bring because there are dozens of posts about that. Reddit has an extensive guide and the Electric Forest website does so as well. The forest is a great place and whether it your first time or your 5th I know you will have a blast. See you guys in the forest. Keep an eye out for the WhySoChi crew.
Every Memorial Day weekend, my friends and I embark on our annual pilgrimage to Detroit for Paxahau’s Movement Electronic Music Fest (formerly known as Detroit Electronic Music Fest, or DEMF). The birthplace of techno, Detroit hosts the event every year in the heart of the city, Hart Plaza. Unlike most festivals that are held in public parks or on raceways, Movement’s Hart Plaza is a sprawling concrete jungle with six stages all tucked away in their own unique area. Movement is one of the longest running electronic music festivals in the world, founded in 2000 by Detroit techno legends Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, and Carl Craig as a free festival open to the public. Since Detroit is the birthplace of techno, Movement has a vibe unlike any other festival; The DJs all play with a sense of pride to represent the city and its electronic culture and the crowd’s primary focus is to listen to incredible sets and dance the weekend away. After experiencing another amazing weekend in Detroit, 2015 proved to be one of my personally highest ranked Movement years ever.Friday
My group arrived in Detroit one day prior to the official start of the festival in order to enjoy the annual festival pre-party ‘Bang Tech 12’ on Friday night, a free event held at Bookie’s Bar and Grille that showcases mostly local techno and house Djs on three separate floors; the most satisfying stage held on the roof of the bar that provides open air and great views. The excitement of the crowd at this party was palpable by the end of the night. There is nothing like the vibe of a party where the crisp evening air hits your face as local techno hits your ears, eyes darting towards the scenery of Canada’s neon casinos in the distance as only joy resonates within your body, knowing the real festival hasn’t even started yet. This free party has occurred every year since Movement’s inception and our group has no plan to stop attending.Saturday
With a late arrival Saturday evening due to much needed recovery time from the Bang Tech 12 pre-party, I started off the evening at the ‘sixth stage’, a new stage that was tucked away in the corner of the fest, allowing one to escape from the crowds and dance in the grass with all the room they require. Since the sixth stage was hosting all drum n bass local Djs on Saturday, I put that dance room to good use. The snarling basslines of this enclosed jungle habitat kept me busy for a while until it was time to head over to Dixon at the main stage of movement. Reminiscent of a Roman Empire colosseum, the main stage boasts the biggest lights, sound, and capacity of all the stages. Dixon kept the crowd going with his patented trippy techno, but I was only able to enjoy his set for a short while before I made my way to the underground stage for one of my highly anticipated sets of the weekend, Cell Injection. Cell Injection consists of Droid Recording founder DrumCell and Audio Injection, two Djs who play hard techno. The underground stage hosted the majority of the faster tempo techno artists of the weekend, and boasted a bass crushing sound system where earplugs could hardly fend off the decibels.Needless to say, Cell injection was absolutely ruthless in punishing the crowd goer’s dancing shoes, whipping track after track of 150+ bpm goodness. Once my organs and bones felt rattled enough from the merciless sound system, I backtracked to the main stage to catch techno legend Richie Hawtin. Hawtin, who I feel can be hit or miss with his live sets, was all hit in Detroit. Utilizing a minimal yet effective lighting system of all black and white, his tracks built upon one another seamlessly and closed out Saturday night without skipping a beat.
On Sunday, the first person I made sure to see was Dubfire. Unfortunately, the seeing part was a bit difficult. Dubfire played at the Beatport Stage (or commonly known as the pyramid stage for those who can’t keep track of the stage name changes year over year), which has been notorious since the festival’s inception for creating aggravating crowd bottlenecks when a festival favorite Dj commands the stage. With three sides of the stage consisting of Lake Michigan, the stage, and a pyramid structure that holds standing attendees, the only opening to the rest of the festival is narrowed by vendor trucks, creating an uncomfortable passageway to get in and out. Due to its inherent layout, I was unable to catch a glimpse of Dubfire and could only passively listen and dance in a constricted area.Since I have seen Dubfire countless times, I decided to leave the suffocating stage and make my way to Josh Wink at the main stage. Josh Wink delivered his usual brand of thumping acid techno. Midway through his set he played his classic “One Laugh”, a blood curdling acid techno track with a haunting laugh reminiscent of The Joker. After Josh Wink’s performance, I took some respite in the VIP lounge with one of the complimentary massages offered in the area. The additional cost of my VIP ticket was well worth the free massages alone. Just a ten minute deep massage and I was completely rejuvenated to dance away the rest of the evening. As night began to reclaim the sky and the lights of the main stage illuminated the crowd, Loco Dice took the stage and played track after track of crowd-pleasing techno. Once Loco Dice’s set neared its end, a wave of younger kids thirsty for an EDM oasis in a techno desert began to make their way to the main stage for the duo Dog Blood (Skrillex and Boys Noize). While I respect both artists, my heart lies with techno, so I finished the evening enjoying Ben Klocks set at the underground stage. Once the festival closed at midnight, we continued our journey to one of the most exciting chapters of Movement weekend, the afterparty. The after party scene for Movement weekend is almost as important as the festival itself. Every night there are dozens upon dozens of afterparties being thrown; some at bars, some at clubs, and some at warehouses. Each party tends to have its own mission, whether it’s to showcase the most popular techno artists under one roof or to bring back the atmosphere of yesteryear raves by throwing a party in an abandoned warehouse with minimal lighting and maximum dancing. I decided to go with the an afterparty that yearned for old school vibes at an old school venue, ‘A Reach Beyond the Beyond’ due to promises of an old school warehouse venue. Upon arrival, I realized that the warehouse was beyond any expectations I could have ever had. A massive first floor had a Dj in one corner with a group of partygoers enthusiastically dancing, paying no heed to the random tires and wooden beams scattered around the room. Hearing word that there was a second floor, we waited in line to take the stairs up as the second floor was at capacity momentarily. After fifteen minutes or so, we were led up to a rickety walkway with caution tape lining the rail. After thanking the Lord for not allowing the walkway to collapse beneath us, we made it to the second floor where acid techno was blasting via the craftsmanship of DJ ESP Woody McBride. Everyone at the party seemed to appreciate the old school venue, and that appreciation transcended among all party goers in the form of hugs, smiles, and sawdust-kicking footwork. At 5am I reached maximum rave capacity and left the party to get some sleep, leaving behind a warehouse still full of people who planned on going far later in the morning than my body could handle.
The final day of Movement came with another schedule full of must-see artists to fill my voracious appetite for quality tunes. A sunny afternoon in Detroit gleamed upon a rare lightly-crowded pyramid stage, and I was able to take advantage of the dance space and groove to the upbeat house music supplied by Route 94. After their set ended, I drifted over to the Made in Detroit stage, a location dedicated to housing mostly Detroit techno legends. I caught a set from Phuture. While the group hails from Chicago, their lust for playing heavy acid with massive hardware represents both the windy and motor city’s style of dance music. After Phuture banged out more acid house and techno than I could normally digest, the next four hours became a euphoric blur of pounding techno. Paco Osuna and Nicole Moudaber delivered heavy-hitting techno at the pyramid stage while LED backdrops emanated a dizzying array of psychedelic patterns and shapes. Maceo Plex absolutely pummeled the main stage with his own brand of techno that can only be described simply as intense.One of my favorite tracks of Plex’s, “Conjure Sex”, was mixed in towards the end of his set and caused the crowd to erupt when it’s Lord of the Rings sounding horn ripped midway through the song. The final two hours of the festival had some highs and lows; the peaks were the blitzing, quick mixing of Ben Sims and the glitchy, chaotic IDM of Squarepusher while the grueling valley was Dj Snoopadelic. Even though it was the only musical atrocity of the weekend, Paxahau’s decision to book Snoop as the closer on the main stage proved to be a poor one, as he emulated a wedding Dj playing dive bar songs like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” with zero mixing involved. Hopefully next year Paxahau will choose someone that truly represents the culture of Detroit techno to properly close out the festival.
Movement festival left me with a weeklong afterglow filled with memories of techno, dancing, warehouses, and friends. Sometimes it amazes me that Movement has been occurring for 14 years and still consistently delivers top-notch talent and production. Many of my friends went for their first time this year and every single one has been converted to a loyal technophile servant of the festival for the foreseeable future. If you have yet to experience the incomparable vibes and music of movement festival, I suggest you mark your calendar for Memorial Day weekend of 2016, or perhaps even sooner, as Paxahau discreetly left a hint for an upcoming festival in ‘fall 2015’ on the back of their festival flyer.