I almost didn’t make it though June after the extraordinary ride that was Movement, but I travelled across the state for some top notch times and tunes in West Michigan. Death grip on the steering wheel with excitement, I trucked it to Grand Rapids for beer-dom at Founders Fest where I was treated to some soulful jams, delicious brews, and tantalizing tunes. After that beer-capade, I packed my camping bag, grabbed my tent and caught a ride to Rothbury, Michigan for another mystical weekend at Electric Forest. Below is a rundown of the adventures I had:
Every year, Founders Brewing Company throws one crazy block party right outside the doors of their brewery in Downtown Grand Rapids. It’s a thank you to everyone in the city for sticking by them through thick and thin, even when they were on the verge of going bankrupt, something the rest of us Michiganders are all extremely thankful for. This year was no different, consisting of some of the best talent from across the country and even better beer to support it.
Once I made my way in, it was definitely time to jump on the beer boat, with Founders at the helm. There are multiple beer tents to suit every need, they have their year round wonders, while at another tent you can peruse specialty beers, some that only reach Founders tap lines. I was even fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, as one keg had kicked the bucket, another one was tapped which happened to be their holy grail, KBS. The crowd erupted when the news spread and while my friends and I were going to each try a different brew, we all of a sudden were on a one track mind. My taste buds rejoiced in a jubilant manner.
As the day moved closer to night and as my step got a little more staggered, it was time for music. The first act I was able to catch was the FBC All-Stars, comprised of employees of the brewery. The band was backed with all types of instruments and they played some rowdy covers that got the entire crowd ready to take on the night. Up next was the delight I had been anticipating all week, Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires, a soulful singer with a heart of gold. His band took the stage first, playing an intro for his arrival, and as he stepped out on stage, he was rocking a full purple suit. His band kicked right into it while Bradley wailed into the microphone, oozing soul onto the unexpectant audience. After that outstanding set, the night was ended with funky jams and electronic beats courtesy of Lettuce and Break Science.
Founders Fest is any craft beer lovers dream, so make sure to mark it on your calendar for next year without hesitation. You’ll find yourself a repeat offender after the first one. With all the awesome beer and extraordinary music, it’s an event that truly can’t be duplicated anywhere else besides the Great Lakes State.
Over the past couple of years around the 4th of July weekend, a magical spell of enchantment and wonder is cast across the Double JJ Ranch, home of Electric Forest Music Festival. Thousands upon thousands flock from all across the country, carpooling with other music lovers for a weekend getaway that turns dreams into reality. I’ve had the privilege of making the pilgrimage to Rothbury for a couple of years now, each year unlike the last. Even my first year on the grounds, before they changed the name to Electric Forest, I knew that this event was absolutely different than anything I’d ever experienced before in my life.
Each year I get this intense, nearly nervous sensation when I pull in the gate and start my mystery trek to my campsite, which becomes home for the next four days. As I meander around a massive field, surrounded by the sounds of bass and beers being cracked, I start to realize that I’m not in Kansas (or Detroit) anymore. For first timers this may seem like a bit of shock and awe, but to the rest of us who’ve been making the journey for years, it feels like coming home.
Upon entering the festival grounds, a massive stage is to the right, accompanied by a ferris wheel shooting up into to the sky, which is illuminated magnificently at night. That’s one thing special about this music festival, day and night seem to be two different worlds, one just slowly blending into the next. Just as you turn the corner past the Ranch Arena, you see a mammoth forest being bombarded with candy colored kids, hammocks and glitter.
Sherwood Forest is an experience that can really only be understood by visiting in person; words or pictures just can’t seem to do it justice. As night falls upon the forest, glowing white pine trees rise from the ground while neon lights crack through the trees, like psychedelic lightning. The first timers’ eyes are glued skyward while they wander about the forest as if kids in Candyland.
Festival goers can easily jump around from show to show without skipping a beat. From diverse electronic sounds that range from dubstep to techno to house, theres a little bit of everything for everyone to groove to. One stand out performance was from Detroit Techno legend Kevin Saunderson, who played a back to back performance with his son Dantiez. I’ve seen Lord Saunderson perform a hand full of times around the city, but something about being surrounded by trees rather than tall buildings seemed euphoric. The father and son duo battled across the decks deep into the night, family affair style. Jam bands also litter the line up with heavy hitters such as Umphrey’s McGee, STS9, and a band that throws this whole party, The String Cheese Incident.
Even the best of parties must eventually come to an end, so Monday morning rolls around, per usual, and ruins the fun once again. It’s refreshing to hear the news that Electric Forest 2015 already in the works, especially after naughty rumors of no return and already anticipating what the outstanding people at Insomniac and Madison House Presents will throw at us next. So if you’re looking for a musical paradise where laughter echoes through woods, complete strangers are your closest friends, and non-stop blissful beats are the norm, make the pilgrimage to Electric Forest.