The Electric Forest Festival is sponsoring Absolute Michigan’s Arts & Entertainment section for the summer, and we’ve got a series of interviews to help you learn more about the festival and musicians who’ll be there:
- Mike Devol of Greensky Bluegrass
- Erin Zindle of The Ragbirds
- Grand Rapids DJ SuperDre
- …and Electric Forest founder Jeremy Stein below!
We partnered with Electric Forest on a giveaway to help one reader (Mark L of Detroit) attend the first-ever Electric Forest Festival This was only the first prize in our “Festival Summer” series of giveaways that require nothing more than putting your address on our email list! We guarantee we won’t sell or share it with anyone, so enter your email below and stay tuned for more giveaways!
Absolute Michigan will not share your email address with anyone. Period. Your inbox is safe with us. What we will share with you is a periodic but usually no more than weekly update, possibly including a special offer, potentially a prize or giveaway and definitely some great news about what is working and fun to do in the Great state called Michigan that we love!
by Bob Lovik
Music is coming back Rothbury this summer after a two-year hiatus that has left a big hole in the Michigan festival circuit. But, don’t call this the Rothbury Festival. This year’s event is the Electric Forest Festival and while it is being produced by the same people, it is an entirely new thing. With a mouth- watering lineup of acts from a huge variety of genres, Electric Forest is being held over four days from June 30th to July 3. Absolute Michigan recently caught up with the very busy Jeremy Stein – the man who created the Rothbury Festival and the upcoming Electric Forest Festival.
Jeremy Stein: Actually, its not a name change. It is a new event. The Electric Forest Festival is something different from Rothbury which could very well have a future. With the venue, the Double JJ Ranch, we have the possibility of hosting different events of different sizes at different times throughout the year. The Electric Forest Festival is our first foray into doing this and we are really looking forward to trying it out.
The line-up seems to be targeted towards a younger crowd. Tell us a little bit about that.
Jeremy: It’s so subjective as to what people like. I would have people say the same thing about Rothbury and then we have Willie Nelson on stage. Others said that because we had Bob Dylan and The Dead, we were trying to attract an older audience but I know tons of kids who are into those two. I’m done trying to figure it out I guess. Like Rothbury, we are going to have a lot of dance acts. There has been a great local response to REO Speedwagon playing Saturday afternoon. We just try and program a good variety throughout the day and night.
The common thread of all the bands is integrity and quality. The cream of the crop rises. The biggest part of an event like this is the sense of discovery. It always happens that someone walks up to musicians they know nothing about and get totally blown away. It is our role to have our ear to the ground and try and know what people like before they do.
Are there any bands that you are excited to see?
Jeremy: Truth is, I’ve seen everyone on the lineup. If I wasn’t a fan, they wouldn’t be at the show. Bassnectar has been crazy hot lately. He is a really exciting guy doing really exciting things. He’s really unique and we are excited to have him.
Jeremy: Oh yeah. Greensky Bluegrass is playing. I always like seeing them. There’s a really exciting DJ called Super Dre. She’s really funky. Then there are The Ragbirds. I know that we’ve gotten a tremendous amount of support from Michigan folk already.
What about the venue? What does the Double JJ offer?
Jeremy: There are great new owners there and we are really excited about it. They had a lot of work to do and it is very exciting for us because now we have friends and professional folks to work with who are really trying to do good things.
Jeremy: One of the great things about the venue is that Sherwood Forest creates this incredible platform that allows us to do almost anything. Electric Forest isn’t just about the music. People will be able to connect over art installations, performance art and cultural art to name a few. The term art is a pretty big umbrella. The art isn’t just in the forest either but the forest creates this social and cultural hang out scene that will be different during the day and night. A lot of festivals are, to an extent, bands and stages, and that’s great but this is more than just music. Electric Forest is a cultural event.
How do you go about designing such a large event?
Jeremy: It’s a collective really. We provide an open source opportunity for folks who have experience putting on festivals, people who have done public art or people who just have great ideas and want to get involved. There is a common thread between professionals and fans with great ideas.
You have a big focus on sustainability and keeping the festival green. What are your responsibilities as the producer?
Jeremy: Summer festivals are gatherings where you can get a taste of where a culture is at in the moment. They tell us what is important to people, what they are focused on and what kind of events they want to take part in. Electric Forest is extremely participatory and our responsibility is to lead by example in regards to sustainability. To try out new things while adhering to a certain morality of the culture of the times. That is one of the great things about the music industry. It isn’t afraid to be a leader. You can look at events like Electric Forest as a barometer and as kind of a testing ground.
Jeremy: Naturally, the festival will bring a lot of folks into Michigan. We have emails from people saying they are coming in for the festival but also want to spend the entire week in the state hanging out. Growing up in Chicago, I’ve always loved west Michigan and we jumped at the opportunity to do an event here!
What is the future of Electric Forest?
Jeremy: I’ve always had a long term view and there are a lot of options. We took a year off for a lot of healthy reasons. One, the goal is to make this one event as great as it can be. And two, we want to keep it going in annual installments while also having different, individual events. Whenever I come out there, the local community is really welcoming and that’s a great feeling. There is a mutual respect and they are hoping for more events. The know our team does things right.
Much more about Electric Forest at electricforestfestival.com.
Photos by Absolute Michigan – view slideshow.