Electric Forest boasts one of the most diverse festival lineups around, perfecting the Venn diagram model of bringing together the best in jam, electronic, funk, crossover acts, and everything in between. Beyond the music, Sherwood Forest is filled with all sorts of magical, bizarre, and unique musical experiences that one would never find anywhere else. With a little bit of something for just about everyone, we decided to break down our favorite sets from this past weekend by category. Presenting: your 2017 Electric Forest Weekend One Festy Awards!
Best Dance Party — The Motet Mixtape Hall of Fame
Known for their high-energy performances and tight, fresh licks, funk powerhouse The Motet is a blast for any late-night extravaganza. On Saturday evening, the septet, led by vibrant frontman Lyle Divinsky, took it to the next level with a mish-mosh of fan favorites from some of their past “mixtape” throwback sets. Hits from Earth Wind & Fire, Sly & The Family Stone, Parliament, Prince, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, and more had us grooving into the wee hours of the night in the Jubilee tent.
Best Rock And Roll Performance — My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket’s experimental brand of psychedelic rock places them on their own plane of existence musically, complete with mind-blowing jams that take their shows to another dimension. Though we missed our regularly scheduled programming of Saturday evening String Cheese Incident and their spectacle set, Jacket on the main stage was an excellent filler and considered by many to be the best set of the weekend. Highlights included emotional renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind”, Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can”, and Prince’s “Purple Rain”.
Funkiest Heavy Hitter — Lettuce
You probably already know that Lettuce is one of the best modern-day funk acts. Over the past year or two, however, the band has been on an unstoppable trajectory, toying with exploratory, psychedelic jams and taking it all the way out there while still remaining a tight unit. Friday’s late-night get down in the Jubilee tent saw sit-ins from Break Science’s Borahm Lee and an off-the-cuff appearance by Matisyahu, which led to a raging “Exodus”/”Welcome to Jam Rock” mashup. Set closer “Phyllis” featured teases of Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones Pt. 2” in honor of the recently deceased Prodigy.
Best Jams — Spafford
Spafford’s debut at the Forest featured a set full of heavy hitters as well as a special sit-in on keys by Umphrey’s McGee’s Joel Cummins on “All In”. The Observatory Stage was packed out, and their groove-oriented jams fit the vibe of the glowing forest to perfection. A particularly funky bounce back into “Electric Taco Stand” had the crowd dancing wildly, while a spaced-out, effects driven jam in “People” showed off the band’s variety of improvisational skills. The energy could be felt radiating through the crowd as they dug deeper and deeper into a psychedelic space throughout the set.
Best Jamtronica — Lotus
Jamtronica heavyweights Lotus posted up at Sherwood Court for the final performance of Thursday night. While the rain could have put a damper on spirits, Lotus kept the vibes on high from the start, with the ever-popular “Spiritualize” making a surprise appearance to open their set. As their cover of Todd Terje’s “Inspector Norse” made a triumphant transition into the jubilant “Sunrain,” the crowd basked in the downpour, making for a truly magical way to start the weekend.
Best Group Collaboration — Everyone Orchestra (Night 2)
Friday’s edition of Matt Butler and his fully improvisational Band of Merry Pranksters brought together Marc Brownstein (The Disco Biscuits), Mike Rempel (Lotus), Brian Moss (Spafford), Red Johnson (Spafford), Jeff Mann (Consider the Source), Mary Corso (Eric Krasno Band), and Nick Baum (Eminence Ensemble). This jam band mafia joined forces for a dynamic set that exhibited each individual’s unique talents and saw the never-done-before collaboration seamlessly weave between Butler-directed jams including an impromptu “Fire on the Mountain”. Corso’s commanding vocal range stole the show.
Best Electronic — Bob Moses
While many sought shelter on a rainy Thursday night, those itching to get down headed over to Bob Moses on the Sherwood Court stage for some pulsating, sexy house beats. Fortunately, the rain only added to the haunting, psychedelic vibe of the set. The deep house duo brought live drums into the mix and had the crowd, largely new to the band, blown away by the talent of the vocals and instrumentals.
Best Trance — Above And Beyond
One of the top dance acts in the world, Above and Beyond is constantly pushing the limits of electronic music. Headlining after String Cheese on Thursday night, tens of thousands flocked to the main stage for the ultimate dance party. Their style veered more towards trance than dub, creating exploratory and uplifting electronic soundscapes on a rainy night.
Best Downtempo — [Br]eaking [Bi]scuits
Since their exciting debut at last year’s Brooklyn Comes Alive, [Br]eaking [Bi]scuits has perfected itself as an experimental side project. The group is the lovechild of the Disco Biscuits’ Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein and Break Science’s Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee, and the group played around with songs from both of the established bands while creating their own downtempo, trip-hop tunes. Covers of Daft Punk, RJD2, DJ Shadow, and Justice featuring Brasstracks’ Ivan Jackson stole the show.
Most Genre-Bending Set — String Cheese Incident
With seven incredible sets throughout the weekend, set two of String Cheese Incident on Friday night stood out as the extravaganza of the weekend, with guests across all genres joining in on the fun. First, Soulive/Lettuce guitarist Eric Krasno came out and performed a soulful rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Sugaree.” Next, jazz-sax master Kamasi Washington and Snarky Puppy drummer Robert “Sput” Searight added some funky flare. Matisyahu, Matt Hill of the Floozies, and Liquid Stranger were up next for an electronic, dance-heavy spin and later joined by Brazilian Girls to close out the guest-heavy segment with a rendition of their song “Pussy”.
Best Act You Might Have Missed — Southern Avenue
Memphis-based juggernaut Southern Avenue may have their foundation based in the blues, but they exceed the confines of the genre, with elements of funk, rock, Americana, and so, so much soul. Don’t let lead singer Tierinii Jackson’s petite stature throw you off — the spark plug has a constant current of energy coursing through her veins, a contagious stage presence, and powerful, electrifying pipes. Though their first set of the weekend was concealed in the Grand Artique stage at the “Trading Post” inside the forest, they drew hundreds of attendees with their thunderous sound.
Funkiest Electro/Disco — Breakbot
Those still going strong on Sunday afternoon were treated to a rare live set by French DJ Breakbot. The addition of a full band and female singer gave the electro-funk act a modern-day disco feel reminiscent of Escort. Feel-good vibes and familiar pop tunes helped to dance away the Sunday Scaries.
Weirdest Thing We Saw — Secret Speakeasy Inside The Hangar Stage
Known for constantly reinventing the wheel, a relatively new addition to the festival is the Hangar Stage — a trippy, 1940s-style saloon complete with a beauty parlor, buffing/massage station, fake tattoo parlor, bowling alley, barber shop, and more oddities. Hidden within this magical world is a secret speakeasy, only accessible to those gifted a special dog tag by someone “in the know.” Once inside, guests are greeted by early 20th century stewardesses who remain firmly in character and guided back to a special bar and lounge where a burlesque dancer and singer exhibits her “bare” talents for an unknowing audience. Someone even proposed on stage inside this spectacular secret hideaway!
Best Bluegrass — Infamous Stringdusters
The final day of Electric Forest saw the Infamous Stringdusters get things started on the main stage. The bluegrass staple’s warm, inviting melodies and tight harmonies made for the perfect Sunday daytime set. The band invited String Cheese Incident’s Bill Nershi on stage to perform SCI tune “Black Clouds” and even turned it up a notch with a fun cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”.
Trippiest Place To See Music — Church In The Forest
While the festival’s lineup is not to be discredited, the music alone is not what keeps guests returning to Electric Forest year after year. Attendees seek weird and wonderful experiences inside the magical, mysterious world of Sherwood Forest. One welcome newcomer to the neighborhood this year was a psychedelic church, complete with pews, an alter, and a trippy backdrop centered around a third eye. At any given time of the day or night, you could find yourself at church in the midst of a wild dance party, game show, or some bizarre form of performance art.
Best Cover — The Revivalists ft. Con Brio’s Ziek McCarter: “When Doves Cry”
NOLA rockers The Revivalists have been on a nonstop upward trajectory, drawing larger and larger crowds to festival sets across the country. Kicking things off on the main stage on Thursday afternoon, their entire performance was high-energy and explosive, but the most memorable moment was undoubtedly Ziek McCarter, the mesmerizing frontman of Con Brio, channeling his inner Prince for a dynamic rendition of “When Doves Cry.”
Funkiest Electronic Collab — The Floozies With Horns
Live electronic future-funk producers The Floozies are constantly reinventing the wheel and exploring new territory, fusing live instrumentation with top-notch production in new and creative ways. Saturday afternoon saw the brotherly duo bring the Terminus Horns from Atlanta into the mix for an upbeat, funky twist.
Dirtiest House Music — Claude Von Stroke
Deep house maven and Dirtybird sovereign Claude VonStroke brought his signature brand of electronic music to the forest for two appearances: one traditional set on the Tripolee stage on Thursday and one “secret” set under the pseudonym Barclay Crenshaw (his real name). The latter was a unique mix of hip-hop and psychedelic bass music, which created a massive dance extravaganza inside the forest on the Observatory stage on Friday night.
Deep within the forest, headphone-clad ravers danced seemingly in silence to the disco beats of DJ Jody Litvack, bumping fresh remixes of old-school and mainstream tracks. A conga line bust out during Mr. Belt & Wezol & Freejak’s rerub of “Somebody to Love,” and the Canadian DJ went crowd surfing during the Chris James “Sweet Child O Mine” edit of “Feel So Close.” A New Order remix of “Blue Monday” had everyone going wild, including Umphrey’s McGee’s Joel Cummins, who could be seen riding the rail.
Best Disco Remixes— Motion Potion
Going to a Motion Potion DJ set is like stepping into a time machine. The nostalgic producer dropped incredible disco rerubs of classics like The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” The Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody),” and Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes,” making for some of the best surprise dance parties of the weekend.
Tickets for Electric Forest weekend two are still available and can be purchased here.