In Michigan, the first thing that catches your eye is the lush forests that blanket the land. Moving up north into the town of Rothbury, these forests were ever more noticeable. Tucked away in this small town, on Double JJ Ranch a different kind of forest would be lighting up the tree's, sky's and souls of all who came for 4th of July weekend. Illuminating lights, unique art installations, gong meditation circles were the draw to this forest by nighttime. By day it would be filled with thousands of hammocks in the tree's for those looking for a cool snooze out of the hot July sun and of course the amazing musical artists performing. Those artists included headlining appearances by String Cheese Incident, Tiesto, Pretty Lights, Bassnector, REO Speedwagon, Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, Stephen Marley, The New Deal, Lotus and much more. With five different stage setups there was a lot going on, some stages focused on early afternoon sets while others would rage till the break of the next day. Besides the music and the very electric Sherwood forest at the festival there were numerous other attractions that created a draw. Activities such as a life size Mousetrap performance, an opportunity to go to the Gold Rush water park, a championship golf course, swimming at Big Wildcat Lake, horseback riding and there was even a glow in the dark disc golfing course on site. The whole weekend was packed with things to do and music to see. This festival had a variety of attributes to make America's birthday a unforgettable celebration.
Thursday June 30th
On the first day of the festival, carloads filed in from all over, attendees from California to Canada to New York and everywhere in between. Waiting at the gates there was a welcoming ranch feel straight from the get go. The bright day led into a cloudy evening as the gates opened to the stages . The venue area opened around six in the evening. Lynx, the first musical act to hit the stage came out showing off her innovative skills a mix between trip-hop with linked live instrumental and vocals it was very fun to watch, departing from her set, the night was young and many more acts were about to hit the stage.
In the main stage Ranch Area, Emmitt-Nershi Band struck their string to step up the country feeling that was suiting for the ranch environment. With of a lot musical experience put together between those who stood on the stage, this band shows true talent in progressive string music. Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon and Bill Nershi of String Cheese Incident, combine together with Johnny Grubb and Andy Thorn. Performing songs that including “New Country Blues,” off their new album as well as a String Cheese Incident cover of ,”Texas.” Later in the set, Jason Hann of String Cheese Incident accompanied the stage to add his unique and amazing percussion skills to the modern country mix. Projecting positive chords to a swaying audience this band created the perfect festival setting as dusk came upon Sherwood Forest. As the set dwindled down the energy was just turning up.
Anticipation was lifting as the SCI tease continued when Kyle Hollingsworth took stage to emphasize his skills on the keys. The talent that Hollingsworth has musically flows off his fingertips as they pass on the keys. The set spread across a spectrum of musical genres, keeping a positive beat to get the crowd hyped up. Keeping with a flow of appearances, Jason Hann stepped onto the stage to join in to the set. Hollingsworth is a genuine musician, energy rises whenever a rift is thrown out. The band covers a touch of several genres, jam, jazz, hip hop and rock were all present to grasp a variety of tastes. Coming to a close on stage the band sent the Electric Forest a wakeup call as the sun set and the lights were beginning to appear.
Walking through the Electric Forest there was a sensation that seemed to extend from the tree roots. With tapestries with multitudes of colors extending above between the trees. Shapes, different hues and hammocks were the view as you looked up threw the tree line. Varieties of canvas and paintings as well as natural artistic collages were collected as you drifted through the woods. Notably the “Reincarnation” art installation in the very center and heart of the Sherwood Forest, where re-used scrap metals amongst various other material created an amazing place to chill out from the busyness of the festival. Lights electrified the woods as they eliminated the whole area. The forest was a sensational attribute to this festival, definitely nothing else like it out there, it was a collection of passionate interests of the love for nature and music.
As Toubab Krewe was on stage in the heart of their set, the clouds that had been forming in the sky began to open up on the attendees, an intense thunderstorm sent a different electrifying feel as it shook the festival grounds. The storm simmered down into the evening as the first night of the festival continued with Karl Denson's Tiny Universe and then an amazing set by Lotus.
Lotus streamed out electrifying music. Two brother's Instrumental talents that populate this band amongst the talented drummer Mike Green and gifted guitarist Mike Rempel, composing masterpieces with a variety of different sounds and tempos playing a fantastic “Flower Sermon” with an amazing climax that brought the rain soaked attendees to the next level. Lotus did that and more flowing threw a funky, trancy version of “Jump Off,” a much loved song of the crowd as they cheered. The true showing of musicianship came out when the monitor's gave out due to electrical complications and the rain, but Lotus played on threw for ten minutes showing off their passion for making music, this is what bands should be all about. The music drifted into the early morning as the Electric Forest was bumping, a whole weekend still was in the making to look forward to.
Friday July 1st
Awaking on the first morning, there was something summer like missing. It was cold and wet a bit rainy but none the less the attendees were ready to rage the music. Early afternoon the likings
of Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band as well as JJ Grey and Mofro took to the venue area. Perfect for an early afternoon set was the location of the Forest Stage. Shade, art and music what more could be asked of a festival, especially by the afternoon since the sun ended up peeking out. Van Ghost from Chicago was the icing on the cake in the forest that afternoon. Soulful, moving instrumentals combined with passionate, soulful feminine vocals to flock in attendees of the fest, it was a captivating set, this band describes the variety of talents that can be acquired in music. The lead guitarist, Michael Harrison Berg expressed true gratitude through his vocals when combining with lead feminine vocalist, Jennifer Hartswick. This band had a lot to check out and just one more buildup as the day went by.
Through the forest and past more captivating art deco in the trees the Ranch arena was preparing for a reggae eruption. Stephan Marley threw down a jumping set, tight dreads falling as he hops around the stage singing known favorites of, none other than his father's music, Bob Marley. It was a positive vibration to hear, “Three Little Birds,” and “Punky Reggae Party.” The set included the cutest dancer on stage, a sweet little reggae rocker boy who was bursting with energy waving a Rastafarian flag, which actually, I found out to be his son. The set concluded but the power behind the music of the name Marley was carried with those walking away from the stage.
Switching up the beat walking to Sherwood Court