The days of having to drive ridiculous distances to camp, party and hear your favorite music are largely over. Now there appears to be a killer music festival somewhere in the country every weekend in the summer. One genre that has experienced the most significant growth amongst the festival circuit is electronic music.
Right in West Michigan's backyard is the acclaimed Electric Forest Music Festival. Originally started as the Rothbury Festival in 2008 and having a second year in 2009, the event and campground (the Double JJ Ranch, north of Muskegon) went into bankruptcy, forcing the festival to take 2010 off. Thus, Electric Forest rose from the ashes like a mighty phoenix (not the French electropop band).
In 2011 the festival came back to the Double JJ with a split emphasis on jam bands and electronic. In the last two years DJs and producers such as Skrillex, Bassnectar and Girl Talk have all played sets.
For 2013 it appears that Electric Forest is taking the electro scene to a new level. Beyond headliners that include acts like Pretty Lights, Grimes and Benny Bennassi - all major names in electro music - the festival is also bringing back its curated stages.
Fool's Gold Records, the Brooklyn indie label home to artists like Danny Brown, A-Trak and Party Supplies brings its signature Clubhouse stage to the Forest.
"Fool's Gold will always be a DJ-centric label," said Nick Catchdubs, a noted DJ/producer and co-founder of the label. "Even when we're releasing a weird Japanese girl garage band there's a funkiness to it and a soulfulness to it ... We put out hip hop music and we put out dance music and kind of everything in between. I think that musically, this sort of DJ perspective unites all these things."
One thing that appears to set Fool's Gold apart in a still beleaguered music industry is that it has diversified itself to be more than just a record label. Fool's Gold has made itself more of a go-to brand for the alt-hipster lifestyle, having an extensive clothing line and throwing block parties around New York and Los Angeles.
"One of the unique things about having a record label in 2013 is that you can't just release music," Catchdubs said. "On a purely practical sense it's not just what makes the most money. (Fool's Gold) is something that stands for things that are cool and interesting, and come from the world of music, but aren't necessarily only based around music."
This appears to be the focus that is driving Fool's Gold's growth as it goes beyond the borders of hipster meccas like Brooklyn and West Hollywood, and pushes it's way into the forests of northwestern Michigan.
"It's just a passion to put out cool, creative content, whether it's music or merchandise or throwing big parties," said Ben Jacobs, general manager of Fool's Gold Records.
Jacobs and Catchdubs are both proud of the fact that the majority of the Fool's Gold family will be at their Clubhouse stage for Electric Forest. Catchdubs himself will be there, along with A-Trak, Danny Brown, Ryan Hemsworth, Just Blaze, Tommy Trash, and a list that goes on.
Joining Fool's Gold in curating a stage this June is Movement, the world-renowned electronic festival held each Memorial Day weekend at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit (often considered the birthplace of techno music). Movement's production team hopes to bring artists from many spectrums of electronic music to create their own unique party.
Dana Boyette, special projects manager with Paxahau (the organizers of Movement) hopes that having a stage at Electric Forest will lend some credibility to the music for new listeners.
"(Movement's stage) will showcase some historical aspects of the genre we are a part," Boyette said. "(Last year) we brought some Detroit flavor to the Wagon Wheel (one of Electric Forest's stages).
If you're unable to make the trip to Electric Forest or pay for the four-day camping festival, there is a pretty solid option in the middle of downtown Grand Rapids. On July 19 and 20, City Lights Music Festival will hold its annual electronic music event at Calder Plaza. What started as a one-night, free event has evolved into a large-scale, multi-day festival.
"The free nights saw great response and we switched to two nights (in 2012)," said Tim Sinen, public relations director with City Lights.
Sinen told REVUE that this year's event will feature increased collaboration with the city, as well as with Kendall College of Art and Design in an effort to make art more of a focus. The festival also features some familiar names like Superdre, DJ Kenneth Thomas and Detroit Techno Militia. Sinen said he is particularly excited for acts StarKillers and Kill Paris.
"It's just going to be an awesome time ... without the price of a huge festival," Sinen said.