music / Columns

Jam Central Station: Electric Forest 2019 Preview

June 1, 2019 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski

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EFF Preview 1

In my time going to music festivals and following the jam band scene, there has been one constant. The Double JJ Ranch and Resort in Rothbury, Michigan. From my first festival at Rothbury 2008 to today, this location has been the center of my annual musical life. I’ve met great friends, seen unbelievable live performances, and had more fun than I ever thought possible. As Electric Forest has continued to evolve I’ve at times wondered if I, as a nearly 40 year old, would continue to fit in with the much younger demographic and the electronic music that dominates the festival. Every year I go back and realize that I had nothing to fear. Electric Forest positions itself as a melting pot, straddling the lines between genres, between a music festival and an artistic event, and they continue to have a place for everybody.

The 2019 version of Electric Forest is bringing in some changes. After expanding to 2 weekends to accommodate the ever-growing crowd, the festival contracted to just 1 event in 2019 as a way to be good stewards of the beautiful land that they’re on. This was put out as a way to allow improvements to be made to the venue and preservation work to be done on Sherwood Forest, the heart of the fest. Not surprisingly, this led to the festival selling out very quickly, as had been the norm prior to the festival moving to two weekends. This isn’t the only change, however. Electric Forest has also instituted a “Carpool Challenge,” a new podcast, new camping options, and even award-winning short films to celebrate the annual event. Far from resting on their laurels, Electric Forest continues to grow and evolve every year.

So what can attendees expect in 2019? First off, a lineup that is, as usual, pretty stacked. The String Cheese Incident will be performing 3 full shows at the festival. Bassnectar will also be playing his annual headlining set. Other headliners include Odesza, Kygo, and Zed’s Dead. While the lineup clearly trends young and electronic, there’s plenty to enjoy for jam fans including Lettuce, STS9, Twiddle, Ghost Light, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Southern Ave (a highlight for me from a few years back), Spafford, TAUK, and many others. With so many things happening at Sherwood Forest and plenty of great jam, funk, and bluegrass artists on the bill, it’s not hard for anyone to put together a schedule that works for the Forest.

So what else makes Electric Forest so special? The sheer size of the event, for starters. 9 stages (at least) ranging from your typical festival stages to EDM-specific spots to interactive comedy areas to performance clubs. Artists have the opportunity to interact with fans in many different ways and perform in settings they don’t normally see, especially in large festival settings. The forest itself has been talked about for years, but what the festival does with this space is amazing. The performance art, the interactive exhibits, and all of the little touches show an attention to detail that isn’t found anywhere else. The fact that this event has been so successful has allowed the producers to try new things and branch out, which in turn makes the event even more exciting every single year. I’m excited to see what’s new in the Forest for 2019, and, even though it’s back down to one weekend I don’t expect the event to be any less spectacular.

With the festival selling out so quickly, tickets are a little pricey to come by at this point. But they are available. You can expect to spend $100-$200 over face value at this point, but for those desperate to attend you can get in the door. The fest usually releases a handful of tickets closer to the date as well, as folks who were on a payment plan sometimes don’t make their payments, making those tickets available to the public. But I’ve said before and I’ll continue to say that, if you want to go to Electric Forest you really need to get your tickets as soon as they go on sale.

Finally, one of the things I love most about Electric Forest is how these divergent communities come together. There were some struggles early on as the jam fans and the EDM fans figured out how to coexist. Jam fans upset at losing “their” Rothbury festival. EDM fans used to camping at the rail for sets all day, making it hard for the jam fans to enjoy some of their favorite bands. Over the past few years almost all of those conflicts have been resolved. These two scenes coexist remarkably well at Electric Forest, and bonds are often formed across these cultures. Over the years Electric Forest has become a new thing, something for everyone to enjoy, and it’s a culture that they’ve intentionally cultivated through programs to make the event as open and accepting as possible. After so many great Forest experiences I expect to have another amazing weekend at one of my favorite places in the world, and I can’t wait to get back.

EFF Preview 1

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Camp Greensky
June 6-8
Wellston, MI
Greensky Bluegrass (3 nights), Del & Dawg, Stephen Marley, Billy Strings, Hiss Golden Messenger, Circles around the Sun, Ghost Light, The Rebirth Brass Band, Bombino

Bonnaroo
June 13-16
Manchester, TN
Phish, The Lumineers, The Avett Brothers, GRiZ, Nahko & Medicine for the People, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Jim James, Trampled By Turtles, The Wood Brothers, Shovels & Rope, The Record Company

Mountain Jam
June 13-16
Bethel Woods
Bethel, NY
Willie Nelson & Family, Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov’t Mule, The Avett Brothers, The Revivalists, Twiddle, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Dispatch, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Michael Franti & Spearhead

Keller in the Caverns
June 21-23
Pelham, TN
2 Keller Williams performances as well as Pettygrass, More Than A Little, and a Grateful Gospel Brunch

Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 20-23
Telluride, CO
Brandi Carlisle, Sam Bush Band, Jim James, Greensky Bluegrass, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon: Stories from the Living Room, Punch Brothers, Railroad Earth

Electric Forest
June 27-30
Double JJ Ranch & Resort
Rothbury, MI
3 nights of The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Lettuce, The Floozies, TAUK, Spafford, Twiddle, Ghost Light, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, The Nth Power, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

Smoky Run Music Festival
June 28-30
Butler, OH
Gov’t Mule, Trampled by Turtles, Railroad Earth, Deer Tick, Son Volt, The Travelin’ McCoury’s & Jeff Austin Band present Grateful Ball, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Rumpke Mountain Boys

moe.down
July 4-6
Snow Ridge Ski Resort
Turin, NY
moe., Drive By Truckers, Spafford, God Street Wine, Everyone Orchestra, Cory Wong, Max Creek

High Sierra
July 4-7
Quincy, CA
Greensky Bluegrass, Umphrey’s McGee, Dispatch, Del McCoury Band, Jim James, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, TAUK, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, ALO, Marcus King Band

4848 Festival
July 11-13
Snowshoe Mountain
Snowshoe, WV
Greensky Bluegrass, Umphrey’s McGee, The Infamous Stringdusters, Lettuce, Railroad Earth, Marcus King Band, Billy Strings, Turkuaz, Fruition

Ride Festival
July 12-14
Telluride, CO
Widespread Panic, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Big Something

Camp Bisco
July 18-20
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA

FloydFest 19 “Journey Home”
July 24-28
Floyd, VA
Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, The String Cheese Incident, Brandi Carlile Tyler Childers, Margo Price, Fantastic Negrito, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grace featuring Love Cannon

Peach Music Festival
July 25-28
Montage Mountain
Scranton, PA
Phil Lesh & Friends, Trey Anastasio Band, The String Cheese Incident, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, moe., Greensky Bluegrass, Lotus, Lettuce, Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain String Band, Allman Betts Band, Billy Strings

Werk Out
August 1-3
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
The Werks, Big Gigantic, Claypool Lennon Delirium, The Floozies, Twiddle, Matisyahu, Turkuaz, Melvin Seals & JGB

Woodstock 50
August 16-18
Watkins Glen, NY
Dead & Co., Santana, Robert Plant & The Sensational Shape Shifters, Sturgill Simpson, Brandi Carlisle, Hot Tuna, Gary Clark Jr., John Fogerty, Margo Price, Marcus King Band.

Lockn’ Festival
August 22-25
Arrington, VA
Trey Anasasio Band w/ Derek Trucks, Tedeschi Trucks Band w/ Trey Anastasio, Bob Weir & Wolf Bros. w/ Susan Tedeschi, Otiel & Friends w/ Bob Weir, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, The Revivalists, Gary Clark Jr., Old Crow Medicine Show, moe., Twiddle

Borderlands Festival
September 21-22
Knox Farm State Park, NY
Greensky Bluegrass, Gov’t Mule, Shakey Graves, Mavis Staples, The Wood Brothers, The Infamous Stringdusters, Keller Williams Grateful Grass, Rayland Baxter

Strings & Sol
December 12-16
Puerto Morelos, Mexico
Yonder Mountain String Band, Greensky Bluegrass, The Del McCoury Band, Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon, Jennifer Hartswick, Natalie Cressman

Jam Cruise
January 7-12
Miami, FL
The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Les Claypool’s Bastard Jazz, moe., Galactic, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Dumpstaphunk, Lettuce, Lotus, Circles Around the Sun

Jam In The Sand
January 14-18
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra, Melvin Seals & JGB, Donna the Buffalo

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Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!