Word finally got out about What The Festival this year and it did so (primarily) by the most inevitable way possible, by word of mouth. People have praised the quality of the organization, flow, and overall love that goes into the event for years and with its fourth attempt, people responded.
After three years of hovering between the three and four thousand mark, this year’s attendance rose by almost 2000 souls. By Saturday, with a grand total of 5,000 ticket holders, they were all sold out. There were new stages, tons of more art, great vendors and beautiful people, and once again, a lineup that can satisfy even the pickiest electronic music lovers (except for this hip harper who thinks Big Gigantic wasn’t a worthy headliner. Spoiler alert; They were.)
The festival started Thursday night, technically, but the majority of festival goers arrived on Friday. After a quick walk through the grounds after setting up my camp, I noticed they’ve rearranged and increased the amount of stages from the last time I attended in 2013. WTF responded to last year’s lack of late night acts by building several new stages to pump music until the sun peaked out. Most notably, the dragon stage was the most prolific new piece as it lay at the bottom of the illuminated forest and resembled a large, red, mystical dragon.
Friday night got started in local, funky fashion with Oregon’s reggae duo, Indubious (link) playing the Equinox stage. This was shortly followed by Portland’s bass loving producer, EPROM on the Effin’ Stage. Meanwhile, Keys and Krates blasted off on the main stage to set the mood for Griz, the funk rock headliner with a fresh new album to showcase. This groove continued back on the Equinox stage with Canadian DJs, The Funk Hunters featuring Chali 2na (of Jurassic 5) who delivered one of the most piognant sets of the weekend. The night was eventually closed out by fellow Canadian producer (and funk enthusiast) Stickybuds.
Saturday got off to a slow start for most people thanks to the extra doses of funk. Portland’s Vinnie the Squid got a pool party started around midday that was topped off by British producer, Ambassadeurs in the afternoon. As the night began to fall Sweater Beats got things bumping on the Effin’ Stage while Machinedrum performed their latest album Vapor City live. Many eyes were then set on Saturday night’s headliner, Big Gigantic who mashed up hip hop, blues, and funk while others made it tto Tokimonsta to see her drive an incredible set on the Effin Satge. The late night action took place in depths of the forest as Portland’s Solovox gave a dynamic performance. Deeper in the forest, the party rolled into sunrise with Fort Knox Five and Rob Garza hitting the decks on the Dragon Stage.
Sunday is when people really had to prove their dedication. It was the first time anyone has felt tired since arriving, but there was a whole day of music left to see. Canadian duo, Skiitour (complete with snowsuits) started promptly at noon at the pool. Later in the afternoon Thomas Jack was joined by a captivating fiddler and turned the splash pool into a hootenanny. The main stage was started by Portland jam and hip hop band, Device Grips in the early evening. Just as night fell, the masked drummer, Slow Magic went on the main stage his warm beats got everyone ready for ODESZA’s devine performance which included a horn section and perfectly concluded the weekend.
As you can see, there was a ton of music to be heard featuring some of the most distinguished producers and DJs from all over the world, but the things What The Festival does right goes well beyond the music. The organization is on point from the moment you arrive on the ranch, and the energy created from the design of this crew makes a fun-loving environment where everyone is your friend and dance partner. At no point are you left wondering what to do next, because everywhere you turn there’s something new to see, do, or someone to meet. And frankly, festivals like this are the only ones I’m interested in attending.
Here are three local sets that got our undivided attention last weekend:
Indubious Gets the First Night on the Right Foot
Solovox Gets Funky For The Stumbling Hippies – LOL stage at What The Festival
Device Grips Make a Crowd that Felt Good Feel Great
-Photo and story by Colin Hudson